What I Learned in the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

This week is the final week of PIDP3260 and I feel both joyous and sad. It’s the end of a wonderful year of learning about learning. I feel that I have learned so much, and at the same time I also feel that I barely scratched the surface of what I could know about teaching, and about learning.

I greatly enjoyed my courses at VCC, and once I am done with this current course, only the final Capstone Project remains. I am so very grateful to my instructors, who gently guided my studies and provided extraordinary insights and such valuable feedback on all my assignments.

The Provincial Instructors Diploma in Adult Learning program consists of seven courses, and one Capstone project. The courses can be taken in person over several weekends, or in an intensive fashion during one week each (followed by several weeks to complete assignments) or over several weeks online. One course is delivered in-person only (Delivery of Instruction), and one course is delivered online only (Media Enhanced Learning). Looking back, I feel that the time I spent in this program, given my teaching load, was time very very well spent. I learned tools and techniques to organize, deliver and assess my course materials, and met wonderful colleagues and delightful instructors.

PIDP3100, Foundation of Adult Education, was the first course that I took, in February 2016. It provides a sound theoretical background to the program, and introduced me to traditional learning theories, andragogy (the art and science of helping adults learn), self-directed learning, transformative learning, experiential learning, body and spirit in learning, motivation, the brain and cognitive functioning (fascinating!!), adult learning in the digital age (a topic of great interest, as I design and deliver a number of courses online), critical thinking and culture. I loved this course – it was a lot of reading, reflecting, and writing – and this was the course that started this blog, too. During that course, I self-assessed my teaching skills, strengths and weaknesses – and assessed them again a few weeks ago to measure how far I have come. The brief answer is “quite far!!!”.

PIDP3220, Delivery of Instruction, was the next course that I took. This course took place in a classroom, and it was challenging for another reason: we had to create three lesson plans and present three 10-minute mini-lessons in the course of five days. We learned several methods of presentation and student engagement. An important part of taking a class in person is meeting colleagues who are instructors. They are instructing different topics than I am. I met people who taught sailing, nursing, leadership, food preparation, carpentry… all different topics, yet each of us possessing a similar zeal to learn, and confer knowledge to our students. The most important lesson I learned in the course was about proper lesson delivery skills.

PIDP3230, Evaluation of Learning, was a challenging course that I took online. I learned the best practices of creating a knowledge assessment instrument, created a rubric for an assignment, created a video about an informal assessment strategy and finally created an evaluation plan. The assignments in this course were among the most challenging in the program – perhaps because I had not yet taken curriculum design, but also because I went into great depths to ensure a quality product for each deliverable. The most important lesson I learned in Evaluation of Learning was about the need for alignment between learning objectives, what I taught in class, and what I assessed in exams and other instruments of assessment. In my own educational journey I had experienced several classes where the instructor taught at one level, and assessed at a very different level. This is not good practice. I strive for alignment as best as I can in my own varied courses.

PIDP3210, Curriculum Development, was a intense one-week-in-class course experience for me, but oh so eye-opening. I created learning objectives, a course outline and syllabus for one of my courses, as well as a lesson plan. I loved our activities in class – I learned so much! I was taken aback by the hidden curriculum, and researched the topic further. I also reflected on what hidden curriculum lay lurking in my own past scholarly experiences.

PIDP3240, Media Enhanced Learning, was delivered online. The course focused on online discussions, infographics, podcasts, online presentations and open textbooks. I wanted to push myself a little, so I developed infographics and wrote a chapter for an upcoming open textbook on technology management. This is a challenging course for some – as there are so many tools online!! and so many discussions to keep track of !! – but the assignments quickly made us comfortable with the new forms of media. I am particularly happy at having tried to create infographics and continue to create them for my classes, and continue to investigate methods of visualizing data. I am also thinking of completing that open textbook about technology management… when I have more time.

PID3250, Instructional Strategies, was all about the student. We reviewed again how students learn (and what are the best practices of studying – a useful topic to introduce to my young students). I created presentations on motivation tips and strategies and student engagement techniques, reviewed ways of making my courses more engaging before, during, and after class; and wrote a long piece on the importance of a student’s feeling of belonging, to help him or her succeed in their studies. The course reinforced my empathy for my students, and their struggles as they continue their studies. With this course, I realized that over the course of the past few months I was becoming more and more learner-centered in my approach to teaching.

