Reflections of my PIDP journey so far

It has been two years since I started the BC Provincial Instructor Diploma (PIDP) and I definitely have learnt a lot along the way. The first course I took was PIDP 3100: Foundations of Adult Education. Since I am from a science and technology background, this was quite an overwhelming course for me. I spent most of my time in course improve my research methods and learning how to write papers using APA standards. The course gave me a good overview of what to expect during my studies in adult education.

My second course was PIDP 3220: Delivery of Instruction which has been the only course I have taken face-to-face. In this course, I prepared and delivered three mini-lessons, received constructive feedback in class from my instructor and classmates, and watched video recordings of my mini-lessons. The high point during the course for me was the notion of injecting affection into cognitive lessons to enhance the learning experience. In PIDP 3210: Curriculum Development I learnt more than ever thought I would. I went through the entire development cycle for creating a course and it has helped me develop two new courses at my university.  PIDP 3230: Evaluation of Learning really helped me improve the quality of my assignments and exams. I was shocked how many things I had been doing wrong before I took this course.

I’ll be honest…I didn’t really learn much in PIDP 3240: Enhanced Media Learning. I believe the issue here was not the course nor the instructor, but the fact that I had already taken three courses online and I teach technology usage. It was good to reaffirm what I already knew though. PIDP 3250: Instructional Strategies seemed like it was going to be a very dull course. However, the instructor who ran the course made sure there was a lot of group work and online discussion in the course. This made topics which were a bit boring to me a lot more interesting! The current course I’m taking is PIDP 3260: Professional Practice and I’m not quite sure what I think about it yet. I will need to complete the course to have an honest opinion about it.

I am nervous and excited about taking my final course PIDP 3270: Capstone Project. I don’t really know what to expect but I heard there is a 50% journal entry in that course. My journal skills have drastically improved since I started the PIDP so I guess I will continue doing what I’ve been doing!

References

https://simoncrothers.wordpress.com/2013/10/01/presentation-reflections/

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The Importance of Lifelong Learning as an Instructor

This blog entry is a summary of a length entry I made about the need for continuing education. It helps paint a picture about the importance of lifelong learning as an instructor.

From previous PIDP courses, I have learnt that adult learning is an ongoing process that does not end when you graduate. Knowledge gained in the classroom evolves over time and it is important to acquire this newly produced knowledge in order to accomplish your goals in your career. One way to gain new knowledge is to be involved in some form of continuing education.

As a technology instructor, I need to be continuously involved in learning about the latest innovations and trends in my field. I also strive to continuously improve my teaching to better both my students and colleagues. I can give my students some insight into how their educational lives are changing and assure them that they will continue to learn in the workplace to stay competitive in their industry. The new knowledge I gain can also be used to benefit my colleagues.

I need to be involved in continuous learning to be an effective instructor. There is always the danger of falling so far behind in your knowledge that you become an outsider at work, unable to provide suitable insight and experiences with your co-workers. This is a path I will always strive to stay away from.

I will always be aware of how the material I teach and how my students’ needs are changing. After I complete my BC Provincial Instructor Diploma, my adventure in adult learning will be far from over. I look forward to seeking new knowledge and applying it within the classroom to benefit myself, students, and colleagues.

References

https://simoncrothers.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/need-for-continuing-education/

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Forming a Supportive Network

When discussing how to survive emotionally as an instructor, Brookfield (2006, pg. 259-261) stresses the importance of instructors having a group of colleagues they can turn to for support and comfort. Many instructors, including myself, spend most of their time in the classroom with their students and in their offices in isolation. There are few opportunities to have conversations with colleagues and the times were these conversations do occur are typically during meetings or social events. Meetings and social events are typically not the best environment for instructors to discuss their personal problems in regards to their teaching.

For myself, I don’t mind spending the workday alone. I enjoy my own company. However, I do believe that instructors need some sense of support from their colleagues or their institution if they are suffering from emotional stress due to their work. Peer support is difficult because many groups of instructors teach at different times and campuses. Upon researching the counselling services at my university and a few others I found that they were catered towards students and the only instructor support apparent is information for how instructors can help students. I also searched on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and could not find any online support groups for instructors.

It would be beneficial to instructors (and hence their students) if I brought up this issue with my department and even possibly the Dean’s office to hear their thoughts about this issue and what could be done to address it. It may also be helpful to have a collection of resources available for instructors to provide them with information about how to deal with emotional stress in a university setting.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Working Philosophies in Higher Education

Objective

When discussing how to survive emotionally as an instructor, Brookfield (2006, p. 255) mentions that “…any working philosophy can be full of contradictions, unrelated to real life, or just plain immoral. The fact that we have a philosophy does not make that philosophy good, useful, or right”. A working philosophy is an instructor’s collection of values and beliefs in regards to their teaching. Instructors all have working philosophies whether they realize it or not. A valuable exercise for instructors to partake in is to document their working philosophies. During this process, instructors can discover what areas of their working philosophies may be contradictory, immoral, or just plain wrong.

