Group Work Evaluation Infographic

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PIDP Reflection

This will be my final blog entry for the course “PIDP 3260 Professional Practice” in the Provincial Instructor Diploma program at Vancouver Community College.

Here, I will reflect on each of the seven courses I have taken over the past year outlining what I have learned, how my thinking has changed, and what actions I will take based on this learning.

PIDP 3100 Foundations of Adult Education
This course allowed me to explore the “who” aspect of adult learners. I have learned that all students bring unique and individual experiences in to the classroom. Each set of experiences will add to, or take away from, their experience in my classroom. It is important to understand student motivations for taking your class so you can encourage and nature them. It is also important to understand their learning preferences and to try to bring these preferences to life in your classroom.

PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development

I really do not know where I would be today without this course! By learning to develop course learning objectives and outcomes, DACUMS, course outlines, and other instructional materials, I have at least doubled or tripled my efficiency as an instructor. Being more organized and deliberate in my approach to courses has reduced my anxiety around being organized and prepared for class. It has also helped me make each class relevant, by ensuring teachings and activities are based on solid learning outcomes.

PIDP 3220 Delivery of Instruction

I took the Instructional Skills Workshop offered by my employer, BCIT, in lieu of this course. I learned here that courses for adults need to be student-focussed (as opposed to teacher focused) to be engaging. The 10-minute mini-lesson cycle was especially valuable as it tough me how to structure my 3-hour blocks of class time. I am no longer putting students to sleep with long, boring lectures. Instead, students are actively learning and engaged in the materials…most of the time!

PIDP 3230 Evaluation of Learning
This course was a game changer. I learned how to create evaluations that are fair and balanced. I now know how to structure evaluation items to accurately reflect the course learning outcomes. I am able to create exams that make sense, give clear direction, and are free of errors. Most importantly, I now provide my students with marking rubrics that outline how each assignment will be graded so that they can self-assess their work prior to submission, or if there is a dispute. I have much more confidence around assessment than I did before.

PIDP 3240 Media Enhanced Learning
This course has helped me make the learning in my online course more personal by allowing me to experiment with digital learning strategies such as PechaKucha Powerpoints and YouTube videos. I now give verbal and video feedback online, which saves time and adds a personal touch to evaluation in distance learning.

PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies

This course introduced me to many valuable learning strategies. I loved the text book for this course which has so many great instructional strategies that I have already used in the courses I instruct – my favorites being the split-room debate and the “coffee shop”. I took this class in a face-to-face setting which allowed me to make some great connections with other instructors.

PIDP 3260 Professional Practice
In this course, I have had to opportunity to examine ethical issues and have learned a great technique (Kidders Nine-step Process) for analyzing and managing such issues that may come up. I also had the opportunity to self-reflect on the teachings of Stephen Brookfield, author of The Skillful Teacher, which has enlightened me and given me many ideas for engaging and motivating adult learners.

Just knowing that I have taken all of these courses and that they have changed my teaching practice and really helped me so much, is very liberating! I have such a sense of pride for what I have accomplished on top of nurturing my marriage, children, friendships and career.

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Top 10 reasons to pursue Life-long Learning

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There are several reasons why being a life-long learner is important for professionals.

Wikipedia defines ‘Lifelong learning’ as “the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated”[1] pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development, but also self-sustainability, rather than competitiveness and employability” (Wikipedia, 2015).

Here are my top-ten reasons for pursuing life-long learning:

  1. The first is to stay current on new and emerging trends within your field. Not only will this help you shine in the workplace, but it may also help you to maintain an excitement and interest in your line of work.
  2. You will boost self-confidence by developing your skills and learning new approaches to your practice. As an instructor, this may help us stay relevant. My dentist attends training seminars regularly to stay up-to-date on new medical technology – I am thankful for this as I certainly wouldn’t want him to be out-of-practice!
  3. Will help you stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest in technology and communication, such as social media!
  4. Professional development looks great on a resume as it shows an active interest and self-motivated individual. This could put you in a more competitive position when applying for a new position or promotion.
  5. Enhances credibility as a subject matter expert, and may even lead to other opportunities. You may meet someone in a professional development course who could hire you for consulting or a job in the future.
  6. Pursuing other interests makes life interesting! Taking a course on photography, cooking, fitness, gardening, or another interest will add to your overall enjoyment of life. This will make you a happier and better-rounded individual.
  7. As a post-secondary instructor, it gives you street credit in the classroom as you can discuss the challenges of learning with your students and empathize with the positions they are in.
  8. Promotes a healthy level of child-like curiosity right in to boring, old adulthood!
  9. Use it, don’t lose it. Challenging the mind to think in a new or different way is a great way to exercise the mind. Being around other learners may also help you to see things from different perspectives and to expand your own thinking on an issue.
  10. In Canada, individuals can take advantage of the life-long learning program whereby you can use money in your RRSP to pay for education. Students are given 10 years upon completion of their program to pay this money back to their RRSP.

