The Fusion Blog offers 20 ideas to promote more creativity in the classroom. Not only are there twenty different ideas to choose from, but each idea offers additional resources to choose from. What a great post!
In particular, I like the ideas of making time for visual reflection, integrating time for hands-on reflection and keeping the classroom layout flexible. I have often re-arranged the layout of a classroom to suit an activity such as discussion groups or even smaller buzz groups.
When I first started teaching, I used to spend all my time lecturing. Nowadays, I like to break up my classes into short stints of lecturing and longer periods of discussion among the students on little problems or to deepen a point that was made in class. As students discuss the questions that I ask of them, I like to circulate in my classroom and eavesdrop, or ask more questions to move their discussions forward.
I told a friend earlier today that I will be continuing my studies next year, after I finish my Provincial Instructors Diploma in Adult Education. Her amused and sincere reaction was “What, you want MORE school?? Haven’t you had enough?”
And I will never have enough.
People in my family live very long lives, and I intend to continue living, and learning, for a very long time. As an instructor, I am a holder and communicator of knowledge – but I also come to the profession fueled by a deep and insatiable curiosity and desire to learn. And I hope to instill some of this in my students – whether they are 17 or 71.
I don’t recall many periods of my life when I was bored. There is so much around me that is interesting, that I want to know more about. I am enthused about undertaking a new topic, or learning about a new theory, or putting into practice new steps – whether they are in sports, or in a new technique, or in a new way of thinking. I love to read, and I love to listen to stories and accounts of historical events. I think I inherited this from my father, who was very curious about life around him and was always keen to spend time with me, to discuss current events or advances in technology. My mother, too, is a voracious reader. So it’s natural that I have learned to love books and newspapers, and learning about the world.
Some of the ways that I keep up in my core profession are: attending marketing seminars, subscriptions to journals and following thought leaders on social media. And it is the same, too, in my profession as educator – I attend conferences when I can, I follow many blogs, I read books and journal articles. When I complete the PID (which is soon!!) I hope to join a learning community in which instructors share stories, read books together, and generally keep in touch as a mode of support and sharing of what we are learning, what we are trying, and best practices from our time in the classroom or in online rooms.
I hope to instill a love of learning in my students, to make learning fun. Through this degree I have learned so many tools and techniques to raise students’ interest when it is flagging in class (because of the late hour – I teach many evening courses – or perhaps because the topic needs sprucing up). I have learned that students learn in various ways – by doing, by listening, by reading, by interacting with one another. In my classes I want to offer my students opportunities to learn – from me, from one another – and to find it fun and engaging. It’s a continuous process, sometimes it works, and sometimes it works less well – but I will keep trying. A life of learning, lifelong learning, is just much more fun.
There is nothing so defeating than discovering that a student has copied a paragraph, or an entire article, and is trying to pass this work off as his or her own. I have seen this happen on a number of occasions, and this never ends well for the student.
The first time this happened, it was quite a spectacular attempt. It took place in the late 1990s. I was teaching in an internet marketing program. Those were the heady days of the Dotcom Boom, with interesting articles appearing in Business 2.0 and Fast Company. I was quite taken by an article by Seth Godin about the future directions of internet marketing; so much so, that I had saved this article – and the entire magazine that it was published in – in my files.
And so it came to pass that a student presented this article, copied verbatim without a word missing, as her own work for a final assignment. I was surprised and shocked that she would even try to do this. When I took her aside to discuss her result, she explained that “it was such a good article, this is why I presented it”. I spent some time explaining to her that this was plagiarism, that copying is not accepted practice, and that I am in the unfortunate position to fail her in this assignment. She would not have any of it, and eventually the Dean needed to be involved. She failed the course, and would have to do it again another time.
A year or so later, she was back in my class. This time, her work was great – I did check every sentence in Google to make sure that there was no cheating, again – and she passed the course. She had learned her lesson, and she demonstrated that she had good ideas of her own about marketing. It was good to see that this was all behind her.
So it was not a similar story a few years ago, when a student in a distance learning course presented an article from Maclean’s as his own work. Good grief, not this situation again. He explained that he had submitted this assignment because he was overwhelmed at work and did not have time to properly summarize what he had read – or reference any of his material. I explained to him that this assignment was not acceptable, and that he had to resubmit. Regrettably, I found that he was plagiarizing, using different sources, in his second submission. He was given the choice to withdraw or fail the course outright. I also escalated to my program director for resolution with this student.
Rushworth Kidder, in his book How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, lists ethical dilemmas and moral temptations. Ethical dilemmas pit “right against right”. Whereas moral temptations, like plagiarism, cause harm and are wrong. Kidder lists moral temptations such as “cheating on taxes, running red lights, and lying on a resume”. These are not ethical dilemmas, they are simply wrong.
