“There is No Such Thing as a Stupid Question…”

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As an instructor or student, how many times have you heard that phrase…”There is no such thing as a stupid question”?  I  have said this phrase many times lecturing an introductory workshop.  The reason why I say this phrase is to decrease anxiety in the classroom and encourage students to ask questions.  Many students don’t ask questions in fear of looking stupid or being made fun of by the instructor.  As instructors, we pose this phrase because we want our learners to feel safe and foster that positive learning environment. We also want our learners not to be afraid to ask questions.  I feel the picture above truly represents today’s students in our classroom.  The image and caption, “The only stupid question is the one not asked; is thought-provoking and asks the question “Why?”.  I wonder how many times learners left a class by not understanding a concept and didn’t ask a question in fear of looking stupid.  I think too many learners have sat in class lessons far too long to experience this anxiety.  It’s time to change that.

By saying “There is no such thing as a stupid question”; can you really ask yourself “Are you truly supporting your strategy for creating this no-holds-barred environment?”  In this thought-provoking on-line article, “There are No Stupid Questions, But…“; the author states that “teachers need to be neutral when responding to a student’s question”. This means the instructor should not give praise to a learner for asking a question.  For example:  A student asks a question.  The instructor gives the student a praise such as “Great question!”.  Ginsburg (2012) states “How could a positive comment like “great question” deter students from asking questions? Simple. If some questions are great, then by implication others are not great. And it’s inevitable that kids will be reluctant to ask questions if they think their questions may not elicit our praise. From their perspective, then, there are indeed stupid questions”. 

I have used this phrase many times in my class to encourage questions from learners but have not really considered my actions and it’s implications.  By judging/evaluating the learners’ questions, it actually creates a negative learning environment.  That’s correct.  The positive learning environment that I have been trying to create is ruined by my praise of saying “Great question!”  Even though my intent was pure, the psychological message I am saying to my learners is there are stupid questions if you’re question didn’t garner a “great question” praise.  It’s no wonder learners don’t ask questions in class!  It is because they are intimidated and are fearful of asking a stupid question.

So you can see instructors have to be cautious with praise.  Praises also create extrinsic motivation for learners which robs students of learning values, beliefs and attitudes.  Extrinsic motivation can create situational compliance where the student only learns subject matter for praise rather than independent self-directed learning.  Instructors need to promote intrinsic motivation where the focus is put on the actual learning process.

A simple “Thanks for your question” provides a quick neutral response to the student, which validates their question without evaluating their question. As Ginsburg (2012) states, ” For students to learn to their potential, they need to feel free to ask questions and share their thoughts. And they’ll never feel such freedom unless we as educators value their input rather than just evaluate it”.

So in summary, as an instructor, I will be very mindful when a students asks a question.  I’ll respond by saying “Thanks for your question” which will validate the student’s question and maintain neutrality.  By practicing this strategy, will help me build that positive learning environment where students are not afraid to ask questions and where students’ learning is the highlight of the discussion.

Reference:

Ginsburg, D.(March 2012). There are No Stupid Questions, But….  Retrieved on-line on Oct. 26, 2014 from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/coach_gs_teaching_tips/2012/03/there_are_no_stupid_questions_but.html

13 Tips to Foster Motivation

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In Student Engagement Techniques, Barkley discusses the following thirteen tips and strategies for fostering motivation:

  1. Expect engagement
  2. Develop and display the qualities of engaging teachers
  3. Use behaviourist-based strategies to reward learning rather than behaviour
  4. Use praise and criticism effectively
  5. Attend to students’ basic needs so that they can focus on the higher-level needs required for learning
  6. Promote student autonomy
  7. Teach things worth learning
  8. Integrate goals, activities, and assessment
  9. Craft engaging learning tasks
  10. Incorporate competition appropriately
  11. Expect students to succeed
  12. Help students expect to succeed
  13. Try to rebuild the confidence of discouraged and disengaged students

The above list is a resourceful list to foster motivation amongst your learners.  I would like to explore #3 – “Use Behaviourist-based strategies to reward learning rather than behaviour” (Barkley, 2010).   This reminded me of a class I was enrolled in the past as a student.  In this class, the teacher would consistently praise students for good work.  I was motivated in class to get the right answers so I can get a “praise”.  So in a sense the teacher was controlling how we behaved.  When I look back at that class, I was so focused on receiving the praise that when I did get the praise, I felt my task was done.  I had no more interest to learn more.  This is what is called an extrinsic reward.

Brophy (2004, pp. 154-157) states ” how extrinsic rewards are classified as bribes for what students should be doing anyway.  Extrinsic rewards such as praise, bonus points and exemptions from work have a negative effect.  Not only do they control students’ behaviour and decrease student motivation, they also promote situational compliance.”

