Reflecting on the PIDP

The PIDP has been an amazing program so far. I have learned many methods for how to improve my instruction and 3260 in particular has shown me the methods of continuing that improvement.

My most valuable learning experience was one that is not listed on any of the course outcomes. How it feels to be a student. I had forgotten the pressure and uncertainty that comes with being a student. Most of the professional development courses I’d completed to date are zero pressure. You show up, sign in and take home what you can. Assessments were usually non-existent and competence was simply determined by attendance. That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything, in fact I learned a lot at these courses, but the absence of assessments made the experience very carefree.

Having true assessments changes the game significantly. Now a certain level of achievement must be obtained. The additional stress of knowing I must attain that level of understanding was the reminder that being a student is not as easy as I remembered. What I found to be the most helpful is that expectations are clearly laid out from day 1. While it is overwhelming to see so much on the first day, it is also extremely beneficial. Once you start to work through things and see how it all fits together, knowing what is coming and having time to prepare for it is a great relief. This lesson has taught me that I need to be very clear with expectations for my students and I need to establish those expectations from day 1.

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Lifelong Learning

I believe that the importance of lifelong learning is justified by one reason. The world around us is changing. It always has been and it always will. If we want to remain relevant in this world we need to change as well. If you’re standing still, you’re falling behind.

While looking for educational videos I came across this TED Talk by John Green that I think ties in well with this subject.

John talks about something in this video that I believe has had a profound impact on my life. Being part of a learning community. My story is pretty similar. I didn’t enjoy most of my primary education and I slogged through it because I had to, not because I wanted to. As I got older, things began to change. I became part of a learning community and started to enjoy the benefits that came with it. I like to think of learning like climbing a mountain. There’s a whole lot of hard work mixed with glorious new perspectives and usually a bit of pain. When you finally get to the top, the feeling of accomplishment is unbeatable. Our learning communities are here to help us up the mountain. They keep us going when things get tough and remind us that we don’t want to miss out on the view from the top.

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Cheating

I recently came across this article in Faculty Focus about cheating on online exams.
http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/do-online-students-cheat-more-on-tests/

This particular study concludes that cheating online is no more prevalent than cheating in a classroom. While this is a little surprising, what I find more interesting is the fact that cheating is a problem in the first place.
I believe that in most cases the problem is not cheating, the problem is the method of assessment. Too many programs build up to a final exam full of multiple choice questions worth a huge percentage of their grade. A grade that will very likely influence how successful a student can be for the rest of their life. On top of that, in many cases the same exact questions are reused over and over every semester. Not only is it tempting to cheat, it’s easy. Students are learning to memorize the right answers instead of learning how to find the right answers. Is this what we want to be teaching?
The PID Program is a great example of how we should be doing assessments. Marks are weighted more towards formative assessments than summative assessments. Our mark is cumulatively gained over several assignments. Assignments that allow us to reference our books, our peers and our experience. After all, how many problems do we encounter in the real world where we cannot refer to any of those three for guidance and must rely entirely on our experience.

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Lecturing

Hearing the word lecture usually conjures images that go something like this:

It’s no wonder that so many people have an active dislike of lectures, most of us have been in these situations far too many times and the trauma is not something we easily forget. It’s unfortunate, because lectures can be extremely informative if they are done well. Great lectures evoke more than just our sense of hearing. They get us actively thinking about the subject matter. I find that the same principles that are required for good public speaking are very important while lecturing. Movement, timing, voice, and deliberate pauses are all skills of a good public speaker.

Here’s an example of a lecture that is done well. It’s over 2 hours long and still remains interesting. The lecture starts at 8:oo.

While lecturing, it can also be appropriate to incorporate media to help visual learners. PowerPoint, another tool dreaded by all, can be extremely effective if used correctly. Reading a long list verbatim from a slide is pointless, but having a picture or a few words about the subject you are talking about can be very helpful.

The University of Waterloo has published this fantastic resource with tips on how to lecture effectively.

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Professional Ethics

Recently I came across this article about the University of Calgary. It seems that the lines between businesses and educational institutions become more blurred every year. On one hand, Colleges and Universities are becoming more and more dependent on corporate funding, and businesses themselves want to have influence on the development of possible future employees. On the other, it’s important for educational institutions to maintain their objectivity or they will lose credibility and enrolment. I imagine UofC is not the only university that will be learning some lessons from this incident. Institutions across the country will probably be reevaluating the conditions of their relationships with businesses.

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Resistance to Learning

Chapter 12 in Brookfield is about student’s resistance to learning and how instructors can respond to that resistance. Many of the causes of resistance that Brookfield lists are feelings that I have experienced. In fact, at one point or another I’ve experienced every one of them.

Sometimes this can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment. As instructors, when we feel that we’re trying so hard to help our students and that help is not only unappreciated but actively refused, emotions can run high. It’s important to remember the root causes for students resistance and work to negate those causes. Chapter 12 is one of those bookmarks that I will be referring back to when I run into problems.

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