Kidder distinguishes between four types of ethical dilemmas: truth vs loyalty, where one’s honesty conflicts with commitment or keeping promises. An example could be a teacher asking a student whether their friend cheated on an assignment. The student has an ethical dilemma: it is right to tell the truth, but it is also right to be loyal to the friend.
The next type of ethical dilemma is the individual vs the community: what is good for one person may not be good for the community. Is it right to provide funding to a small subset of students, when the great majority of students is already underfunded?
The third form of ethical dilemma is short-term vs long-term, and pits immediate needs against long-term needs. If one resolves short-term needs, there may not be resources left for future needs. Should one save for college, or spend money now for piano lessons?
The final form of ethical dilemma matches justice against mercy. Justice is about following the rules, but mercy requires consideration for individual needs and be compassionate.
My plagiators appealed to my sense of mercy and asked me to give them ‘one more chance’ to do well, and not be punished for presenting work that was not theirs. But given the rules and regulations in the educational institutions where I worked, and given how much time we had spent with our students explaining these rules, the issue was never an ethical one for me. I was disappointed that they had done this, and that I caught them. A discussion and a second chance had been effective in one case, but not in the other. I had tools and a process, provided by each educational institution, to address these actions. Oh, these students were otherwise good kids, striving to do well – but in the case of plagiarism the rules are the rules and they are unbendable. No ethical dilemma there.
(n.a.). (n.d.). PIDP 3260: Ethical Dilemmas in Adult Education. Vancouver Community College.
Kidder, R. (2005). How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. Camden, ME: Institute for Global Ethics.
In Chapters 16 and 17 of “The Skillful Teacher”, Brookfield creates a taxonomy of reasons for students’ resistance to learning, and then presents some approaches that instructors may take, to overcome the resistance.
Some of the factors for resistance are innate to the learners, but others are caused by the instructors’ presentation and manner in the classroom – and can easily be remedied by adding more context, slowing down, or reviewing at the volume of material that is presented in a class and cutting away the excess. I’ll present the lists here and comment a bit more below.
What can cause fear of learning? Some possible reasons why students resist learning:
Fear of change
The teacher is unqualified
The learning was prescribed without any attempt to justify how acquiring that knowledge would be in the student’s own best interests
The learning is a waste of time
The learning is taught by an incompetent fool
There are unreasonable demands from the part of the instructor, with
…broken teacher promises
…and clear incompetence
Brookfield then lists the possible reasons why students are resisting learning:
Poor self-image as learners
A fear of the unknown
A normal rhythm of learning
A dis-junction of learning and teaching styles
Feeling that the learning activity is irrelevant
The level of required learning is inappropriate
Fear of looking foolish in public
Lack of clarity in the teacher’s instructions
The students’ dislike of the teacher
The material is going too far, too fast, too soon
How can an instructor respond to this? Here are some steps that the instructor can take, when students are not taking seriously the learning that the instructor is sharing:
Sort out the roots of resistance
Ask yourself if the resistance is justified
Research the students’ backgrounds
Involve students in educational planning, when appropriate
Use a variety of teaching methods and approaches
Assess learning incrementally
Check that intentions are clearly understood
Build a strong case for learning
Create situations in which students succeed
Don’t push too fast
Admit the normality of resistance
Try to limit the negative effects of resistance
Of all the approaches, I think (5) rings most true for me. I have found that, in my 13 years at BCIT and my new instructional engagements in other universities, that “class culture” always varies. I might be very lucky, and find myself in a classroom where all my students are actively engaged in the subject matter, and they ask good questions, and engage with one another during class with points and counterpoints. This was the class that I just finished this week!
But in other classes, my students are quiet …too quiet. And they are polite, and listen carefully – but when I ask if there are any questions, …more quiet.And so I put them into groups, and assign little problems for them to work on, and all of a sudden my class is abuzz with activity and focused chatter.
The recommendation that makes me least comfortable, in Brookfield’s list above, is researching the students’ backgrounds. I don’t want to ask, I don’t want to pry. I share, a little, about myself in my classroom – and am delighted when some of my students share, a little, about themselves as well: a new part-time job, or something funny that their parents said to them. I can gather so much from their little stories. But to research the backgrounds? This goes far beyond what I feel comfortable doing, or even asking “tell me about yourself, what brought you here”. I am here teaching adults. Pushing that boundary, wanting to learn more about their context or more about their life outside of school – for my younger students as well as my oldsters – just does not feel right to me.
