Comment on Brookfield Ch. 6

In chapter 6 of his book, “The Skillful Teacher” Brookfield (2015) discusses the importance of lecturing creatively. The traditional lecture, when not delivered with some innovation and student interaction, becomes the mere presentation of information by the instructor, directed toward the student, with no real learning takes place. Missed learning opportunities occur when lectures lack creativity, imagination and innovation.

However, this need not be always the case. It is the premise in chapter six that this technique has its value if done well. It gives five good reasons to lecture:

• To establish the broad outline of a body of material
• To explain, with frequent examples, concepts that learners struggle to understand
• To introduce alternative perspectives and interpretations
• To model intellectual attitudes and behaviors you wish to encourage
• To encourage learners’ interest in a topic

Brookfield also provides characteristics of helpful lectures. They are:

(1) Use a variety of teaching and communication processes
• One of the techniques suggested is to introduce periods of silence, so that students might be able to take notes and assimilate the chunk of information. This technique may work in some classes where a question is posed, with time allowed for students to refer back to their notes.
• I have used the next technique of Buzz Groups in my lectures. For example, I always ask students what were the primary assumptions underlying the statement presented, if it were to be true.
• I also use the ‘Lecturing from Siberia’ technique and try to engage students sitting at the back of the class. This technique is not always successful.
• Use spatial separation for “speaking in tongues”. A good technique, may be too time consuming.
• I agree with the idea of breaking the lecture up into smaller pieces, but I need to keep the lecture blocks between 12 to 15 minutes and not longer (as suggested by research).
• I have never used clickers in my class, but may gibe it a try.
• Social Media is a good method for disseminating some ideas in my class. A good technique would be to create/use a private Facebook group for online class discussions on a topic, as part of homework assignment.

(2) Clearly organize lectures so students can follow the thread of the lecture
• The scaffolding notes are a good idea, and I do post notes electronically on Moodle, for students to read.
• We use specific signals, both verbal and visual in class to signify various aspects of the lecture.

(3) Model the learning behaviors expected in the course
• I have started lectures with pre-questions, and this has helped in many cases. At other times, I have found that not all students bother with them, as they know the answers will be covered by the students that are participating.
• Alternative perspectives, or controversy can work, and gets students to debate out the issues among themselves. This is a good strategy for engagement.
• I like the assumption hunting method, as this promotes critical thinking skills, and I have incorporated this in my classes.

In conclusion, I agree with Brookfield’s methods of lecturing creatively. I already use some techniques, and am willing to incorporate some others to make for a richer classroom experience for my students.

Reference:

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

Comment on Brookfield Ch. 17

In this chapter, Brookfield (2015) highlights the different ways in which instructors can respond to students’ resistance to learning. In a previous chapter, Brookfield noted that there may be several reasons why students resist learning. These include poor self-image as learners, fear of the unknown, a disjunction of teaching-learning styles, apparent irrelevance of the learning activity, fear of looking foolish in the public, lack of clarity in teachers’ instructions, or students’ dislike of teachers. Brookfield points out that resistance can sometimes be contained, and its worst effects mitigated, but that it can never be completely overcome. However, if instructors follow some general rules, then the intensity and longevity of resistance can be reduced.

Of the several ways to respond to students’ resistance (to learning), there are three that I found particularly valuable: involving former resisters, using a variety of teaching methods, and assessing learning incrementally.

Involving Former Resisters – Former resistant students presenting the value found in the learning after the fact. They provide credible feedback that is validated by the instructor as the course gets underway. This is a great method to foster interest in the subject. I have never used this but am excited to employ this strategy for my Statistics classes.

Using a Variety of Teaching Methods – Using a minimum of three different learning strategies will hopefully cater to most learning styles and reduce learner resistance. Variety is essential to keep all learners engaged. I intend to incorporate media into my teaching. For example, a short YouTube video on a debate on globalization between eminent economists; or the implications of globalization on different countries would generate interest in the subject and help students remember material.