Reflective

I support the idea of working philosophies but what is the point if my university doesn’t support my values and beliefs? As an instructor that teaches the use of technology in a business environment, I believe that students should be using the latest, cutting-edge technology to support their learning. However, the IT department at my university cannot even supply working keyboards and mice in the labs. Furthermore, the network infrastructure is designed in a manner that makes it very difficult to introduce new software. Another belief I hold is that when learning how to use software, students should use it as a problem solving tool and learn how to use it in this mindset. However, other instructors require their students to follow step-by-step guides to learn the software skills and do not supply students with real-world applications. This conflict in teaching causes student conflicts in my classes because students are expecting the “easy” way out, but in my class they need to think for themselves.

Interpretive

Instead of focusing on what values and beliefs I cannot withhold at my university, I should consider how a working philosophy can help me overall. Brookfield (2006, p. 256) states that an important reason to have a working philosophy is to be able to stay in control as an instructor in the event of chaos and to avoid immoral and harmful practices. The purpose of a working philosophy is to help instructors survive emotionally and not necessarily to support their teaching. Mental health problems amongst university instructors is on the rise due to greater job insecurity, heavy workloads, and the increased marketization of universities (Shaw & Ward, 2014). I would not say I have mental health problems, but I could if things do not improve at my university soon. These improvement are in regards to the marketization of my university. My university’s focus seems to be on increasing revenue and ensuring students graduate with a specific set of skills. However, instructors are often neglected when administration makes serious choices in regards to these agenda items.

Decisional

The best thing for myself to do right now is to sit down and document my working philosophy. But how could I achieve this? The University of Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (University of Waterloo, n.d.) suggests that instructors respond to the following five items to help develop their working philosophy:

  1. Why do you believe your students want to learn?
  2. What are your aims for teaching?
  3. Does your subject matter affect your beliefs about teaching or learning?
  4. Create a list responding to “When I teach I:”
  5. What do you believe about learning?

I believe that responding to these prompts will aid me in my emotional survival in teaching. I may also find that this document may be advantageous to me when my university is trying to force me to work in a way I do not agree with.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Shaw, C., & Ward, L. (2014, March 6). Dark thoughts: why mental illness is on the rise in academia. Retrieved from theguardian: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2014/mar/06/mental-health-academics-growing-problem-pressure-university

University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Exploring your teaching philosophy: sample exercises. Retrieved October 22, 2015, from University of Waterloo: Centre for Teaching Excellence: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/professional-development/enhancing-your-teaching/exploring-your-teaching-philosophy

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US universities exploiting Visa loopholes

Universities in the United States are making millions of dollars off foreign students by exploiting Visa loopholes. The full article is available here but I’ll provide a brief summary of one story in the article.

An institution in California called Tri-Valley University was shut down by federal agents after the discovery that the university was collecting tuition from international students but not requiring them to attend classes. The university even falsified information regarding students’ living arrangements where it was found that according to the documentation 553 students were living in a two-bedroom apartment. This was of course not the case as these students were scattered throughout the country working low-level retail jobs. Further investigation into Tri-Valley University discovered that it was an unaccredited institution, although it claimed to be accredited. Their website was full of spelling and grammar mistakes and posted information about their instructors even though these instructors said they had never taught at the university. The physical location of Tri-Valley University appeared to be able to support 30 students, although 1500 were registered at the university. All this deception and at its peak Tri-Valley University was making an estimated $4 million a year despite an initial investment of $5,000. This is just one of many universities in the US exploiting government systems to profit off international students.

What I find most disheartening about stories such as this one is the complete disregard for students’ lives. When a university that has thousands of international students is shut down, if the students are unable to transfer to another institution they end up being deported back to their country. The deported students and possibly their families have lost thousands of dollars because of tuition, flights, and living expenses. This could potentially bankrupt a family. In some countries it is disrespectful to return to your family after failing to complete a university degree and the student may be physically abused. It is crucial that governments fix loopholes in the education and immigration system that allows universities to commit acts such as what has been described here. People’s lives are being put at risk because of this behaviour.

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Lecturing Creatively

Research by Brookfield (2006, pg. 102) shows that students find lectures helpful if the have the following traits:

  1. They use a mix of teaching and communication approaches;
  2. They are organized in a way so that students can follow the lecturer’s train of thoughts;
  3. They model learning behaviours.

I would like to focus on the second trait, since I often find that students are lost during my lectures and my own organization may be to blame. Brookfield (2006, pg. 106) mentions that scaffolding notes can help overcome the difficulty of disorganized lectures. I have used scaffolding notes when teaching business mathematics, where I provided students with most of the notes, but not the examples. I found these notes effective for student learning, however I could have scaled back the number of examples and included more theory for students to fill in. Some ideas to implement could be fill in the blanks (word or phrases), and short answer questions.

The following website provides a Word document with a great example of how scaffolding notes could be used for teaching presentation skills. I like this approach as the scaffolding notes are a separate document to the lecture notes. The PowerPoint slides could be on the overhead and the students would have their scaffolding notes in front of them. At appropriate times, the instructor could pause and allow students time to answer the questions in their notes. I think this would be a very effective method to use in my management information systems class.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Very creative lecture!

