Virtual Liberating Structures Meetup – Monday, August 28th at 7pm PST

As part of the Vancouver Liberating Structures User Group, I’ll be coordinating our first Virtual LS meeting on this last Monday of August, the 28th at 7pm. If you’re interested in Liberating Structures and in particular applying LS in a virtual environment, you’re welcome to join! You can access the Zoom meeting here: https://zoom.us/j/889505883

Please arrive early (we’ll open at 6:45pm) to iron out any tech glitches and make sure you have the Zoom software downloaded on either your phone or laptop (check http://zoom.us)

Here is a detailed structure for the session and also includes links to great resources that one of the Virtual LS specialists Jim Best has put together: http://barishgolland.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/4th-Liberating-Structures-User-Group-Meetup-Online-Aug-28-2017.pdf

We’ll also invite those interested in V-LS from around the community. Hope to see you all there!

Authentic Experiential Learning – Reflections on UBCO Learning Conference Keynote

Reflections on Keynote at #UBCOLearnConf with Dr. Linda B. Nilson.

Reflection involves self-debriefing and helps students know what to look for through an educational experience. Reflection leads the way to metacognition and self-regulated learning. That can encapsulate self-observation, self-monitoring, self-analysis, self-evaluation. Students, upon reflecting, can start creating decision-making rules and patterns to take with them to other similar experiences. Ultimately, as a teacher, it is the reflection that you will assess. You as a teacher will be able to see the quality of their reflection

Reflective Probes

The term “probes” is new to me in this kind of educational context. “The authentic experience & reflection require corresponding outcomes” – Dr. Linda B. Nilson. Here are some examples of probes:

  • What skills did you gain or improve?
  • How did you overcome your challenges?
  • Describe your decision-making process?
  • What steps did you take along your research process?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • When and how will these skills be useful in the future?

Learning Outcomes

Questions teachers need to ask themselves before creating authentic learning experience reflection assessments are:

  • What are my learning outcomes for your students’ authentic experience?
  • Given these outcomes, what are your most effective reflective probes to ask and assess (detail important here)

Thoughts on the presentation

It was fascinating to see the breadth and depth of best practices in student reflection on authentic learning. What I would have loved to see was more opportunities for the audience themselves to do some reflection on the presentation itself. Dr. Linda B. Nilson would have benefited from using one or two Liberating Structures such as 1-2-4-All or 15% Solutions!

Reflections on PIDP Courses so far

I’ve taken so far 6 courses in the VCC Provincial Instructor Diploma:

  • PIDP 3100 Foundations of Adult Education
  • PIDP 3210 Curriculum Development
  • PIDP 3230 Evaluation of Learning
  • PIDP 3240 Media Enhanced Learning
  • PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies
  • PIDP 3260 Professional Practice

3100 opened me up to the world of Adult Learning. I had never studied that before, so words like Andragogy and Heutagogy were new to me. Concepts like transformative learning, self-directed learning were brand new. This course definitely broadened my view of all the varieties of adult learning and adult learning theories there are out there. And certainly it helped me start reflecting on my own learning.

3210 helped me get acquainted with curriculum development in the sense of planning out all aspects of how to shape a curriculum into a workable document. Especially helpful was guidance on how to create proper learning outcome statements, and also studying the difference between competency and outcomes based learning.

3230 brought me into the world of assessments and how to properly assess students, especially in informal assessment contexts. Formative/Summative assessment instruments were looked at and constructed. Knowledge instruments were built, norm versus criterion based tests were compared.

3240 introduced me to “Teaching Naked”, how higher education is changing rapidly and ways to incorporate more creative uses of technology in learning. I had never heard of Pecha Kucha slides! That was interesting.

3250 – biggest revelation was the myth of learning styles! Huge revelation for me. I had been sold on this idea until then. That was very insightful, how it’s not that we have different learning styles but that we all are capable of using different learning styles depending on what the learning demands. I think it’s here where I learned about Hattie’s ground breaking Visible Learning research. Very cool!