Assess Learning Incrementally – resistance to learning often results in lack of participation and effort. Formative assessment is key for these students so that they are made aware of their status, giving them opportunity to address their own lack of commitment which may result in negative outcomes. Formative assessments have been known to motivate student learning through their educational journeys (Evans, Zeun, and Stainer, 2013).

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

Evans, D.J.R., Zeun, P. and Stainer R.A. (2013). Motivating student learning using a formative assessment journey. Journal of Anatomy, 224: 296–303. doi:10.1111/joa.12117

Comment on Brookfield Ch. 8

In Chapter 8, Brookfield (2015) writes about teaching in a diverse classroom. Diversity is defined in a more general sense: diversity across students (racial) and among culturally homogenous students (auditory, visual, tactile). The author states that diversity has become widespread, particularly in community colleges, owing to their policy of accepting any student with a GED or high-school diploma. Diversity is primarily on account of recently arrived immigrant groups, indigenous peoples, and other students for whom English is a second language.

Brookfield suggests that in order to effectively work in the diverse classroom ones need to take the time to determine what the class composition is. This can be achieved using different methods such as diagnostic tests that ask students to demonstrate their familiarity with certain key skills, or a show of hands in response to certain questions about the students’ prior learning, or even asking students to name themselves by describing the racial or ethnic groups they see themselves belonging to, and to announce how they wish to be addressed. As well, to address how diversity is playing out in the classroom, one can make use of the Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ).

Finally, Brookfield recommends the following broad strategies to cope with diversity in the classroom:
• Team teaching
• Mixing student groups
• Mixing modalities
• Visual or oral communication
• Silent or speech filled classrooms

I enjoyed reading this chapter since I teach at a community college and my classes have the diversity that Brookfield alludes to in the chapter. I do employ some of the techniques suggested by Brookfield: for example, during the first class, I ask students – through a show of hands- if they have taken a Statistics class before (if I am teaching Statistics) and try to gauge their level (of expertise) with mathematics. I also ask each student to introduce themselves, so I am able to gauge their English language skills.

I do like the idea of mixing student groups. I generally assign a group project for class, but I could perhaps mix students of varying ability levels or learning styles to a group. As the author mentions, this strategy would be a better reflection of the realities of life outside the classroom. I also like the idea of the ongoing nature of using the CIQ. This sends a clear message to students that, as an instructor, you care, value their feedback and are responsive to their comments by constantly varying teaching strategies based on their needs.

References:

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

Comment on Brookfield Ch. 2

My comments on Chapter 2 from Brookfield (2015):

Chapter 2 of the book explores four core assumptions that inform the rest of the book. These four assumptions are that skillful teaching boils down to whatever helps students learn; that the best teachers adopt a critically reflective stance towards their practice; that the most important knowledge we need to do good work is an awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and our teaching; and that we should always aim to treat students as adults. These assumptions are explored in some detail below:

Assumption #1: Skillful Teaching Is Whatever Helps Students Learn
Under this assumption Brookfield points out given the huge diversity of student population in todays classroom, one teaching method- or standardized teaching – may not work for all students. Each instructor comes with a set of personal experiences, habits, biases, and ideas that can prevent the instructor to improve or modify the teachings for other students who learn differently (Brookfield, 2015). The goal is to change the lesson delivery that can cater to other student learning styles.
For example, some students are more visual in their learning, while other are perfectly fine with the traditional lecture-style mode of instruction. One way to cater to different learning styles would be to incorporate multi-media in ones teaching. For example, if I am teaching a class on Globalization, perhaps short YouTube video on a debate between eminent economists on the topic being studied would cater to varying learning styles.

Assumption #2 Skillful Teachers Adopt a Critically Reflective Stance Toward Their Practice
In this assumption, Brookfield (2015) states in order to foster learning in students, teachers need to check their assumptions by evaluating them through the lenses of students’ eyes, colleagues’ perceptions, literature, and own autobiography. Basically, teachers must demonstrate critical reflection to the students so that the students themselves may learn how to be critically reflective in the course and in life.

