Students’ Evaluations of Teaching (SETs)

Link to Project: https://voicethread.com/share/9390164/

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Professional Development Plan

There are various ways in which I could continue my professional development process after completing the PIDP. I plan implement new and innovative teaching techniques in the classroom, and teach courses that encourage students to adopt economics as a major.

The following outlines the specific steps I intend to follow in carrying out my teaching agenda:
• Employ different forms of instructional media in the classroom (YouTube, Facebook, Moodle)
• Hardbound and online textbooks and study aides (Aplia)
• Technology (when presenting material)
• In-class simulations (to explain fundamental ideas)
• Course website
• Traditional and online assignments

Develop various methods for evaluating student understanding of material:
• Requiring students to make their own applications of core economic ideas to the real-world
• Using techniques described in recent literature on economics education, such as finding examples of economics in music.
• Engaging students in service projects, field trips, and games
• Requiring students, even at the principles level, to write about economics in the form of essays and term papers

Continuously seek ways to improve teaching:
• Asking students to evaluate my teaching methods at mid-semester and at the conclusion of the course
• Reviewing current literature on economics education
• Documenting successes in the classroom through use of online course portfolios each semester
• Creating a traditional portfolio that documents my evolution as a university instructor over the years
• Representing my College at local and national teaching conferences

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