3260 – Ethical dilemmas, The Skillful Teacher and how student learning experiences must be brought to the light, CIQ and how simple it is to implement to get anonymous feedback from students about their learning. Really interesting, eye-opening stuff!

David Helfand’s out-of-the-box thinking on higher ed

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” – Chinese Proverb

David Helfand gives a fascinating TEDTalk on “Designing a university for the new millennium” at TEDxWestVancouverED:

What I found insightful about this TEDTalk was how out of the box Helfand is about his thinking on higher education. He doesn’t believe in tenure (turned it down at Columbia University), believes faculty should not be divided into hierarchies and that their focus should be on the student learning, that they should not silo themselves into departments but instead interact with other disciplines. What he has done as president of Quest University is astounding. Quest University “offers only one degree, a bachelor of arts and sciences, has no departments, and students take just one four-week course at a time through its block plan” (Charbonneau 2015).

This is a radical break from the traditional university, and they’ve not only succeed, they are influencing other similar initiatives around the world. What I especially like about it is the focus on student learning, engaging students in ways that help them learn. Quest University was ranked “highest among Canadian universities on five key criteria: academic challenge, student-faculty interaction, supportive campus environment, active and collaborative learning, and enriching educational experience” (MacQueen 2011). That is pretty astounding, and there are certainly many lessons that traditional universities can and I believe, must learn, to stay viable in the 21st century higher education landscape.

 

References:

Charbonneau, L. (2015). David Helfand reflects back on a decade at the head of Quest University. Available at: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/news/news-article/david-helfand-reflects-back-on-a-decade-at-the-head-of-quest-university/ Accessed May 1, 2016.

MacQueen, Ken (24 February 2011), “The student’s Quest”, Maclean’s. Available at http://www.macleans.ca/culture/the-students-quest/

Having a constant awareness of student learning and teacher perception

Brookfield’s core assumption #3 of skillful teaching in Chapter 2 of his book, The Skillful Teacher, is that “Teachers need a constant awareness of how their students are experiencing their learning and perceiving their teachers’ actions” (Brookfield 2015, p. 22).

Student Learning Awareness

What Brookfield means by an awareness of how students are experiencing their learning is “having some insight into what students are thinking and feeling” (p. 22). He argues that it is crucial to have some awareness of what is going on in the classroom in terms of actual student learning about the subject.  Without that awareness the teacher can be blinded to what is really going on, where the understanding is happening or not happening in the classroom. As a result the choices a teacher makes can be erroneous in trying to address the learning gap in the classroom.

The implications of this are that a teacher’s day to day decisions on how to lead the class, what content to introduce, what problems to go over, what exercises to give, etc.,  must be guided by a very real awareness of how student learning is happening. This ties in with Hattie’s concept of making learning “visible” (Hattie 2012).

Brookfield goes on to note how incredibly tricky it is to get into a student’s mind and really know what’s going on in their heads, so the cardinal rule for getting student learning feedback is to ensure the anonymity of the students’ responses to the questions teachers would ask them about their learning (Brookfield 2015, p. 23). They need to feel safe to express whatever concerns they have, whether positive or negative, about what is going on in the classroom. This holds especially true for “perceiving their teachers’ actions”. Students simply don’t feel safe to openly express any concerns they have in their instructor’s abilities to teach. This can be especially pronounced with students coming from cultures where the teacher as  authority figure is highly respected and where it would be taboo to openly criticize anything they do, with possible harsh repercussions.

 

Winning the trust of your students is hard work but crucial in getting real honest feedback on how learning is happening. When students see that you take their anonymous feedback seriously, there will be a much healthier dynamic of transparency in the classroom. Students are able to reflect and describe how their learning is happening, including what helps and what hinders them from learning, and the instructor is able to bring up these issues with the whole class, especially those issues which impact the majority of the classroom, and provide solutions and teaching improvements moving forward.

References:  

Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Featured image from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/83/Awesome_PBL_group.jpg