When students are rewarded extrinsically through praise, extra points and even rewards such as exemption from an assignment, student’s behaviour is being manipulated or controlled.  Students are robbed of independent learning and do not develop attitudes, values and beliefs.  As in my college example, I felt my task was done once I received the praise.  I was not self-directed to learn more.  I was not intrinsically motivated.   So you can see the cons of extrinsic rewards are like coddling your students.  If you don’t allow your learners to think for themselves, student motivation is based on what they will get for performing this task.  These are not skills we want to pass on to our learners as they will take this behaviour to the workplace and be unsuccessful.

Teachers who use behaviourist-based strategies puts emphasis on the learning process rather than the manipulation of behaviour.   Let your students know it is about the process of learning, not about the outcome.   This is an important strategy to use so learners can be less anxious about the process and know what is expected of them, rather than completing the activity like a race.

I often remind my learners that it is all about the process not the outcome. It’s important for them to realize that the process is more important than the end result. The process entails many strategies.  Looking at the learning pyramid above, the learning processes that have the highest retention rates are teaching others, practicing by doing, discussion groups and demonstrations.   It is interesting to see traditional learning such as lecture and reading score the lowest in retention rates which confirms to me as an instructor to be mindful of talking times while lecturing and aware that reading yields minimal retention in long-term memory.  Things that I will need to consider as an instructor is good time management when lecturing.  This on-line article,”Why Long Lectures are Ineffective“, states “students have 10-18 minutes of optimal focus…before zoning out”.  Traditional classrooms focus on lectures and assign reading as homework but is this effective?  If instructors want students to be engaged and have higher retention, its essential teachers manage their talking time to under 10 minutes and devise different strategies to “restart the attention clock”.  I have devised my lesson plan so my learners maintain engagement by watching the time carefully making sure I lecture no more than 10 minutes maximum at one time.  I will often break the lecture up by asking an essential question mid lecture, and this essential question may garner an answer that may stray off from the main concept but this doesn’t matter.  What matters is that the learner is engaged and using higher thinking processes such as analyzing and evaluating.  The fact that they are engaged and captivated by the essential question makes me happy.  As a teacher, it’s my job to facilitate this higher thinking and bring the focus back on the concepts.  This in-class open discussion fosters class engagement and intrinsic motivation.  Another way to get learners learning is to incorporate group work.  Students learn well using their hands so group work is another way to maintain engagement, intrinsic motivation and complete your lesson objectives.

At the college where I teach,  some freshmen students often complain about poor palpation skills, lack of interview skills and poor assessment techniques.  This is because learners learn a vast amount of information in their first year and are overwhelmed.  And are unable to put it all together.  Learners often focus on what they don’t know versus what they do know.  This is where I ask the student to take a step back and focus on what they do know and slowly build upon that knowledge. I remind them of my favourite quote; Merriam & Caffarella & Baumgartner’s (2007) statement, “Learning occurs when their is a change of behaviour”.    Patience is key here and it’s important for instructors to remind students that learning is a process.

In their final term, learners review all material and create treatment plans from a holistic perspective.  This is where we see learners transform and amalgamate all their cognitive knowledge, psycho-motor skills and affective behaviour.  During this process of self discovery, students realize incremental learning was taking place during their freshman year.  And in their final year, they can put everything they have learned all together to plan a holistic treatment.

Teachers must make sure what they are learning has relevance so students know the rationale of why they are using a certain technique or assessment.  Not only does it increase learner confidence, but competence increases as well.  It is these 21st century skills what makes my learners sought out by employers right after graduation.  I am proud to have done my job of facilitating learning strategies amongst my learners.  Motivation is key to learning but teachers must harness it.  A teacher must be employed with many engagement and motivation strategies for motivation to occur.

Reference:

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

Brophy, J.E. (2004). Motivating the students to Learn. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.

Khan,S. (Oct, 2012).  Why Lectures are Ineffective.  Retrieved on-line on Oct. 25, 2014 from http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/02/why-lectures-are-ineffective/

Merriam & Caffarella & Baumgartner (2007).  Learning in Adulthood.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

How Teacher-Student Interactions Increases Motivation

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In my PIDP 3250 Discussion Forums, my classmate Jolene facilitated the topic of motivation.   According to Komarraju et. al.,” [student]–faculty interactions can be crucial in developing students’ academic self-concept and enhancing their motivation and achievement” (Meera Komarraju, 2010, p. 332).

  1. Do you find this to be true in your classrooms? If you interact with your students more often, do you find that they are more motivated and more accountable?
    2. What types of student-teacher interactions do you think are the best for increasing students’ motivation?

I wholeheartedly agree that teacher-student interactions increases motivation.  When teachers engage and captivate students to be self-directed, their motivation increases and students become more accountable.  The onus of self-directed learning is put on the learners’ shoulders.

Respect is crucial for learning to occur.  If respect is practiced and modeled by the teacher, learning occurs naturally.  If respect is tossed aside, learning is halted.  So it’s crucial that instructors build a positive learning environment and model respect amongst the learners.  When learners are confident that their instructor cares for their learning, students are motivated to excel.