Assumption #3 Teachers Need a Constant Awareness of How Students Are Experiencing Their Learning and Perceiving Teachers’ Actions
According to Brookfield (2015), teachers need to get insights into what students are thinking in the classroom. This is best accomplished through anonymous feedback from students. Brookfield mentions the Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ) as an effective instrument for feedback.

Assumption #4 College Students of Any Age Should Be Treated as Adults
Brookfield’s fourth assumption is treating all students as adults. This is important because no one likes to be talked down or treated like a child. As well, teachers are more likely to earn the respect of their students if the students feel that they are being treated as adults. There is also an expectation among students that teachers know what they are doing and that they have the best interests of the students in mind.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I agree with Brookfield’s four core assumptions for skillful teaching. I do believe that I can be a better instructor for my students by being aware of these core assumptions.

Reference
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in The Classroom. John Wiley & Sons. P15-26.

About Accreditation

Recently, a news article regarding accreditation caught my attention. Per the article (http://vocm.com/news/cna-respiratory-therapy-program-loses-accreditation-suspended/), admissions to the College of the North Atlantic’s respiratory therapy program, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, have been suspended. This was following the withdrawal of the program’s accreditation after deficiencies in numerous areas were noted. The Council on Accreditation for Respiratory Therapy Education – the regulatory body for the program- had placed the respiratory therapy program on one-year probation in 2016, but found that enough progress had not been made by the institution to keep the accreditation.

This made me ponder on the requirements for an Institution to keep its accreditation. In Canada there is no national or regional accreditation system for post-secondary institutions and therefore educational jurisdictions, except in some limited circumstances, do not normally employ the term “accredited” to denote provincially authorized or recognized institutions. Further, since post-secondary education falls under provincial, rather than national, jurisdiction, each province uses its own quality assurance processes to ensure the legitimacy of institutions.

For a community college (such as Vancouver Community College, where I work) to offer degrees, it needs to have been given degree-granting authority from its provincial ministry of education. This, coupled with membership in the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), is generally accepted as equivalent to institutional accreditation. A community college may also choose to become a member of a professional association like the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC), whose members must also adhere to certain standards of quality.

At the program level, community college programs are eligible for accreditation by professional accrediting agencies. Professional accreditation means a specific department or program has been evaluated as meeting the standards of the accrediting agency of a certain profession. Some accrediting agencies accredit college programs, and others accredit individual graduates of certain programs. Some examples of Canadian agencies that accredit academic programs are: the Canadian Council for Accreditation of Pharmacy Programs (CCAPP); the Canadian Forestry Accreditation Board (CFAB); and the Canadian Technology Accreditation Board (CTAB).

From a student perspective, accreditation ensures that the school’s programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are up-to-date. A degree or other credential from an accredited school or program can help students stay more competitive on the job market.

For more on accreditation in BC click here: http://www.bccat.ca/system/psec

Motivational Strategies for Critical Thinking

This is an annotated bibliography on using motivational strategies to foster critical thinking. The bibliography is divided into two parts. The first part summaries research on how critical thinking should be taught and the second part summarizes research on effective instructional strategies for critical thinking.

PART I: How should critical thinking be taught?

 Article 1:

Paul, R.W. (1992). Critical thinking: what every person needs to survive in a rapidly changing world. (2nd revised ed.). Santa Rosa, CA: Foundations for Critical Thinking.

Dr. Paul is an internationally recognized authority on critical thinking, with eight books and over 200 articles on the subject. He is the Director of Research and Professional Development at the Center for Critical Thinking and Chair of the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking.

According to Dr. Paul, critical thinking is not an aim of education, but the aim. In his book, he shows how teachers can cultivate independence of thought in their students. For example, guidelines are formulated such as, “rather than simply have students discuss ideas found in their texts, have them brainstorm their own ideas and argue among themselves about problems and the solutions to problems”, “routinely ask students for their point of view on issues, concepts and ideas”. Dr. Paul argues that students learn best when their thinking involves extended exchange of points of view or frames of reference.

