Older learners in the classroom


Learning Portfolio

computerstations

This week one of the discussions is about culturally sensitive teaching. There has been talk about privilege, learning style, and how to create inclusive spaces. Lots of reflecting needed on this topic.

However, when reflecting on how culturally sensitive my classroom is, I couldn’t help but think of age and one little thing I notice older learners do: question their ability to learn technology.

In the courses I teach, there is a fair bit of technology: there’s the platform of Blackboard, the textbook online activity site, as well as Microsoft Office Suite assignments in Office, Excel, Word, and Access. Not to mention dealing with the university website to find grades and check course email! It can be a lot to handle, especially for some who is learning a new career after decades away from the formal learning environment.

One thing I’ve noticed in the one year of teaching I’ve done…

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Managing Diverse Ages in a Classroom


Classroom management, especially in a class of diverse ages, is not an easy task. By discovering the reasons for different attitudes of the learners and by understanding their backgrounds and previous experiences, we can create collaboration. The young and mature students will respect each other’s learning curves and desires.

https://www.aacu.org/publications-research/periodicals/research-adult-learners-supporting-needs

http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/lt/resources/handouts/mixed_age_classrooms.pdf

First Generation Students


Just to understand how diverse our student population is, among many other factors, we need to remember about first generation students. Those are the ones whose parents and other family members never went to the university. We often assume that our students have all the skills to orient themselves in the new to them learning environment, that they know how to learn, how to self-direct themselves, but many of them don’t.

I happened to read this article about the “first-gen” students, and it made me think about the issue I wasn’t really aware of. According to the statistics, one-third of all students at some universities in Canada are “first-gen” students, and they do struggle. Surprisingly, not because of the lack of finances, but of the lack of necessary support.  Some universities provide support, but many don’t. I think, one solution can be assigning a mentor to the “first-gen” students, and it can be a classmate or a volunteer from the community who would help to overcome the frustration when so many unfamiliar things related to the studies can turn off even very dedicated students.

 

Hayes. D. (2015). Helping first-generation students find their way. University Affairs, Aug.-Sep. 2016.

Retrieved from: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/first-gen-students-find-their-way/

Mentoring, Stimulating, Provoking and Engaging


Remember your students are diverse, curious and creative. The TED Talk by Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley reminds us how important the role of the teacher is in learning:  “Teachers are the lifeblood of the success of schools. But teaching is a creative profession. Teaching, properly conceived, is not a delivery system. You know, you’re not there just to pass on received information. Great teachers do that, but what great teachers also do is mentor, stimulate, provoke, engage.”  (May 2013)

How to Engage Students


Strategy1: Change the classroom setup

One of the student engagement strategies I find interesting is using a different classroom setting. The video in this link is an example of how can it change the classroom dynamics:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7xidmVt0uE&index=2&list=PLvnSl4qMSiRQzsqzboRuCIH_uM3A_qazE

My courses are divided into two parts: theory and workshop, and students get bored and disengaged quite easily during the first part. It’s a real challenge for me to find out the right way of teaching the theoretical part to them. Our classroom is also set up in a traditional way with the desks in rows, so I am thinking of trying a new setup in my classroom and see how it will affect the students’ engagement.

 

Strategy 2: Care about your students

Care about students not only as learners but as persons. If you truly care, you will know about their lives, problems, so you will find better ways of communicating with them, and that’s what the classroom management is mainly about – good communication and trustful relationships. In the 11-minute video below Engaging students in urban schools, Dr. Jabari talks about this and other student engagement problems in today’s classroom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lp0ENxAGHUA&index=4&list=PLvnSl4qMSiRQzsqzboRuCIH_uM3A_qazE

PIDP 3250 Reflective Writing 3


Objective Questions: Do we recognize introverts in the classroom? Do we encourage their learning?

