Gaining Insights: Brookfield’s Core Assumption #3

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The PIDP 3260 course is opening my eyes to the importance of Brookfield’s 3rd Core Assumption; “Teachers Need a Constant Awareness of How Students Are Experiencing Their Learning and Perceiving Their Teachers’ Actions” (p 22). I see how, in spite of our best self-perceived efforts to create a learning environment, learners may have very different opinions about their learning, so unless we use the right tools to obtain feedback we will never know what our learners are thinking.

Here is a link from the University of Waterloo that lists some great strategies to use as a way to obtain feedback from students. Some of their suggestions are (Tools for Reflecting on Your Teaching, n.d.). :

  • Questionnaires
  • One minute paper
  • Muddiest point
  • Blank index cards
  • Suggestion box
  • In-class trouble shooting sessions

Brookfield (2015) also includes suggestions for other feedback tools like twitter, TodaysMeet and the Critical Incident Questionnaire which he has created and has posted online.

An important point to keep in mind is to not let yourself fall prey to the syndrome that Brookfield himself confesses to having, the ““. . . Perfect-Ten” syndrome . . . the unreasonable desire to want to collect a batch of CIQ (Critical Incident Questionnaire) forms at the end of every class that contains no negative comments and a surfeit of compliments” (Brookfield, 2015, p 38). I must confess that I too am afflicted by the syndrome and, even though I also intellectually understand that this not possible in “ . . . the contextual, complex nature of learning . . .” it still happens. I suppose the next time this happens I will go back and apply Core Assumption #3.

References

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

Tools for Reflecting on Your Teaching. (n.d.). Centre for Teaching Excellence Retrieved from: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/professional-development/enhancing-your-teaching/tools-reflecting-teaching

Taking a Closer Look at Brookfield’s Core Assumption #2 : Critical Self-reflection

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Photo Credit: A.McKenzie

For me, Brookfield’s (2015) 2nd Core Assumption “Skillful Teachers Adopt a Critically Reflective Stance Towards Their Practice” ( p 19) hits home; unless you apply a critically reflective stance on your practice as a teacher, you run the risk of not only having students not learn, you could even being doing harm without realizing it, see: Taking a Hard Look at Experience. 

I guess it’s been good for everyone involved that self-reflection is something that I have really grown into. When I took my first course PIDP 3250 my initial self-reflection and evaluation assignment (I had to give myself a mark) felt very awkward and uncomfortable. But the more I learned about learning and the more I practiced it the less awkward it has become. I confess that the discomfort feeling hasn’t gone away but I have learned that those feelings are like road signs that let me know that there is something important for me to learn.

Identifying what it is you want to reflect upon is key. Cox (n.d) states “(t)he first step is to figure out what you want to reflect upon. Are you looking at a particular feature of your teaching or is this reflection in response to a specific problem in your classroom?” (para 7). She then outlines the following ways to get information (para 8):

  • Self-reflective journaling;
  • Video recording;
  • Student observation – feedback from students;
  • Peer observation – feedback from peers.

Finally she suggests analyzing the results by looking for reoccurring themes. To find solutions to these challenges she suggests looking to peers and learning communities.

Here is a great video, called ‘Effective Teacher, Reflective Practice’ by Deb Hill that sums up self-reflective practice this way:

In this video, the author outlines four questions that teachers should ask themselves (1:49-3:50 min)

  1. Is the material worth learning?
  2. Are the students learning what the course or class is supposed to be teaching?
  3. Am I helping and encouraging the students to learn or do they learn despite me?
  4. Have I harmed the students?

The author also encourages teachers to keep a teaching portfolio where they (3:56 – 5:17 min):

  • Keep track of what course learning outcomes are;
  • Reflect on how teaching methods helped foster achievement of learning outcomes;
  • Provide evidence of student achievement/performance;
  • Provide evidence that teaching methods contributed to the learning that took place.

The discussion of how we can use tools to assess how our actions as a teacher are affecting learning also fits under Brookfield’s (2015) 3rd Core Assumption: “Teachers Need a Constant Awareness of How Students Are Experiencing Their Learning and Perceiving Their Teachers’ Actions” (p 22).

 

References

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

Cox, J. (n.d.) Teaching Strategies: The Value of Self-Reflection TeachHUB.Com. Retrieved from: http://www.teachhub.com/teaching-strategies-value-self-reflection

Hill, D. (2013) (YouTube) Effective Teacher, Reflective Practice Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUvz_-R5820

Zimmerman, B..J. (1990) Self-Regulated Learning and Academic Success: An Overview Educational Psychologist, 24(1), 3-17 Lawrence Erbaum Associates, Inc. Retrieved from http://itari.in/categories/ability_to_learn/self_regulated_learnin_g_and_academic_achievement_m.pdf 

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).

Reference

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

Reflections: Taking a Hard Look at Experience

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Reflections Photo: L.. Schmidt

Brookfield (2015) states that “(s)imply having experiences does not imply that they are reflected upon, understood or analyzed critically. Individual experiences can be distorted, self-fulfilling, unexamined and constraining” (p 12).

I had the opportunity of homeschooling my two children for a period of about twelve years. It was during this time that I was able to hone my skills as an educator – in other words I did all the things wrong that you possibly could do because I couldn’t get fired. When I read the quote above I immediately thought of one particularly uncomfortable and miserable homeschooling experience: writing essays. It went like this: I would provide a scintillating and profound prompt and send the kids off to write an equally scintillating and profound response in essay form. When they would come back proudly bearing their work I would ‘mark’ the paper i.e., bleed red ink over all the things that were wrong with it and then I would rewrite the paper to show them how it should be done. (It seems my Apprenticeship Perspective was well established even back then). The kids would cry and hate me for taking over their projects. I felt badly but I certainly didn’t change anything and continued to tell them that this was the only way they were going to get better at writing (being their mother apparently made me an expert on everything).

Brookfield (2015) encourages us to be “experts on our own teaching” (p 11). To do this it means being critically reflective so that we can “unlock . . . experiences and reflect on them in a way that provides problem-solving insights” (Brookfield, 2015, p 11). As I read my own experience outlined in painful detail above I am horrified. What on earth was I thinking? Why didn’t I critically reflect and try to change things up? I mean, it was a pretty ghastly experience for all of us. I suppose now it was because I didn’t have a competency framework to guide my practice. I was simply using trial and error (like much of parenting was for me) and hoped that things worked out.