An example of a positive teacher student interaction in my teaching job happened the other day.  It was the end of the day at one of my outreaches. I facilitated a post assessment summary amongst 5 students.   It was an open discussion where each student was asked to tell me one thing they had learned today.  And why was this important for their future practice? I had some very insightful answers.  There were no right or wrong answers.  Each student took their time to tell me one particular technique or professional development skill they learned for the day.  Not only, did they come up with varied answers but the other students were engaged to listen and share their opinions on their classmate’s topic.  It was such an engaging discussion that I had all 5 students using higher order thinking of evaluating, analyzing and creating scenarios of particular case studies.  It was a very positive experience for all of us.  To debate and discuss the pros and cons of certain techniques or customer service skills.  The students’ motivation was increased dramatically and they took home cognitive knowledge that they can turn into 21st century skills.

I can’t imagine a class lesson without teacher-student interactions.  Interaction with students is essential for increasing student motivation.  Students need to hear their voice and when they teach cognitive data to others, they learn the subject matter deeper and store it in long-term memory. They can evaluate the cognitive data and compare it to their values and beliefs systems.  From there, they can make a decision whether it works for them or not.

Some examples of effective teacher-student interactions are:

1) Create emotional support and cultivate positive relationships among teachers and children

2) Improve classroom organization that encourages frequent, engaging learning activities

3) Provide instructional support and cognitive stimulus that facilitate learning

Reference

NCSL.org. (on-line, no date).  Effective Teacher-Student Interactions.  Retrieved on Oct. 24, 2014, from http://www.ncsl.org/documents/cyf/class_policybrief_2009.pdf

Komarraju., Musulkin., & Bhattacharya. (2010). Role of student-faculty interactions in developing college students academic self-concept, motivation, and achievement. Journal of College Student Development, 51(3), 332-342.

Instructional Techniques Fosters Engagement, Community and Participation in Intro Weekend Workshop

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Intro Weekend Workshop Oct 18-20, 2014.  Photo by Tia Ramos.

Intro Weekend Workshop Oct 18-20, 2014. Photo by Tia Ramos.

I had the pleasure of teaching these lovely 18 students this weekend in a 3 day workshop at VCMT.  These students were enrolled in the Introductory Weekend Workshop, which is a prerequisite workshop before enrolling for the full-time or part-time programs.  The learning objective was to “Perform a safe full body relaxation massage” and the learners did exactly that.  They were told at the beginning of the class exactly what they would learn and at the end, it was confirmed by the learners that they learned and fulfilled the lesson objective.

On the first evening, I used an instructional technique such as social icebreakers to warm up the class.  I gave the learners a list of questions to ask their partner and vice versa.   When everyone completed their interview,  I asked the learners to pick 3 questions from the list and introduce their partner.  I went first and introduced my teaching assistant and my assistant introduced me.  This definitely took the edge off as you can see the decrease in anxiety from young learners’ faces as they knew they didn’t have to talk about themselves.  Not only does icebreakers help decrease social anxiety amongst learners, it can actually make an introvert an extrovert.  By introducing their partner to the class, pressure is taken off the learner and you can audibly hear the excitement in their voices as they introduce their new friend.  It’s truly remarkable.  Provitera-McGlynn (2001) states “Most students come to the first class feeling some level of anxiety, and studies show that two of their greatest concerns are whether they will like the teacher and how well they will get along with their fellow students.   The first days of the academic term set the tone for the remaining weeks of the semester, so it is essential that teachers make efforts to foster a sense of community right from the very start”.  Icebreakers foster a sense of community right from the very start and help start building that positive learning environment where learning occurs.

Mid lesson, I changed my questioning techniques from “Does anyone have any questions?”  to an instructional technique such as asking open-ended/essential questions.   Some of the questions I used were:

  • What is the rationale for doing this technique?
  • What kind of conditions can you see this technique beneficial for?
  • What would happen if you massaged this person with this condition?

As you can see, I avoided the dreaded question ..”Does anybody have any questions?” Which is sure to get no response.  Rather, essential/open-ended questions stimulates learner’s interest and forces higher order thinking amongst learners.  By asking essential questions, I had to use a proper pause.  This was necessary so learners can think about the question.  According to this article, an average of 3 seconds is needed for lower cognitive questions, and more time for higher cognitive questions.  I had my little post-it on my desk “W.A.I.T.”  ( acronym for Why am I talking?).  This forced me to wait for answers and allocated specific wait times for lower level questions versus higher order thinking questions.

OSU.edu states “Wait-time is another crucial factor in questioning techniques. Wait-time can be defined as the amount of time a teacher allows to elapse after he or she has posed a question.”  It definitely was challenging to wait for the learners’ answers when asking essential questions.  It seemed like an eternity.  You can hear a pin drop in the room.  But when I waited, it was a success.  I had thoughtful and creative answers.  By giving learners adequate time to process and think about the essential question, led to insightful answers that furthered asked more questions.  Before I knew it, open group discussion was bouncing back and forth.  “What if?”  “Would this apply to this scenario?”   OSU.edu states “Essential questions actively involve students in the lesson.  It increases student motivation and interest.  It also nurtures insights and stimulate independent learning.  It also assesses achievement or mastery of goals and objectives.”  Essential questioning techniques helps learners learn.  It’s up to us instructors to facilitate and allow time for that process to occur.

