The Journey Continues

The last 6 months or so going through different courses of the PIDP program have been enlightening.  Not only have I learned new strategies, techniques and gathered wonderful ideas from other learners in my classes; it has also been a time of self-reflection through journaling.  It has been those opportunities to self-reflect that I’ve really dug into what is important to me as an instructor, WHY it is important to me, what I’ve held on to that I need to change in order to effective, and what I feel I am doing well at and can celebrate.  It is this self-reflection leading to self-awareness that I feel has led to a lot more growth than I was expecting through these classes.

I have learned that no matter how hard I try and how much effort I put in, if I am not taking how the students learn into account, my well planned lessons won’t go nearly as far as I would like.

My beliefs that evaluation and assessment are important to the learning process, and to continued improvement for everyone involved, are even stronger than they were.

I am excited to remember that each learner brings their unique experiences and motivations to the table, and has something to contribute – learning can be collaborative!

There are many areas that I have been shifted or stretched in, that I have latched onto or let go of, and so far it’s been a great process.  Lifelong learning is something I believe in strongly, but it’s not often I get to pack so much into such a short timeframe.

And for me, the exciting part is that it doesn’t stop here… the journey continues.

Image result for path

The Adventure of Learning

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins

Retrieved from Snakkle

When it comes to learning, age hasn’t taken away the excitement of new experiences and new ways of thinking about things or adding a whole new area to what I know.  I feel a little bit like a kid on the playground, or better yet, Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings as he embarks on an adventure, into the unknown.

Regardless of what profession you are in, lifelong learning is crucial.  As an instructor, I feel it is even more so.  We have the responsibility of providing students with opportunities to learn and grow.  In our case, lifelong learning isn’t just for ourselves, but also for the participants who come to our classes, workshops, seminars, etc.  If we are not constantly adventuring into new learning within our fields, we grow stagnant, run the risk of having our instruction become outdated, and we do our students a disservice in the process.

What does this learning look like?  That’s the great part – anything!!  We learn through anything from reading a book, to taking a class, interacting with people, traveling, experimenting…and the list goes on.  As Learning professionals, let’s lead the charge with lifelong learning and expand ourselves.  Like Frodo, once we leave on this adventure, we won’t return the same as we left.

 

Accreditation

When looking into schools that have lost accreditation, the programs that came up the most were the nursing programs.  There were several stories of universities losing accreditation for their programs, including one in Scranton, and one in Cincinnati. This is a hard situation to find yourself in, whether you’re part of the faculty or one of the students.

There are several things that can lead to a loss of accreditation, including viloation of the standards for the program in question.  However, issues such not having enough faculty members for the size of the student body, teachers who don’t have the right education to be instructing, and inappropriate relations between faculty and students.

As a student, a loss of accreditation can mean a number of things, depending on where you are at in the program.  If you have already graduated, and the school was accredited when you finished your degree, you shouldn’t have any issues.  However, if you are mid program and the accreditation is taken away, continuing on and graduating from that institution will leave you with a degree that you won’t be able to use.  Most students transfer out at that point and hope that most of the classes they have already completed are transferable.

With slashes in funding that is being offered to some of the colleges, it can be tough to fully staff the programs, or to be able to afford to pay someone with the educational background needed to teach at an accredited institution – both factors that can lead to that loss of accreditation.  As a result, some schools are left between a rock and a hard place.

Accreditation

Retrieved from http://www.onlinecourses.net/losing-accreditation.html

 

Making the Grade

When it comes to unethical behaviour in education, cheating is a hot topic these days.  As an instructor, it can be challenging to have a hard policy on cheating/plagiarizing, as there are so many different levels, from innocently missing a citation on a paper, to – as this “Faking the Grade” expose showed – using surveillance equipment on a test.  And it’s not just students who are cheating.

