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Thoughts about learning and teaching
Thoughts about learning and teaching
Are 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
I’ve been spending time the last couple of months reading and watching videos about facilitation online and face-to-face, and discussing the possibilities of different techniques with colleagues and FLO (Facilitating Learning Online) workshop participants. But I have had limited opportunities to really test out new approaches with other experienced facilitators, so I was thrilled to have the chance to “flex some facilitator muscle” with Sylvia Currie and Beth Cougler Blom during several face-to-face events hosted at Kelowna’s amazing UBCO campus.
BCcampus manager, Sylvia Currie, organized a one day gathering of FLO-FDO enthusiasts (Facilitating Learning Online and Facilitator Development Online workshops) at UBC’s beautiful Okanagan campus. The session objectives and intentions were diverse and emergent and our audience was knowledgeable and open to sharing and exploring. What a great environment to try a range of facilitation practices!
SylviaC started us off by “setting the scene” for participants with less knowledge of the development of FLO workshops.
Beth got us rolling by introducing the Purpose to Practice structure (a Liberating Structures technique) that we planned to use to keep us on track and support the varied facilitation techniques we were going to explore.
We created a wall chart of the structure to allow us to refocus throughout the day and to collect the outcomes of different explorations. At the end of each activity, coloured notes (Post-its) containing the essential findings/suggestions were posted to the relevant “petal”.
I took the opportunity to try a new approach (new to me!) to warm up the group – a Low Tech Social Network game from Gamestorming. As the “enthusiasts” didn’t all know each other, it was a creative way to have them share something about themselves, what FLO meant to them and to take a few minutes to see what they had in common with others. The integration of simple drawings and having to post their avatars on the wall seemed to be really effective. We also used the “network” wall later in the day to brainstorm the additional people we would have liked to have at our session.
Beth tried another Gamestorming technique “Cover Story” that challenges participants “think big” by creating a magazine cover that “tells the story” of what things would look like several years in the future. Our challenge was: “What would the widespread adoption of FLO look like by 2020?”
The activity generated a lot of concentrated work and some bursts of laughter. The storytelling by each group was rich and diverse. I had wondered whether the need to make the story visual would slow down the creative sharing but it didn’t – and allowing them to speak about the cover story made it more meaningful for everyone.
We switched back to Liberating Structures to identify our “rules” or Principles (from the Purpose to Practice chart). I started them with Min Specs and asked them to think about “must dos and must not dos” to help us achieve our purpose. My estimate of time was way off as people began generating a list of maximum specifications and then consolidating the items and voting on the most important (what couldn’t we do without) “rules”.
We had planned to follow Min Specs with 25/10 Crowdsourcing (moving from listing ideas to thinking “big picture” again) but we consulted during their group work (the joy of working with two experienced facilitators is the flexibility and imaginative problem-solving that becomes possible!).
We drew them back to the Low Tech Social Network wall to collect ideas about the additional people (Participants) they thought would be important to achieving our Purpose – we had people write the titles or people or organizations (not specific names) and post them around the perimeter of the network wall.
Beth refocused the group on thinking about Structures and Practices how each person thought we could re-organize to distribute control (Structures) and to identify next steps (Practices).
SylviaC pulled the day together by facilitating an open sharing and storytelling circle (a very loose circle) to allow each person to share their final thoughts about what we’d accomplished and what lay ahead.
By the end of the day we had learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t about the facilitation techniques we’d chosen and we had a very useful collection of ideas and artifacts that we’re still distilling to guide us further.
During our planning for the May 31st session, we talked about putting in a proposal for ETUG’s spring workshop. Somewhere along the way (I blame Beth), we ended up putting in three proposals and all three were accepted.
One of the sessions was fairly straightforward – we wanted to engage participants in our “wicked question” – how to spread FLO. We discussed different facilitation strategies and came up with a plan.
But the real challenge was designing our two “linked” sessions to explore two phases of Human Centered Design Thinking. How could we make that work in under two hours without knowing whether the participants from the first session would continue on into the 2nd session? How could we develop useful ideas with so little time and with participants that we couldn’t study or whose experiences we couldn’t share directly? I wouldn’t have tried this alone but, I decided that it was definitely possible with Beth leading the way as she’d applied different aspects of this approach in her co-teaching and previous facilitation work.