I challenged myself this weekend by using another instructional technique and that was to remember my learners’ names as this is another aspect of creating and maintaining a positive learning environment.  When learners sense you care, learning naturally occurs. Carnegie Mellon states “Knowing and using students’ names helps to establish a more comfortable, less formal atmosphere in class and shows an interest in your students as individuals. In large introductory courses, TAs who learn names help to reduce the feelings of anonymity and isolation that many students experience.”   Just getting to know someone’s name is a special bond you can you make with your learners.  Learners feel that they are cared for and nurtured when the instructors calls them by their name.  Just that little effort solidifies your positive learning environment.  I used word associations, storytelling, and etymology of names to help me remember names.  It was successful.  I was very happy to learn everyone’s names after the first day of class.  I hope to fine tune and utilize these techniques in all my future classes.

Reference:

Carnegie Mellon (no date, on-line). Tips for Learning Students’ Names.  Retrieved on Oct 21, 2014, from http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/resources/studentnames.html

OSU.EDU.  (no date, on-line).  Questioning Based Techniques:  Research Based Strategies for Teachers.  Retrieved on Oct. 21, 2014, from http://beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/energy-and-the-polar-environment/questioning-techniques-research-based-strategies-for-teachers

Provitera-McGlynn, A. (2001).  Successful beginnings for college teaching:  Engaging your students from the first day.  Madison, WI: Atwood.

Motivation: Exploring the Single-Loop Learning and Double-Loop Learning Paradigms

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One of my PIDP classmates posted this question in the Motivation discussion forum.  This is an example of visible learning in self-reflection on metacognitive strategies.

I would also like to reflect and promote   John Hattie’s  No #8 Mindframe“I inform all about the language of learning”.  A great instructor shares their wealth of knowledge to not just their students but to other instructors.

  1. How motivated have you been in this course and the PIDP?

When I took my first ever online course (PIDP 3240), the fear of failure was so immense that I promised myself that I would work so hard at this course that I would not fail.  To my surprise, I scored my first 100 percent mark in the PID program on my final mark of PIDP 3240.  But I realized after, it wasn’t fear that motivated me.  It was my nature of being a lifelong/self directed learner and doing things “meta” or beyond what was necessary.  Thanks to my PIDP 3250 instructor, I learned about the model of single-loop and double-loop learning, where a learner connects a strategy with a result.

I relate that situation when students tell me that they have to pass this course or it’s over for them.  They tell me the subject material is challenging and are unable to learn it in such a short amount of time. This is where my role as an instructor can teach the learner metacognition skills to succeed in a course. By teaching the learner to use different strategies when learning is not successful, is a metacognitive strategy where learners are forced to think about their learning and their effectiveness. If learners think about their thinking, they can learn how to re-learn course material and be successful. Each student may respond differently to each strategy so there is no quick recipe for success. As students think about their thinking, this will prompt them to be more self-directed in their learning.   By using different strategies may yield different results. Learners will be taught to try a different strategy especially when one particular strategy is not working. Perhaps they will be successful in a new strategy.

AFS.org (Nov. 2012, on-line) states, “if an action we take yields results that are different to what we expected, through single-loop learning, we will observe the results, automatically take feedback and try a different approach”.

This is called single-loop learning where learners apply new strategies to achieve an expected outcome that may occur several times and still never succeed.  This is the most common learning style and is an example of problem solving. I see many of my learners perform this style and even myself perform. It can be frustrating and many just give up.

I used this type of learning when I was re-learning a new language travelling in Central America. I was travelling solo; backpacking in the remote amazon forest of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I did not see one English-speaking person in-land.  To my surprise, the language spoken was not Spanish but a dialect known as Costa Rican Spanish. Costa Rican Spanish was a form of Central American Spanish.  What did this mean?  It meant that I had to find out what that was.  No book prepared me for this.  I was alone and scared that I would be unable to communicate with the Ticos/Ticas (locals).   I had previously travelled in the Northern part of Mexico and Southern tip of the Dominican Republic; and my Spanish was well versed. But when I arrived in the outskirts of Nicoya, Costa Rica, nothing prepared me for a culture shock and language barriers. I knew I was in trouble by arriving at this quaint town and there was no visible tourism. I was re-thinking if travelling solo into these remote areas was a wise choice. In fact, I was quite upset with myself for putting myself in this predicament. I was speaking a northern Spanish language and it was not being understood by the locals. I realized I had to change.  I had to change my strategy.  So in order to survive, to get the things that I needed, like food, water, shelter, I had to go “meta”.  How am I going to re-learn Costa Rican Spanish in a remote area that barely understood my northern Spanish?