There seem to be many issues underlying cheating and plagiarizing, and it is seen across the board from high school students to teachers trying to falsify test scores for school standings.  There is a lot of pressure to be the best, and in the case of school test scores, results can impact funding.  The competitive nature of high schools/universities leads many to feel that cheating is the only option they have to keep up with their classmates and have the opportunity to get into the school or career that they want.

As one of the teachers on the expose touched on – cheating/plagiarizing has long-term impact.  And not just on the one cheating.  If they do not learn/apply/retain the knowledge they should be due to being dishonest, how will this impact the service they provide to clients or patients in the real world?  I want that doctor doing my surgery or prescribing medicine?  That engineer designing the roof structure for my home?  That financial advisor investing my money?  These questions also need to be asked from the educational institution’s point of view as well.  While higher grades may look good now, what is the unforeseen consequence down the road?  As Emily Le Coz mentions in her article “Ex-teachers at Miss. School allege unethical practices”, students encouraged to cheat found themselves behind their class when they moved onto other schools, and teachers who felt they were forced to follow suit were left to struggle with the ethical dilemma.

While it may look like they are making the grade in these situations, are they really coming out ahead?

You’re Not Alone

When it comes to facilitating learning, classroom discussion, and thoughts from students are great ways to expand the learning experience for students.  However, most if not all instructors have run into roadblocks when it comes to getting students to participate in discussions.  This can come down to a variety of reasons, most often being: crippling personal introversion, fear of looking stupid, Feeling unprepared, not trusting the teacher, not feeling welcome in the culture, having been burned in the past, talking isn’t cool, the teacher is doing all the talking, or talking isn’t rewarded (Brookfield, Stephen D. The Skillful Teacher. pg 134-140).

While there are several ways to work around these things that hold students back, an important one that touches on many of the most frequent reasons is to let the students know that they are not alone in their thinking.  This fosters a sense of community and inclusion that can help clear the way for participation in discussions.  What are some ways to make the students feel that they are not alone?  A great way to do this, which Brookfield mentions several times in The Skillful Teacher, is to have a panel at the start of a class that is made up of former faculty or students, who had some of the same things holding them back as current students, and who are able to share how they participated and found it to be a positive experience.

As with many things in life, a lot of people just want to know that they’re not alone.  That someone has walked the path before them and came out on the other side… hopefully better for it!

meeting_13Retrieved from: http://www.scaleupsdc.com/sureshot-group-discussion-craker/

Reference: Brookfield, Stephen D. The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. 2006. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

The Hidden Learning

Spider-Man

Retrieved from: http://gazettereview.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Spider-Man.jpg

As teachers it is so easy (and important) to focus on the intentional teaching that we do.  What knowledge are we passing on to our learners through the lectures, discussions or activities that we bring into the classroom?  We spend time thinking through the best way to relay the information, but many times overlook the fact that we are all learning through our environments.  Our minds are constantly taking in information and making observations and judgements about what our senses are taking in.

The same applies to the classroom.

There is a whole level of learning that is taking place underneath the planned and intended instruction.  What are we teaching our learners through how we structure the classroom, through our mode of instruction?  Are we teaching them to think for themselves and think critically, working through problems logically to come up with an answer for themselves that is based on the course content they have learned, or are we merely throwing information at them and as a result teaching them to absorb knowledge without ever questioning or applying the principles themselves through conversations, projects or group discussion?  While there is a place for lecturing in learning, there comes a time where students need to be given the opportunity to make that information their own.  While we are aware that we are teaching content through lecture, we may be unaware that we are also teaching students to forgo desired skills, such as critical thinking, speaking, and arriving at conclusions. (Eagan, et al. 2014).  As Voltaire is credited with saying, and Uncle Ben so sagely told Peter Parker in Spiderman – “With great power comes great responsibility”.  And as facilitators, how great is the power we often unknowingly wield.

Reference: Eagan, M.K., Stolzenburg, E.B., Berdan Lozaon, J., Aragon, M.C., Surchard, M.R., and Hurtado, S. (2014). Undergraduate Teaching Faculty, 2013-2014 HERI Faculty Survey. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.