Learning from Mistakes

Learning from mistakes

I wanted to write about this as an instructor and as an adult learner.  If you reflect on your past career I am sure that you can point to many (or at least one!) mistake from which you gained a lot of learning.  That is if you took the time to reflect on it.  However, even though we know this do we embrace mistakes when they happen? I think not. In fact, I think in many ways we are still scared of making mistakes due to possible repercussions.

Are we judged by our mistakes? Or by how we respond to them and learn from them? You would hope it is the latter but I’m not so sure. Obviously, I’m not talking about the type of mistake that happens over and over again. That would infer a lack of ability to learn from the past. I’m talking about those uh oh moments when you know you could have done something differently.

This is where reflection and premise reflection step in and aid our learning. I’ve become such a fan of reflection that I insist on spending the first few minutes of the day journaling and then at least 20 minutes in the evening to reflect and journal some more. If nothing else it feels good!

I found an article on Faculty focus that speaks to learning from our teaching mistakes. It is a quick read and worth it.

 

Faculty Focus article

Making it to the party on time! PIDP3250 Forum postings

Posting to forums isn’t new to me but it has been a long time since I had the experience.  Prior to PIDP3250 my last online course was 12 years ago.  Online learning has come a long way since then and there is a lot to be said for developing forum posting skills.  The 3250 forums are a rich learning environment that provides all sorts of new information and evokes interesting emotional experiences.  In many ways, I feel the forums can do more for moving your learning along than any face to face classroom experience.  The forums allow you to be with the information a lot longer and for someone like me that needs that time to reflect and mull things over it is very beneficial.

 

So, what has the forum posting experience taught me so far. The learning goes deeper than the content, it has revealed to the me the importance of learning community and being an active participant.  I love the analogy of going to a dinner party – if you show up to early you may start a party that no one is prepared for.  If you show up too late everyone may have moved on and will miss your contribution.  If you show up and I don’t have anything to contribute will you be remembered or invited again?! Um….

 

What can get in the way.  When initially joining the forums one can feel overwhelmed by the amazing posts as they reflect thoughtful consideration as well as new resources.  This can be somewhat intimidating and may hold you back and put you into procrastination mode.  That is what happened to me at first!  What helped me was to think of the learning community as a safe place and that others may have had the same experience.  In that I found the courage to step or jump in and knew that it’s a place where learning only takes place if you actually do something!!  I’m still in the throes of developing positive online habits, posting more regularly and moving my thinking up the hierarchy to creative not recall.   Many of us have seen this quote before and sometimes it is cited as Aristotle and other times a guy that wrote about Aristotle.  Who knows, for me it is a reminder that my brain can be molded and it will take positive behaviours to reach the goals that I desire (e.g. great posting skills).

 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Candiss’ Digital Project

This is my classmate Candiss’ digital project.  I like the way she presented the SET Stand where you stand.  It’s a great way to help students learn how to present arguments and then try to influence others. Definitely an activity for active learning that engages the learners to evolve their communication skills as well as their analytical skills.  I haven’t had the opportunity to explore this SET yet but now that I have learned more about it through Candiss’ digital project I’m going to give it a try.

Stand where you stand

 

Emotions and Learning

With all the research in Neuroscience it has been proven that we are truly holistic in nature and as much as we would like to believe we can separate logic from emotions we can’t.  They are hard wired together due to the nature of the organization of our brains and this provides us with a golden opportunity as educators. Ensuring that our course design addresses emotional states and the needs of our learnings will go a long way in ensuring engagement. When I look back at my experience as a learner I can’t tell you what I necessarily learned by paraphrasing the instructor but I can sure tell how I felt.  

The connection between emotions, learning and memory were first brought to my attention by an instructor who used a unique way to demonstrate the aforementioned to our class.  It was right after lunch and as adult learners do we were chatting casually at our tables, when in bounces (literally) the instructor in the wildest pair of shorts.  As you can imagine we all sat there speechless, then he proceeded to help us unpack the experience.  What did we think?  What did we feel?  What was the impact?  His point was to draw our attention to how a moment such as this got our emotions moving and could be so memorable and impactful.  And clearly, he was right! The discussion continued on about emotions and learning and how positive and negative learning environments can influence our learning experiences.

Another experience as a learner that had profound impact on me was when I wascompleting my Master’s program. Being an MBA program there was a wide array of learners in the program with varying degrees of experience and education.  I didn’t stand out in particular way, but I do remember feeling like an imposter and that I didn’t have the right to be there.  It led me to feel inadequate and fearful which ultimately was a roadblock to my learning.  It was a struggle but I managed and muddled my way through.  The success of graduating aided in overcoming this feeling but it still sticks with me and I endeavour to work hard at mitigate these feelings.  This experience was valuable to me as an instructor as I’m sure that there are other students (that could be in my classes) that have similar feelings.

There is significant research in the field of emotions and learning which can inform our teaching practices in many ways.  There is no doubt that emotions impact learning and particular remembering what we are learning.  In terms of learning content, students are more likely to remember material in which they have made an emotional investment. (Barkley, 2010) This emphasizes the need to include authentic learning activities (e.g. role play, simulations) that mimic real-world experiences to help learners care about their learning as well as have an impact on their emotional experience in the class room. I am an advocate for creating a class environment of fun, humour, safety, and respect which I do by including exercises that engage learners to laugh at the light side of life but learn through the experience.  My intention is to ensure the environment is a positive one that allows learners to explore and have an adventure in the class.  This lends itself to creating an classroom community and an increase in learner engagement.   I have had learners come up to me after attending a workshop or course I have taught and they will verbatim recite an experience from the class.   This in itself is evidence that there is impact and provides feedback that helps me to keep building on what is working.