It was a rough few days but I realized the more word associations I made, the quicker I was able to translate northern Spanish words into Costa Rican Spanish words.   By breaking up the word, I was able to figure out its prefix and define the prefix and make guesses at the stem. This was a good strategy to find the root definition of certain words. Another strategy I used was to use clues to help guess the meaning of a word. For example: in menus, the Spanish words had pictures of their food items so I could choose which dish I wanted just by looking at the picture. Sometimes I just had to use my hands to describe to locals what I wanted.  I used single loop learning when I was not successful interpreting a word so I used a different strategy to interpret that word.

Some learners find the path of failure much easier to accept than keep trying. Perhaps the frustration is so overwhelming that learners find it easier to give up. This is where an instructor can facilitate learners to step back and look at the bigger picture. You keep trying different strategies but still get the same results. Some give up but others may take a step back and re-evaluate their core values and beliefs. Double-loop learning is where learners look at the big picture and reflect back on their learning by indicating what change will occur in reaction to their thinking. This approach is much more holistic and exams why we act a certain way.

AFS.org (Nov 2012, on-line) states “Re-evaluating and reframing our goals, values and beliefs is a more complex way of processing information and involves a more sophisticated way of engaging with an experience.  This is called double-loop learning and looks at consequences from a wider perspective”. 

By understanding this model, required me to dig in deeper within myself and evaluate my goals and my beliefs but also of those of the people I interact with.  This is a more effective paradigm to pattern your thinking and your learners’ thinking, and utilizes higher order thinking in the double-loop learning model.  Double-loop learning motivates me and increases my motivation tenfold as I know I will be a better instructor and learner with these higher thought processes. In double-loop learning, I come back and indicate what change will occur in reaction to my thinking.

Perhaps if students battled less with the thought of failure, and used metacognitive learning skills to achieve their goal which is to learn course content, they would achieve success. Metacognition combines higher order thinking and reflective processes. Teaching students to go “meta” is part of an instructor’s skills.

If I can go “meta” in Costa Rica, I can teach my learners strategies so they can go “meta” in their learning.

Reference:

AFS.org. (Nov. 2012, 0n-line).  Argyris, C:  Single-loop and Double-Loop Learning.  Retrieved on Oct 19, 2014, from http://www.afs.org/blog/icl/?p=2653

Classroom Management: That Darn SmartPhone Competes for Learners’ Attention

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Cell phone use in the classroom is rampant and contagious.  I have come to believe that checking your email and text is a habitual move that comes from the inherent brain-washing when your phone rings/lights up/vibrates.  Because you check it so frequently outside of class, it’s become a habitual addiction for some who can not go every 5 minutes without checking it.  Text messages are so easy to send that it’s more convenient to text than talk.  How many times have you called someone but not able to hear them talk because it was too noisy.  Yet a simple text gets the message through.    Teachers, as confirmed by my teaching colleagues in the PIDP 3250 discussion forums, find it disrespectful when students constantly check it in class.  It means the student is disengaged and not listening to your lesson.  But is the student aware of their actions?  Has a cell phone policy been stated on the first day of class?  Would this policy be obeyed if it was reinforced on the first day of class and a reminder prior to every lesson. Would it be obeyed if consequences were listed for that action?  Perhaps a notice on the bulletin board for all to read would suffice?  It sure is bothersome, so why not take the time to tell your learners how distracting it is when you see them reach for their phones. Do you think by giving the learners the rationale of cell phone use in the classroom would make them stop using it.  Would the learners empathize with you?  In my classes, I remind students to turn their phones to silent or vibrate (low), and request that their phones lie face  down on the table. I allocate phone breaks during the lecture which seem to alleviate their “itchy fingers”.  I allocate a “check your email/text” break every 30 minutes.  Then request them to put it back down.  When learners know their break is coming, they tend to wait for that break especially if you introduce major concepts that they need to listen carefully to.

Some of my teaching colleagues from the PIDP 3250 course have gotten so frustrated that they have taken the smartphone away from the student for the remainder of the class.  They give the phone back at the end of the class to the learner.  Another PIDP colleague reports one teacher, in which she was a student, answering a student’s incoming cell phone call. The instructor asked the caller if it was an emergency and the caller replied no.  So the instructor told the caller that the learner was busy learning and can not talk at this time.  This was remarked by the student as “ballsy”.    From these examples, you can see that the boiling point has toppled over with cell phone usage in class.  But, I ask myself, are we walking another tightrope with students? We have worked so hard to create that safe positive learning environment so learners can learn.  Are we jeopardizing this sacred environment by punishing our learners.  Can we not rationalize with them? Can we not let them see their behaviour has consequences?  Will the class view you as a tyrant?  Many students protect each other especially in cohort programs so will the instructor’s behaviour be misconstrued as mutiny on board a pirate ship?  We must tread carefully as we want to model positive behaviour and still maintain respect amongst our learners.  I learned in PIDP 3210, by the well respected, now retired David Tickner, that “Respect is necessary for learning to occur.  Without respect, learning can not take place”.