Of interest is the idea that teachers have the power to influence independent thinking among students by adopting certain instructional strategies. The strategies motivate students to apply critical thinking skills. This assumes that critical thinking can be successfully taught as a battery of technical skills which can be mastered more of less one by one without giving serious attention to background logic, and multi-categorical ethical issues. In other words, Paul assumes that critical thinking is the same across disciplines.

 

Article # 2

Brown, A. (1997). Transforming schools into communities of thinking and learning about serious matters. American Psychologist, 52, 399-413.

The article was published in a top-tier peer-reviewed journal. Ann Brown, the author, was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Glasgow.

Brown voices the opinion that critical thinking must be taught in the context of specific subject matter, in such a way that transfer to other domains is possible. She argues that we cannot expect learners to progress in the development of thinking unless we give them something to think about, in other words, unless we engage them in serious learning about meaningful, rich, domain-specific subject-matter. Brown points out the importance of using real-life problems. This fosters motivation and stimulates learners’ active involvement.

The article is interesting in that it argues, in contrast with Paul (1992) above, that generalizable critical thinking skills do not exist, and thus critical-thinking skills cannot be learned in isolation from a subject.

 

Article # 3

Commeyras, M. (1993). Promoting critical thinking through dialogue-thinking reading lessons. The Reading Teacher, 46, 486-494.

Michelle Commeyras is Professor with the Language and Literacy Education Department at the University of Georgia, Athens, USA.

For the study, seven fifth-grade students were assigned to an instructional group that participated in a program of 10 dialogical-thinking reading lessons and seven were assigned to a comparison group that remained with the classroom teacher and completed regular classroom assignments. The instructional group was involved in reading a story and discussing a central issue. On the post-dialogical-thinking reading lessons, the instructional group arrived at sound defensible evaluations of the reasons they generated to support the two hypothesized conclusions than did the comparison group. They also gave more comprehensive final conclusions regarding the central issue than did the comparison group.

The study is interesting in that it involves a “controlled experiment” that seeks to analyze the relationship between dialogue-thinking as a motivational strategy to develop critical thinking skills. The study lends support to the idea that instructional procedures focusing on discussion and dialogue play a key role in developing critical thinking skills among (secondary-level) students.

 

Article # 4

Dennick, R.G., & Exley, K. (1998). Teaching and learning in groups and teams. Biochemical Education, 26, 111-115.

Dr. Dennick is Professor of Medical Education and Assistant Director of Medical Education in the Medical School at the University of Nottingham. He is also an educational consultant to the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR). Dr. Kate Exley is a Lecturer with the Genetics Department at the University of Nottingham.

According to the paper, small group teaching is an excellent method for developing communication skills, critical thinking and many more higher level cognitive and attitudinal objectives. There are a wide variety of small group teaching techniques available requiring facilitators to develop interpersonal, group management and assessment skills. The authors discuss four main methods of small group teaching that enhance critical thinking: focused discussion, student-led seminars, problem-based learning, and role play.

 

This research is interesting in that it explicitly lays out the motivational strategies that teachers can use to foster critical thinking skills among students.

 

Article # 5

Baloche, L., Mauger, M.L., Willis, T.M., Filinuk, J.R., & Michalsky, B.V. (1993). Fishbowls, creative controversy, talking chips: exploring literature cooperatively. The English Journal, 82, 43-49.

The paper has been published in a peer-reviewed journal and has been cited by many authors in the field.

Lynda Baloche et al. first introduce the idea of “talking fishbowls.” This activity consists of an inner and outer circle where students discuss topics in the inner circle while the students in an outer circle simply observe. This introduces the idea of “creative controversy.” Through creative controversy exercise students are more open to listening to opposing point of views, are able to come to a consensus by evaluating the weaknesses and merits of the various arguments, and learn the importance of evidence in supporting their arguments. The authors also link creative controversy to cooperative learning as students must work cooperatively to be successful. Cooperative Learning is then broken down into five elements. These elements are: positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual accountability, interpersonal and small group skills, and group processing. Under creative controversy the teacher is more of a facilitator rather than being seen as delivering knowledge to students. The technique also develops students’ collaborative skills since they are asked to work together which requires listening, compromise and communication.

