Striking the Balance: Teaching with Credibility and Authenticity

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Photo: A. McKenzie

David-Lang (2013), summarizes John Hattie’s book, Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (2012) this way: “The big idea is – know thy impact! Expert teachers are not wedded to specific teaching strategies – rather, they regularly focus on evaluating the effects they have on students, and adjust teaching methods accordingly” (Summary of the Summary).

Of the influences that teachers can have on student learning which ones do you think are the top 3 of the lot? Interestingly, it isn’t feedback or metacognitive strategy programs (they rated highly but not the highest) and it certainly isn’t matching students with learning styles, which rated low – it is (David-Lang, 2013, p 10):

  • Providing formative evaluation to teachers;
  • Teacher credibility in the eyes of the student;
  • Student expectations.

I have already been reflecting on the importance of instructor feedback so that was expected but it was the “(t)eacher credibility in the eyes of the student” (David-Lang, 2013, p 10) that surprised me. Yikes! I had better get reflecting on teacher credibility!

Brookfield (2015) acknowledges the importance of teacher credibility and pairs it with another term – authenticity. So, in a nutshell, what exactly do these terms mean?


“Credibility is the perception that the teacher has something important to share and that whatever this “something “is (skills, knowledge, insight, wisdom, information), learning it will benefit the student” (Brookfield, 2015, p 43). Indicators of credibility include (Brookfield, 2015):

  • Expertise ( p 43) – “students say it is reassuring to know that the person in charge of their learning clearly knows, and can do, a lot” (p 43);
  • Experience  ( p 46) – the perception that the teacher is able to “ . . . draw on a substantial history of teaching the course” (p 46);
  • Rationale  (p 47) – sharing rationale behind classroom decisions- “Students say that it inspires confidence to see that teachers clearly have a plan, a set of reasons, informing their actions (p 48).

It certainly makes sense to me now why credibility is so important to students. When I reflect about teachers I think of as having high credibility, I would say I learned a lot from them because I trusted them; I focused on everything they said and did because I knew I would learn something. In other words, what they said and did mattered to me.


 “Authenticity is the perception that the teacher is dealing with students in an open and honest way” (Brookfield, 2015, p 43). Indicators of authenticity include (Brookfield, 2015):

  • Keeping your words and actions congruent (p 49) – walk your talk! Sometimes we may not even know that our actions and words are incongruous which is why it is so important that we obtain student feedback;
  • Full disclosure (p 50) – “ . . . find ways to communicate your criteria, assumptions, and purposes and then . . .keep checking in to make sure students understand them” (p 50);
  • Demonstrate responsiveness (p 51) – Respond to student concerns;
  • Disclosing Personhood (p 52) – “Personhood is most appropriately evident when teachers use autobiographical examples to illustrate concepts and theories they are trying to explain, when they talk about ways they apply specific skills and insights taught in the classroom to their work outside, and when they share stories of how they dealt with the same learning fears and struggles that their students are currently facing” (p 52).

I can certainly see how the 2 go hand in hand – I need to know my stuff, to share my thinking with my students, respond to feedback, model the behaviour that aligns with my expectations of students and share appropriate personal experiences. I can also see how striking a balance between credibility and authenticity can be challenging, for example being knowledgeable without being authentic could come off as arrogance, and being too frank about your flaws could affect your students’ perceptions of your expertise.

Here is a video featuring Stephen Brookfield  sharing his insights on credibility and authenticity.


Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


David-Lang, J. (2013) The Main Idea current education book summaries: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie, J., 2012 retrieved from:


Flattening the Power Gradient: Brookfield’s Core Assumption #4

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It was when I took my first PIDP course 3250 that I learned that Knowles, who, 50 years ago, shifted the educational paradigm of adult education from that of pedagogy– “ . . . the art and science of teaching children” to that of andragogy “ . . . helping adults learn” (Knowles, 1973, as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 46). Brookfield’s Core Assumption #4: “College Students of Any Age Should Be Treated as Adults” (p 23), reflects this key concept.

In his explanation of this assumption, Brookfield (2015) states that even college students who are still in their teens need to be treated as adults. When I reflect back upon my 17 years old college freshman self, I can certainly appreciate why this is a good reminder for teachers because I know that sometimes, I and my other teenage freshman college colleagues didn’t always act in ways that would make one think appropriate of an adult. Below is an explanation from Brookfield (2015) that I think provides a wonderful insight into why, however, this core assumption is so important:

The first is that as they move into early adulthood, 18-22 year old students are becoming increasingly self-aware of who they are as people, who they are as learners and who they are as moral beings. They use college to develop their independent identities (Jones and Abes, 2013) become self-authors of their lives (Baxter Magolda, 2004), find purpose (Nash and Murray, 2010) and create meaning (Daloz Parks, 2011) out of their experiences (p 25).