Without a competency framework I see that I too am prone to continue with strategies that simply aren’t working for learners. Teaching is a profession where there is a power gradient (just like parenting) and without a competency framework to keep me accountable, I am at risk of exerting my power in an inappropriate and destructive way. A competency framework will keep me real, in balance and able to grow as a teacher. Let’s take a look at how I can help my homeschooling self use the competency framework we developed in the workshop to improve the situation.

Expertise

Communication: Yes, I know that these are your kids but sometimes kids have some really good points to make. Have you taken a moment to listen to your kids about how they would like to learn how to write essays? Think about how you might want to do this. Communication doesn’t have to always be verbal. Hey, great idea! You could get them to write on how they want to learn.

Evaluation: Is bleeding red ink all over a writing assignment really the best way to give feedback? Have you heard of formative assessment? How might you incorporate this into your teaching strategies?

Professional Development

Lifelong learning: What about taking some courses to learn about how to improve your skills teaching?

Evaluation: You have a facilitator that works with you. Have you considered asking her for feedback?

Flexibility: Try out a new teaching strategy!

 

Personality Traits

Flexibility: Is having your kids be angry and upset going to help their learning? Listening to their feedback could help you grow as a person.

Caring/Empathetic/Compassionate: Yes, you can be like this even when you are teaching your kids.

Integrity: It seems to me that you have been pretty set on continuing to use this approach even though it doesn’t seem to be working. Is this the kind of behaviour you want to model to your kids?

 

Morality/Ethics

Fairness: Ok, so your kids don’t want to learn how to write essays but you think they should. This sounds like what Kidder (1995, 2005) would define as a short-term vs. long-term ethical dilemma: you feel that if your kids don’t learn how to write essays now their career choices (as they won’t be able to get into university in the future) may be somewhat limited. Kidder (1995, 2005) describes three principles that you can use to resolve this dilemma (p 24-25):

  • Ends-based thinking – doing whatever produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
  • Rules-based thinking – acting in ways that model the highest principles regardless of the consequences.
  • Care-based thinking – taking the perspective of another and encourage promotion of his/her interests.

I would also suggest that you take a look at Kidder’s Nine Steps of Ethical Decision Making to help you resolve this dilemma.

Acknowledging Bias: I see that you have a very strong preference for Apprenticeship. Do you think that this is always the best approach to take? What about the other approaches like Developmental or Nurturing? What about your bias about children? Do you believe that they are unable to tell you what helps them to learn?

 

Professional Development

Self-reflection: Have you taken any time to self-reflect on this? This article from the University of Waterloo has some great tools to help you with self- reflection. Mmm, yes, I see how doing a Feedback Instrument for your kids would seem a bit strange but maybe a good place to start could be filming yourself as you teach. Seeing how you are communicating with your kids might help you reflect on things you like (Tools for Reflecting on Your Teaching, n.d., para 36):

  • What am I doing well/not doing well?
  • What do the students seem to enjoy least/most?
  • If I could do this session again, what are 3 things I would change?
  • What resources do I need to use in order to change? 

    I am happy to conclude that my kids did eventually learn to write essays, that they both graduated from university ‘with distinction’ and that they still talk to me from time to time.

References

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

Kidder, R.M. (1995,2005) Overview: the Ethics of Right versus Right. In How Good People Make Tough Decisions: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living (Institute for Global Ethics), (pp 18-29). Retrieved from: https://usm.maine.edu/sites/default/files/core/How%20Good%20People%20Make%20Tough%20Choices-Kidder%20chapter1.pdf

Tools for Reflecting on Your Teaching. (n.d.). Centre for Teaching Excellence Retrieved from: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/professional-development/enhancing-your-teaching/tools-reflecting-teaching

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory

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Much of what I have learned and reflected on in my Blog so far has been on the ‘how’ of teaching – how to create engagement in the classroom, how to help students understand about how they learn and how to improve their learning and how to get them critically thinking see Let’s Get Critical Thinking and Critical Thinking Revisited) etc. For the first time I am now exploring the ‘why’ of how I teach. What makes me chose the teaching strategies, assessments and delivery methods that I do? Are there any discrepancies between my beliefs, intentions and actions about teaching and learning lurking in my unconscious that I am not aware of?

Luckily for teachers there is a tool called the Teaching Perspectives Inventory. The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) is the result of over 2 decades of research by Drs. Pratt and Collins and involved teachers from different cultures with varying levels of experience and 7 different educational occupations (Pratt & Collins, 2000). The TPI identifies which of 5 perspectives on Teaching: Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform is a teacher’s dominant or co-dominant perspective(s) and what back-up perspective(s) s/he might have.

The TPI also teases out for each teacher (Reflecting on your results. In TPI Teaching Perspectives Inventory, 2014) :

  • Beliefs: beliefs about the teaching and learning;
  • Intentions: what the intentions are for teaching and learning;
  • Action: what actions are taken when teaching.

These sub categories are very useful in identifying states of internal consistency or internal discrepancies within a perspective:

  • Internal consistency: beliefs, intentions and actions all align (scores within 1 or 2 points of each other);
  • Internal discrepancies within a perspective where beliefs, intentions and actions do not align (scores differ by 3 or more points).

Pratt and Collins (2000) define their teaching perspectives as follows (Table 1, p 4):

Table 1: Summary of Five Perspectives on Teaching

Transmission

 

From a Transmission Perspective, effective teaching assumes instructors will have mastery over their content. Those who see Transmission as their dominant perspective are committed, sometimes passionately, to their content or subject matter. They believe their content is a relatively well-defined and stable body of knowledge and skills. It is the learners’ responsibility to master that content. The instructional process is shaped and guided by the content. It is the teacher’s primary responsibility to present the content accurately and efficiently to learners.

 

Apprenticeship

 

From an Apprenticeship Perspective, effective teaching assumes that instructors will be experienced practitioners of what they are teaching. Those who hold Apprenticeship as their dominant perspective are committed to having learners observe them in action, doing what it is that learners must learn. They believe, rather passionately, that teaching and learning are most effective when people are working on authentic tasks in real settings of application or practice. Therefore, the instructional process is often a combination of demonstration, observation and guided practice, with learners gradually doing more and more of the work.

 

Developmental

 

From a Developmental Perspective, effective teaching begins with the learners’ prior knowledge of the content and skills to be learned. Instructors holding a Developmental dominant perspective are committed to restructuring how people think about the content. They believe in the emergence of increasingly complex and sophisticated cognitive structures related to thinking about content. The key to changing those structures lies in a combination of effective questioning and ‘bridging’ knowledge that challenges learners to move from relatively simple to more complex forms of thinking.

