Team Teaching

I have only experienced team teaching as a student once. A professor taught the theory portion of a mathematics course for the first half of the semester and his PhD student taught the application portion of the course for the second half. The process seemed very disjointed as I had to adjust to a different teaching style halfway through a course. The second time team teaching arose again was when discussions arose during a department meeting when discussing alternative methods for teaching our courses. The idea was that an instructor taught the theory portion of a course and then a member of our department taught the software application portion. Again, this same disjoint method I had previously experienced was apparent and I didn’t support it.

My misunderstandings of team teaching was made apparent upon reading Brookfield’s chapter regarding diversity in student learning. He regrets to inform us that “what often passes for team teaching is sometimes only an agreement amongst a group of colleagues to divide a course into several discrete and different segments, each of which is the sole responsibility of the team. This is sequenced solo teaching, not team teaching” (Brookfield, 2006, p. 159). To understanding the differences between sequenced solo teaching and team teaching, I’d like to draw your attention to the following Twitter post.

team_Twitter

The next time team teaching becomes a discussion point during a department meeting I will make sure I mention my findings and how this approach to team teaching can benefit ourselves and our 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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The Five Year Plan

When I started my undergraduate degree in chemistry, I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. However, after one semester of studying I realized that I wanted to be a professor, specifically in mathematics. The idea of explaining a concept to a class, demonstrating it to them, and then evaluating their knowledge of the concept was fascinating to me. I ended up graduating with a degree in mathematics and computing science, which was very different to what I started studying in. When I began my Master’s degree, I was still fixed on the idea of teaching, but I was unsure how to get into the field. I was lucky enough to be approached during my studies by one of my professors in regards to teaching a class! This is how my teaching career began. I am now teaching in a full-time permanent position (in computer business systems as opposed to mathematics) but this is not the end of my career goals.

I would eventually like to transition into teaching mathematics and statistics for business students which I was able to do for a semester while another instructor was sick. While I’m waiting for this transition to take place I have been completing the Provincial Instructor Diploma to improve my teaching skills, knowledge, and attitudes. I will eventually begin a PhD in adult education, possibly in September next year. If there is any sort of delay starting the PhD I may also complete a Microsoft Office Specialist designation as it is related to the current field I am teaching in. So that’s my five year plan!

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Learning Styles & the Importance of Critical Self-Reflection

I am aware from PIDP 3250 – Instructional Strategies that learning styles are a myth. This TED Talk helped me understand this myth a bit better and made me question my teaching in regards to learning styles. I mainly teach my students how to use Microsoft Office to solve business problems. This process involves visual and kinesthetic learning. A common complaint I receive when teaching this course is that I lecture too much and don’t give enough hands-on time. The problem here is that learning software is not really a kinethistic process. Learning to type is kinethistic, but problem solving is largely visual. When students observe the problem solving process they see the step-by-step logic and reasoning in regards to solving the specific problem. In a computer software course students are very keen to jump into things and start clicking buttons, but much thought needs to be considered in this type of work as well.

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Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

Brookfield (2006, pg. 17) suggests three assumptions of what skillful teaching is:

  1. Doing whatever helps students learn;
  2. Adopting a critically reflective stance towards teaching practice;
  3. Being constantly aware of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers’ actions.

The first assumption is a bit troublesome to me. Students could learn by memorizing facts and following routine sets of instructions. Sure they are learning, but is it actually useful to them? If we are going to do whatever helps students learn it should align with the learning objectives of the course and the appropriate level of Bloom’s taxonomy.

In regards to the second assumption, Brookfield (2006, pg. 25) believes that skillful teaching is informed and to ensure this, critical reflection is a must. Critical reflection is an area of challenge for myself. Brookfield (2006, pg. 26) says that critical reflection involves looking through the eyes of our students and colleagues, reading educational literature, and reviewing our personal autobiographies. I find this a very useful method since we are viewing our teaching from all angles. I tend to view my teaching through the eyes of my students and my own experiences, but not necessarily through my colleagues’ eyes and I definitely don’t study any literature in regards to my teaching outside of the PIDP. This is something I will need to work on.

The third assumption appears to always be the case, but when I think about it more carefully, I realize that I am aware of how my students are experience my teaching, however I am not actually collecting any data outside of end of course evaluations. I am hesitant to give students the opportunity to vent about the course halfway through or even on a weekly basis, but perhaps I need to suck it up and try at least a halfway evaluation that I would create myself.