And finally, PID3260, Professional Practice, which I am now very sadly completing. The textbook by Stephen Brookfield, “The Skillful Teacher”, encourages me to take chances and try new approaches during my classes. I enjoyed reading about his various experiences in class, his successes and stumbles, and feel challenged to broaden my own scope of course delivery (lecturing is so 20th century!). The textbook also introduced me to the topic of cultural suicide, a topic that I explored in depth in one of my assignments. The course helped me resume my blogging practice, and also presented me with a method to evaluate ethical situations – a topic that I will be bringing to a few of my management of technology courses.

All of our courses required much reflection after each assignment, and after our assigned readings as well. I greatly, greatly, appreciate the reflective quality of the program. Structured reflection enables me to check in with myself after completing a major assignment or after a difficult evening in class. The reflective process helps me review any situation or idea by using a structured method.

While completing the program, I discovered again my love of learning, of reading, and of writing long well-researched assignments. I look forward to continuing all this in my next degree adventure.

I feel happy to be completing this diploma, and feel very sad to leave the supportive instructors and delightful colleagues that I met at VCC. As I return to school to teach, and to learn, in the new year I hope that we will all keep in touch in person and online.

Welcome to the Future, Public Domain image
What I Learned in the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

Exit Cards

I learned about Exit Cards this summer, when I was taking the Evaluation of Learning course. Exit Cards is a more general assessment method that combines the best of the Minute Paper and the Muddiest Point – and other assessment techniques. Basically it’s an umbrella term for enabling students to spend five minutes, at the end of class, thinking about the lesson and providing feedback to the instructor about what they have learned, or feedback about the teaching, or questions that remain about the lesson, or even a reflection on how they are learning – and what they could do better.

It’s so easy to prepare: simply take an index card, or an 8×11″ sheet of paper, and – before class – write the question to ask the students. One or two questions is sufficient, there’s no need to ask much more than that.

Examples of Exit Cards – Vida Morkunas – CC Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike

All this to say that I fell in love with the concept, its freedom to setup, the great variety of questions that I could use with my students. Tonight I was busy wrapping up a few of my projects and was stressing out a bit – so I decided let the creative juices flow and create a little infographic about exit cards, hope you like it.

Exit Cards – Vida Morkunas – CC Attribution, Non Commercial, Share Alike
Exit Cards

More Ideas for Creativity in the Classroom

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!

20 Ideas to Promote More Creativity in Your Classroom – Fusion Blog (2016)

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.


Guerrero, A. (2016). Twenty Ideas to Promote More Creativity In Your Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.fusionyearbooks.com/blog/creative-classrooms/

More Ideas for Creativity in the Classroom

Lifelong Learning

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?”

Well, no.

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.

Christy Pongo – Open Book, 2014 – CC Attribution-NonCommercial
Lifelong Learning

Using Imagination, Play and Creativity

I was reading Brookfield’s Skillful Teacher (2015) on using imagination, play and creativity inside the classroom and came across a brief mention on page 126 about John Bohannon’s TED talk proposal for science PhD candidates to present their dissertations through …dance.

I knew I had to look up his talk, and here it is! Bohannon proposes that we use dance to justify major policy decisions: “Rather than dancing our Ph.Ds, we should use dance to explain all of our complex problems. Imagine our politicians using dance to explain why we must invade a foreign country or bail out an investment bank. It’s sure to help.” What a different world it would be!

And if you would like to read more about the Dancing for Your PhD competition, and see some very creative entries, you can see a good article here. And if you have a PhD thesis that you wish to submit to dance, the competition opens every year with a deadline in June, with details here.


Bohannon, J. (2011). Dance vs. PowerPoint, a modest proposal. TEDx Brussels. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/john_bohannon_dance_vs_powerpoint_a_modest_proposal

Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Using Imagination, Play and Creativity

Plagiarism is not an Ethical Dilemma

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.

Vida Morkunas, Vosk Centre for Dialogue, 2015, ARR


(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.

Plagiarism is not an Ethical Dilemma