So, there you have it! Challenge yourself throughout your life to seek out learning opportunities whenever and wherever you can.

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Helping Students take responsibility for their learning

In reading Stephen Brookfield’s The Skillful Teacher, I have come to understand that instructors must never take on the sole responsibility for student motivation, as students must possess the intrinsic desire to learn.

That said, there are some steps that Brookfield suggests in Chapter 15 to help students take responsibility for learning in the classroom, throughout their careers and over their lifetime.

  • Build self-confidence through personal disclosure pertaining to your own struggles to grasp the concepts the first time. Recognize the knowledge that students bring to the classroom by conducting activities that allow them to “show off” what they already know. Provide peer examples of self-initiated learning to class; have previous students talk about how they completed projects. Encourage peer learning so that students can discuss other perspectives on the learnings.
  • Understand you own instinctive preferences. What learning style works best for you? Where did you struggle when learning the material for the first time? When should you trust/ignore your instincts? What types of setbacks could there be when learning the concept and how could you address these? Gather student feedback throughout questionnaires. Have previous students “pay-it-forward” by giving advice to the new students. Conduct an “I learn best when…” brainstorm on the whiteboard to understand student preferences.
  • Develop informational literacy by helping students become more resourceful. Teach them how to search for information in the same way that they may have to do on the job.
  • Have students Design learning projects. Appreciate that there are many ways in which one could learn about a subject and allow students the flexibility to select their own approach to learning. You can also have students give feedback on what types of questions they would like to see on assessment and take these in to consideration when developing evaluation items.

Be aware that “taking responsibility for their learning is one of the things that students resist the most” (Brookfield, p. 210). We want to help and guide students to success, but solving every problem or challenge a student may have is not a helpful approach, despite best intentions.

In the Harvard Business Review book “What makes a Good Leader” managers are encouraged to not allow employees to “put monkeys on their backs”. Instead, they are encouraged to throw problems back at employees to solve and to not take them on personally. The same principle must also be applied in the classroom.

References:
Goleman, D. (2011). HBR’s 10 must reads: Leadership. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Brookfield, S. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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First Impressions in the classroom

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Today marks the first week of the Winter 2016 semester here in the School of Business at BCIT. For me, this means that I will be meeting over 70 students this week who I will guide through studies on Strategic Online Marketing and Public Relations.

As an instructor with the desire to start out on the right foot, an article posted to the VCC School of Instructor FaceBook page on January 5th titled “First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class” by Betty Anne Buirs, PhD, caught my attention.

Will Rogers is famous for saying, “You will never get s second chance to make a first impression” and I believe he is right.

Buirs gives two simple guidelines for creating success on the first day: arrive early and have the students work in pairs on a learning activity, right away. I chose to apply both of these best practices today.

First, I arrived early and had the chance to get set up my classroom and get prepared and organized before any of my students arrived. I also had time to grab a cup of coffee!

Being prepared allowed me to relax and personally greet each and every student as they walked in the door. This initial greeting was appreciated by students who seemed pleased to be acknowledged. It also set a warm and welcoming tone for the class.

“Students are never more attentive than they are on the first day of class, when they’re eager to determine what kind of professor they’re dealing with, and although it is tempting to delay the real work of teaching and learning until the class list has stabilized, it can be difficult to change even the subtle norms that are established during this initial class” (2016, Buirs).

Knowing that students are eager to learn – and to embrace this fact -I conducted an ice breaker introduction, gave a quick overview of the course schedule, evaluation and assessment and jumped right in to the course material. I followed the BOPPS format of mini-lesson cycles and taught the students about two major concepts.

The second piece of advice given by Buirs is to encourage students to work in pairs to complete an activity. As such, students were paired up to work on a simple task, which they then presented to the class. This established an expectation of class participation, which will be the norm for the semester.

All-in-all, I had a great day today, and feedback from the students was also positive. A win-win for everyone. A big  thank you to Betty Anne Buirs and the VCC School of Instructor Education for setting me up for success.

References:
Buirs, B., PhD. (2016, January 04). First Impressions: Activities for the First Day of Class. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/effective-teaching-strategies/first-impressions-activities-for-the-first-day-of-class/?utm_campaign=shareaholic

Weimer, M., PHD. (2015, August 19). The First Day of Class: A Once-a-Semester Opportunity. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/the-first-day-of-class-a-once-a-semester-opportunity/

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Lecturing Creatively

I apologize to all the students who were subjected to my lectures, prior to  me taking the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program (PIDP).