With this day and age, especially when learners seem to be attached to their smart phone like an appendage…they have no hesitation or consequential thoughts when they reach for that phone while you lecture.  Many of them stare down at their crotch with big smiles.   We know what that is all about.   Perhaps its just part of the evolution of technology.  Why do we need to be so connected?  What is so important in your texting or emailing that it can’t wait.  Is it more important than the value of education?  Are we dealing with addictions? Habitual addictions?  Lots to think about.  Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

The Pros and Cons of Gamification

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Video games and virtual worlds excel at engagement (McGonigal 2011).  Did you know that 28 million people harvest their crops daily in Farmville (Mashable 2010)? Then how come today’s schools face major problems around student motivation and engagement.  Sometimes just getting your students engaged and listening to your  morning lecture seems like a daunting task.  The surprising statistics on increased engagement in using gamification in education are staggering.  This is why gamification has evolved to be part of your class lesson.  Stats show that pros of gamification is that it can be complementary but can also make it worse.  One major pro of gamification is that it develops 21st century skills.  Gamification motivates students to engage in the classroom, give teachers better tools to guide and rewards students and gets students to bring their full potential to the pursuit of learning.  Gamification also blurs the boundaries between informal and formal learning.   Cons include that gamification may absorb teacher resources, teach learners that they should learn only when provided with external rewards.   Klopfer, Osterweil and Salen (2009), states that “Playfulness requires freedom to experiment, to fail, to explore multiple identities, to control one’s own investment and experience. In short, some gamification projects will succeed and others will fail.  Gamification is not a universal panacea( aka cure-all)”.

So what this means, as instructors we need to carefully design our games.  And make sure they are relevant to the concepts and are based on evidence-based research.  When we create games, we must develop meaningful assessments that they are achieving course objectives.   Can you recall being examined on a test and could not relate concepts to what was taught in the classroom?  Many learners complain about this.  Is this a teacher’s mistake or the learner failed to understand the concepts?  Or could both parties be responsible?   In John Hattie’s 2nd Mindframe, he states ” The success and failure of students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do.  I am a change agent”.

My point is that it’s vital that you make your games relevant to the course objectives.  Make sure what the learners are learning in the game are applicable to their course objectives.   Learners want to be examined fairly.  If you give them a game to play with and then test them on something that is completely different, you will have an uproar.   Games, whether you like it or not, are here to stay.  Instructors need to know when to use it and be careful of its dangers.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think if we make games relevant to concepts and assess them fairly in the games that this could be the secret formula for instructors using gamification in education?  Do you see other pitfalls?

Reference:

Lee, J. & Hammer, J. ( on-line, no date).  Gamificaiton in Education: What, How, and Why Bother?  Retrieved on Oct. 16, 2014, from http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/files/Lee-Hammer-AEQ-2011.pdf

 

John Hattie’s 8 Mindframes: Know Thy Impact

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John Hattie’s 8 Mindframes: Know Thy Impact

  1. My fundamental task is to evaluate my teaching on my students’ learning and achievement
  2. The success and failure of my students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do. I am a change agent.
  3. I want to talk more about learning than teaching.
  4. Assessment is about my impact.
  5. I teach through dialogue not monologue.
  6. I enjoy challenge and never retreat into “doing my best”.
  7. It’s my role to develop positive relationships in class and staffrooms.
  8. I inform all about the language of learning.

The 3 mindframes that spoke to me were:

  1. # 3 – I want to talk more about learning than teaching.
  2. # 5 . – I teach through dialogue not monologue
  3. #  7 – It’s my role to develop positive relationships in my class and staffrooms.

All three of these mindframes spoke to me as I consistently assess myself to see if I am teaching or letting my students learn the concepts.  I ask myself am I giving them the answers or am I letting them figure it out for themselves?  I prefer not to do all the speaking in my classes so I devise essential questions that stimulate conversation and dialogue. In fact, I like an open discussion where multiple learners are engaged, challenged and motivated to find out more.  Even beyond the course outcomes.  And I take time to get to know each student’s names in my class by using word associations with their names.  Acronyms, nicknames and shared stories help me remember a student’s name.  I have discovered from teaching over 12 introductory workshops that remembering and recalling a students’ name is an important and vital skill.   I create positive relationships with each student so the student feels respected and less anxious in class.  Students are more likely to participate in class discussion if you create a positive learning environment.  If you are authentic, you are approachable.

Provitera-McGlynn (2001) states “Most students come to the first class feeling some level of anxiety, and studies show that two of their greatest concerns are whether they will like the teacher and how well they will get along with their fellow students”.   Model positive behaviour amongst your learners and teachers.  If you model respect, curiosity and kindness, students will model that behaviour.   This is how I relate these 3 mindframes, which spoke to me, to my lessons.

These 8 mindframes are essential to teaching and learning.  Hattie describes essential teaching skills as a constant revolving paradigm on learning, evaluating, re-assessing, modelling and revising.  His 8 mindframes forces teachers to evaluate and re-assess their teaching strategies to see if it is effective or not?

