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welcome woodburned

 

Learning is up to the learner, but teaching is up to the teacher

 

It’s one thing to teach, and quite another to learn. Learning is up to the learner, not the teacher. Just like the old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

But…here’s the thing: You can make him thirsty!

So the question is, how do we create environments that make learners “thirsty”? In other words, how can we foster learner engagement? Herewith, my personal Top 10. Some are prosaic and some can be incredibly challenging. And that’s a good thing, because we are all learners and we’re all teachers.

1. Start as you mean to go on: Begin every workshop, class, course, etc. with a question. Establishing right at the outset that our learning journey will be collective and collaborative is key, and especially early on I make a point of explicitly praising and otherwise rewarding any and all signs of positive engagement on the part of individuals/groups.

2. Incentivize participation: We want learners to take risks and make mistakes. When a person volunteers for something high risk, reinforce the desired behaviour. I don’t advertise it ahead of time, but whoever comes to the front of the room to do a role play with me is going to go back to his or her seat with some small token. It doesn’t even really matter what it is (think $ store).

3. Provide normative feedback: Using in-class mobile polling or an audience response system (like iClickers) lets learners compare their own knowledge/opinions/beliefs/assumptions with others in the room.

4. Establish relevance: Learners what to know “what’s in it for me?” Creating learning activities that help people bridge curricula to their own lives = good. Co-constructing learning activities that address/solve real-world problems = better.

5. Show your sense of humour: It’s hard to be serious all the time. Make it fun and mix it up! Shared laughter builds group cohesion.

6. Affirm autonomy: Let’s face it. Some days we are more fired up than others about our life’s work, and it’s no different for our students. When individuals or groups just don’t seem to be getting on board, I find that stating out loud (with 100% sincerity and with 0% judgement) that how/when/if folks engage is entirely their choice seems to free up some good energy for engagement.

7. Deploy multiple “engagement channels”: Individuals come to learning environments with a range of different learning preferences and a range of preferred ways of participating and engaging. Some people like the limelight, others need time to process and formulate a thoughtful response, and many are more comfortable sharing in a smaller group. The more choices we can offer about how to participate the better, including: verbal/written, large group/small group, synchronous/asynchronous, classroom-based/online, and more.

8. Evoke affect:  Research about emotion (affect), memory, and implications for learning suggest that teaching needs to go beyond engaging at a purely intellectual (cognitive) level, and touch peoples’ feelings (for example, Sylwester, 1994; and more recent perspectives that encompass academic technology and affective/cognitive learning, Calvo & D’Mello, 2011). Create learning activities that pair new knowledge and skills acquisition with positive affect, like surprise, delight, excitement, curiosity for deeper and more durable learning.

9. Show them you care: Authentic care and concern can go far in building good will and fostering mutual respect and support for one another’s learning and achievement.

10. And last but not least – know when to break the rules (and go ahead and break them). Like the time I called it a day and took the group shopping. 

 

 

Related articles

Five Reasons why Reality TV is not a Waste of Time: How reality TV can inform teaching best practices

Seven Essentials for 21st Century Education and Teaching: Stuff it took me 20 years to learn and I’m still trying to figure out

Rules of Engagement: The “Top 4” preconditions for learner engagement

 

 

 

Toy Circus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff it took me 20 years to learn – and I’m still trying to figure out

 

1. Learning is volitional. It cannot be mandated. We can teach, but each person decides for him- or herself what will be absorbed and integrated.

 

2. What’s taught in the classroom is only the starting point for knowledge-acquisition and skill mastery. Deep learning happens when class is over – the space for real world application and practice.

 

3. Motivation to learn influences how much work a person is willing to put into self-directed learning and mastery.

 

4. People are most motivated to learn things that are of direct interest and relevance.

 

5. Motivation is a state, not a trait. Motivation is largely a product of how we (instructors) engage students.

 

6. We can amplify students’ engagement by giving them an authentic and substantive voice in co-creating curricula.

 

7. Paragogy and heutagogy, emerging theories of teaching and learning, point to decentred learning, self-determination, and peer-to-peer learning as core to 21st Century education.

 

What might paragogical teaching look like in a post-secondary classroom? In this Acclaim interview with Maegan Stephens (Public Speaking as an “Interactive Democracy”), Professor Stephens describes how:

I give them a ballot of issues to vote on, including the content of the speeches they will give, how they will be graded, and class policies on cell phone use and on attendance. I also ask them if they would prefer to spend class time doing activities, watching speeches, hearing me lecture, or a combination.

I try to ask as more as more of a moderator and facilitator than as a lecturer. This kind of interaction, advances the aspects of debate and speaking oriented pedagogy on day one. It is not so much about flipping the classroom as it is about reversing the authority and changing the professor student dynamic, and encouraging my students to take more responsibility for their classroom.

 

 

Love it. Can’t wait to try it.

 

 

 

 

 

Neon game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow these 10 tips for good grades…and improved learning

 

1. Read the course syllabus carefully. Keep it handy throughout the term and check it weekly to be sure you’ve completed all of the required readings and assignments.

 

2. Anticipate that there will be stressful periods in the academic term. Put assignment due dates into your calendar, and set interim goals for completing larger projects. If you don’t have or use a personal calendar, now is the time to get started to help you plan ahead.