 The only way that teachers can help students make the changes Brookfield (2015) describes above is to flatten the power gradient and respect college students’ needs as adult learners, which according to Knowles are as follows (Pappas, 2013):

  1. Self-Concept
    As a person matures his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.
  2. Adult Learner Experience
    As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
  3. Readiness to Learn
    As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.
  4. Orientation to Learning
    As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. As a result his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
  5. Motivation to Learn
    As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12).

As this is the last of Brookfield’s Core Assumptions for skillful practice (2015) I would like to conclude with this final statement: “These four assumptions of skillful teaching are deliberately proposed at a level of generality. How each plays itself out varies enormously from context to context” (p 26).

There is so much more to learn!


Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

 Merriam, S.B. & Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Pappas, C. (2013): The Adult Learning Theory – Andragogy – of Malcolm Knowles eLearning Industry. Retrieved from:

Teaching So They Learn: Brookfield’s Core Assumption #1

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Brookfield’s (2015) first core assumption about skillful teaching is: Skillful Teaching is Whatever Helps the Student Learn” (p 15). “At first glance this seems a self-evident, even trite, truism – a kind of pedagogic Hallmark greeting card,” (p 15) states Brookfield (2105). But perhaps, as the cartoon above illustrates, it is a bit more complicated than that.

What I have discovered so far is that learning isn’t just about being shown or told something. It is a complex interplay of cognitive and emotional factors, situational factors including how much sleep we get and when we get it in relation to the learning, and student motivation. It’s about using the right instructional strategies, shifting the paradigm to student centered learning and asking the right questions at the right time. As Brookfield (2015) states sometimes it’s about “ . . . do(ing) things as a teacher that you might otherwise avoid because you feel that somehow they are unprofessional or deviant” (p 17). For me, this assumption means taking risks, opening my mind to be curious about what and how I am teaching and to always be assessing if my students are learning: in other words “(a)dopt(ing) a critically reflective stance . . .” about my teaching practice – which just happens to be Brookfield’s Core Assumption #2 ( p 19).


Brookfield, S.D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom 3rd Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Think-Pair- Share

What is it?

An instructional strategy where:

  • The instructor poses a question to the class;
  • Students take time to think about the answer or solution to the question on their own (for about 2 minutes);
  • Students pair up to discuss their answers and select the best answer to share with the class (2-5 minutes);
  • Pairs then share their best answer with the entire class. Answers can be written down so that students can once again evaluate and select the best answer.

Best Practices

  • Questions need to be open ended. Having a simple recall question or yes or no question will not engage the students in all of the cognitive processes (Think-Pair-Share, 2015).
  • Allow for enough thinking time for the students to review and share their answers with their partners and select the best answer between them or generate a new answer based on their collaborative problem solving. (Think, Pair, Share Cooperative Learning Strategy, n.d.).
  • Groups for the pair need to be small enough so that all the students can share their ideas with in the time allotted. Smaller groups (maximum 4) lead to increased student accountability – everyone has to participate. (Think-Pair-Share, 2015), (Think, Pair, Share Cooperative Learning Strategy, n.d.).

Role of the Instructor

  • Pose question.
  • Direct students when they need to move from think to pair to share.
  • Listen to the students are they discuss their answers with each other but do not interfere.
  • Write down answers on the board during the class share so students can evaluate for the best answer to the problem (Think, Pair, Share Cooperative Learning Strategy, n.d.).

Role of the Learner

  •  Students take an active part in their learning by explaining their thought processes and by listening and learning with their peers.

Pros of using Think- Pair-Share

  • It doesn’t require much prep work or time (Think-Pair-Share, 2015).
  • It engages the entire class in discussions (Think-Pair-Share, 2015).
  • Increases student motivation as there is personal interaction and peer learning (Think-Pair-Share, 2015).
  • Students are sharing ideas, evaluating them , selecting the best idea or answer or developing new ones. They are engaging in collaborative learning which has been shown to increase learning (David-Lang, J., 2013).
  • Trying out answers in a small group will also help students become more comfortable sharing their ideas (Think, Pair, Share Cooperative Learning Strategy, n.d.).

Cons of using Think-Pair-Share

  • Students need to be motivated to participate (Think-Pair-Share, 2015)

Ideas to motivate students when using Think-Pair-Share

  •  Pose interesting questions, use pictures, news articles, cartoons or quotes (Engagement Triggers and Tasks for Interactive Segments, 2011).
  • Integrate questions that have been generated by the students themselves.
  • Inform the students that some of the Think-Pair-Share questions will be on upcoming exams (Think-Pair-Share, 2015).

There are worksheets here and here available on line that can be used to help the students keep track of their ideas.

Below is my digital project about Think-Pair-Share. I hope you enjoy it.