 

Nurturing

 

From a Nurturing Perspective, effective teaching must respect the learner’s self-concept and self-efficacy. Instructors holding Nurturing as their dominant perspective care deeply about their learners, working to support effort as much as achievement. They are committed to the whole person and certainly not just the intellect of the learner. They believe passionately, that anything that threatens the self-concept interferes with learning. Therefore, their teaching always strives for a balance between challenging people to do their best, while supporting and nurturing their efforts to be successful.

 

Social Reform

 

From a Social Reform Perspective, effective teaching is the pursuit of social change more than individual learning. Instructors holding Social Reform as their dominant perspective are deeply committed to social issues and structural changes in society. Both content and learners are secondary to large-scale change in society. Instructors are clear and articulate about what changes must take place, and their teaching reflects this clarity of purpose. They have no difficulty justifying the use of their teaching as an instrument of social change. Even when teaching, their professional identity is as an advocate for the changes they wish to bring about in society.

 

I thought the tool would be a perfect way to begin answering some of my questions. Here are my results.

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One thing to keep in mid when taking the TPI is that you are to have one learner group in mind and answer the questions according to how you teach them. For me, I was thinking about the online perinatal care course I facilitate for post RNs.

Analysis of dominant perspective

My dominant teaching perspective for this cohort is Apprenticeship. Beliefs, intentions and actions all aligned so internal consistency is noted.

The upside

As I reflect on the definitions of this perspective (as outlined above) I see how it fits with a profession like nursing where, (from what I have determined so far in my learning), the concepts of authentic assessments and social constructivism are key. (For more information about both of these concepts please see my previous blog posts: Constructivism – Learning by Constructing Meaning from Experience and Outcomes Based Education: Advantages and Disadvantages).

The perspective of Apprenticeship allows me to break down tasks to into manageable chunks for students so that they can continue to build on the complexity of the learning while the presence of a mentor provides a safe buffer for patients. As students begin to gain competency with the tasks, they are able to take on more and more responsibility.

The downside

 Collins and Pratt (n.d) identify one of the downsides of the Apprenticeship perspective for the teacher is how to articulate exactly how to perform complex tasks that over time have became almost instinctive. While I do find this to be true when I am mentoring students in the clinical area, for the online course I have the opportunity to be able to take the time to think about what is all involved with a task before I post online.

Another downside proposed by Collins and Pratt (n.d) is knowing when the right time is to shift more of the responsibility to the students. Again, I find that for an online theory course, this is not really relevant but certainly in the clinical area it has created some issues for me. For example, there have been times when I thought that a student would benefit from learning by watching but the student felt that she was ready to do the task herself and only wanted me as support. I see now that I need to balance my strong tendency for the Apprenticeship perspective with one of my back up perspectives: Developmental.

Analysis of back up perspectives

 Developmental

Interestingly my beliefs scored lower than my intentions and actions for this perspective. I wonder if my strong views on Apprenticeship coloured my beliefs on this one. I am glad to see, however, that my intentions and actions were aligned as this perspective is something I actually value as a learner and endeavour to provide for my students when I am able to move past the Apprenticeship perspective at least!

Nurturing

While I appear to believe and intend quite strongly to be nurturing to students I see that my actions do not demonstrate this to the same degree. I suspect this is so as while I totally believe in and intend to provide a supportive and nurturing environment, there is a standard level of care that all students must achieve and if the student is not able to meet this standard s/he is not safe to work with patients.

Recessive perspectives

Transmission

The results of my beliefs, intentions and actions were interesting for this one as I scored the lowest you can for intention, somewhat middle for beliefs but the highest possible for action. I feel that despite me not being a fan of this perspective, it is a health care course I am facilitating and the expectation is that information is conveyed efficiently and logically. I totally agree that the course is heavy on content and not enough on learners’ needs so it does cause me to constantly wonder how I might be able to change up things. As a start, I am working on improving the workshop component of the course where the flipped classroom approach is being utilized.

Social Reform

Beliefs, intentions and actions were a bit all over here – belief was at the lowest score but my intentions and actions were somewhat higher. I feel that this reflects the conservative nature of nursing – being a rebel in nursing is NOT encouraged so I have learned to tone it down. That being said, I also believe strongly that as health care providers we need to examine system and personal biases so that we can provide the best care possible to our patients. As a result there are case studies and questions I have worked into the course that are there to help the students reflect and hopefully make changes in themselves and in their work places.

Conclusion

Taking the TPI has given me a great opportunity to reflect on what I believe, feel and do in regards teaching and learning. I intend on using it again in a few months to assess if my TPI will reflect the Teaching Philosophy that I will be developing later in the PIDP 3260 course.

References

Pratt, Daniel D. and Collins, John B. (2000). “The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI),” Adult Education Research Conference. Retrieved from: http://newprairiepress.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2207&context=aerc

Pratt, Daniel D. and Collins, John B. (2014). Reflecting on your results. In TPI Teaching Perspectives Inventory. Retrieved from: http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/

Pratt, Daniel D. and Collins, John B. (2014). TPI Teaching Perspectives Inventory. Retrieved from: http://www.teachingperspectives.com/tpi/

Pratt, Daniel D. and Collins, John B. (n.d) Teaching Perspectives Inventory (Power point slides). Retrieved from: http://bus.emory.edu/scrosso/Talks/AAA%20Regionals%20Teaching%20Perspective%20Inventory.pdf

Professional Practice: PIDP 3260 – Let the next adventure begin!

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The words in this word cloud came from the competency framework developed by my colleagues and I for PIDP 3260

 

Under the watchful eye of our fearless leader and guide, Alison, our diverse group of 12 educators spent the last 2 days exploring the behaviours, concepts and challenges that shape and define our professional practice. Many post it notes and flip charts later, we developed a competency framework that we will use in our practice to help us navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of adult education, an analogy described by Brookfield (2015) where “(a)ll teachers regularly capsize and all teachers worth their salt regularly ask themselves whether they have made the right career choice” (p 6).

Today, as I reflect upon the last 2 days, I see that teaching and nursing have many parallels. Just like in nursing, teaching has threatened to drown me in the current of dismay after “(e)xperiencing ego-deflating episodes of disappointment and demoralization . . . “ (Brookfield, 2015, p 6). Learning that this is “. . . quite normal” (Brookfield, 2015, p 6), and that I am not alone in this is not only comforting but motivating; if others can survive this journey, then so can I!