My experience of feeling like an imposter is more common than I had previously understood. Impostorship is the sense learners report that at some deeply embedded level they possess neither the talent nor the right to become college students.  Students who feel like impostors imagine that they are constantly on the verge of being found out, of being revealed as being too dumb or unprepared for college-level learning.  (Brookfield, 2006).  I couldn’t agree more with Brookfield’s analysis of how an impostor feels.   He also states that these emotions (which are negative in nature) can be silent killers to student engagement.

These two examples in regard to emotion and learning that I have shared appear juxtaposed in nature and both are of great value to my professional practice.  They inform me that emotions can play a greater role in engagement than I may have previously thought and that paying attention to address learners emotional state in course design is extremely important.  The notion that the affective domain stands apart from cognitive or psychomotor is incorrect in my opinion.  In saying this, even if an objective may be stated as solely resides in one domain instructional strategies and activities should reflect holistic learning.

Going forward with my instructional practice, I will put in concerted effort to attend to the emotional state of my learners in my classroom (virtual or physical).   I plan on spending time reflecting on the following:  How will I know what learners need emotionally?  What will I do to assess learners’ emotional states?  What strategies can I employ to ensure that learning environments are positive?  What do I do if I notice an environment changing and a storm of negative hits the classroom? What does this look like in way of learner behaviour?  Taking into account learner preferences e.g. introversion vs extraversion, how will that impact course/lesson design?  What do I know about impostorship?  How will I identify it?

These questions will assist me in the construction of a positive emotion classroom.  In addition, I will look into Emotional Intelligence in Teaching.  Over the years this has been a topic of discussion in regard to leadership development but I do see its place in the world of education. It would be a great blog topic!

 References

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty. San            Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S. D. (2006). The Skillful Teacher on technique, trust, and responsiveness in the              classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

 

 

Reading – is it a lost art?

“Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”
Voltaire

Lately I have been experiencing a recurring theme in my classroom, learners who have not completed their assigned reading.   I initially noticed this phenomenon when I would be discussing topics in the class and I would be looking at a lot of blank looks on the faces of the learners.  I thought okay, maybe I’m not clear in my explanations and I better try harder.  However, over time it became apparent that the assigned reading wasn’t being completed. The reading was straight forward and the materials were easy to understand so it wasn’t due to complexity.   Another indicator that the reading wasn’t being completed was when I asked learners to turn the specific sections on specific topics and they didn’t know where to look (except the table of contents).  I found that the learners completely relied on me to provide them with the key points that they needed to know.  Instead of the learners owning the learning they were pushing the responsibility to me.  And at times I was guilty of playing along with that role.

This situation of not being prepared for class isn’t unusual, according articles in “The Teaching Professor” this happens a lot!!  It has even been coined as “an age-old problem”.  I was pleased to see that there is a booklet also published by the Teaching Professor that can be helpful – 11 Strategies for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned.  I gleaned some strategies from this publication that I will implement within my course design.

Build a framework:  Use the class reading materials to build a framework from the course outline.  Have learners create a table that includes the course learning outcomes and have them fill in what is the corresponding reading material for each learning outcome.  This will be an easy task to do as all the materials are already aligned to outcomes within the course book.  The exercise will help to highlight where the material is and it will also link the materials to the assignments. (Bandeen, 2009)

Prepare 3 to 5 questions for each reading assignment:  The questions could be focused on key concepts and the answers could be rolled into classroom assessment activities such as Student Generated Questions.  (Coffman, 2009)

Teach learners to ask questions about the reading materials.  Ask learners to use the who, what, where, when, why, and how to question the material contents.  Being curious about these answers will help learners to find linkages to the learning. (Coffman, 2009)

These are just a few of the strategies contained in the resource and I think they will work well with my learners.  Learner engagement in discussion should be apparent if these strategies are successful.  On an aside, I think that the reflective writing assignments that must be handed in during the class as part of the assignments are a brilliant way to drive learners to do the reading.  Still mulling over how I can introduce that into my face to face classes.

References

Bandeen, H. M.  (2017) How to get your Students to Read What’s Assigned.  In 11 Strategies, for Getting Students to Read What’s Assigned (pp 11-12). Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/  (Reprinted from The Teaching Professor, January 2009).

Coffman, S.J. (2017) How to get your Students to Read What’s Assigned.  In 11 Strategies forGetting Students to Read What’s Assigned (pp 14-15). Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/  (Reprinted from The Teaching Professor, June/July 2009)

 

Reflective Practice

Change can be a great experience if you embrace it and have wrestled with all of your internal resistance.  And to be human and an adult is to resist change! According to William Bridges it isn’t the change that does you in it’s the transitions. Some changes and ultimately the related transitions are not easy to make and can cause you to rethink a lot of what you already know or at least thought you knew.  Transitioning from teaching in a physical classroom to the virtual online classroom poses such change and transition.  This type of change is really transformational in so many ways.

 

The online classroom is different in so many ways than the physical classroom and requires that the instructor be on top of everything going on.  It seems similar to a stage manager taking care of all the behind the scenes activities of a play. Planning is the key to any successful learning experience and in the online world planning has many more facets.  In such instances of change an ally can be critical reflection aka reflective practice.  Taking the time to engage in journaling about the changes that are required helps to find the way through the transitions and the transformed thinking and ultimately the teaching transformation.

 

Engaging in reflective practice promotes internal change.  Reflection involves examining and making connections among our experiences in order to promote increasingly complex and interrelated schema. By using the focused conversation model to create journal entries is an opportunity to document the change experience, free write your feelings, challenge your internal responses.  Sometimes it is helpful to leave ab entry for a day or and then return to document how you are going to move forward. The purpose of critical reflection is transformational in nature and can expedite the transition required of change.    More on transformation in teaching and learning coming soon.