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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Interpreting my Teaching Perspective Inventory

The Teaching Perspective Inventory (TPI) helps teachers collect their thoughts and summarize their ideas about teaching (http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/). My results are shown below.

tpi

The five columns are transmission, apprenticeship, developmental, nurturing, and social reform. My highest column is transmission. This definitely matches my personality, since I always want to take the optimal approach to solve a problem. It appears that I lack nurturing and social reform in my teaching, but since I mainly teach how to use computer software I don’t see this as a huge issue. Maybe I could be a little nicer to students…

My dominant perspectives are transmission, apprenticeship, and developmental. These perspectives align with my beliefs and the content of the material I teach. My beliefs, intentions, and actions are roughly equal across all perspectives except for transmission. This is interesting since transmission is my most dominant perspective. I can see that I’m definitely acting on what I believe in regards to my problem-solving approaches, however my teaching is not up to par. This is definitely something I am going to work on.

My intentions are also the lowest among all categories. This is difficult to comprehend. Perhaps my passion in the subject matter is lacking. Indeed, my background and passion is mathematics yet I am teaching how to use computer software. I definitely agree with all these results and it would be interesting to discuss these with other colleagues.

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Reflecting on Experiences

Objective

Brookfield (2006, p. 15) says that“[s]imply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected on, understood, or analyzed critically. Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined, and constraining.” For example, a student may experience an incredible physics demonstration. The demonstration may show how light can reflect differently in various media and how a rainbow can be produced by reflecting light a certain way. The instructor may explain some theory of how these phenomena are occurring and the simplicity of the language may lead to students to believe they too understand the theory of optics. This distortion can lead to overconfidence amongst students when actually solving optics problems in physics. It is important as instructors that we make students aware the need to think carefully about what they are experiencing in class and how their experiences can enhance their learning in the classroom with the appropriate mindset.

Reflective

I agree with Brookfield’s statement and it makes me realize how I myself do not always reflect, understand, and analyze some of my experiences. If I was the student in the physics lab, described above, I would hold on to the positive experience and refrain from analyzing it in fear of discovering I know little about the theory. I tend to avoid thought in regards to positive experiences and dwell on the negative ones. In a New York Times article, Tugend (2012) reports that this is quite a common physical trait amongst people, since negative experiences require more thought than positive ones. So there are two issues I face when analyzing my experiences: I am not effectively reflecting on my experiences and I let emotions cloud my judgment.

Interpretive

How can analyzing negative experiences make me a better instructor? Finlay (2008, p. 2) recognizes that practitioners of reflective practice may find it difficult to approach negative experiences from a different perspective and analyze them. The author suggests that Gibb’s model for reflection, which originated in the late 1980s, is a good model to use for improving self-reflection. The model proposes that when faced with an experience, one should describe it, interpret their feelings in regards to it, evaluate it, analyze it, propose a conclusion for what could have been done, and come up with an action plan in the event that the experience arises again. I believe that I go through this process when thinking above a negative experience but clearly it is not effective. Perhaps I need to start documenting my thoughts.

Decisional

I believe that I can overcome my issues in regards to dealing with negative experiences by documenting my thoughts using the Gibb’s model of reflection and the focused conversation model. I have only used the focused conversation model in the PIDP program, but perhaps I need to apply it towards my teaching experiences and even my personal experiences. The journal entries I would create would be private to myself only. They would not be something I would post on a blog. For example, I had a very traumatic experience many years ago with a class that did not see eye-to-eye with my teaching style. I honestly did not know how to handle the class and I had no collegial support to guide me. It is hard to judge something in the past, but it may have been beneficial to myself if I wrote down my thoughts and reflected on them instead of half-thinking them through in my head. I am actually looking forward to my next negative experience in a weird sort of way, because I think I may be able to approach it differently and improve upon myself as an instructor and as a person in general.

References

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

Finlay, L. (2008). Reflecting on reflective practice. (Commissioned discussion paper) Retrieved from http://www.open.ac.uk/opencetl/files/opencetl/file/ecms/web-content/Finlay-(2008)-Reflecting-on-reflective-practice-PBPL-paper-52.pdf

Tugend, A. (2012, March 23). Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

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Experiencing Teaching

In the opening chapter of Brookfield’s book The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom, he discusses the experiences of teaching. He raises the concern that there are many uncertainties in teaching and that instructors muddle through these uncertainties (which is okay!). He attempts to structure this muddling approach through practical reasoning, which consists of scanning, appraisal, and action (2006, pg. 6). The conclusion of the chapter is that instructors need to grow into the truth of teaching. This is a seemingly impossible feat to accomplish, since truth of teaching is unique to each instructor and what may be true for one instructor may not be the case for another.

I found this chapter interesting to read, but the style of the writing bothered me. Brookfield constantly referred to himself and his opinion was stated frequently with references not always provided. It was not until the third page of the book that he stated that his book would be an opinionated book. This was even more frustrating to me as I read the third and fourth chapters of the book first to prepare myself for the second assignment in PIDP 3260.