Teaching, like nursing, uses competency frameworks to develop the required knowledge, guide skill development and shape behaviours so that teachers can be effective practitioners. Through the work my colleagues and I did these last 2 days, I now have a framework that I can use as a foundation for my teaching practice, and to help develop my own truths about teaching so that I can, as Brookfield (2015) describes, “(grow) into the truth of teaching . . . (and) develop a trust, a sense of intuitive confidence, in the accuracy and validity of (my) judgments and insights (p 9). For example, through professional development I can learn ways to gain competence navigating through issues like inappropriate classroom behaviour. Through personal development, I can better define my own boundaries so that I can respect my students’ needs and be more open to their ideas as we travel down the river of learning together. (I am really liking the paddling analogy so please bear with me :)).

Brookfield (2015) states that “(t)he truth is teaching is a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction, and risk are endemic” (p 1). I know that reaching deeper into the muddy waters of self-exploration to discover blind spots, biases and weaknesses as I develop my own truths about teaching will be uncomfortable, but really, what journey worth taking doesn’t have its uncomfortable bits? Teaching really is an amazing adventure. Let the journey of self-discovery begin!

Reference

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

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Photo: A.McKenzie

Reflection: Be Happy and Learn!

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Reflections Photo: L.. Schmidt

 

Objective: Although “we may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think” (Taylor as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.170, italics in original citation).

Reflective: I have experienced first hand that I am a creature whose ability to think is directly impacted by how I feel. When I feel relaxed and excited (like when I am in a museum), I love to explore, check out everything and cram in as much knowledge as I can in one day, but when I’m stressed (like when I had to write university calculus exams), I get sweaty, my heart races, my mouth feels like I haven’t had anything to drink for about 3 days and I can’t think my way out of a wet paper bag.

What is going on? Why am I curious and ready to learn in one case and panicked and unable to learn (or think) in the other? Why does calculus still give me the shivers after 30 years (I have yet to take another calculus course) but every time I go to a city I want to check out the museum?

Interpretive: Barkley (2010) states: “despite higher education’s historical emphasis on the purely intellectual, many educators today recognize that the body, heart and mind are all involved in learning . . .” (p 33). Barkley (2010) goes on to state that “(h)ow students feel – about life, about themselves, about what the teachers are trying to teach them – plays a critical role in how they learn” (p 33, italics in original).

Why does how we feel play such an important part in learning?

In response to stimuli like pain, stress and paradoxically, pleasure, our nervous system sends out neurotransmitters known as endorphins, to bind with receptors that are associated with not only pain control but emotion and memory processing (Scheve, 2009). The majority of emotion and memory processing occurs in the limbic system which also “. . . controls the individual’s basic value system, enhances or suppresses the short-term memory . . . (and) determines how the brain will respond to all the information received” (Mackeracher as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 169).

Going back to my example, when I am in a relaxed, stimulating, non stressful environment like the museum, I feel happy, my brain releases endorphins, my limbic system decides oh ya, this feels good, I learn more and I remember more.

Noxious stress, however, has a very different effect on the limbic system. When we feel anxious or fearful, our limbic system gets over-stimulated and becomes incapable of processing and storing new information (Willis, 2014). Even the neural pathways to the pre-frontal cortex where higher order thinking like decision-making occurs (Prefrontal cortex, n.d.) are compromised. No wonder I can’t think my way out of a wet paper bag when I am stressed.

Feelings or emotions associated with learning can come from two different sources: “. . . the emotional climate in which learning occurs and the degree to which emotions are associated with the learning content” (Barkley, 2010 , p 35).

As an educator, I direct the environment in which the learning takes place. By creating a positive learning environment I can facilitate an emotional climate that will enable learning to happen. By being in a positive learning environment, students will feel good while they are learning and “ . . . a learning experience that connects with a memory of a positive learning experience will be embraced and seen as positive” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 170).

Decisional: As I waded into the readings about what entails facilitating a positive learning environment I began to realize that there is an almost overwhelming number of factors at play here. Here’s just a few:

In an attempt to condense some of the learning I gleaned from all of my readings, I compiled this table of strategies along with some rationale and a few classroom examples.

                       6 Strategies for Creating a Positive Learning Environment
Strategy Rationale Classroom examples
Allow for self-direction in learning

 

Adult learners’ need to be respected for their right to chose how and what they want to learn. (Knowles assumption #1) Merriam & Bierema, (2014)

Autonomy has been identified as a key motivator (Merriam & Bierema, 2014).

Have students complete a feedback form about the course – what they liked, what they didn’t like and what they would change after the first week.

Have a suggestion box outside your office or class.

Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Provide a choice of topics for assignments. Motivating our Students (n.d.)

Provide opportunities for enrichment and self-directed learning.

Address the physical comforts of the students

Merriam & Bierema, (2014)

 

 

Being uncomfortable isn’t going to help anyone learn. Adjust lighting, heating, etc., as needed.

Encourage students to tell you if they are not comfortable

Provide breaks as needed – if students are looking bored, after an intensive learning session or when bathroom breaks are needed

Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Respect your students! Make them feel valued for who they are and what they know.

 

Fostering a climate of mutual respect will create a feeling of collaborative learning.

Happy brains release endorphins that make positive memories and more learning!

Experience is an integral part of an adult’s identity (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 50).

 

Get to know your students’ names.

Be accessible to students – let them know how to reach you and what your hours of availability are.

Value student views and experiences and reward student contributions to the discussion.

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Glenn Introduces Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Provide positive and timely feedback. Be clear about expectations and model what you value. Motivating our Students (n.d.)

Create a safe place for students to learn. Let them know that it’s ok to make mistakes.

Get to know your students and learn about their experiences.

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Glenn Introduces Creating a Positive Learning Environment

With permission, share student exemplars with the class Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Learning needs to be relevant and have a purpose Adults need to know the reason for learning something (Knowles assumption #6) (Merriam & Bierema, 2014)

Purpose has been identified as a key motivator (Merriam & Bierema, 2014)

Adults are more problem focused than subject centered in learning (Knowles assumption #4) Merriam & Bierema, (2014).

 

 

Use the K-W- L strategy

Provide authentic learning activities for students i.e., engineering, medical or business case studies and/or problem based projects for students to work through.

Help students make connections between current learning and past and/or future learning. Motivating our Students (n.d.)

