PIDP 3260 – Brookfield Chapter 6: Lecturing Creatively

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Most of my courses at our faculty operate on the basis of lecturing. I greatly liked this chapter and found its application to be thought provoking for me. I will be looking at lecturing differently and try to make modifications to my lectures in order to improve them. Brookfield (2000) discusses five reasons lectures are part of the teaching process. They allow teachers:

  1. To establish the broad outline of the material.
  2. To explain, with frequent examples, concepts that learners struggle to understand.
  3. To introduce alternative perspectives and interpretations.
  4. To model intellectual attitudes and behaviors you wish to encourage in students.
  5. To encourage learners’ interest in a topic.

I especially liked the concepts discussed in the communication section of the chapter. We can break our class apart into short sections of approximately 10 minutes in order to introduce new ideas. Small breaks and breakout sessions can be used to apply concepts and introduce application and critical thinking activity. We can use consider social media to demonstrate our teaching and its application. I attended a medical lecture this morning that was scheduled for two hours. The instructor cleverly broke the session up into small sections that were 15-20 minutes. He chose specific and logical stop points. At the end of the first session, he gave the students a diagram to label either individually or as a group. He started the second session by reviewing the diagram and continued lecturing. The second break was a group activity to apply the medical concepts discussed. Students were presented with a scenario and had to devise a plan of action. He started the next break reviewing the last exercise and lectured again. The next break was a true break to allow students to have a ‘mental break’ and feel free to physically stretch. The next section started with a video (from You tube) and tied into the last part of the lecture. I loved watching the way the instructor had broken up the class. I found the students were relaxed and engaged at all times. They were not drifting off. The lecture was organized, clear, and content was presented in a great sequential manner. I have to wonder if the instructor has actually applied the concepts discussed in our textbook.

I plan to do the same as the medical instructor above with some minor changes. I am a true believer of starting the lecture with a question that allows my students to understand why the lecture is important to them. How will the lecture help them in their future life/career? What problem will this lecture help them solve? I will then follow up with my objectives and a mini lesson. At this point, I plan to introduce a few thought provoking application questions and allow time for students to think about possible solutions/approaches. A class discussion will follow and a final wrap up of information will be presented. I like Brookfield’s idea (2000) of ending the lecture with a thought provoking idea or problem. Allow students to have something to ‘mull’ over. I would like to revisit the thought provoking idea that I have left with them at the next session. Conversely, I am thinking about asking them to email a response to the question to me before the next session. This may allow them more time to think about their thoughts and consult peers.

To encourage adequate preparation for lectures, I would like to conduct I-clicker quizzes during some breakout sessions. I will use the results as discussion points. There are lot of other options such as poll survey that can be used. I prefer to use one as to not confuse the class too much with respect to software application.

Reference:

Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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PIDP 3260: Brookfield Chapter 16: Understanding Students’ Resistance to Learning

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The resistance in learning from students can present a tough and frustrating scenario for any teacher.  We tend to look at ourselves and take inventory of our shortcomings in order to account for the resistance.  However, this may not be the case.  Adult learners come to our classroom with a variety of life situations, biases, socioeconomic backgrounds and beliefs that my present as obstacles to learning.  Adult learners have personal responsibilities such as work, bills to pay, children, spouses, and other non-learning obligations that could negatively impact their drive to learn.  This is out of the control of the teacher.  I asked a very good student why he was not doing well over the last few sessions and is there anything I can do to help him.  He said that his mother had asked him not to come home during Christmas holidays.  He was sad and devastated.   His resistance to learning was not related to the course or my teaching. It was personal.

One of the most interesting parts of my PIDP learning is understanding how fragile the ego of an adult learner really is.  The learner fears failure and looking foolish in front of others. They may fear poor performance results. They may lack confidence in their ability to learn and perform under the current technological era.  Finally, the learner may just shut off if they do not like their instructor for one reason or another.  The reason may not be related to our teaching nor our class.  Last year, I had a student who was very confrontational last year. I gave him a poor rating with respect to his professional conduct.  A week later, I spoke to his group supervisor who informed me that the student had requested to be removed from my class as he did not like having a female instructor.  In his culture, men are in charge and men direct other men. Women do not direct men and the student did not like receiving feedback of any form from me.  It was my first introduction to resistance to learning that was not in my control.