 

3. Make a point of contributing in every class, even if it’s just to ask (versus answer) a question. This helps the instructor get to know you personally and signals that you’re actively involved and trying hard.

 

4. Take notes, even if the instructor posts slide decks to the course website. Notes help you absorb new information, and they complement slide decks and readings. Note-taking is an important skill and takes practice; the more you do it, the more effective and useful your notes will be for you.

 

5. Check in with the instructor if you aren’t sure of anything. Better to find out ahead of time, than via a low grade due to a misunderstanding on your part about course content or assignments. Don’t be shy – faculty genuinely want their students to succeed and are eager to help.

 

6. If you are emailing your instructor, be sure to communicate like a professional. That means using correct spelling and a somewhat formal tone. (Also, keep in mind that if you send the faculty an email Friday afternoon you might not hear back until the following Monday.)

 

7. Before submitting ANY written work, double (triple) check your spelling, grammar, syntax, formatting. If writing is not your strength, access a tutor to help with editing.

 

8. Keep in mind that if you’re struggling in the course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We all struggle when we’re learning new things. And learning new stuff is why you’re in school.

 

9. If you are REALLY struggling, ask for help. Is it because of the course content? Other things happening in your life? Time management? A health or mental health problem? There are lots of supports available to students through educational institutions and in the community – but they only work if you access them.

 

10. Last but not least, follow three simple steps for success in school (and in life).

 

robot cute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on motivation and why people change

 

How to motivate change is a big question for clinical educators and practitioners because someone else’s behaviour change is, in the end, wholly out of our hands. Over my 15 + years of practicing and teaching Motivational Interviewing, I still find myself getting stuck in the “righting reflex” when I see a person making (what I consider to be) unwise decisions.

It all comes down to individual motivation and commitment, and that’s a scary prospect when the stakes are high. We see someone following a risky trajectory and we want to grab the steering wheel. How bad do things have to get before an individual figures it out for him- or herself?

My own experience is that everyone has a particular “pain” threshold: biologically, psychologically and socially. In other words, a state of being that I might find totally unendurable physically, mentally or inter-personally may not be so bad for someone else. We each bring a singular standpoint and value-set to the decisions we make and how we live our lives. 

And here’s the thing:

People only change when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.

 

In other words, motivation is tied to individual perception and experience of suffering. For example, from a teaching standpoint, it can be heartbreaking to see a promising student at risk of failing a course due to not attending class or completing assignments. But the important thing is…how does the student see it?

A “red flag” from a Motivational Interviewing perspective is when I am more invested in change than the person I’m working with (in this case, the student). I can better enhance motivation by stepping back, exploring possible reasons for change, and offering what I’m hearing about the pain of staying the same. Underlining a person’s perception of some of the costs of negative behaviours can open the door to a productive conversation about possible solutions.

 

As Andy Warhol put it:

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.

 

Related articles:

Reflective Listening: The most valuable tool in the tool box?

Reflective Listening Reflections

 

robots dancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please turn off all mobile devices…in your dreams

 

The “two turntables and a microphone” line sounds a whole lot better when you sing it, especially if you’re Beck. But the general idea relating to teaching and presenting is our need to balance multiple instructional strategies in order to keep learners engaged. Just like a great DJ keeps a dance floor full.

 

Given the ready distraction of mobile devices, along with an increasingly normative expectation for immediate text/email responding, today’s educators and presenters have a hard row to hoe in holding a group’s undivided attention. The cellphone issue gets lots of attention in conversations about classroom comportment and etiquette.

 

And yet…I can’t help asking…

Do people tune out, text, talk and email when they are super-interested in what’s happening in their learning environment?

 

In other words, if people aren’t dancing, whose fault is that? I hate to blame the DJ, but the truth is that some pancake turners are more attuned to the energy in the room than others. They know when and how to change things up.

 

I have observed an inverse relationship between the use of mobile devices by participants and the number/frequency of instructional strategies/approaches used. I’m just saying.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do you collect when it comes to knowledge, skill and learning?

 

Our collections of knowledge are built over months, years and decades. We are all collectors of a singular miscellany of knowledge and skills. What is prized by one may not be assigned equal value by another. A quick example: I had a neighbor who did his doctoral thesis on medieval witch trials…in a specific region of Poland. (I think someone needs to do a doctoral thesis on doctoral theses).

 

Some people are intentional, assiduous collectors – their mind a perfect gallery. Some accumulate by chance and circumstance – a drawer of buttons and bits of string, but also containing rare and necessary objects.

 

Some learning costs us dearly and we value it accordingly: “This took me years to master.” When it costs nothing, when it’s effortless, do we assign a lesser value? (“It just comes naturally.”)

 

Some display their wealth of knowledge in opulent pride (which can be off-putting). Others hoard their wealth in private, only offering a rare glimpse or glimmer (which is intriguing). Who overestimates the value of what they’ve learned? Who underestimates it by far? Who suddenly changes their mind and their path and decides to start over?

 

The most prized collections are not easily achieved. Always alert for the dusty treasure in a forgotten corner. In the end what is amassed? An incalculable value.

 

 

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