There have been too many times where I paid for a course and the instructor read straight from the textbook or powerpoint.   Read text word by word right from the powerpoint.  If you have not seen this video, it is a must see! (Life After Death by Powerpoint 2010)  In my college days, I  sat in class as a student thinking “this teacher is not passionate about his subject.  This teacher is so boring.  How am I going to learn this material if the teacher is not excited about it?!”  The results were poor achievement, poor attendance and “just getting by”.  I was not self directed to learn anymore than that was required of me.  The environment was such a negative learning environment that it turned me right off from education.  I felt like I was paying for something that punished me.  But when you walk into a new instructor’s class and discover a different type of teacher that leads you to the subject of discovery. The environment is so positive. The group activities are planned perfectly that it doesn’t feel like a boring lesson.   It’s almost ethereal. The learning possibilities are endless.  In those positive learning environments, I became a self-directed learner.  I was motivated to learn.  I was excited to attend that class as I knew it would be engaging and I knew I would learn something new.   So which class would you rather sit in?   Either you’re an instructor with passion or an instructor who gets paid $xx an hour who just wants to read you text from a textbook or a powerpoint.  What about engagement? What about asking essential questions? What about getting to know you or your name? These instructors who don’t practice these skills give education a bad name.  Students want to be self-directed.  Knowles’s (1980, p 43) states that one major principle of andragogy is that mature “adults have a deep psychological need to be generally self-directing”.   This is after all, the instructor’s prime goal which is to put the onus of their own learning onto the student’s shoulders.

By knowing thy impact of John Hattie’s 8 mindframes, will help my learners be successful in learning.

Reference:

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. New York: Cambridge Books

McMillan, D. (Nov. 2009).  Life After Death By Powerpoint 2010.  Retrieved on Oct. 14, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbSPPFYxx3o

Provitera-McGlynn, A. (2001).  Successful beginnings for college teaching:  Engaging your students from the first day.  Madison, WI: Atwood.

Reynolds, C. (Sept 2013).  Hattie’s 8 Mindframes.  Retrieved on Oct 14, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xpcXobZF1k#action=share

Gamification Engages and Motivates Learners to Achieve Their Goals

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I saw this trending article this am and thought would this be a good topic to talk about in the discussion forum..  Is this a form of gamification? I believe it is.  So, What is Gamification? Gamification is defined as the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.  In this article, “Teachers ditches chairs for yoga balls in class, sees student improvement”.  This article confirms that student engagement is challenging and as instructors, we need to be creative and go out of the norm of the traditional classroom setting.  Melissa Bardwell got the idea from attending a teacher’s conference and learned from evidence-based research that learners sitting on yoga balls dramatically increased test scores.   Bardwell, used her own money to fund a whole set of yoga balls for her class and the elementary children loved it.  Not only were the learners focused and alert, the children were motivated to listen and learn.

So how does the yoga ball work? “The yoga balls require the learners to balance and coordinate themselves to sit upright on the ball.  This slight movement increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain.  And also by sitting centered on the ball, it causes both sides of your brain to be active, and so an active mind engages the student into having active learning,” Bardwell said.  The teacher also says “it helps students that have attention deficit disorders because it gives their mind the engagement it needs by moving their body.”   Learners at any time can take a break and sit on a regular chair if they get tired.

As a student, I remember many times coming back from lunch and attending my afternoon class but I felt like I was ready for a cat nap.  What I realize it was just normal body function.  You eat a big meal for lunch because you need it.  You just sat all morning using up tons of brain cells and so you reward yourself with a delicious meal for lunch.  Sound familiar? You sit down in your 1 pm class and you are fighting to stay awake.  What’s happening is the parasympathetic system of  “Rest and Digest” are taking over.  Waves of peristalsis occur in your intestines to digest that food and the parasympathetic nerves are taking over your body.  Involuntary yawning, relaxation, disengagement and sleep is what your body craves.  But you know you can’t just rest your head on your desk, or you will miss the class lecture.  Or be penalized by the instructor for sleeping in class.  Now that would be embarrassing! Sometimes, I knew the crash would come so I would prepare by bringing an Americano coffee back to class but this gave me a quick high with an even longer crash.  Hitting yourself up with a caffeine dose is not an effective strategy for engagement.  Sitting on a yoga ball which forces my brain to be active so I can balance might be a better alternative to engagement.

What are your thoughts on this?  Would you consider learners sitting on yoga balls a form of gamification?  What other games can you use in your classroom will engage learners? Thank you, Tia

Reference:

Allen, J.  (Sept 2014, on-line).  Teachers ditches chairs for yoga balls, sees student improvement .  Retrieved on Oct 15, 2014, from http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/9/15/teacher_ditches_chai.html

Badgeville.com.wiki ( on-line, no date).  What is Gamification?  http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification#garterere

My Summary of the Flipped Classroom from the Discussion Forums

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Summary of the Flipped Classroom

Discussion Forum / Sept 25 – Oct 5, 2014

Thread 1: What topics work best for the flipped classroom?