Although resistance may not be able to be overcome at times, instructors can take a few steps to attempt to deal with it.  At times, we may be able to change the resistance.  My student was assigned to a male instructor and is now thriving in his learning.  So, once the source of the resistance was sorted and addressed, it resolved.  Not all sources are so easily discovered and/or addressed, but instructors should try.  In one course, I found students would not do their assigned reading before class. I would send repeated email requests, but they would ignore my requests.  Finally, I decided to address the class and voice my frustration.  I found out that the course preceding mine was a higher credit course and demanded a lot more attention and preparation; they did not have the time to spend on my course requirement.  Needless to say, I still needed the pre-readings.  So, I compromised and reduced my reading expectations but introduced an I-clicker pre-lecture test for each session.  This change was very effective in reducing the resistance.

Brookfield (2000) explores various ways to address resistance to learning. These include self reflection of your teaching/subject/requirement to address any areas that may be causing resistance to learning.  Adult students will shut off if they feel that the course is not delivering the content they believe they should be learning.  This requires instructors to establish clarity and intention.  This also may require to seek learner involvement in planning of educational sessions and activities.  Engagement is a great way to feel empowered and a part of one’s own learning.  Ensure materials are being devised to meet the need of the learner; they are in line with the learner’s background in education, experience, style of learning, technological savvy, and more.  Direct application of learned materials may help exhibit the importance and immediate application of learning thus engaging the adult learner.  If one teaching method does not work, seek other methods of teaching.  Perhaps students will be more interested and engaged in another method. If the other method works, evaluate why and how is it more effective. Try to devise more activities around the learner’s desired method of learning.  Ensure learner trust is maintained by being clear, consistent and transparent in your learning outcomes, expectations, agendas and evaluations.  It is hard to gain the trust of an adult learner. It is very easy to loose it.  Evaluation must be fair and confidential and respect the learner’s ego.   Evaluation should not surprise the learner at any time. It should be provided as to help the learner gain a better self reflection regarding their learning.  Teach at a pace that the learner can succeed and engage in the class; do not overwhelm the learner by going too fast.

Even though students may resist learning, we need to ensure we have done our best to create a safe and effective learning environment that respects the principles of andragogy at all times.  We can not take the resistance personally but should attempt to devise ways to reduce it when possible.  I think CIQ forms can help teachers understand the class and their needs much better. All we can do is address our findings and understandings. The rest is up to the learner.

Reference:

Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

PIDP 3260: Professional reflection of myself

In this blog, I would like to share my own personal reflection of my professional ‘being’ at this time.  I think my reflection is both happy and sad. I used to work full time in my profession of dentistry.  I love my field and could spend every hour of every day working in my field.  I like all services and seem to be good at almost all aspects. I graduated as one of the top students in my class.  Well, the sad part came a few years ago when I developed hand, neck and shoulder problems.  I had to decrease working and underwent surgery on my hand. Even with surgery, I was still in pain.  So, I decided to look into other areas where I could enjoy my passion for dentistry without being in pain all the time.  I looked at various areas in my field and applied for various positions.  I tried different jobs but none of them made me happy except for teaching.  I found that teaching allowed me to share my passion and help future colleagues see the joys our profession.  I was amazed at how much I knew and how much knowledge I could transfer to students.  I could help make a difference in their lives and future careers while teaching what I love to do.  I started teaching patient care and soon found myself being recruited into two other courses.  I won a teaching award the first year.  This year, I am involved with four different courses while working 2 ½ days per week. 

