General Degrees- not a very creative idea any more?

Ken Robinson’s TED Talk makes the contention that “creativity in education is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”  He argues that the culture in education (and society) is to place higher importance on the academics than arts, and to stigmatize mistakes, which Robinson warns is “educating people out of their creative capacities”.  He spends time highlighting the fact that general degrees don’t get people jobs anymore.

Is this because a general degree doesn’t have enough creativity built into it?

Ken Robinson defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value”.  How do you take a 4 year program and add creativity, i.e. have students take their original ideas and develop them?  The Co-op program at my University accomplished this, at least for 2 of my close friends.  It allowed them to take what they learned and actually do something with it.  Both developed projects that had real life value and sure enough both were employed at the end of their degree.  The co-op program takes about a year longer to complete, but the benefits are clear. http://www.uvic.ca/coopandcareer/home/home/whatiscoop/index.php

It seems that general degrees with no work experience component don’t easily lead to jobs…. perhaps because they have little or no “doing”, nor developing, nor real world problem solving.

I’m not knocking the value of a degree, but when it comes to fostering creativity (as per Ken Robinson’s talk), general science and academic degrees can be lacking.

At any rate, being an instructor is a great opportunity to express and encourage creativity.  It’s kind of like my stage is my classroom and my “original ideas that have value” are the exercises and lesson plans I develop for the students own learning.

 

 

 

What’s the Motivation?

In this TED talk by Dan Pink, he outlines a “new operating system” for business employee performance, where autonomy (as well as mastery and purpose) is the focus, rather than the classic system of incentives and monetary rewards.  How does this relate to adult education?

The first parallel I drew was between monetary incentives with employees in business and final exam marks for students in the classroom.  Both have a tendency to narrow a person’s focus, with Pink highlighting some research by D. Ariely et al. and saying that in a cognitive task setting this can lead to limited growth and achievement.

In teaching, this carrot and stick (extrinsic motivation) approach can be in the form of dangling a good mark on a final exam as being the telltale of good student performance or achievement.  I have realized that I really needed to downplay the role of the final exam in my courses in hopes that students will focus more on the course experience rather than only prepping for an exam and frantically taking notes.  Having student work through exercises that promote autonomy and problem solving is one step in the right direction.  As is the power of effective instructor and peer feedback, both of which I need to facilitate.

Evaluación Auténtica

Authentic Assessment, according to Jon Mueller, a professor of psychology at North Central College in Naperville Il., is “a form of assessment in which students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills”. Barkley (2010, p. 29) explains that this form of assessment aims to be “realistic, which means the task reproduces the ways and the contexts in which a person’s knowledge and abilities are tested in real-world situations. This typically involves the student doing the subject”. She goes on to say that authentic assessment is “…formative, allowing appropriate opportunities to rehearse, practice and consult resources, and get feedback on and refine performances and products.”

Helping students to work at getting it right is what it’s all about. Facilitating positive feedback is key.  Here are 2 video clips that highlight the role of the instructor (and peers) in having a student achieve their best.

1. Not cutting corners, getting it right in practice so it’s right in real life… “The way you train is the way you’ll live”

2. The inspiring effect of supportive, constructive, peer feedback:

Do you think peer feedback works in Adult Education as well? … you betcha!

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mueller, J. What is authentic assessment? Retrieved from: http://jfmueller.faculty.noctrl.edu/toolbox/whatisit.htm

Visible Learning- What strategies work BEST for student achievement?

hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-achievement-rangliste

 

What does the “effect size” mean?  Hattie found that the average effect size of all the interventions he studied was 0.40. Therefore he decided to judge the success of influences relative to this ‘hinge point’, in order to find an answer to the question “What works best in education?”

For example-

Low amount of effect on student achievement 0.10 (teacher subject matter knowledge)—>  i.e. being an expert in something doesn’t automatically make you great at teaching that to someone

Average effect on student achievement 0.41 (matching style of learning)—-> check out my previous post on this

Strong positive effect on student achievement 0.73 (feedback), and 1.14 (self-reported grades)

Want more information about what is “self-reported grades”?  View this video: http://vimeo.com/41465488

 

How to Use YouTube in the Classroom.

Chris O’Neal demonstrates via a YouTube video, how to use YouTube as a teaching tool. I use YouTube a lot in my courses so it was great to expand on my YouTube skillset. O’Neal highlights how to search, use and share You Tube clips. O’Neal taught me that I can create my own playlists with a You Tube account, which will make my lesson plans go smoother, as I can access clips from one location instead of searching for them separately. I will also use YouTube EDU, which is a collection of videos specifically for instructors and educators.

Students setting their own expectations

http://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

John Hattie (via his research) ranks all of the influences on student achievement in terms of their importance or effect. Self-reported grading ranks number one.

Example for Self-reported grades: Before an exam, ask your class to write down what mark the student expects to achieve. Use this information to engage the student to try to perform even better.

Retrieved from http://visible-learning.org/glossary/

 

I teach courses that lead to government certification and a mandated final exam accounts for the course “mark” (pass is 70% or higher). The course by default lends itself towards promoting extrinsic motivation and I have noticed many students get hung up on what I call the “will that be on the final?” mentality/complex, to the point that it narrows their focus from all of the valuable exercise and problem solving opportunities that exist in my courses.

