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Take a moment and consider…who was your absolute favourite teacher?

 

What was it about him or her that had such an impact? What was so memorable about this person’s qualities and behaviours?

 

Chances are that a name and a face came to your mind immediately. Even after more years than I care to say, I still remember Mr. Bolland, my high school English teacher. His sense of humour, his love of literature, his patience in the classroom and respect for students made me keen to come to class. He was inspiring. Chances are, these are some of the qualities that you also recall so vividly.

 

I’ve used this activity, contributed by Dr. Carolina Yahne as a resource for the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT), in my own clinical courses and workshops as a way to evoke the “spirit” of Motivational Interviewing. This includes the principles of partnership, unconditional acceptance, accurate empathy, autonomy support and compassion.

 

The fact that people experience the “favourite teacher” exercise so universally and so similarly underlines the impact that educators (and others!) can have on a someone’s life. People remember most of how we make them feel (as opposed to what we say), and I like to remind myself that each and every student represents an opportunity to make a positive difference.

 

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Advances in education theory for a digital world

 

This article is abbreviated from:

Herie, M. (2013). Andragogy 2.0? Teaching and Learning in the Global Classroom: Heutagogy and Paragogy. Global Citizen Digest, 2(2): 8-14.

Whether implicit or explicit, everyone has a theory of teaching and learning. This gets expressed and enacted by how we engage with others, whether as instructor or student. Traditional theoretical frameworks can be broadly grouped into four domains: instructivism, critical theory, constructivist approaches and andragogy (or adult learning). However Web 2.0, characterized by many-to-many, decentred and non-linear networking and communication, has given rise to corresponding advances in conceptualizing teaching and learning in the global classroom. Emerging frameworks – heutagogy (learning as self-determined and non-linear) and paragogy (peer-to-peer and decentred learning) – have important implications for practice in the 21st Century.

Education theory has seen a trajectory from teacher-centred (instructivism) to learner-centred approaches (constructivism and andragogy), incorporating broader contextual issues and dynamics of power, privilege and community (critical pedagogy). However, these theories were all developed prior to the rise and ubiquity of Web 2.0 and social media. Integrating emerging models can extend constructivist, critical and andragogical frameworks towards a kind of “andragogy 2.0”.

Heutagogy and paragogy represent potentially useful extensions of constructivist, critical and adult learning theories; that is, androgogy 2.0. Both heutagogy and paragogy offer models of learning that are (1) self-determined, (2) peer-led, (3) decentred and (4) non-linear. These characteristics map onto social media applications and the democratization of knowledge and information. Heutagogical and paragogical approaches also extend traditional andragogical and adult learning frameworks through their emphasis on meta learning, or learning how to learn.

Andragogy, as self-directed learning focused on competency development, is reconceptualized in heutagogy as self-determined learning focused on developing capabilities. As our rapidly-changing occupational terrains continuously advance and expand workforce competency needs, today’s workforce requires lifelong learners who are both competent and capable. No post-secondary program of study can ever really prepare students with all of the knowledge and skills needed (competencies); rather, it is one’s capability in determining what knowledge and skills need continuous development, and how to access/master them (capabilities). The skills associated with locating and interrogating information to inform decision-making, what we might call “knowledge curators”, are paramount in a knowledge economy.

This in turn implies access to knowledge and skills in a non-linear fashion by today’s “hyperlearners” (derived from the hypertextuality of the web, where information is hyperlinked with no beginning-, middle- or end-point). The process of knowledge construction is itself non-linear, and non-linear curricula would mirror real-world knowledge retrieval and construction. Similarly, shifting from instructors and learners collaboratively co-creating curricula, towards a learner-directed approach, may better prepare learners with the skills needed for lifelong learning via personal learning networks (mapping onto autonomous digital communities).

Finally, heutagogy and paragogy address process over content – the “how” as opposed to the “what” – or meta-learning (learning how to learn). Through networked community and crowd-sourcing, “the whole may be greater than the sum of its parts”. This is illustrated by the elegant solutions to complex problems yielded via crowd-sourced distributed networks. For example, in 2011 crowd-sourcing was used to successfully solve a protein structure (retroviral protease of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, the cause of an AIDS-like disease in monkeys) that had puzzled scientists for over a decade (Akst, 2011). The crowd-sourced solution was published in the peer-reviewed, academic journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology (Khatib et al. 2011).

An emphasis on developing capabilities in a learner-directed, non-linear and process-oriented way makes it particularly well suited to today’s digital generation, where connectivity, creativity and reflexivity are foundational to global citizenship and collaboration.