              In five years, I hope to be able to achieve a contract position at a university setting teaching dentistry while working 1-2 days per week.  As my physical limitations increase, I will leave private practice and focus on teaching.  However, teaching positions are not so readily available.  We have a lot of older, foreign dentists in British Columbia who can not obtain a practicing license. As such, they teach at the university. They are willing to be compensated very low rates in order to work. This has caused lack of adequate compensation and poor working conditions at this time.  I feel bad for my students as they have difficulty communicating and understanding some of the instructors.  My hope is to demonstrate my teaching effectiveness, complete as much educational credentials as possible, and build a solid relationship with the faculty in order to be considered when a contract position comes along. I hope to demonstrate that there is a big difference in someone who is Canadian licensed and has Canadian experience and education compared to foreign-trained dentists.  This has not been an easy task thus far. My student response rate has been amazing and inspirational. Faculty is starting to see my efforts and effectiveness.  However, the department is now cutting back positions in order to save money.  No matter what, I will keep at it and hope for the best.  I know that this is my passion and where I feel valued and where I gain the most joy in my life at this time.  While listening to Sir Ken Robinson videos, I could not help but smile when he talked about being in your ‘element’.  Teaching has given me that. I find that my time teaching feels like minutes after hours of teaching.  I feel very fortunate to have found a new passion in my professional life.

              To further develop myself, I plan to complete my PIDP diploma and then move on to the media teaching diploma.  I will continue to take courses at the Center of Teaching and Learning Excellence at the University of British Columbia to keep on top of trends in adult education at the university setting.  I plan to take on and volunteer for more educational opportunities and seek senior faculty recognition when possible.  So far, the faculty has been very supportive.   I do not qualify for the Faculty educational certificate program through U.B.C. as it is only granted to contract faculty – not sessional faculty such as myself.  I hope to be in the position to experience the program in the near future. 

 

PIDP 3260: Brookfield chapter 18: Exercising teaching power responsibly

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I chose this chapter as a point of blogging as I am still struggling in this area, so the chapter was especially helpful for me.  As my students are young adults, I see them as mature individuals.   We have so much in common that I used to see them as friends. I thought that the more we liked one another, we will form a better bond that will improve my teaching effectiveness and the learner’s educational outcome.  Well, that was not totally correct.  I found that I had to make tough decisions about classroom requests, grading, extensions and more. If the decision was something the student did not like, they viewed me in a negative manner: was she faking it all along? If she’s my friend, then she would give me what I’m asking for.

              Students are not our friends and we need to accept that we, as teachers, have a position of authority that leads to an interesting dynamic of its own.  Students are constantly watching and evaluating how we utilize our power and we need to be aware of this fact in our actions.  We need to use this dynamic to build a relationship that will inspire, guide and encourage learning in a positive way.    In order to do this, Brookfield (2000) suggests a few areas of consideration:  justifiable power, responsiveness, and being consistently fair. These are three simple ways to develop and maintain our relationship with students and use our power responsibly.

              By being transparent as possible in our evaluation, agendas, expectations, feedback and all other areas of teaching, we will maintain an open and trusting relationship with our students.  There should be very little surprise that arise in most sessions.  If we follow this principle, even if students do not agree with our way of thinking, they will respect it and follow our recommendations.  CIQ questionnaires are a great way to assess our clarity in all aspects of our interactions.  Teachers can read the regular feedbacks and self critique their transparency.

              Responsiveness is important to demonstrate to students that teachers are “listening to them” and addressing their concerns.  I like to let the class know if there is a problem or concern from my questionnaire. I usually discuss the concern that was brought to my attention and how I plan to address it.  I used to shy away from discussing concerns that I could not address.  I now bring those up too and simply state why I can not change or address them.  I think it’s important to discuss this in the open and not just make changes.  The open discussion demonstrates your ability to empower the students in a controlled manner while maintaining the teacher’s power.

              Consistency is also important in all aspects of practice.  Teachers can not do one thing one day and another a different day.   Everyone should be treated fairly and given the same chances and opportunities.  We must be consistent with all areas of classroom teaching and especially in evaluations and gradings.  I really like the rubric method of evaluation as I can check off what is and is not addressed.

              At times, we may face critical situations when the balance of power is threatened or when we might not be able to be as transparent as we would like. We may need to guide learning to a point that the student is not comfortable going there. In these cases, I like Brookfield’s comment that we may need to replace the idea of the class as being safe to one of ‘civility, the process of ensuring no one is abused, intimidated, or humiliated’ (p. 251). We need to ensure each and every person is respected and feels so at all times.

Reference:

Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

PIDP 3260 – Chapter 2 Brookfield : Core Assumptions of a Skillful Teacher

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Brookfield core assumptions of a skillful teacher discusses four areas of awareness:

This chapter is very informative and to the point. I really like the practical explanation of why each assumption is important. With each assumption, we realize another point of consideration in making us a more effective facilitator of learning.