In the past, my classroom lectures were “teacher focussed” in that students were forced to listen while I downloaded the information they needed to know, via long lectures supported by PowerPoint slides.

Some students paid attention, others glazed over, and in a couple cases some even fell asleep!

Given that many of my classes run in the evenings or on weekends, students are often tired when they come to class and need something more stimulating than having me talk, while they are forced to listen to, and absorb, the materials presented.

But, lectures aren’t all bad. In chapter six of The Skillful Teacher, author  Stephen Brookfield lists five of the most common reasons lectures should be included in our teaching repertoire:

  1. To establish the broad outline of the material.
  2. To explain, with frequent examples, concepts that learners struggle to understand.
  3. To introduce alternative perspectives and interpretations.
  4. To model intellectual attitudes and behaviours you wish to encourage in students.
  5. To encourage learners’ interest in a topic.

Students need a good mix of relevant lecture and active learning to keep them engaged. 

I now like to follow the “Mini-Lesson Cycle” taught in the Instructor Skills Workshop course. It involves creating three 40-minute lectures for a 3 hour-class format, like the ones I teach.

Here is an infographic that gives a breakdown of the Mini-Lesson:

the-art-of-teaching-13-728

I successfully implemented this cycle in five courses in the Fall semester and as a result, I saw an increase in engagement levels and evaluation scores.

References:
Brookfield, S. (1990). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The Art of Teaching. (n.d.). Retrieved January 07, 2016, from http://www.slideshare.net/BCcampus/the-art-of-teaching-2287974

BCIT ISW Handbook for Participants. (2006). BURNABY, BC: BCIT.
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Ethics in Education: Atlanta teachers sentenced to jail for roles in cheating scandal

On April 1, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia, eight educators “were convicted of racketeering and other lesser crimes related to inflating test scores of children from struggling schools” (CNN, 2015).

From 2001 to 2010 several Atlanta Public School teachers increased (altered and fabricated) test scores in order to earn financial bonuses, advance their careers, and keep their jobs.

This is one of the most massive cheating scandals in US history.

In over 40 schools, teachers held “cheating parties” where they erased and corrected wrong answers on exams. The article states that teachers who did not go along with the cheating scandal were terminated or black-balled from promotions.

The scandal was uncovered by journalists who investigated after test scores increased dramatically over a period of several years.

The teacher cheating was to the detriment of thousands of the districts students who graduated without the necessary skills (reading, writing, mathematics) they should have been taught and tested for in school.

Also, funding for special needs kids decreased due to the fact that it appeared students were doing so well, when in reality they weren’t meeting expectations.

This was an extremely selfish crime that hurt many of the regions most vulnerable students and tarnished the districts reputation. It should never have happened and the leaders of the scandal were punished with jail time.

As an employee at BCIT, instructors are bound by a professional code of conduct. BCIT’s Code of Conduct states:

“BCIT is committed to the overall educational, personal and professional development of its students, and to the safety of its students, employees and visitors. It is equally committed to providing an environment which fosters learning and sports respect, diversity, human rights, and the integrity of academic pursuits.”

Students abide by BCIT’s Student Code of Conduct that outlines: the behaviours and attitudes expected; types of misconduct and breaches of laws and safety codes; how to register a compliant; how complaints will be handled by BCIT; and, the duties and responsibilities of instructors and officials in following the policy (BCIT Code of Conduct, 2009).

Furthermore, In Canada, public relations practitioners are to abide by the Canadian Public Relations society’s Code of Conduct which outlines the do’s and don’t of the PR practice in Canada. Members of the society, must adhere to the Code of Conduct.

References:
Prison time for some Atlanta school educators in cheating scandal – CNN.com. (2015, April 15). Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/14/us/georgia-atlanta-public-schools-cheating-scandal-verdicts/index.html

BCIT CODE OF CONDUCT. (2014, October 28). Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.bcit.ca/files/pdf/policies/1500.pdf

BCIT STUDENT CODE OF CONDUCT. (2009, January 27). Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.bcit.ca/files/pdf/policies/5102.pdf

Code of Ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.cprs.ca/aboutus/code_ethic.aspx

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Understanding Students’ Resistance to Learning

Like author Stephen Brookfield, many teachers tend to take on the responsibility for students; resistance to learning as as personal failure by “internalizing the myth chronicled by Britzman (2003) that “everything depends on the teacher” (Brookfield, p. 213).

Once again, it is important here to consider the composition and character of the adult learner. Adult learners come to the classroom with a host of life experience and biases and opinions that stem from this experience.