Similar to the article by Dennick and Exely (1998) above, this paper presents some additional (overlapping) procedures that can enhance critical thinking among students.

 

Article # 6

Johnson, D.W., & Johnson, R.T. (1993). Creative and critical thinking. Through academic controversy. American Behavior Scientist, 37, 40-53.

David Johnson and Roger Johnson founded and are co-directors of the Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota. At the University, David Johnson is Professor of Educational Psychology and Roger Johnson is Professor of Education.

According to the authors, using academic conflicts for instructional purposes is one of the most dynamic and involving, yet least-used teaching strategies. The ‘academic controversy’ model is similar to the ‘creative-controversy-model’ discussed above. Under the model, the teacher divides the class into groups of four. Within each group the two pairs take opposite positions. Each pair must build a case for its position (and compare their ideas and evidence with members of other pairs who have prepared the same position in order to assimilate new ideas, etc.); present and defend their position; point out weaknesses, ask for justification and further evidence, and openly challenge ‘opponents’; change perspective (pairs who support one position, must now support the other, and vice versa); and reach consensus.

This is yet another motivational strategy that can be used by instructors to enhance critical thinking among students.

 

Article # 7

Delaney, E. (1991). Applying Geography in the classroom through structured discussion. Journal of Geography, May/June, 129-133.

The Journal of Geography is a peer-reviewed journal.

According to the author, classroom discussions are powerful interactive tools for learning geographical concepts and for developing critical thinking skills. Without structure, discussions are often difficult to initiate and control. The discussion format, presented for use in small-group environments, provides a structure for anticipating and preparing for class discussions. It requires the student to become an active participant in the learning process. The author presents an example of a structured discussion: using a newspaper article on soils for a topical discussion.

The article is interesting in that it discusses ways to promote critical thinking in a specific subject: Geography.

 

Article # 8

Cleland, F., Helion, J., & Fry, F. (1999). Modifying teacher behaviors to promote critical thinking in K-12 physician education. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 18, 199-215.

The Journal of Teaching in Physical Education is a peer-reviewed academic journal.

The authors discuss how teachers in K-12 physical education can promote critical thinking. More specifically, the study examined four physical educators’ teaching behaviors before and after an intervention: participants were involved in two workshops planned to convey teaching strategies related to promoting critical thinking in physical education. In addition, participants and co-investigators team-taught three sample lessons focused on incorporating teaching behaviors – such as ‘promoting inquiry’ and ‘designing situations in which students make inferences’ – in order to foster critical thinking. Results from the study suggest that the intervention employed was successful in helping teachers modify their instruction to promote critical thinking in physical education.

The study is interesting in that it shows how to incorporate critical thinking in a non-cognitive field: Physical Education. However, in this study and the one by Delaney (1991) above, critical thinking is not very strictly defined and is often almost synonymous with problem-solving or active learning.

 

 

Part II: Strategies for critical thinking

Article # 9

Tsui, L. (1999). Courses and instruction affecting critical thinking. Research in Higher Education, 40, 185-200.

Research in Higher Education is a tier one peer-reviewed journal.

Per Tsui, critical thinking scores are higher for an instructional protocol focusing on the active attribution of meaning by students; courses emphasizing inquiry and higher-order thinking; courses utilizing feedback reflecting phrases or statements to increase the quality and quantity of student responses. As well, assignments to give class presentations, critical analysis of papers by instructors, and taking essay exams rather than multiple choice exams appeared to be positively related to students’ self-reported growth in critical thinking. These results are based on a study consisting of 24,837 students from 392 colleges and universities where the research focused on how ordinary class experiences, instead of specifically designed programs, impact students’ critical thinking.