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Teaching and Learning Essential Skills

Objective

When discussing the assumption that skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn, Brookfield (2006, p. 19) states that“…there will be very few standardized practices that help students across the board learn essential skills or knowledge. An approach that one student finds particularly useful or congenial may well be profoundly unsettling and confusing to the student sitting next to her.” These differences may be a result of different levels of intellectual development amongst students. In the first- and second-year courses I teach, many of my students do not have the right mindset in the classroom. Felder and Brent (2005, p. 65) describe the student mindset I witness as expecting their instructors to pose questions, provide the answers, and require these answers to be memorized and repeated on exams. The difference in student acceptance of different teaching practices could also be based on personal, social, or cultural beliefs.

Reflective

I agree that the methods of teaching essential skills such as communication, computer use, and numeracy are more effective for some students than others. However, I do not see the difference in student acceptance of teaching methods as extremely as Brookfield is making them out to be. I believe that many students initially lack the skills to learn when entering university. From my experience I have found that students are not aware that they need to purchase and actually read required textbooks to supplement the lesson material. I find that students like to simplify content into series of steps instead of thinking critically about solving a problem. Because of time constraints, I see students take the easiest route to completing their work which commonly results in incorrect work. It is important that as instructors we not only teach course content to our students but also teach them how to learn along the way.

Interpretive

Perhaps I do not see the difference in student acceptance of teaching methods because I do not regularly survey my class about their learning experiences. Would surveying my class really help though? Hammond (2008, p. 93) says that “[i]f teachers investigate the effects of their teaching on students’ learning, and if they read about what others have learned, they become sensitive to variation and more aware of what works for what purposes in what situations”. So surveying my class would be helpful, but so would researching about what other teachers have experienced when teaching essential skills. I could conduct this research by talking to my colleagues, reading blog entries online, and obtaining relevant journal articles. Talking to my colleagues is a very valuable resource since many of them are teaching in the same field as myself.

Decisional

David and Brown (2012, p. 1059) found an interesting way to teach essential skills, in their case statistical literacy. In order to define what a first-year statistics student needs to know they used the concept of critical thinking. I find this an interesting approach as opposed to other methods of teaching essential skills. A common approach I have experienced and teach is to follow a four-step process: explain why the skill is valuable, demonstrate the skill, have students use and apply the skill, evaluate students on their use of the skill. If I designed my computer business systems courses around critical thinking, I could move the demonstration and practice portions of the skills to online videos that students would be required to complete before class. I could then focus my energy on further enhancing their skills through exercises that foster critical thinking.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

David, I., & Brown, J. A. (2012). Beyond statistical methods: teaching critical thinking to first-year university students. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 43(8), 1057-1065.

Felder, R. M., & Brent, R. (2005). Understanding Student Differences. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 57-72.

Hammond, L. D. (2008). Teacher Learning That Support Student Learning. Teaching For Intelligence 2, 91-100.

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University of Ottawa oh dear…

I came across the following article in response to a controversial event that was organized and swiftly cancelled at the University of Ottawa. The event in question was a racial awareness event organized by the student union where students were separated into two separate rooms. One room for Caucasians and one room for non-Caucasians. Seriously? Did they honestly think this was a good idea? Imagine if this event was proposed in the workplace. Wait…you shouldn’t have to because this would never happen.

I’m quite shocked that students would organize an event like this, but are they really to blame? Where in university education is ethics taught? Many programs do not require students to take an ethics course. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and computing science and I didn’t have to take a course in ethics. I now teach in a business faculty and a course in ethics is not required by all programs. Look at all the corporate scandals that have been happening lately among companies such as Amazon, Nestle, and Volkswagen.

Students are simply not learning ethics and are even committing unethical acts during their studies and getting away with it. Acts such as photocopying textbooks, copying other students’ work for assignments, and sneaking electronic devices into exams are just some of the examples of unethical behaviour that students commit. Moreover, some instructors let these acts slide under the table due to the overwhelming amount of work required to report, prove, and prosecute students through administration. This is a serious problem that needs to be fixed both for the integrity of universities and for the success of corporate businesses.

 

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Responding to Resistance

Brookfield’s (2006, pg. 211-233) discussion suggests that before responding to student resistance to learning we first understand the resistance. One issue that I have recently discovered is a lack of clarity in my assignment instructions. I don’t tend to realize this until I start marking an assignment I have assigned and realize that my students have misunderstood the instructions. I ask students if they have questions about the assignments and I encourage them to e-mail me if they need clarification but I typically don’t receive any communication. I also notice that a significant portion of students are not handing in assignments.

Students may be resistant to asking for clarifications in-class because of fear of looking incompetent in front of their classmates. They may resist e-mailing me because I can personally identify them. Brookfield (2006, pg. 230) suggests that instructors distribute as much information as they can about the criteria, indicators, and grading policies for assignments. I should also not assume that silence means they understand the assignment. A survey following the first assignment in the class may serve as good information to use to improve future assignments in the remainder of the course. On searching for literature regarding assignment writing a came across the book A Strategic Guide To Technical Writing by Heather and Roger Graves. I’ll have to obtain a copy as it looks like it could benefit me and my students.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom (Second ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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