They are wildly unique individuals. In addition to their roles as students, they are parents, employees, caregivers, spouses, teammates – and play many roles in their day-to-day lives.

As a result, students’ personal resistance to learning may be completely out of the control of the instructor.

Students may have a fear of learning, then changing who they are. They may lack self confidence, and turn away from course work because they are scared to fail, or succeed. Many have a fear of the “unknown”. They may have learner fatigue. They may not understand the relevance of the lesson. They may not “click” with the instructor, and close up as a result.

While he notes that resistance may never be overcome, Brookfield suggests several ways to contain and mitigate students’ resistance to learning:

  1. Try to sort out the causes of resistance.
  2. Ask yourself if the resistance is justified.
  3. Research your students’ backgrounds (cultural, racial, ability levels, previous experience, preferred learning styles, etc).
  4. When appropriate involve students in educational planning.
  5. Use a variety of teaching methods and approaches.
  6. Assess learning incrementally (if students are going to receive a low grade, they need to know this as early as possible).
  7. Check that your intentions are clearly understood.
  8. Build a case for learning
  9. Create situations in which students succeed
  10. Don’t push too fast.
  11. Admit the normality of resistance.
  12. Try to limit the negative effects of resistance.

Ultimately, adult students have the right to resist learning, if they so choose. They are paying customers and have the ability to control their approach to the learning experience.

As instructors, we should do our best to ensure a learning environment that meets student needs; however, we must understand that it may not be possible to please all students – and not take this personally.

References:
Brookfield, S. (2015). Exercising Teacher Power Responsibly. In The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Characteristics of Adult Learners or Non-Traditional Students in College. (2013, November 7). Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.brighthub.com/education/college/articles/85182.aspx

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Teaching in Diverse Classrooms

Chapter 8 of Stephen Brookfield’s The Skillful Teacher discusses the challenges and opportunities instructors face when teaching in diverse classrooms.

In one of the courses I taught this fall at BCIT I had 32 students; 13 of them identified as English as a second (third, or fourth) language learners. The class was made up of a diverse, multi-cultural group of students from places all around the world including: Canada, Germany, China, Philippines, South Asia, and many from Brazil.

In addition to the cultural differences between students, I had several students in the class with various learning and physical disabilities. I view diversity as a surmountable challenge in the classroom, but not as a barrier to learning.

While I cannot see myself using a formal questionnaire to gauge student diversity, I do use several pre-assessment techniques to get an idea of the knowledge level on the topic-at-hand prior to beginning each lesson. I then tailor the lesson accordingly to meet the needs of the majority of students in the class.

For quick reference, I’ve noted Brookfield’s list of strategies for teaching in a diverse classroom here:

  • Team teach
  • Mix student groups
  • Mix modalities
  • Incorporate visual with oral communication
  • Balance silent time with speaking time

By reading this chapter, I learned that despite our best intentions and planning for diversity we will always fall short. The reason for this is that by engaging one type of learner, you may lose another.

Brookfield summarizes this nicely when he concludes that “doing all these things doesn’t remove my fundamental awareness that addressing diversity will always only be partially successful” (Brookfield, p. 109).

References:
Brookfield, S. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (Third ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

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Where am I at? Where am I headed?

Being that the New Year is fast approaching (and that it’s a blog posting requirement for my PIDP 3260 course!) I thought it would be prudent to reflect on where I am now in my career, where I hope to be in five years, and some steps I can take to get there.

I consider myself to be in the early years in my career as a post-secondary instructor. I have been teaching in the part-time studies Marketing Management program at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) for nearly five years. In my five years at BCIT, I have taught 37 courses – and hundreds of students.

Prior to my experience at BCIT, I spent over 15 years in the field of communications and public relations with notable organizations such as BC Lottery Corporation, Coast Capital Savings, Starbucks and Acumen Communications Group.

I’ve had some great experience in the corporate world and am now ready to leave that chapter of my career behind, and move forward in my role as a “facilitator of learning.”

My next step will be to complete a Masters Degree in Education (M. Ed) to take my teaching career to the next level. I have applied for entry into a program beginning in June 2016 and hope to hear back as to whether I’ve been accepted early in the New Year.

As I make my way through the M. Ed program, I will continue to work part-time as an instructor at BCIT. Once I have completed my Master’s Degree, I will pursue a full-time teaching role, hopefully at BCIT, but I am open to other educational institutions if a great opportunity presents itself.

I am a passionate and dedicated teacher, who cares deeply about the personal growth and satisfaction of the students in each and every one of my courses.

I look forward to completing the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program, and my M. Ed.  – and putting the extremely valuable skills I am learning in to practice.

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