My 3250 peer, Catherine Farrow, posted this video and below notes, which gave me some insight into ways I can combat this “will that be on the final” student complex.

Benjamin Zander is a classical musical conductor and youth educator.

At the beginning of a course, Ben Zander would give each student an A for the music course. The only requirement was that within the first two weeks of the course, each student must write the teacher a letter, dated at the end of the course, and state “I got my A because….”. “and in this letter you are to tell, in as much details as you can, the story of what will have happened to you by next May that in line with this extraordinary grade.” (p. 27). “I tell them I want them to fall passionately in love with the person they are describing.” (p. 28).

  •  “Most would recognize at core that the main purpose of grades is to compare one student against another” (p. 25).
  • “This A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into” (p. 26).
  •  “…it is only when we make mistakes in performance that we can really begin to notice what needs attention…I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile and say, ‘How fascinating!’” (p.31).
  • “The number 68 is invented and the A is invented, so we might as well choose to invent something that brightens our life and the lives of the people around us” (p. 33).
  • “…the instructor and the student…become a team for accomplishing the extraordinary” (p. 33).

I’m gaining a new appreciation for what Zander & Zander were trying to teach me!  (retrieved from 3250 discussion forum)

Reference

Zander, R.S. & Zander, B. (2000). The art of possibility. New York, NY: Penguin.

Lego: the good, the bad and….the smart people who can’t think

The importance of critical thinking and other types of thinking is addressed by Dr. Cabrera in this Ted Talk.

In this section of the video he introduces his thoughts on how today’s public school teaching is producing smart kids who can’t think…. in the context of Lego.
“teachers and educators are over engineering the content curriculum and surgically removing the thinking…. students are simply getting the grade (D. Cabrera)”

 

 

Flipped in the head? Or a good instructional strategy…

The Flipped Classroom Approach. http://www.livescribe.com/blog/education/2012/07/17/the-flipped-classroom-infographic/

flipped-classroom-short1

The more I read about the flipped classroom, the more I see it being applicable to my courses.  At first glance back in May, I was very skeptical about this idea… send students home with the lecture to review on their own and then they come back and focus on doing what they’ve just reviewed at home.  How many students will want to do that at home?  Probably quite a few if it meant a shorter amount of time in the classroom, and that time focused on interactive exercises, rather than lecture.

Some key things I’ve learned about the flipped classroom approach:

  • the term is widely used to describe almost any class structure that provides prerecorded lectures followed by in-class exercises
  • The flipped model puts more of the responsibility for learning on the shoulders of students while giving them greater impetus to experiment
  • what the flip does particularly well is to bring about a distinctive shift in priorities— from merely covering material to working toward mastery of it

http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf

http://www.flippedclassroomworkshop.com/the-4-pillars-of-flipped-learning-the-keys-to-successful-flipped-instruction/

 

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Introverted vs extroverted learners

Susan Cain’s TED Talk advocates for awareness that introverts have unique learning needs and an important role to play in our classrooms, workplaces and communities.  Although society tends to reward extroverts with most of the leadership roles and jobs, she is quick to point out that we are surrounded by examples of successful introverts, such as Gandhi and Dr. Zeus.

Cain also says that “most teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert”.

What really strikes me as important with Cain’s talk is the responsibility placed on instructors when working with introverts.   The objective for most of my courses is to make people safer mariners. Developing critical thinking and problem solving skills go hand and hand with this. Cain showcases introverts as already being pre-programmed for developing critical thinking and problem solving skills.

I was thinking of a lesson plan I do on passenger vessel “pre-departure safety briefings”. I have students work in small groups and come up with a short briefing for a type of vessel of their choice, using props in the classroom. Then one volunteer in the group delivers the briefing in front of the class, as if the classroom was the vessel and fellow students were the passengers. Although it looks like I am sort of going against one of Cain’s 3 take away points (“stop the madness for constant group work”), I think I am respecting the introvert in those small groups, but giving them an out as not having to be the one who volunteers to be spokesperson. Or now that I think more about it, perhaps I am forcing them in to the “self-negating” behaviour that Cain leads off her talk taking about, whereby introverts feel like they have to be the centre of attention or be public speakers to be accepted or looked upon favourably by others, including their instructor.

Cain’s second take away point is “go into the wilderness, have your own revelations…unplug and get inside your own heads more often.” I think the concept of reflection and rest is really at the heart of this. I need to ensure that I provide all of my students, both introverts and extroverts, with dedicated time for reflection and rest after completing a major drill/simulation or other intense part of the course. While the extrovert might enjoy being front and center of the class (for example, in bunker gear fighting a gas fire), more so than the introvert; I think the debrief time back in the classroom will be of great benefit to both, even if it is more geared to the reflective nature of the introvert. I can further cater to the needs of the introvert by making it clear ahead of time that reflection time will be provided after each exercise, in hopes that this will provide some light at the end of the tunnel when they are in the pool by themselves trying to right a flipped life raft with their class looking onward.

 

How-to-care-for-introverts

 

Caring for Introverts/Extroverts (http://introvertsdilemma.com).  From this poster I learned that introverts need lots of advance warning about what is coming up next and they can’t be too rushed in completing a task or in answering a question posed to them.