Teach a skill right before students need to use it Motivating our Students (n.d.)

Foster a sense of community

Motivating our Students (n.d.)

When students feel that others value the learning they will too. Motivating our Students (n.d.)

“An adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience, which is a rich resource for learning” (Knowles assumption #2 (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 47)

Communities of practice are built on participant experiences and provide the basis for learning Merriam & Bierema, 2014)

Use online discussion forums not only for online course but for large classes where involvement in discussions may be challenging Motivating our Students (n.d.)

For online courses create online icebreaker activities where students can get to ‘meet’ one another

Use audio and video recording for online courses Motivating our Students (n.d.)

Create a facebook page (i.e., the VCC School of Instructor Education)

Facilitate, not dominate classroom discussions Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Deliver a well-designed course.

 

Adults have high expectation of their learning

Providing a course that is appropriately challenging will encourage the desire for mastery which has been identified as a key motivator.(Merriam & Bierema, 2014)

 

If possible, obtain an evaluation of teaching effectiveness i.e., TABS Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Apply learning strategies that are proven to promote learning. (David-Lang, 2013)

Assess for evidence of learning, clarity and appropriate difficulty of learning intentions and success criteria David-Lang, 2013, p 12

Offer a variety of learning opportunities like group work, discussion forums, multimedia presentations, blogs, field trips, etc.

Read the cues of your students if they are bored or confused address the issue immediately Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.)

Be enthusiastic in your delivery of the material – enthusiasm is infectious!

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

“Provide multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate what they know” Motivating our Students (n.d.) para 15

Ensure that there is alignment of the activities and assessments and student learning outcomes.

References

Bloom’s Taxonomy An Introduction to Bloom’s Taxonomy (n.d.) Centre for Teaching Excellence , University of Waterloo Retrieved from: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/planning-courses-and-assignments/course-design/blooms-taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (n.d.) The Center for Teaching and Learning Division of Academic Affairs UNC Charlotte. Retrieved from: http://teaching.uncc.edu/learning-resources/articles-books/best-practice/goals-objectives/blooms-educational-objectives

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

Creating a Positive Learning Environment YouTube

David-Lang, J. (2013) The Main Idea current education book summaries: Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning, Hattie, J., 2012 retrieved from: http://www.tdschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The+Main+Idea+-+Visible+Learning+for+Teachers+-+April+2013.pdf

Glenn Introduces Creating a Positive Learning Environment YouTube

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

Motivating Our Students (n.d.) Centre for Teaching Excellence University of Waterloo. Retrieved from: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/creating-positive-learning-environment/inclusivity-accessibility-and-motivation/motivating-our-students

Pre-frontal cortex (n.d.) Wikipedia. Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prefrontal_cortex

Scheve, T., (2009)  “What are endorphins?” HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/endorphins.htm

Tips on Sustaining a Positive Learning Environment (n.d.) Tomorrow’s Professors Mailing List Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning http://cgi.stanford.edu/~dept-ctl/tomprof/posting.php?ID=368

Willis, J., (2014) The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning Edutopia. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/neuroscience-behind-stress-and-learning-judy-willis

Sleep and Learning

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-2-26-16-pmPhoto credit: A.McKenzie

Science of Learning Featured Article

One common challenge that exists for many of us that live in this 24/7 world is getting enough sleep. As a perinatal educator this poses a very real problem. I have students that arrive to start an all day workshop bleary eyed and floppy tailed after working through the night on the maternity unit. Determined to find a technique that I could use to help people learn despite being sleep deprived, I began looking around at some of the research. While I confirmed that the loss of focus, the decreased ability to take in, process or retrieve information and the inability to make sound decisions (Sleep, Learning and Memory, 2007) are not just imagined symptoms, I was not able to find any real solutions to manage these challenges except providing coffee (which I sometimes do), chocolate (which I do) (Stoller, Papp, Aikens, Erokwu & Strohl, 2009) and naps (which happen all on their own).

So, I decided to look at the sleep and learning situation from another lens – is there a better way for people to learn when sleep and time are at such a premium? This research article by Mazza, Gerbier, Gustin, Kasikci, Koenig, Toppino and Magnin (2016) demonstrates that it is possible to “relearn faster and retain longer”. It involves learning and relearning and sleep but what is important is the timing of when these happen. Let me explain, but first, let’s take a look at the validity of the experiment.

Evidence for the reliability of the article

The authors’ wealth of research experience and clinical experience is evident in the way that they conducted the experiment:

  • Quality research relevant to the study was analyzed and presented – this included the effects of relearning on retention, the effects of spacing on relearning and the effects of sleep on memory retention;
  • Organization of the content is logical, content appears free of bias;
  • Clear purpose and methodology outlined – the purpose was to investigate what impact relearning after a period of sleep or wakefulness would have on long term memory retention;
  • Research design issues with another experiment investigating sleep and spaced learning were noted and improved upon – for example instead of using recall or recognition as a measure of memory retention, a relearning paradigm was used;
  • Participants were carefully selected and variables were controlled for – sleep quality, circadian topology, level of sleepiness, and basic long-term and short-term memory capacity;
  • Study was done in accordance to international law and local ethics committee – Declaration of Helsinki, French ethics committee;
  • Results were thoroughly discussed and alternative interpretations were reviewed;
  • Applicability of the study results – “These results suggest that an uninterrupted sequence of learning, sleep-dependent consolidation, and relearning (that is, repeatedly alternating study and sleep) is particularly efficient for long-term retention” (Discussion). The authors focused on adult learners and specifically procedural memory but they did speculate that this may be transferable for skill acquisition and retention as well.

 

Summarize the principle or principles described in the article.

In order to fully understand the principles behind their research design, the authors of the study touched upon several key learning strategies that have been shown improve memory and, according to the science of learning, changes the neural pathways in our brain (Michelon, 2008):

  • Repetitive practice – every time you practice something you relearn it. Thus the more you practice something the less time and less effort it takes to get to the level you want to achieve (Mazza et al, 2016);
  • Spacing effect – a concept or learning objective is presented to learners then a period of time to pass (days, weeks, or months) is allowed to pass and then the same concept is presented again (Casebourne, 2015). The cool thing here is that the advantageous interval for the spacing is determined by the length of time between the first learning session and the final test; the longer the interval the longer the spacing between the learning and the review (relearning session) before the final test (University of California, 2008).
  • Interleaving effect – is where several concepts or skills are presented during the same learning session. These are then alternated for repeated sessions (Stenger, 2016) i.e., ABC ABC ABC.
  • Sleep – Mazza et al (2016), discuss how sleep aids in stabilizing the learning via the “ . . . reactivation and integration of newly encoded memories into preexisting and permanent knowledge networks . . .” (para 2). Memory consolidation during sleep in strongly correlated to the degree to which the individual feels that this information or skill will be needed in the future (Born, & Wilhelm, 2012).