 

These models represent a departure from mainstream structures of higher learning. Just as social media and Web 2.0 turned a “one-to-many”, broadcast model of Web 1.0 on its head, the notion of peer-to-peer, self-determined, decentred learning within the context of a learning community characterized by principles of social justice, equity and inclusion may sound utopian: “It is […] no easy task to adopt a decentralised model, since it will require massive procedural, economic and professional change in higher education” (Weller, 2009, in Corneli and Danoff, 2011). Yet in many ways, heutagogy and paragogy simply extend constructivist and critical frameworks, reimagined for a digital generation and a global community.

A provocative 2003 article by Carol Twigg references higher education as largely a “handicraft industry”, with most courses developed by individual faculty for unique cohorts of students:

Currently in higher education, both on campus and online, we individualize faculty practice (that is, we allow individual faculty members great latitude in course development and delivery) and standardize the student learning experience (that is, we treat all students in a course as if their learning needs, interests, and abilities were the same). Instead, we need to do just the opposite (Twigg, 2003, p.38).

Globalization has led to global classrooms, where difference among learners is the rule rather than the exception, spanning culture, language, gender, sexual orientation, faith, ability, social location, migration history and standpoint. It is unsurprising that educational institutions struggle with students’ accommodation needs and demands: it is hard to reconcile standardized curricula with learner heterogeneity along multiple intersecting dimensions.

An analogous example can be seen in advances in chronic disease management. Like education, medicine has traditionally delivered care via an expert model, where treatment is provided based on clinical diagnoses and evidence-informed interventions. In acute settings this works well, however the highest costs and challenges to health care today relate to chronic disease prevention and management. Unlike acute medical problems, chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension are, by definition, ongoing and rely on patients’ own decisions and motivation regarding health behaviour change. New models of medicine are now focusing on patient self-management and enhancing motivation for change, whereby the system of care (both formal and informal) surrounds – and is largely directed by – each patient for him or herself (Frenk et al., 2010).

Similarly, while instructor-led curricula may be effective for brief episodic and “acute” educational needs, programs of study to prepare students for “chronic lifelong learning” demand student self-management and motivational enhancement. Just as chronic disease prevention supports patients in becoming their own health care leaders, our increasingly complex and digitally connected world places a demand on higher education to shift focus towards more effectively helping learners to become their own teachers within formal and informal networks of guidance and support. This does not negate our role as subject matter expert, but it does place the onus – quite rightly – on supporting students’ capacity for nuanced critical reflection, judgment and decision-making.

Radically self-determined and networked learning approaches (like heutagogy and paragogy) affirm individuals as experts in their lives and learning trajectories. As Stuart Brand famously said, “information wants to be free”. So does learning.

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View the June 3, 2013 presentation for the College and Degree Operating Group (CDOG) conference on the topic of “Andragogy 2.0? Introducing emerging frameworks for teaching and learning: Paragogy and Heutagogy” on Slideshare.

Related articles:

Androgy 2.0: Emerging Theories of Teaching and Learning

Wiki-MOOCS

 

Chicago Millennium Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earn it, care about it, and tell me a story

 

Although I have never attended a Dale Carnegie seminar on public speaking, I have found that his books are a treasure trove of wisdom and experience. While he did not discover the importance of connecting with an audience through authentic and personally-informed communication, Carnegie was able to convey these ideas in a powerful and compelling way.

In particular, three of Carnegie’s stand-out tips for a successful presentation are worth emphasizing:

1. Earn the right to talk about your subject. To me this idea captures the credibility that comes from experience, knowledge and practice. A high-stakes example is delivering a workshop on presentation and teaching skills, something I always approach with trepidation. Presenting about presenting, and teaching about teaching, means that as a facilitator, my own modeling of the subject needs to be outstanding in order to earn the group’s respect and engagement. I don’t think I’d be able to be successful in this without the years of experience I have spent “in the trenches” (e.g., this article on presenting in less-than-optimal surroundings).

2. Make sure that you are passionate – that you truly care – about your topic. My personal experience in the transformational impact that learner involvement and group energy can have makes it easy for me to convey my excitement about dynamic group facilitation and teaching. I know that transforming practice can make a meaningful difference in peoples’ personal and professional lives and careers, and that inspires me to want to inspire others.

3. Use clear and relatable illustrative stories to underline your key points. We are all hard-wired to respond to stories, and what better than our own experiences to communicate real-life applications and meaning behind important concepts or strategies?

I recently witnessed the impact of an inspirational teacher in my teenager’s volitional commitment to complete one hour of physics homework per day over the holidays. Did I mention that this is unprecedented and has been sustained with zero prompting on my part? The determination to master a complex and challenging subject is largely due to an outstanding teacher’s effectiveness in sparking interest and motivation in his students. From the teenager’s reports, this high school teacher brings years of experience in the field, loves everything to do with physics, and is not wanting for intriguing and off-the-wall examples.