Hopefully I can overcome my annoyances with this book. I have never read an opinionated book. Maybe it will get better in later chapters. Only time will tell.

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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PIDP 3260: Professional Practice Here We Go

PIDP 3260: Professional Practice is my last course in the BC Provincial Instructor Diploma Program before I begin my Capstone Project. To learn a bit about me click here or click the About link above. I’m looking forward to taking this course since it covers topics I’ve found challenging in my career such as ethics and professionalism. I start teaching four courses at my university when this course beings so I am going to be very busy! This is not a complaint. I like being busy!

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Empowerment: Is it Worth Solving A Problem?

Objective

My PIDP 3250 classmate, Dan, made a great post in the discussion forum about motivation, where he referenced a TED Talk by Scott Geller about the psychology of self-motivation. Geller (2013) talks about the four pillars for self-motivation and three questions to determine if we are feeling empowered. The four pillars for connecting with learners are competency, consequences, choice, and community. The three questions with regard to empowerment are related to if we can achieve something, will the method we derived work, and is the method worth it. The focus of this journal entry is the third question of empowerment.

Reflective

While studying computational mathematics, the three questions of empowerment always came into play. I always felt that I could achieve the solution to a problem and it was typically easy to come up with a method to solve it. The major hurdle was if my proposed method was worth it. I recall having to solve a specific partial differential equation, where I spent a few days deriving a method to solve it. To my surprise, my method would have taken weeks to compute. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that the result of my method was correct because of potential errors in my coding. This resulted in a lack of motivation for myself to continue with this type of work. I see this characteristic in my students as well. When learning formulas in Excel, they are reluctant to spend half an hour deriving a formula to solve a problem when they are unsure if their solution will be correct. This unwillingness to try can result in a study technique I don’t encourage, namely, studying the answer to solve the problem. By learning in this manner, students are missing out on the crucial steps in the problem-solving process when working from the problem to the solution. 

Interpretive

I have come to the realization that my students and I have a similar lack of motivation when it comes to problem solving. There are two types of problems that can be solved: incremental and insight. Incremental problems can be solved through brute force and may be time consuming. On the other hand, insight problems require critical thinking to solve. A study by Wieth and Burns (2000) conducted with 292 university students, discovered that there are correlations between motivation and incremental problem solving, but not with insight problem solving. The motivation factor that was discovered in this correlation was interest. I recall getting very bored and frustrated with my computational mathematics work which was very incremental in nature. I can definitely see how the resulting lack of interest in my work led to a decrease in motivation. However, my students encounter insight problems, as their Excel work is related to business problems that do not have straightforward approaches. Although I have found a connection between motivation and problem solving for myself, I have not found one for my students.

Decisional

Coming back to the empowerment question, is the method worth it, I have been measuring worth in units of time. Perhaps this is not the right approach when judging the worth of solving an insight problem. A later study by Wieth and Burns (2006) found that incentives can improve motivation for insight problem solving. What is bizarre is that the incentives were not monetary or material. The incentive was that the students could stop doing the problem at any time. This actually makes a lot of sense. Consider a time when you have been stuck on a problem for hours and simply did not know how to progress any further. You may have put it aside and worked on a different problem and then came back to it later with a fresh mind. Perhaps instead of assigning my students one problem in class to solve, I could assign them several. Alternatively, if a student or group of students cannot progress on a problem, I could give them an alternative one and ask them to return to their original problem later. This would increase their motivation when it comes to insight problem solving in my class.

References

Geller, S. (2013, Dec 11). The Psychology of Self-Motivation: Scott Geller [Video file]. Retrieved from

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/The-Psychology-of-Self-Motivati

Wieth, M., & Burns, B. (2000). Motivation in insight versus incremental problem solving. Twenty Second Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Philadelphia.

Wieth, M., & Burns, B. (2006). Incentives improve performance on both incremental and insight problem solving. Quarterly Journal Of Experimental Psychology, 59(8), 1378-1394.

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Selling Flipped Classrooms to Students

I am seriously considering teaching Management Information Systems in September as a flipped class. The course is incredibly dry and theory driven and the lectures are boring for me to give and my students to listen to. My main concern though, is that most instructors I know don’t use this teaching approach, and students are not familiar with it. How can I sell this approach to my students in the first day of class?

An approach I’ve seen for “selling” a class to students is the “Pay it Forward” method in my PIDP classes. In this method students provide comments and suggestions that are passed on students in future classes. When searching the #flipclass hashtag on Twitter, I came across an article suggesting a “Pay it Forward” method for flipped classrooms. Flipped classrooms are based around videos that students watch outside of class time. It is natural then to have videos from previous students discussing their experiences in a flipped classroom. Although this method won’t be applicable the first time I teach in a flipped classroom setting, I will definitely consider using it for the second time I teach in a flipped class environment.

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