Understanding that all of these learning strategies enhance learning, Mazza et al (2016) proposed analyzing what effect interleaving repeated practice and sleep together would have on learning.

Let’s take a quick look at the study.

40 adults were randomly assigned to either a ‘wake’ group or a ‘sleep’ group and later another 20 adults were assigned to a control group. For the first session all participants were presented with 16 Swahili-French word pairings and given 7 seconds to study per pairing. After this, participants were asked to type in the matching French word for the Swahili word that was displayed, followed by a 4 s display of the correct match. This constituted the first retrieval attempt. Participants were given the opportunity to continue matching pairs until they matched them all correctly.

Participants in the ‘wake’ group had the first session at 09:00 and then came back for a relearning session at 21:00 that day which involved a first retrieval attempt and then repeated attempts at matching until they got them all correct.

Participants in the ‘sleep’ group had their first session at 21:00, had a period of sleep and then had their relearning session at 09:00 hr the next day which also involved a first retrieval attempt and then repeated attempts at matching until they got them all correct.

Participants in the control group had a first session at 21:00, had a period of sleep and then another first recall session at 09:00 the next day but no further opportunities for relearning.

1 week and 6 months after the relearning session all groups performed a midday recall task without corrective feedback.

Results

During the initial learning session, results for all groups did not differ significantly. Results during the relearning session, however, were significantly different between the ‘wake’ and the ‘sleep’ groups with the ‘wake’ group requiring twice as many list trials to reach relearning criteria as the ‘sleep’ group. The performance of the control group was not significantly different than the ‘sleep’ group but was significantly better than the ‘wake’ group thus supporting that sleep aids learning.

1 week later and 6 months later, however, the ‘sleep’ group out performed both the control and the ‘wake’ group which supports the premise that sleep together with relearning is crucial for long term memory.

Summary

Mazza et al (2016) state that their results “ . . . indicate that when the interval between successive study sessions is filled with sleep rather than with wakeful activity, the process is much more efficient because it both facilitates relearning and enhances long-term retention” (Discussion).

With time and sleep in such short supply, I need to help promote efficiency in learning. Understanding that interleaving learning and relearning with sleep can help students learn faster and for longer sounds like it is just the ticket. Given that I often do not have students for two days it sounds like this could be tricky to implement. Time to get the creative juices flowing!

Applicability of the principle to practice

One of the workshops I facilitate is the face-to-face component of an online perinatal course. Due to the amount of material that needs to be covered it has just been extended from one 8-hour workshop to a one and one-half day workshop. Originally, I was planning on spreading out the content over the two days but since reading this study I have decided to have the students interleave basic skills and concepts learned and practiced on day one – problem solving (case study that involves triage and assessment and management of labour) and skills stations (birth in the absence of the primary care provider and post partum haemorrhage) – with a night’s sleep and then repeat (relearn) the same concepts again day two with another case study and student demonstration of the same skills.

The challenge is applying the findings of this study to one day workshops. Presently the expectation for the fetal health surveillance workshop is that students complete the required reading (a textbook) prior to attending. Due to sleep and time constraints, this often does not happen so I am required to introduce new material to students all in one day. What I am proposing to do is to develop a short quiz that will review the key terms and concepts and have the students complete it the night before the workshop. This way students that do complete the textbook reading will have an opportunity to relearn an additional time before attending the workshop and those that do not complete all of the textbook reading will review enough of the material to complete the exam (hopefully).

I realize that compliance is always an issue so I will endeavour to create an exam that is succinct and fun. (Learning is fun right?) I will review the answers to the quiz first thing in the morning. I realize that this does not replicate the learning sessions outlined in the study and that the quiz is not guaranteed to be completed but I am hoping that at least some of the students will take this on as I feel that even a small chance of improving the quality of the learning for the workshop and retention for application to the workplace will be worth the effort.

Analyzing this study has brought to light yet another aspect to consider when employing effective learning strategies. Incorporating sleep with learning and relearning appears to be an effective way to help students “relearn faster and retain longer”.

Mmm, anyone ready for a nap?

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Image source : Pixabay

References

Born, J., & Wilhelm, I. (2012). System consolidation of memory during sleep. Psychological Research76(2), 192–203. Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-011-0335-6

Casebourne, I., (2015) Spaced Learning: An Approach to Minimize the Forgetting Curve ATD Association for Talent Development Retrieved from: https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/Science-of-Learning-Blog/2015/01/Spaced-Learning-an-Approach-to-Minimize-the-Forgetting-Curve

Mazza, S., Gerbier, E., Gustin, M., Kasikci, Z., Koenig, O., Toppino, T., Magnin, M., (2016) The Science of Learning Featured Article Relearn Faster and Retain Longer Psychological Science Vol 27, Issue 10, pp. 1321 – 1330. Retrieved from:http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797616659930

Michelon, P., (2008) Brain Plasticity: How learning changes your brain Sharp Brains. Retrieved from: http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/02/26/brain-plasticity-how-learning-changes-your-brain/

Sleep, Learning and Memory (2007) Healthy Sleep Retrieved from:

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/benefits-of-sleep/learning-memory

Stenger, M., (2016) Interleaved Practice: 4 Ways to Learn Better By Mixing It Up informED. Retrieved from: http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/learning-strategies/interleaved-practice-4-ways-to-learn-better-by-mixing-it-up/

Stoller EP, Papp KK, Aikens JE, Erokwu B, Strohl KP. (2009) Strategies Resident Physicians Use to Manage Sleep Loss and Fatigue. Retrieved from: med-ed-online.net/index.php/meo/article/download/4376/4558

University of California (2008). Improving Long-term Learning Through Spacing Of Lessons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081118141708.htm

Writing a Critique or Review of a Research Article (2014) University of Calgary Writing Support Services, Student Success Centre ucalgary.ca/ssc/writing-support. Retrieved from: https://www.ucalgary.ca/ssc/files/ssc/wss_critique_2014.pdf

 

Constructivism – Learning by Constructing Meaning from Experience

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Image Source

Learning Theory Highlights

Merriam and Bierema, (2014) inform us that “(c)onstructivism is less a single theory of learning than a collection of perspectives all of which share the common assumption that learning is how people make sense of their experience – learning is the construction of meaning from experience” (p 36). Inherent with the belief that individuals construct their own meaning from their experiences and shape their own learning, is an understanding that there isn’t a single interpretation of the learning (that of the instructor), but limitless interpretations as students take in new experiences, reflect on them and give them meaning (Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning, 2004; Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d.).