Tsui’s study is interesting in that it highlights that classroom experiences are significant to students’ development of cognitive skills. These findings do offer some insights as to which instructional techniques may be used in order to promote critical thinking in students.

 

Article # 10

Terenzini, P. T., Springer, L., Pascarella, E. T., & Nora, A. (1995). Influences affecting the development of students’ critical thinking skills. Research in Higher Education, 36, 23–39.

Research in Higher Education is a tier one peer-reviewed journal.

According to Terenzini at al. , much of the research on critical thinking has adopted a segmented approach in their conceptual and methodological designs: ‘the role of the curriculum is studied separately from the influences of methods of instruction, both of which are examined independently of classroom climate or instructor behaviors, and all of these academic sources of influence on critical thinking are assessed as if students’ out-of-class experiences were unrelated to gains in critical thinking’. The authors set up a 1-year, longitudinal, panel study (two rounds of data collection, sample size of 210) that combines these factors. Their results indicate that students’ classroom/instructional and out-of-class experiences both make positive, statistically significant, and unique contributions to gains in critical thinking above and beyond students’ precollege characteristics and level of critical thinking.

The article in interesting in that it shows that students who follow a course of study that requires the integration of ideas and courses across disciplines, and students who follow courses with an interdisciplinary approach, tend to show greater gains in critical thinking than other students.

 

Article # 11

Garside, C. (1996). Look who’s talking: a comparison of lecture and group discussion teaching strategies in developing critical thinking strategies. Communication Education, 45, 212–227.

Colleen Garside is a Coordinator for the Speaking Excellence Across the Curriculum (SEAC) Program and an Associate Professor in the Communication Education Department at Weber State University.

Garside’s study is an experimental study with a pretest–posttest design (sample size of 118), conducted to answer the question whether group discussion facilitates the development of critical-thinking skills more than traditional methods of instruction such as lectures (measured by means of undergraduate students’ demonstrations). Results from the study showed no significant difference between the two instructional methods in developing critical-thinking skills. Garside attributed this to students’ lack of experience of group discussions.

Garside’s study is interesting in that it represents one of the few examples of empirical research in which the relationship between a specific, theoretically substantiated teaching method and the development of critical thinking has been studied.

 

Article # 12

Karabenick, S., & Collins-Eaglin, J. (1996). Relation of perceived instructional goals and incentives to college students’ use of learning strategies. The Journal of Experimental Education, 65, 331–341.

Stuart Alan Karabenick is professor emeritus of psychology at Eastern Michigan University. He is currently an associate editor of Learning and Instruction, and was previously coordinator of the Motivation and Emotion SIG of the European Association for Learning and Instruction from which he received a lifetime achievement award. Jan Collins-Eaglin is an Associate Dean of Students and Support Services at Pomona College.

The authors found in a survey study (54 college classes, sample size of 1,037) that college students in classes with greater emphasis on collaboration and less emphasis on grades were more likely to use higher-order learning strategies and critical thinking. For measurement, instruction questionnaires were used in which students could indicate the importance of several learning goals and teaching strategies used. For measuring learning and thinking strategies the ‘Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire’ was used.

The study represents empirical research in the field and helps explain some strategies that have been shown to be effective for fostering critical thinking among students.

 

Article # 13

Tynja¨la¨, P. (1998). Traditional studying for examination versus constructivist learning tasks: do learning outcomes differ? Studies in Higher Education, 21, 173–189.

The author is Professor and Head of research area (Learning, teaching and learning environments) at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

The study suggets, on the basis of an experimental study in higher education (sample size of 39), that a constructivist learning environment (i.e., a learning environment not focused on rehearsal but on deep understanding, conceptual change and developing metacognitive and critical-thinking skills) in an 11-week educational psychology course enhances critical thinking more easily than a learning environment with a final examination (measured by means of self-reports). Per the study, students in the experimental group developed more constructivist conceptions of learning.

The study is interesting in that it is empirical and tests for strategies to boost critical thinking in a particular field of study – Psychology.