37 Replies:

Participants include: Silvia (1 post), Avi ( 1 post), Tanya (3 posts), Jolene ( 3 posts), Hongyi (2 posts), Isabelle ( 2 posts), Katrina ( 2 posts), Jaclyn ( 2 posts), Danielle ( 1 post), Brenda (1 post), Amie (1 post), Johnson (2 posts) and Tia ( 16 posts).   Thank you to all the participants, especially those who posted frequently. Your multiple contributions made this discussion forum exactly what it was – a learning opportunity and a discussion.

 Summary:

Subjects that work best with the flipped classroom:

  • Culinary Arts
  • Hairdressing
  • Massage Therapy
  • First Aid for Communities
  • Emergency Preparedness for Communities
  • Job Search and Career Planning
  • Permaculture
  • AP & Freshman Level Physics and Chemistry
  • English Literature
  • Academic ESL ( university and college prep)
  • Child Development (under the Early Childhood Care umbrella)
  • Professional Development (under the Early Childhood Care umbrella)
  • Child Guidance and Health
  • Safety and Nutrition
  • Esthetics
  • Adult Guardianship workshop series
  • Leadership series
  • Conflict Resolution classes
  • Electrical Foundation program
  • French as a Second Language
  • Essential Skills
  • Teaching Tutors how to Teach

In summary, subjects that involve psychomotor skills work well with the flipped classroom as suggested by the above participant’s subject matter expertise. To effectively use a flipped classroom, in-class activity must be done face to face while homework activity (out-of-class) is usually done at home with most common flipped classroom models. Lab techniques, role-playing, case studies, demonstration, games, simulations, experiments, community projects and many more are well suited for the flipped classroom concept.

One common theme that continually came up in this thread was “How do you get your students to do the assigned homework?”   A flipped classroom would be not be effective if your students showed up knowing nothing while the instructor started the group activity and learners had no clue what was going on. Evidence-based on-line research shows homework that is required to be handed in the next day would confirm to the instructor the student has done the required homework. It could be formal or informal assessment. Homework assignments based from closed-ended problem solving questions would eliminate any frustration or anxiety. Even a reflective journal assignment would show higher levels of thinking about the subject matter. These low-stakes formative assessment tools can make your flipped classroom a success. Prior to starting the in-class activity, the instructor can use CAT’s such as the Minute Paper or what is the Muddiest Point to assess any misunderstandings of concepts and reiterate any potential errors.

Thread 2: Research to Support the Flipped Classroom.

18 Replies: Participants include: Silvia (1 post), Tanya (1 post), Hongyi (1 post), Doug (1 post), Jolene (2 posts), Johnson (1 post), Isabelle (1 post), Brenda (1 post), and Tia ( 9 posts).

Summary:

In summary, flipped classrooms are trending in the education world but unfortunately flipped classrooms lack the scholarly research to prove its effectiveness. There are many things to consider about before planning your flipped lesson. Some of the things an instructor needs to consider are:

  • Will the learners do their assigned out-of-class homework readings?
  • Do the learners have proper functioning computer hardware that can download video content?
  • Do the learners have reliable internet service in which they can view the on-line video content?
  • Does the instructor have 2-3 hours of extracurricular time outside of their classrooms to create a video for the flipped classroom?
  • Does the instructor need to relearn how to make a digital video and will there be a learning curve?
  • Will all participants speak their voice in the group activity? Will all learning styles be addressed in the group activity?
  • Don’t flip all your classes.

Research Links to Support the Flipped Classroom:

Thread 3: Seven Things You Should Know about Flipped Classrooms

27 Replies: Participants include: Silvia (1 post), Avi (1 post), Jolene ( 4 posts), Aimee (1 post), Brenda (2 posts), Hongyi (3 posts), Danielle (1 post), Robert (1 post), Tanya (1 post), Johnson   (2 posts) and Tia ( 8 posts).

Summary:

  1. What is it? The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.
  2. How does it work? There is no single model for the flipped classroom – the term is widely used to describe almost any class structure that provides pre-recorded lectures followed by in-class exercise.
  3. Who’s doing it? Flipped classrooms are trending. The word flipped classroom is a buzz word and everyday a growing number of higher education individual faculty are flipping their classes.
  4. Why is it significant? By allocating more time to in-class activities, instructors have more of an opportunity to detect misunderstandings in concepts. Collaborative projects also fosters social interaction amongst students, allowing them to learn from each other and getting support from their peers.
  5. What are the downsides? An effective flip requires careful preparation. Digital video lectures take time to create and there is a learning curve to learn if the instructor is new to creating videos. Students complain about the loss of face-to-face lectures and don’t appreciate the value of the hands-on portion of the flipped classroom. Students may skip class as they feel they only need to watch video content to pass the class. They are missing out on the higher thinking processes that the in-class activity fosters.
  6. Where is it going? Technology is moving faster than education. New tools such as powerful mobile devices will put a wider range of rich, educational resources into the hands of students, at times and places that are most convenient for them. These new tools will support the out-of-class portion of flipped classrooms.
  7. What are the implications for teaching and learning? The flipped classroom is student centered which puts more of the responsibility for learning on the student. Self-directed learning occurs.


Resources: