Beliefs and values drive design and delivery

looking through scopeAre you getting ready for a new semester or preparing for a training event? Are you finding it challenging to select a design approach for a new course, to find ways to improve your current courses or your in-class lessons? Despite the long list of tasks you need to complete before you begin a new teaching experience, you should consider taking some time to ground yourself by identifying what you really believe about how people learn effectively and the role you play in helping them do that. I wanted to share a few strategies to help you do that more easily than you might think!

  1. Tell a story

    Start from what you know or believe to be true (don’t research – just respond).  It’s best to find a partner or a small group to complete this reflective activity (based on a more extensive reflective exercise called the “metaphorical mirror” (Wagenheim, Clark, Crispo, 2009)).
    First, ask yourself:
    -What is a sport or activity or hobby that I do well and enjoy? Think back to when you first began. How did you get interested in the activity? How did you learn the basic skills? What helped you develop your abilities?
    Next:  document your answers – write a brief summary, record a narrative video or audio, create something visual – whatever helps you recall the experiences. Be prepared to share them with a colleague (or a small group).
    Then: ask a colleague or your small group to listen as you share your story. Ask the listener(s) to listen carefully and ask clarifying questions to ensure they understand. Allow time for them to share their responses to your story and any additional insights that might provide a helpful perspective. You can take turns helping others to clarify their stories.
    Afterwards: Revisit your story. Can you identify parts of the story that illuminate aspects of your current teaching approaches? Does it help you to see areas of your practice that you’d like to modify, improve or eliminate?  Document your ideas about how this increased understanding can help you redesign your course, workshop or learning event.

  2. Complete a teaching perspectives survey

    Check out the Teaching Perspectives Inventory, developed by Dan Pratt and John Collins (originally instructors at UBC). Take time to complete a series of online questions (free) about your perspectives on teaching. The results of your answers are graphed across five different perspectives:  Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform. You’ll receive a brief report and interpretation (by email) and you can learn more by exploring the website or purchasing their book.
    Suggestion for use:  While it’s an interesting snapshot of your perspectives on teaching, you can gain more from the inventory by using it to identify areas of teaching you want to improve or change. Test out your new approaches or modifications and then take the inventory again. You may be surprised by how quickly your changed practices create differences in your TPI results.
    The TPI can be a useful monitoring instrument and help you track and be more aware of the choices you make when you teach or develop courses.

  3. Review Seven Principles of Good Practice in Higher Education

    Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson reviewed research from various universities in the United States and distilled the findings into the well-known “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” The principles are:
    – Encourage contact between students and faculty
    – Develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
    – Encourage active learning
    – Give prompt feedback
    – Emphasize time on task
    – Communicate high expectations
    – Respect diverse talents and ways of learning
    These principles still seem relevant and meaningful today. You may find it useful to reflect on how many of these principles you employ in your teaching practice and/or course design.

  4. Write a statement of teaching philosophy.

    If you’ve completed some form of teacher training or completed recent job applications, you may already have one. If you don’t, here’s some guidelines for how to compose one: Teaching Philosophy Statements (from University of Guelph).
    In general, statements (usually 1-2 typed pages) include:
    – a statement of your values and beliefs about teaching and learning;
    – an identification of different strategies or practices that demonstrate how you see your beliefs reflected in your teaching or course development;
    – a list of your future objectives in terms of your professional development
    – a conclusion that highlights your commitment to your professional practice
    Suggestion for further development:  You might consider augmenting your written statement with some form of visual – a collage, an interactive presentation (brief) or a short video. It’s worth creating various forms as each may provide additional insights into your beliefs and how you apply them in practice. The teaching philosophy statement can (and should) be revisited periodically. I also suggest that you revisit them when you change the subject or type of teaching you do (e.g., switching to online or blended forms of teaching).

A closing thought – if you make significant changes in the way you teach (modality, technologies, subject areas, diversity of learners, country, etc.), you may find that your reflection on your values about how people learn may shift and expand. Mapping or charting the journey of your professional development can be a fascinating challenge and provide you with both personal and professional satisfaction.

References:

Center for Instructional Technology and Training, University of Florida (June 30, 2017) Chickering and Gamson: 7 Rules for Undergraduate Education, retrieved from http://citt.ufl.edu/tools/chickering-and-gamson-7-rules-for-undergraduate-education/

Pratt, Daniel D., and John B. Collins, Teaching Perspectives Inventory (website) retrieved from http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/

Pratt, Daniel D., John B. Collins, Sandra Jarvis Selinger,  (2001) Development and Use of The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI), AERA 2001, retrieved from https://cvm.msu.edu/assets/documents/Faculty-and-Staff/Development_and_Use_of_the_Teaching_Pers.pdf

University of Calgary, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, Sample Statements of Teaching Philosophy, retrieved from http://ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/resources/teaching-philosophies-dossiers/sample-teaching-philosophy-statements

University of Guelph, Graduate Student Development, Teaching Philosophy Statements, retrieved from http://opened.uoguelph.ca/student-resources/teaching-philosophy-statements?_mid_=1073

Wagenheim, Gary; Clark, Robert; Crispo, Alexander W. (2009) International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, v20 n3 p503-509, retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ869334.pdf

Diversifying design – exploring culturally responsive online design

Setting the Scene

Last year I spent a fair bit of time reviewing my understanding of foundational ideas and research that provide “us” (teachers and instructional designers) with guiding theories, principles, frameworks and guidelines to design “quality” programs, courses, lessons and learning activities. What I found was that, the closer I looked, the more it seemed as though there was no “best way” to recommend. The different ideas or theories each seemed to provide some value, in different learning contexts, for different learning outcomes, to address different kinds of knowledge or thinking/learning process.
I tried to incorporate that perspective in a four week online design workshop I developed for BCcampus and provided a quick review of the major (persistent and/or supported by a significant body of evidence) theories, etc. I selected three design approaches for participants to select (constructive alignment/reverse design, design thinking for education, open education) and asked each of them to think about their own beliefs about teaching and learning and to try to identify the reasons for their choices in their project design.

diversitySparks for Diversity

When we talked about facilitating, teaching, designing for online learners, we considered various perspectives on diversity. One major aspect of diversity that all educators seemed to be wrestling with is how to address the increasing diversity of cultural perspectives that students bring into online learning experiences. And, another challenging aspect identified by participants – how to deal respectfully and authentically with the issues of decolonization and “indigenizing the curriculum.” Although I had acknowledged diversity in my workshop design, I had sidestepped issues of decolonization, intercultural learning and indigenization, as I was uncertain how to address these issues meaningfully in a four week workshop.

One of my participants was Donna Desbiens, an intercultural learning expert currently with Royal Roads University. She shared a recent journal article she had co-authored with Gail Morong “Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections”  The paper incorporates some thoughtful ideas about “internationalisation” and “indigenisation” and introduced me to some current thinking about “culturally competent facilitation” and “participatory intercultural learning”. Donna and Gail reviewed a wide range of research and provided some recommendations for learning design within online environments, from an intercultural and indigenous perspective. Their Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines list the “most critical research-indicated supports” and show how they can be integrated into course design. Although my main focus was to find new ideas for designing culturally sensitive (inclusive?) online learning, the article also introduced me to some new terminology and intercultural concepts that I’ll follow up over the summer to improve my understanding. Various references to AAC&U VALUE rubrics seem to indicate they could be a good place to start identifying ways to update our online facilitation practices as well.

Next Steps

  1. Review the treatment of quality/accessibility rubrics in FLO-Design workshop – find a simple way to introduce the basic tenets of intercultural learning and suggestions from Culturally Responsive Online Design Guidelines.
  2. Review the ideas and recommendations for creating culturally safe online environments and intercultural competencies in facilitation techniques – find a way to update “online community” and “collaboration” section in FLO-Fundamental workshop. Current thinking, as explained in Morong and Desbiens’ article is to clarify role of collaborative and cooperative work and allow space for individual learning and cultural contributions.
  3. Further exploration of recommended “crucial supports for intercultural learning” (suggested by research):
    – critical and holistic pedagogies;
    – explicit intercultural learning outcomes and assessments that address cultural knowledge;
    – affective learning;
    – relational skills; and,
    – intentional diversity group work
  4. Further exploration of “idiocultures” and potential impact on structuring and supporting online collaborative/cooperative groupwork or knowledge building.

Note:  idiocultures:  refers to unique small group realities,”a system of knowledge, beliefs, behaviors and customs shared by members of an interacting group to which members can refer and employ as a basis of further interaction (derives from G.A. Fine’s analysis of small groups and culture creation 1979)

Reference

Morong, G., & DesBiens, D. (2016). Culturally responsive online design: learning at intercultural intersections. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 474-492. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240901

 

 

How to learn more effectively

There’s been a lot of interest in recent neuro-scientific research, particularly research related to different aspects of learning and memory. As educators, we’re always trying to find better ways to help our students learn (and ourselves as well). While popular science articles have highlighted many of the significant changes in our understanding of how the brain works, reading some of the details of research and ongoing debates about our interpretation of fMRI data left me wanting to learn more.

A colleague of mine, Beth Cougler Blom, suggested I take part in a Coursera MOOC “Learning How to Learn” last year (she had just completed an earlier offering). She found the University of California (San Diego) course enlightening and mentioned several insights she’d gleaned. So I signed up and was introduced to Dr. Barbara Oakley, Professor of Engineering, Oakland University, and Dr. Terence Sejnowski, Francis Crick Professor at Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

So what “stood out for me” that might be useful to share with other educators?

  1.  Behaviorist theories of learning are still important and applicable, particularly when interpreted in light of neuro-science research and application in various studies grounded in higher education environments.
  2. We learn best (deeper, broader) and retain more when use the study / work techniques redefined through recent investigations. Surprisingly, practising recall without prompts was still one of the powerful tools we can apply to improve our learning. No more relying on my Google-brain when tackling new subjects. And recall trumped mind/concept-mapping for some types of learning (see references)
  3. We need to take care of our physical well-being to ensure that our brain functions well – aerobic activity is an increasingly important factor, along with getting sufficient sleep. Note:  I’ll never forget the mental image of my brain cells shrinking as I sleep so all the effluent can be drained away and my cells can be ready and clean for the next day. And, fMRI brain imaging showed multiple new synapses can form after learning and sleep.
  4. We can “rewire” our brains. Research has shown (and Dr. Oakley is a living example) that the brain retains it’s flexibility (neuro-plasticity) and we can continue to generate new brain cells and neural connections.

What could you do to improve your student’s learning right now?

You can jump right to Dr. Oakley’s 10 Rules of Good Studying (extracted from her 2014 book, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra). The 10 rules are far easier to read than to apply – I’m still trying to integrate them in my reading and note-taking although I’ve noticed some improvement fairly quickly.

Some of the interesting ideas I learned from the Learning How to Learn MOOC:

  1.  Practicing something for 10,000 hours is not the best way to master your subject. Mixing up your techniques for practice, spacing your practices, and challenging yourself to recall without supports (or to try teaching what you’re learning to someone else) combine to form a more efficient way of learning.
  2. Eating your lima beans before your baked apple pie with ice cream – is still a good strategy.
  3. The power of linking learning to visual images or memories is powerful across cultures. I’ve worked with indigenous instructors who used metaphors and stories as is traditional in their cultures. Surprisingly, metaphoric zombies (invoked by Dr. Oakley) do stick in my brain to help me remember.
  4. Self management techniques like Cirillos’ “pomodoro Technique” can be very effective when they link goal setting, focused-rest-focused cycles of work, small rewards and setting up the best conditions for learning you can.
  5. Not really new but re-affirmed – passion and persistence underly most success in learning (and life?)

 

Example? Her recent, thought-provoking and clearly written article for Nautilus – a science magazine aimed at non-scientists – http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/how-i-rewired-my-brain-to-become-fluent-in-math

References:

Cirillo, Francesco, The Pomodoro Technique Retrieved from  http://cirillocompany.de/pages/pomodoro-technique

Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Janell R. Blunt. (11 February 2011) Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping  Science New Series, Vol. 331, No. 6018, pp. 772-775  Published by: American Association for the Advancement of Science   

Hamilton, John. (October 17, 2013). “Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep.” NPR All Things Considered.

Oakley, Barbara (October 2, 2014). How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math, Nautilus, Issue 017, Retrieved from http://nautil.us/issue/17/big-bangs/how-i-rewired-my-brain-to-become-fluent-in-math

Pan, Steven C. “The Interleaving Effect: Mixing It Up Boosts Learning,” Scientific American, August 4, 2015.

Shift and Share in a CapU Design Sprint

focuswork2“Have you done a Boot Camp? Are you interested in doing a boot camp for instructors who have an assigned course in January 2017 – who may not have done any course development or real planning yet?”  The message came through in late November from a former colleague of mine, Laurie Prange-Martin – now working at Capilano University as the new Manager, Learning and Teaching Development.

We tossed ideas around, collected them in a shared Googledoc and finally arrived at a concept and rough layout that seemed like a good fit. In the melee, we discovered a shared interest in strategies to overcome procrastination (i.e., the Pomodoro technique) and the idea of a “design sprint” instead of a “boot camp”. I tossed in some ideas around studio-based learning, and brain-based education research (gleaned from a recent MOOC on Learning How to Learn from University of California, San Diego) and we were off!

What?

We explored our perceptions of the needs of our intended audience – “the learners” and then developed a pre-workshop “inquiry”. Based on advice from a CapU expert, Laurie adapted my original draft questions to include specific options for answers mixed with a few open-ended questions. Potential participants were encouraged to complete the survey, even if they couldn’t attend this delivery, to ensure that future offerings of the 2-day workshop would address faculty needs.

I investigated the “context” for course design at CapU and found various resources and people available to support faculty with educational technologies, Universal Design for Learning and the policies and procedures of the institution..

I developed a Moodle site to provide an online space that the instructors could continue to use after the 2-day Sprint AND that could be adapted by a new facilitator drawn from CapU faculty to deliver in the future.  The basic units were

  • “Launchpad”- a place to welcome participants, gather information to launch the workshop, and a place to return to to review and reflect materials we explored during the workshop;
  • “Making Meaning” – a place to develop participants’ understanding of Course-Lesson planning and development that began from short learning activities and information embedded in collaborative wikis; and
  • “Our Studio” – an open forum to share the results of various design-build efforts.