The basic outline of our plan – thanks to @BarbaraBerry pic.twitter.com/QuSNVcebwV
How might BC higher educational institutions effectively share quality teaching and learning resources with each other?
Key learnings sheets were collected to be shared during the next session.
We adapted the concept development approach to ask people to draw a representation of their solution to the one potential solution that the group had identified. Groups were given a chance to quickly explain their drawing and solution.
Although the time limits made this very challenging, we did get some creative thinking happening and some thoughtful suggestions about practical steps to develop the idea maps further. During the Ideation session, I think we would have benefited from allowing the groups to identify different “top” ideas and develop their idea in any way they chose (drawing, oral description, storyboards, lists).
My overall learning about these sessions – good practice for guiding people through complex thinking tasks but the real value of “human centered” design thinking isn’t really possible to explore in such a limited timeframe.
I came away from our facilitation “workouts” with a renewed appreciation of the importance of humour, understanding and patience to support new learning. It would have been impossible to become a stronger facilitator without those elements – from my co-facilitators and our participants.
Just back (actually it’s been nearly two weeks!) from a challenging, fun exploration of ideas, innovations, edtech stories and design practices at UBC Okanagan (a sunny, stormy beautiful campus in Kelowna). Another ETUG event that introduced me to new people and projects and left me with lots to think about and new ideas of my own to try for the future. A great way to start a summer break.
Dr. Newbury’s fast-paced, humorous and interactive exploration of three key findings from the well-known National Academy of Science book “How People Learn.” was a great introduction to the Spring Jam. While I was familiar with the National Academies book, I appreciated his efforts to engage us in different ways we could help students “move from ignorance to expertise.” I chuckled at his explanation of how students move from “unconscious incompetence” to “conscious, competence” as I remembered my first university classes.
An “Edit-a-thon” is “..an organized event where editors of online communities such as Wikipedia edit and improve a specific topic or type of content, typically including basic editing training for new editors.” Will and Christina shared their experiences working with students to edit Wikipedia articles and got us all to dig in and try some simple editing tasks.
I attended to see how UBC had approached Wikipedia assignments as we’d tried something like this at Yukon College in 2003 or 2004 (without success). I’m not sure it’s much easier because of all the resources and supports available from Wikipedia; it seems as though the rules have grown (even though Wikipedia says it has no rules!) and the process has become more complex. But Christina and Will provided compelling evidence of transformational learning possibilities and shared a handout to follow if you’re interested.
Steps for planning Wikipedia student learning sessions:
Rosario spent the last year with BCcampus to work on open projects. During her session, she shared some outstanding examples of co-creation of open resources with students and faculty at UBC and Camosun (funded by the BCcampus Open Education grant funding). Professor Christina Hendriks was in the audience and shared her experiences working on the development of the Open Case Studies Project at UBC.
It’s not about open textbooks, or open pedagogy, or OERs! It’s about “…making of learning visible through community engagement and the design of authentic and lived learning experiences.” Liesel Knaack challenged the audience to move beyond definitions of “open” to focus on ways to make learning more meaningful, relevant and useful to students. Michael Paskevicius supported our understanding through the session by sharing useful models of openness – Attributes of Open Pedagogy B. Hegarty 2015 and Degrees of Openness, C. Hodgkinson-Williams and E. Gray 2009. Hopefully he’ll share his slides soon – keep an eye on his Slideshare channel!
Some examples of visible learning at VIU:
Jumpstart is an initiative between the Teaching and Learning Centre at SFU and the Faculty of Health Sciences aimed at supporting tenure track faculty to create “shareable” educational resources. They shared developing examples of design thinking approaches using storyboards, visual mapping, diagrams and templates
SFU TLC Team: John Born, Christina Drabik, Kar On Lee, David Rubeli, Robyn Schell, Jason Toal, Sarah Turner, Duane Woods, Gabe Wong.
I don’t have much to share from this session as it was more about collecting our feedback and involving us in the story than about sharing actual outcomes – the project is in the early stages.
Keep an eye out for my next post. This year was the first time I’d stepped forward to lead an ETUG session, and, in the spirit of “if it’s worth doing…”, I was a co-facilitator of three different sessions with Beth Cougler Blom and Sylvia Currie. I’ll do a separate post to share what I learned about different facilitation techniques (design thinking methods and a few ideas from Gamestorming) plus some of the creative ideas that participants shared with us about our “big” questions!
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.
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.
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
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:
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