I always have preferred working by myself, which is not possible all the time in our extrovert world. However, if I was assigned a project, I usually ended up leading the group. Am I an introvert? According to Susan Cain (2012), “some people fall smack in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum,” which makes it even more difficult to recognize who is what. As teachers, how can we differentiate introverts and extroverts and those in between, so we can create proper comfortable learning environment for all of them? Otherwise by pushing a group work, the common way of learning in a modern classroom, we ignore the needs of introverts and stimulate only the extroverts, who “really crave large amounts of stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments” (Cain, 2012).

Reflective Questions:

It was a real “aha moment” for me watching this TED Talk because I have not thought before that it can be an issue for some learners. I wonder if other teachers feel the same way. I can imagine how those students who are introverts suffer and struggle with a group while they want to be separate in a quite environment, so they can perform better and enjoy the process.

I wonder how many of my students are in that “third to a half” of people, and hate the group tasks I impose on them. I agree with Cain (2012) that in order to maximize my students learning abilities, I have to put them in the “zone of stimulation”, which is the best for them (Cain, 2012).

I know the schools are designed around extroverts, my own grandson, for example, who is a real introvert, I believe, often is sent out of the classroom either to the library or the hallway, or even Principal’s office for not being cooperative in a group. Yet his grades are quite high. I can recognize the issue now, but I myself often shared his teacher’s frustration.

Interpretative Questions:

I believe that, as Cain mentioned, most of the teachers think that “the ideal student is an extrovert as opposed to an introvert, even though introverts actually get better grades” (Cain, 2012). This misconception might be a result of extroverts being more talkative and active in class. The teachers usually think that they are on subject, which might not always be the case. There might be “zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas” (Cain, 2012). Creativity happens within individual focused work, and great inventors, such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, who did their best work secretly, prove that.

Just like Cain, I also believe that collaboration and teamwork are still important. I have encouraged my more experienced learners to help out the novice ones, and many times I have seen positive results in partnership.

Decisional Questions:

Now, when I am more aware of the issue, I will pay more attention to it. In my first class, I will add a question into my icebreaker for students to interview each other and introduce their partners to the class. And the question will be: Do you prefer working individually, with a partner or in a group? I will also observe my students’ group work and try to find out who are extroverts and the struggling introverts. I will try to balance group activities with a choice of individual tasks if and when it is possible. I agree with the importance of individual work not only for introverts, but also for extroverts, so they can learn how to study on their own, individually (Cain, 2012).

 

Reference

Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts: TED Talk [Video file]. Retrieved from

https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en

PIDP 3250 Reflective Writing 2


Objective Questions: How can we create conditions for students’ engagement?

I agree with Barkley that we cannot transfer the knowledge into students’ brains. We need students to be responsible for their learning, thus we need to create an atmosphere of engagement where students do “more of the work” (Barkley 2010, p. 23). The question is how to do that, especially when some of the students are bored because of their prior knowledge and experience, and others are disengaged because of the lack of prior knowledge and lack of confidence.

Reflective Questions:

By reading these chapters, I realize that there is no one perfect way of engaging the students. What works for some, will not work for others. However, the teachers’ classroom experiences show that creative learning activities can help with engagement. I really like the concept of flexibility which can help with individual problems of student engagement. For example, Strategy 2 “Personalizing Course Delivery” sounds very interesting to me. Barkly, the author of this strategy made the class attendance optional which encouraged students to attend her class “only if they wanted to be there” (p. 55). I see how it can be beneficial for those who have family obligations or who prefer studying at home yet keeping on task with the assignments and deadlines. However, this strategy might not work for many instructors depending on the different institutional attendance polices.

 

Interpretative Questions:

I agree with Judy Baker who teaches courses in health profession that today’s students have easy access to information, so they don’t expect us to deliver information by lecturing, rather they need to learn “how to sift through, evaluate, and apply information” (p. 47).

Another important point is Vygotsky’s (1978) ZPD theory that the “engaged learning occurs in the gap between learner’s current understanding and potential understanding… it straddles both motivation and active learning” (Barkley 2010, p. 27). By creating tasks which are not too challenging or too easy, the teachers can escape anxiousness, boredom, and apathy, in other words escape disengagement (p. 27). In a large classroom, this would be a big challenge, but according to Barkly, there are strategies teachers can use.