David-Lang, J. (2013) The Main Idea current education book summaries: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie, J., 2012 retrieved from:

Coffey, H., (n.d.) Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning NC K-12 TEACHING AND LEARNING FROM THE UNC SCHOOL OF EDUCATION Retrieved from:

Engagement Triggers and Tasks for Interactive Segments (2011) Starting Point Teaching Entry Level Geoscience Carleton University Retrieved from

Shen, D., (n.d.) Pair and Share ablconnect Retrieved from:

Think – Pair- Share (2015) Starting Point Teaching Entry Level Geoscience Carleton University Retrieved from:

Think, Pair, Share Cooperative Learning Strategy (n.d.) Teacher Vision Retrieved from

Creative Thinking Strategies

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At the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy is creating. Getting students creating in the classroom involves them in synthesizing information in a novel way and this “ . . process of discovery involved in creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in” (Csikszentmihalyi,1996, page 113).

Really , it’s a win-win.

Win # 1 As teachers we need to get students engaging in activities that require the elements of metacognition – planning monitoring and evaluating – and by adding a learning activity that involves an active approach we can achieve the highest impact on learning (David-Lang, J. 2013).

Win #2 Having students engaging in something that makes them feel good “ (taps ) into student’s emotions can inspire them to put forth their greatest potential” (Barkley, 2010, page 35).

Before we examine at the various learning strategies let’s take a moment to see what creative thinking looks like. Here is a table that looks at the differences between critical and creative thinking.

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To facilitate creative thinking in the classroom, it is important that we create a safe learning environment so students will be willing to take risks as they explore multiple possibilities. Let the students know that divergent thinking creates feelings of ambiguity but is a vital part of the process for “. . .when people are open to different views, they will endure an unclear situation for the moment in order to avoid jumping to conclusions and making decisions too soon. In fact, this is beneficial for the quantity and quality of ideation” (Tsai, K., 2015, para 17).

Below is a short video that takes a look at the divergent thinking that is needed when being creative.



Lets take a look at some of the strategies we can use to get students engaged with creative thinking. Here is a wonderful digital presentation done by a previous PDIP student on poster sessions.

Key points for poster sessions are:

  • Work with students to determine topics and design parameters
  • Have a marking rubric

For example, for an online perinatal course for RNs students (either individually or as a group) would work with their instructor to decide which post partum patient teaching subject they would like to make a poster on. The intended audience would be for the woman and her family. Posters would be exhibited on the day of the hands on workshop.

Another great project would be to use a variation of role playing using digital storytelling. In the example of the online perinatal course, students could present a birth story through the woman and her family’s, the nurse’s, or the primary care provider’s eyes. This would provide the opportunity for reflective critical thinking as the students would “ . . . experience the emotional and intellectual responses . . .” (Barkley 2010, page 232) of the people involved with a birth.

Another activity that could be used is the creation of a class book. This is from Barkley (2010) SET 21. Student could volunteer to submit assignments for an online class book.

These are a few ideas I have about integrating creative learning into an online perinatal course. How are you going to incorporate creative thinking in your classroom?


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

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper/Collins Retrieved from:

David-Lang, J. (2013) The Main Idea current education book summaries: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie, J., 2012 retrieved from:

How Does Creative Thought Differ from Critical Thought? (2015) Learning and Teaching Centre at Macquarie University Retrieved from:

Tsai, K., (2015) A Framework of Creative Education e in education exploring our connective educational landscape Vol 21 (1) Retrieved from:

A lesson in engagement, motivation and active learning

Today I had an opportunity to live what I just learned during my readings for PIDP 3250.

Barkley (2010) noted that: “In our model of student engagement, motivation and active learning are twin helices that work synergistically ” (p 23). She goes on to identify 3 conditions that integrate these elements to promote increased level of engagement; creating a sense of community, helping students work at their optimal level of challenge, and helping students learn holistically (Barkley, 2010)

I must confess, I am by nature a very engaged and motivated student. I love a challenge, so when this opportunity to start a blog came with this course, I revved up my engines and took the plunge. Only I went in WAY over my head. Somehow I thought I needed to set up my blog on a local server. Ya, it wasn’t pretty. However, before jettisoning my computer off my deck and into the wilds of my back yard I stopped and did the next thing mothers of adult children do; they put in an emergency call to their sons and beg for help.

Unfortunately, even my chemical engineering son was reluctant to support my cause. “You sure you need to do this?” was the question I heard repeated over and over as he talked me through creating folders and linking it to my document root. After an hour he needed to go. The project was incomplete. I felt deflated and overwhelmed.

Condition 2: Teachers Can  Create Synergy by Helping Students Work at Their Optimal Level of Challenge (Barkley, 2010, p 27).

After, emailing our instructor, I learned that this was indeed unnecessary. Of course there is an online version. Sure, I still have to learn how to navigate this dashboard but I don’t require a computer program background.

Whew!  I am back in the saddle again.

What did I learn?

Even the most engaged student can become disengaged if the level of challenge is too high. I facilitate neonatal resuscitation workshops with a variety of health care professionals whose skills vary from novice to expert. I will ensure that I individualize learning for each participant so that it matches their skill level so they will feel the synergy of active learning and motivation.

Bring on the next adventure!!


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

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