What a powerful testimonial to the continuing relevance of Carnegie’s presentation tips: Subject mastery you’ve truly earned, passion for the topic, and good stories can all add up to a stellar experience for both audience and presenter.

Happy Assorted Biscuits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How well do we integrate all three in our teaching/learning environments?

 

 

On a Porter Airlines flight the other day I read an interview with branding guru Ron Tite in the in-flight magazine, re:porter. In the article, Tite notes that you can add value to consumer and corporate brands in three ways: via education, inspiration or entertainment (ideally combining all three).

 

This got me thinking about teaching and learning tools, and the extent to which we educators successfully integrate each of the elements (education, inspiration, fun) into our classroom delivery and student engagement strategies.

 

The education part implies some form of didactic instruction. Easy enough. Inspiration is harder, and often arises from hands-on practice – whether through student interactions, simulation, critical analysis or collaborative learning. What about fun? How do we build in play, humour, joy, excitement, passion? Attending to the meta-learning environment, fostering a sense of community, safety, risk-taking and engagement would seem to be preconditions for having fun in the classroom. As does the extent to which I’m enjoying myself too. It seems to me that a combination of all of these elements is integral to transformative learning.

 

We talk about scaffolding learning to help engineer success experiences for students. Let’s also consider how to scaffold learning to engineer fun experiences!

 

 

 

Halloween Topiary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s not to like about putting on a costume and knocking on strangers’ doors for free candy?

 

 

 

I grew up in a low-candy household, so when I was a kid, October 31st was my chance to stock up for the year. As fellow witches, ghosts and monsters dropped away one by one, I persevered alone carrying a heavy white pillowcase, trudging on until I achieved a self-imposed quota of sugary provisions. Months later, in the heat of an August day, lying on my bedroom floor desultorily reading an Archie comic, I would find a mass of dusty and melted candy forgotten underneath the bed.

 

The lessons learned?

Candy tastes really good. Scarcity makes things more appealing and desirable. Too much candy, after a while, doesn’t taste so good. A surfeit of that which is most desired siphons the magic away…Until months pass, autumn leaves turn, and the cycle continues anew.

 

I resolve to apply the following lessons learned from childhood to my teaching:

Don’t give out more than students want: “To teach well we need not say all we know, only what is useful for the pupil to hear”.

Make learning appealing and desirable (and fun).

Awaken others’ minds to the places where their knowledge is scarce (because that will make them want it even more).

In the end, the one who wants it most will trudge on after all others have had enough or given up.

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There may be such a thing as too much Halloween candy, but there’s no such thing as too much knowledge.

 

 

 

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The stages of group development can help us see where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading

 

Why are some classes a pleasure to teach, while others test every skill and fragment of an instructor’s patience and fortitude? How can things seem to start off so well, and then proceed rapidly downhill? I have found it helpful to remind myself of the stages of group development as a rough heuristic for making sense of the classroom climate over the course of a semester.

 

Having a “big picture” sense of the terrain I am navigating with students gives me a general road map and guide. Where did we start, where are we now, and where do we want to go? These are the questions I am asking in reflecting on my teaching practice. The principles of group dynamics state that groups tend to progress through five specific stages in the process of developing cohesion and productive functioning:

 

  1. Forming: Getting to know each other, as people determine the degree to which there is safety in risk-taking. Groups that get stuck at this stage tend to remain at a superficial level, and there is minimal group cohesion and community. Keep challenging their assumptions and encourage students to step beyond their comfort zone in engaging with one another and with the course material.
  2. Storming: Characterized by interpersonal conflict, as group members test implicit and explicit norms and boundaries. This stage can really stretch our skills as we help the class navigate through rough waters. Hold steady. You (and they) will get through it. And pat yourself on the back for successfully supporting the class’s progress past Phase 1 – that’s not easy to do.
  3. Norming: Developing positive group norms, values and behaviours is the reward for getting through the conflict and challenges of the storming phase. As a community of learners, what values do we stand for? How do we enact them in the classroom? Guiding students to examine and internalize positive group norms shifts some of the heavy work from the instructor to the class.
  4. Performing: This is when it’s easy to remember why you are passionate about teaching. High functioning classrooms happen when students are committed to their own and others’ learning, and are willing to dig deep and make mistakes. Here is the laboratory where transformative learning happens. Congratulations, you earned it.
  5. Adjourning: Saying goodbye can be tough, and guiding the class through this transition means honouring and celebrating their collective experience and acknowledging that this is ending.

And then you get to start all over again!

 

 

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