So, what?

I developed a draft Schedule with a mixture of active learning activities, Lightning Talks (10 min presentations) and focused design/production cycles (1.5 hours). Participants chose their production environment and tools and I provided some guidance to new instructors as they identified their specific objectives and focused on design/production.

My intention was to apply some of the brain-based techniques I’d learned during a recent MOOC by “shifting” participants from active learning of new ideas (or review of prior knowledge) to their own personal analysis and planning and then to structured cycles of focused thinking and production/design. I built in points for reflection and sharing of progress so they could share and explain their tasks to the group.

Like the “Shift and Share” structure (http://www.liberatingstructures.com/11-shift-share/) we took turns sharing different experiences and knowledge to scaffold design and development tasks each individual faced. My emergent outline also shifted constantly on the first day due to the realities of unexpected snowfall and the distances several of the participants had to commute to get to the campus.

Now what?

What was the outcome – from my perspective – from the participants’ perspectives? I’m still compiling “lessons learned” and mulling over recommendations for future development and delivery of this workshop. It seems to have “struck a chord” with the instructors who attended; hopefulling CapU will continue to develop this two day immersive workshop and begin to involve faculty and sessional instructors to encourage a continuing focus on quality education and course design.

It was a fun and challenging project. I’ll be extracting learning nuggets and sharing them as I apply what I’ve learned in future projects.

Any stories you might share about any course design/development events you’ve attended or facilitated?

Sylvia

 

Exploring feedback for FLO

What exactly do we mean by “constructive” feedback? Do we actually model the behaviours we ask students to demonstrate? Do we provide clear explanations of what we expect? Do we provide constructive feedback when the students’ feedback is weak, superficial, slapdash? Do we scaffold our learners so they can consciously build and flex their critical thinking and collaborative or team-work skills?

My reflections on constructive feedback were inspired by a random Twitter post fimage 4 steps constructive commentsrom Howard Rheingold who shared a Diigo collection of links related to online facilitation. When I took a quick look a DS106 post on Constructive Comments caught my eye and, while scanning the article, I found an image tweet from @deedegs (Danielle Degelman 25 Nov 2014) Her visual list of the “3Cs and a Q” made me think about how I present, scaffold, model, promote constructive comments in my online facilitation.

As the Facilitating Learning Online workshop has evolved, I’ve had the pleasure of co-facilitating with several dedicated, passionate faciliators who strive to explain, demonstrate and facilitate the importance of constructive feedback or comments. When I began facilitating FLO, the workshop had built in weekly opportunities for peer-to-peer group feedback (i.e., each week a team of participants would facilitate a learning activities for the other members of the workshop). At the end of each weekly “mini-session” or “short learning activity”, the facilitators would encourage feedbackparticipants (to share constructive feedback on their experiences with the team of facilitators). We explored a number of different starter posts in a shared discussion forum to clarify what we were looking for in terms of “constructive”. The participant feedback, and any responses from the facilitation team members is open to the class.

During 2016, at the suggestion of FLO Facilitator, Beth Cougler Blom, we explored different ways of structuring the weekly learning activity team feedback. We asked the participants to share their feedback using these questions / prompts :

  1. _____________ (fill in the blank) really helped/supported my learning.
    My learning might have been better if ______________ (fill in the blank).
  2. I like….  (what you liked about the facilitation and why)
    I wish…  (something that you wish the facilitators would have done/encouraged)
    What if… (something that describes another alternative or option rather than what the facilitators did)
  3. What did the faciitators do that you really liked?
    What did the facilitators do that were challenging for you?
    What other kinds of facilitation strategies could the facilitators have tried, either as alternatives or add-ons?

And when I review our structures and approach in light of Danielle’s 4-step feedback, I think I might reframe it this way:

  1.  Appreciate  (identify something you valued or appreciated in the learning experience)
  2.  React (What did you think of the experience? What did you learn? Be specific but not judgemental – use “I” sentences.
  3. Suggest (What might you suggest be done differently – why? How would this change improve the experience from your perspective?)
  4. Connect (Can you relate something that was said or read or viewed with other discussions or activities? Have you any relevant personal/professional experiences that may be useful to share?)
  5. Questions (What questions do you still have – about the topic or about the strategies or choices the facilitation team made)

During the upcoming BCcampus FLO workshop that I’m co-facilitating with Leonne Beebe, I hope to explore different ways to emphasize the importance and critical thinking that is involved in providing truly “constructive” feedback – both through the use of different feedback structures, and by asking good questions to stimulate our participants to embed this approach in their learning and practice.

So, when you think about how you encourage your learners to provide “constructive” comments or feedback – what are the essential elements you emphasize?

Sylvia