Socrates has been credited with being the forefather of constructivism (Constructivism for Adults, 2015) and, even today, Socratic questioning is used to help with critical thinking skills (The 6 Types of Socratic Questions, n.d.) – one of the skills integral to the constructivists’ approach to creating understanding in learning (Learning Theory – Constructivist Approach, n.d.).

In the modern age, theorists, Piaget, Dewey, Vygotsky (Merriam & Bierema, 2014) and Bruner (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d.) have shaped our present understanding of constructivism.

Piaget (1896–1980), “. . . dismissed the idea that learning was the passive assimilation of given knowledge” (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d, para 12) and offered an understanding that as we progress to adulthood, we construct meaning “. . . at more sophisticated levels . . .” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 36) “ . . . by creating and testing (our) own theories of the world” (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d, para 12).

Dewey  (1859–1952) called for a move away from memorization and rote knowledge and towards more authentic learning in which students could “ . . . demonstrate their knowledge through creativity and collaboration” (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d, para 10). Dewey also believed that “(s)tudents should be provided with opportunities to think for themselves and articulate their thoughts” (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d, para 10).

The idea of social constructivism was brought forward by Vygotsky (1896–1934), who “ . . . drew attention to the very important role of the sociocultural context in how people construct meaning from experience” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 36). While constructivism and social constructivism share many of the key points, social constructivism recognizes that the dynamic process of learning occurs within a social and cultural context and that learning is essentially collaborative and that learners are integrated into a “ . . . knowledge community” (Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism, n.d, para 3).

Melding the concepts of social constructivism and cognition, Bruner (1915-2016), emphasized learning through discovery, dialogue and self-reflection (Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner), n.d.; Chamber, Thiekötter & Chambers, 2012) and proposed three principles to guide the development of curriculum summarized as “readiness to learn”, “spiral organization of curriculum” and “going beyond the information given” (Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner), n.d, para 9).

While there are other constructivist theorists who offer principles to be applied to the learning environment, the characteristics of constructivist teaching that I found to resonate for me as a perinatal nursing educator are those defined by Jonassen (1994), as cited in Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism (n.d. para 4):

  1. Constructivist learning environments provide multiple representations of reality.
  2. Multiple representations avoid oversimplification and represent the complexity of the real world.
  3. Constructivist learning environments emphasize knowledge construction instead of knowledge reproduction.
  4. Constructivist learning environments emphasize authentic tasks in a meaningful context rather than abstract instruction out of context.
  5. Constructivist learning environments provide learning environments such as real-world settings or case-based learning instead of predetermined sequences of instruction.
  6. Constructivist learning environments encourage thoughtful reflection on experience.
  7. Constructivist learning environments “enable context- and content- dependent knowledge construction.”
  8. Constructivist learning environments support “collaborative construction of knowledge through social negotiation, not competition among learners for recognition.”

Why?

Brandon and All, as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 37, stated: “(t)he essential role of nurse faculty is to engender active-learning processes . . .” – a process that constructivism engages. Applying the principles of constructivism and creating the characteristics of constructivism defined by Jonasson in the online perinatal course that I re-developed and teach enabled me to engender active learning processes in the students.

When re-developing the online course, I had to be mindful that the principles of constructivism were followed as closely as possible all the way through the course: in the modules that presented the basic concepts, the formative assessments and in the assignments that were for marks. To help me understand the basic framework I needed, I turned to Bruner’s 3 Principles of Curriculum development (Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner), n.d, para 9):

  1. Instruction must be concerned with the experiences and contexts that make the student willing and able to learn (readiness to learn): Stakeholders as well as students indicated that they wanted the course to promote clinical competency and not just provide theoretical knowledge; learning needed to be focused on clinical applications.
  2. Spiral organization: While the basic physiology of pregnancy and birth is straight forward, pregnancy, birth and post partum care are far from simplistic once you factor in the physical, emotional and learning needs of each family in addition to the many complications that can occur. Thus material learned from earlier modules needed to be reintroduced into later modules at increasing levels of sophistication. This would help to ensure that the material could be easily grasped by students.
  3. Going beyond the information given. Perinatal nurses need to be able to think critically and adapt to new and unexpected situations as each case they will encounter is unique. Providing readings that encompasses the entire scope of perinatal nursing would be overwhelming and would not allow the students time to process the information until they are ready. Constructivism meant that, with guidance, students could build on their experiences and seek out the learning that they felt was most appropriate for them at the time.

 

The characteristics of Constructivism by Jonassen as cited in Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism (n.d. para 4) and outlined earlier, provided the remaining framework for course development. The constructivist concept of self-reflection works in synergy with the RN’s professional practice expectations (CRNBC, 2017) and critical thinking through case based learning and collaborative learning support the environment that RNs operate within.

Changes to practice are frequent and continual, hence life long learning is another reason why I chose the constructivist approach to the course.

“If nurse education is to truly prepare nurses to function in this environment then the aim of nurse education has to change from “learning what is known” towards “educating for the unknown future” (Segers, Dierick & Dochy, 2001, as cited in Chambers, Thiekötter & Chambers, 2012 p 106).

“Another aspect of constructivist learning is that it lays the foundation for the concept of lifelong learning. Since the constructivist model of learning requires the student to be more active in and take more control over the learning process, it helps to develop the student’s ability to learn on his or her own and supports the concept of lifelong learning” Schell, G. & Janicki, T (2013, Winter) para 18).

Role of the Learner

The concept of andragogy and its assumptions that the adult learner is self-directed, contains a wealth of experience, has a readiness to learn that is closely related to their social role and is problem focused were put forth by Knowles almost 50 years ago (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). It therefore follows that when adult learners encounter a learning environment founded in constructivism they should feel that the environment matches their needs and that they would eagerly embrace the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. This, however, may not always be the case.