The key to overcome resistance to learning is to be flexible, and do what works. And if that doesn’t work – then try something else. I want my students to succeed in what I teach, I would like them to come away having learned from the 40 hours that they have spent with me in my class; and I hope that enjoyed some if not most of the proceedings.
I know that I will never be able to reach ALL my students equally, but that does not fault me from trying. I believe that creating small successes, providing clear feedback – and encouraging feedback – helps build up my students’ desire to learn, and open them up to a lifetime of learning. After all, they are in my class, that’s a good first step. And when they return the following week – that’s a good second step. My ultimate goal, in the end, is to not only foster their enthusiasm for the management of technology and marketing courses that I teach, but to foster in them a desire, a lifetime desire, to keep learning and upgrading their skills – and sharpen their sense of curiosity.
Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.
A recent article in University World News summarizes a recent study by Nita Temmerman. She conducted “an informal student survey conducted with university students who were asked to anonymously write down the three most irritating things about their lecturers’ conduct”. Oh my, the things instructors do in class!
And now I feel a little bit guilty for bringing YouTube clips to my class for my students to watch, maybe they don’t like this (despite laughing or gasping at the right times) – time for ME to do a two-minute survey at the end of my classes!
Lecturers who take delight in telling the class on the very first day that “about 25% of you will fail this course on your first try”, as if this is something to be proud of, when it might just signal that he or she is a lousy teacher!
Lecturers who complain all semester long about having to teach this course because: i) the person who usually does is on sabbatical leave; or ii) they were on sabbatical last year and when they got back someone else had taken over their favourite courses and they were left with this one.
Lecturers who are never organized and ask at the beginning of every week, “where are we up to?” How much preparation have they bothered to do really?
Lecturers who insist you buy the expensive set textbook then never refer to it in class or use it to support assignments.
Lecturers who behave as if their course is the most important course in the degree and talk down the other courses – and some of the other lecturers.
Lecturers who change the assignment details well into the semester when you have already done some pre-reading and preparation, based on the original assignment details.
Lecturers who will not accept an assignment with references more than five years old yet use references in their classes and materials for students that are up to 25 years old.
Lecturers who do not hand back assignments before the next assignment is due so you are devoid of any potentially useful feedback to help you improve next time round.
Lecturers who talk too much about their personal life during lectures, especially about what they did on the weekend, assuming we students are interested and will think them cool.
Lecturers who only teach to the front row or two, speaking quietly to them and ignoring the other 400 students.
Lecturers who are boring and do not actively involve the students in any way. The content may be interesting, but their delivery is so dreary with minimal acknowledgement that there even are any students in front of him or her.
Lecturers who never bother to learn student names even when there are only 10 or 12 people in the class.
Lecturers who don’t teach. Instead they just read the PPT slides or show multiple YouTube clips, which they didn’t even make, and which we could just as easily spend time reading and-or watching in our own time.
Lecturers who promise to post notes or materials up on the website by a particular date or time and never do, but blast students for not getting their work in on time.
Lecturers who go overtime, which means you are always late for your next class or miss your bus or arrive late for work.
Although we might not realize it, we all face ethical issues on a regular basis. But how do we know how to respond well to these issues, to make better (as opposed to worse) ethical decisions? In this TEDx talk Dr. Michael D. Burroughs discusses the numerous kinds of ethical issues we face, possibilities for increasing our ethical awareness as “everyday ethicists,” and the importance of introducing ethics and philosophical education in our schools. Dr. Burroughs also discusses the role of ethics in the lives of children and ways in which adults can attempt to understand and learn from children in ethical discussions.
Why are we avoiding issues of ethics, and why are we avoiding engaging in respectful and civil dialogue about ethics? Many people simply do not have the tools to address issues of ethics.
Dr. Burroughs works with small children (ages 3, 4 or 5 years old) and observes the sense of ethics that already exists in people of such a young age. The respect, humility and eagerness to recognize issues of fairness and ethics is already displayed in young children.
When children already have such an ingrained sense of ethics, at what point of our lives do we begin to doubt this sense, or even lose it? This video inspired me, and made me think about my own ethical journey. I hope that you will enjoy this video as well.
“Feynman stumbled upon a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else. It’s called the Feynman Technique and it will help you learn anything deeper, and faster. The topic, subject, or concept you want to learn doesn’t matter. Pick anything. The Feynman Technique works for everything. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple to implement.“
The four steps are:
Choose a Concept
Teach it to a Toddler
Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
Review and Simplify
I agree that this method works – I spent so many years trying to complexify simple matters, and was feeling so frustrated as I muddled along. Now that I am older, and allegedly wiser, I see that the key to learning anything, I do mean anything, is to simply first, and only then add the more complex building blocks. This applies to learning a new language, learning about how to write a business plan or how to study and resolve a case.