By obtaining a sense of our classes’ makeup, needs, strengths, and weaknesses, we can effectively modify our teaching. For example, if our class is comprised of many ESL students who are not very proficient with English language, we may need to simply our teaching in order to more effectively communicate with the class. We need to “mix and match our teaching approach based on our most accurate reading” of the class’ diversity (Brooksfied, p. 19).

Critical reflection of our assumptions and actions allows teachers to ensure validity, effectiveness and accuracy of teaching. We can do this by seeking feedback from other colleagues, students as well as reading educational literature and performing own self reflection of our experiences.

In order to be aware of the students’ experiences due to our actions, student assessment tools should be used. The anonymous method of feedback ensures a safe feedback environment. If the feedback is incorporated in our teaching, we can further seek open feedback by showing students that we actually care and want to deliver an learning experience that is most conducive to their learning. I try my best to incorporate student feedback when possible. It builds a solid, open and trusting relationship with students. However, by doing this, I found that my weakness comes from students feeling so open that ‘too many’ requests are directed to me. I am still struggling with the balance between welcoming feedback and keeping up with trying to incorporate them.

Finally, student at college level of education are either adults or just verging on adulthood (usually 18-22 age group). The younger adults are in search for increased self awareness as a person, learner, and moral being. They view learning as a way to give them a “sense of independence, identity, control over their destiny, and create meaning in their lives” (Brooksfield, pg. 25). In this section, Knowles principles of andragogy comes to mind (Merriam, 2013). With keeping these six principles in mind, we can ensure adult learning is met and respected.

All the assumptions are points to keep in mind to help us become more effective teachers. It is through visiting these assumptions that we find new challenges in our teaching. It is through these assumptions that we find new energy and make a difference in our learner’s experiences.

References:

Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Merriam, S. B., & Bierema, L. L. (2013). Adult learning: Linking theory and practice. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

PIDP 3260 – Chapter 1 of Brookfield : Experiencing Teaching

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I started reading this chapter by taking notes.  Within minutes, I found myself putting my pen away and just enjoying the textbook.  The author has captured the reality of teaching. It is not a concrete science and there is no black and white.  Each class, each session, each hour is so different from the rest.  The same content taught in one class may or may not be effective for another group.  Teaching is sometimes about muddling our way through our class and handling surprises as they arise.

So what is one to do?  How do we prepare for these chaotic and challenging situations?  Can we prepare?  I agree with the author that surprises are just part of our teaching experience.  How we deal with them makes us learn and grow as instructors. How we interpret the outcome and make internal changes affects us in the future.  We need to accept ourselves for who we are, embrace our style, work on our weaknesses (as we perceive them) and understand that we will never be able to please all the people all the time. This is just the reality that we need to understand and appreciate.  With respect to problem solving and dilemmas, we have to accept that we may or may not be able to resolve them all.

With respect to experience, I really liked the author’s thoughts.  Experience itself does not mean that one has reflected, understood, nor critically analyzed their teaching.   Experience can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined, and constraining in many ways.  I love the author’s explanation that experience happens but they are related to meaning that we grant them; the meaning is constructed by us to explain how we understand the event.  This understanding is from our point of view and affected by all factors that make us who we are and where we are in life.   Through experience, we can learn a lesson but this learning is affected by our interpretation of the lesson.  Experience may or may not be enriching such as cases of stereotyping on a regular basis.  Finally, experience can be narrowing and constraining and lead us to forming skewed results and opinions.

Finally, I really liked the author’s advice about teachers needing to trust their own inner voice, instincts, intuitions, and insight.  At a recent lecture, I had a confrontational student who continually asked stumbling questions. He was determined to “throw me off”.  I was amazed at how I was able to effectively respond and control the pace of the class at the same time. I was respectful to him and did not allow him to change the tone of the entire session.  At the end of the class, two of my co-instructors came up to me and told me how amazed they were that I didn’t even blink with respect to the tough questions.  They were impressed. I have to admit, that I did blink inside but kept my cool on the outside and kept focus on delivery and session objectives.   These skills are not ones we can be taught. They are ones we develop over time, practice and personal/professional growth.

References

Brookfield, S. D. (2000). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.