Jonassen et al (1999) as cited in Thompson, K (n.d. para 15) “ note . . . students must wrestle with the responsibility that comes from being truly in charge of one’s own learning. While some students are somewhat reticent to assume these responsibilities, when given the opportunity most enthusiastically share their constructs with those of other students, often engaging in lively discussions (and further developed conceptualizations).”

My experience with applying constructivism to the online perinatal course has been similar in that some students seem to require more support as they start the course but by the end they seem to become more empowered to manage their own learning. The mantras I learned in my PIDP 3250 course and the ones I share with my students are that learning is messy and learning is a lot of work.

Role of the Instructor

Creating learning from experience, implies that the locus of control shifts from the instructor to that of the student (Schell & Janicki , 2013). Thus, instead of being the dispenser of knowledge, the instructor becomes a facilitator that helps guide students to understand the major concepts, to assist them to develop new insights and new constructs (Learning Theory – Constructivist Approach, n.d.) and to reflect on how their constructs fit with the knowledge community (Thompson, n.d.).

Providing guidance to students about how they can best learn is another role of the instructor. I really like the concept of describing the instructor as an expert learner:(t)he teacher’s role in a constructivist classroom isn’t so much to lecture at students but to act as an expert learner who can guide students into adopting cognitive strategies such as self testing, articulating understanding, asking probing questions, and reflection (Learning Theory – Constructivist Approach n.d. para 22).

Classroom Examples

Applying constructivism to an online course isn’t without challenges; experiential learning like field trips, face-to-face interactions with the instructor and peers is not possible. It is, however, still possible to get students critical thinking and learning together.

“Constructivism supports the education of nurses by improving critical thinking skills and encouraging a rapid adaptation to changes in evidence-based practice. Developing the ability to gather information, analyze it critically, evaluate it experientially, and then develop a new framework for the information is the best way to produce nurse graduates with critical thinking skills” (Candela et al 2006 as cited in Nyback, 2013 p 10).

In the online course there are 9 case studies –one each week for weeks 2-9. Case studies involve cases they can expect to see clinically and require students to apply Bloom’s higher order thinking skills like applying, analyzing, evaluating and proposing recommendations for care. Recommendations include psychological as well as physical considerations, team communication and suggestions for how to deal with barriers to communication.

Students post their case study responses to the discussion board where their colleagues read and discuss each other’s plans of care. Even though it is not an expectation, I have found that many students will share personal experiences and reflections relevant to the case study and post these in response to their peers’ posts. I have found that peer-to-peer learning through constructive feedback (social constructivism) plays a large part in the learning that takes place. Even though each week the cases are marked using a rubric and feedback is provided regarding their recommendations, students have mostly already self-corrected their material based on feedback they have received. Students have told me that the case studies were an integral part of their learning.

Below is a video that summarizes the concepts of constructivism quite succinctly and provides some great classroom examples.

Resources

Chambers, D., Thiekötter, A., Chambers, L (2012). Preparing student nurses for contemporary practice: The case for discovery learning. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 2013, Vol. 3, No. 9. Retrieved from:http://www.sciedupress.com/journal/index.php/jnep/article/download/1794/1413

Constructivism for Adults. (2015, February 17). ETEC 510, . Retrieved from http://etec.ctlt.ubc.ca/510wiki/index.php?title=Constructivism_for_Adults&oldid=62500.

Constructivist Theory (Jerome Bruner) (n.d.) Instructional Design. Retrieved from:http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/constructivist.html

CRNBC (2017) Professional Responsibility and Accountability. Retrieved from https://www.crnbc.ca/Standards/ProfessionalStandards/Pages/ProfessionalAccountability.aspx

Education Theory Constructivism and Social Constructivism (n.d.) Open Educational Resources of UCD Teaching and Learning, University College Dublin. Retrieved from:http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism

Learning Theory – Constructivist Approach (n.d.) State University.com., Retrieved from: http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2174/Learning-Theory-CONSTRUCTIVIST-APPROACH.html

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

Nyback, M., (2013) A Constructivists Approach to Teaching and Learning at the Degree Program of Nursing Novia University of Applied Sciences. Retrieved from:https://www.novia.fi/dmsdocument/29

Schell, G. & Janicki, T (2013) Online Course Pedagogy and the Constructivist Learning Model Journal of the Southern Association for Information Systems, Volume 1Issue 1. Retrieved from: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jsais/11880084.0001.104/–online-course-pedagogy-and-the-constructivist-learning-model?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Smith, M.K. (2002) Jerome S. Bruner and the process of education, the encyclopedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/jerome-bruner-and-the-process-of-education/

The 6 Types of Socratic Questions (n.d) Retrieved from: http://www.umich.edu/~elements/probsolv/strategy/cthinking.htm

Thompson, K (n.d.) Constructivist Curriculum Design for Professional Development:A Review of the Literature. Retrieved from: http://pegasus.cc.ucf.edu/~kthompso/projects/lit_constructivist.html

Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning (2004) Concept to Classroom WNET Education. Retrieved from: http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html

Trends in Adult Education Part #3: The ‘Aha’ Moment

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Photo: A.McKenzie

Ok, I have to make a major confession.

I am a nurse that works in and teaches the specialty of maternity nursing – in other words I work with women as my patients, with women as my nursing colleagues and with women as my students. When I re-wrote the curriculum for the online perinatal course I teach I thought about the clients that my students will encounter and included cultural sensitivity material and information about LGBTQ(2S). I had students work through exercises that examined their biases and preconceptions. I really thought I had it all covered. I was in fact feeling pretty good about how it all came together, until I read this article on gender equality.

You see, I did not, even once, think about how the curriculum and its delivery would be perceived by a male student. I completely gapped on thinking that a male student would indeed be taking the course at some point. The sudden realization had me reeling – how could I be so blinded by my own bias?

Don’t get me wrong, I greatly value my male colleagues. I value their talents and insights. It is just that because I never work with any men (as nurses) in maternity I didn’t even consider that they would ever be taking a perinatal course.

Now I am reviewing the course again to check for anything that might be seen as gender insensitive. I am using this checklist offered by the University of Fribourg, a Questionnaire for the evaluation of gender equality in teaching and so far so good  🙂

I really hope that I won’t have to wait too long before have male students take the course. I am very keen to learn with them as we travel on this journey of learning.

References

Evaluation for gender sensitive teaching (n.d.) Project e-qual – Teaching, Gender, Quality University of Fribourg. Retrieved from: http://www.unifr.ch/didactic/assets/files/didactic/Eval_course_gender_en.pdf