Decisional Questions:

For me, the issue of student engagement is very important and I have to admit, challenging. In my Millwright Foundation course, some of the students had an industrial background, while others were fresh out of high school. Their ZPD was on different levels. The challenge was to build the right scaffold for everybody. I needed to group the more experienced students with the unexperienced ones and let them work together on a task. They all would be engaged, and be a part of a learning community.

Another challenge for me was to deliver a large amount of theory before taking my students to the workshop. In the future, instead of having long lectures I will break them up to short modules, which could be delivered by the students as a task. After each module, I will have the students do hands-on activities in the workshop. This way, I will make students responsible for their own learning, and I believe, such active learning will motivate and engage them.

 

Reference

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: a Handbook for College     

Faculty. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.

PIDP 3250 Reflective Writing 1


Objective Questions: What is student engagement?

I think this question is not as simple as it seems to be. Teachers know that they have to engage students because only those who are truly engaged succeed in learning. Thus, understanding what student engagement means and how to engage the students are two very important questions. When students are passionate, when they want to learn, they put necessary effort and time and enjoy the process of learning as much as the result. So, why some students want to learn, and others do not? What can the educators do in order to make all of their students passionate and excited about learning? (Barkley 2009 cited in Barkley, 2010, p.5). As Barkley defined, students’ engagement is a result of “synergistic interaction between motivation and active learning” (p. 8).

Reflective Questions:

Why some students are highly motivated, and others are not? Why often we spend so much effort and time without any or little success especially on those who are not interested and forget about those who are? I am hoping I will find the answers to these questions, as I have often experienced frustration and hopelessness just like many other instructors. My colleges, I believe, would agree with me that it is the most upsetting situation when our students do not show any interest in the task we have created, working so hard. I often ask myself, what am I doing wrong? Why some are so engaged in this task and others are bored or very much engaged in their cell phones or other unrelated to the task activities? Some teachers would say, let go. You cannot do anything about those who do not want to learn. But isn’t it my obligation to make sure that every single student succeeds? I do have more questions than answers, and I believe student engagement is a challenge we, educators have to understand and successfully overcome.

Interpretative Questions:

 According to Brophy and Cross (2001, p. 11), “expectancy” and “value” drive students’ motivation. Students’ expectations of their performance and how much they value the learning tasks make them either engaged or disengaged. Those who believe in themselves and are confident that they can successfully complete the task spend a lot of effort and enjoy the process. On contrary, those who failed in the past cannot overcome their fears and set themselves up for failure. Their expectations are rooted in the negative past experience.

When I read the descriptions of Covington’s (1993, cited in Barkley 2010, p. 12) four typical student types, I can easily relate some of my students to those patterns. I also clearly understand the concept of “flow” or deep engagement by Csikszentmihaly (1993, 1997, cited in Barkley, 2010, p. 13), when the students are so enthusiastic about the task and so absorbed with it, that they forget about time and effort. Those are the once who not only value the task, but also believe in themselves. I also agree with Wlodkowski (2008, cited in Barkly 2010) that it happens when the goals are clear, the feedback is immediate and continuous, and the challenge is relevant to the skills and knowledge (p. 14).

Decisional Questions:

As Barkly pointed out, the first and the most important step in enhancing the students’ engagement understands the “complexities” and reasons of disengagement (p. 15). By explaining and clearly showing the “value” of the subject and the learning objectives and encouraging students in order to build their confidence, the teachers can improve students’ engagement. Creating an atmosphere to engage in learning creates satisfaction for learning as well as teaching.

 

References

Barkley, E.F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: a Handbook for College     

Faculty. San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass.

Autobiography


 

I was born in a small town in Northern Ontario. Since then I have moved across Canada with my parents and siblings and attended a high school in BC. I have always loved trades and doing something with my hands and was happy to enter a millwright apprenticeship in a mining industry. After finishing the program and receiving a red seal, I have worked until my retirement. I wanted to use my experience to give back to the younger generation of future tradespersons. Now, I  am taking PIDP, so I can become an educator, a teacher who will prepare those who desire to work in industry.