Student Engagement

I realize I haven’t posted on this blog since the foundation course. Time sure flies! The lesson from the lessons have brought me to the most important change of learning for me – Student Engagement. I had heard of employee engagement but those were methods that HR would use to make sure everyone was on board. However, in the Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty by Elizabeth F. Barkley, there are practiced and proven active learning techniques (SETs) for instructors to implement for their courses.

As an old schooled student, I do feel myself reluctant to change while I am learning how to become an engaged student. Learning about this subject had really given a new perspective and I think it must be confusing for many old schooled students to understand the new ways of learning. I get that we have lots of work experience and life experience, but over the years, while we are paying the bills and living life, we have less educational experience. In preparing courses for adults, I think it’s important to consider their learning experience and gear education also for generation x, y and baby boomers. My own father said he will be taking computer courses to understand how to use his laptop better. He prefers to take the courses at a senior centre because they teach in a way that he understands.

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Lesson Planning

Creating a Positive Learning Environment

 I picked this lesson planning component because I have been in negative learning environments and it was difficult to learn. Thankfully, I have had more positive instructors throughout my life. When I think about my successes from the positive environments, I know that I will be inclined to provide a safe place for open discussion, questions and feedback. I would also be inclined to increase the use of positive reinforcement and non-verbal encouragement. Studies show that “The brain/mind “downshifts” under perceived threat. That is why we must create and maintain an atmosphere of relaxed alertness, involving low threat and high challenge”. (Caines, 1997a, pp.104-108)

 Motivational Techniques

Motivation is a subject that involves both the learner and the instructor. I have not had much experience in providing hours of classroom instruction, but I have had the experience of watching students fall asleep during a presentation while my co-worker was instructing. I will never forget his disbelief that it happened.  In that hour, I learned the value of relevance, the second most important component in the ARCS model. There was very little material they didn’t already know. Next time around I would include a variety of strategies including videos and throw in some humor to lighten up the topic.

 Instructional Process/Strategies

 I like that there are a variety of strategies for instructing to keep students engaged and there are excellent resources like the book “Student Engagement Techniques”. The one I challenged after many years of traditional classroom training is blogging. My perspective changed after watching a video clip about the benefits of blogging. It is important to know that this strategy provides for a more collaborative, flexible environment and promotes discussion outside of the classroom. I was not thinking of it as a professional document or digital student portfolio. I would like to help older generations of learners feel more comfortable using blogging as tool.

Media

 Media at my workplace is consistently PowerPoint. At a recent presentation so many lines were on one slide that I briefly stopped listening. In the document “Tips for using Media in Mini-Lessons”, the recommendation for text is a 6x6x6 rule, which means no more than six words by line, six lines per page or six text slides in a row. This will become a best practice for me. Another method that I liked was the speaker showed the text lines one a time instead of showing all of the lines at once. I listened more closely and stayed focused.

 Planning

By preparing a lesson plan, it would give me an opportunity to organize the material with the learners needs in mind. Within the structure of the lesson plan, I could focus on the content and delivery, and also provide time within the framework for students to process the information.  I would follow Gagne’s Seven Step Process of Instruction for every lesson.  However, I would make each step a building block for myself as I haven’t had much experience teaching adults. I would focus the feedback on my lessons based on relevance and knowledge gained. At the same time I would want feedback on that step of the lesson planning.

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Web-Conference with My Online Partner

The web-conference with my online partner was a great learning experience as well as very philosophical. Combining both of those elements we have been researching the topic of awareness and contemplation as part of the adult program.

We are in agreement after our research that implementing a few changes in the structure of training, we will help the adult student be more present and mindful and therefore holistically enhancing the entire learning experience between the student and teacher. As I reflect upon our discussion, it would also be beneficial in our work days to incorporate some of the learning theories such as cooperative learning. In our discussion he referenced an article that included the leader in contemplative instruction, Victoria Smith, and how she has incorporated contemplative pedagogy as part of her teaching practices in foreign language instruction since 2006.

Cooperative learning resonates with team work and from my own experience, getting feedback and information with groups is more beneficial and memorable. Philip had an excellent quote to sum it up. “Nagging thoughts take energy. They add up and multiply. They take energy to maintain.” By taking the time for contemplative learning, the mind has a chance to filter and process in a more logical way, leaving room to expand awareness and increase knowledge.

Another article to support the topic of contemplative learning is called Short-Duration Mindfulness Training. It is a study on the effects of short-duration mindfulness training sessions and the positive impact on the students. There was also a long lasting benefit where the majority of the students wanted to continue practicing after the course ended. The results of the study corroborate with the discussion and topics that I had with my partner.

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Enhancing Learning Skills

In the article: Opening the Contemplative Mind in the Classroom, Hart states ““Long dormant in education, the natural capacity for contemplation balances and enriches the analytic. It has the potential to enhance performance, character, and depth of the student’s experience. Perhaps most important, the contemplative helps to return the transformative power of wonder, intimacy, and presence in daily learning and daily living.”

With so many responsibilities and activities constantly on our minds, it is difficult to focus and be engaged. Personally, I always thought life would be simpler as I have matured, and instead I find my life more hectic. As I try to engage in online training, I am reminded that I have not given myself enough focus nor have I been familiar with how to get focused. I have spent my entire life in classroom training and find the self-directed online courses extremely challenging.

Hart lists many ways to add contemplative learning in the classroom, including a few I have highlghted below with a summary behind the name of the event.

1.Not doing – This includes stopping what the class is doing and taking a minute to refocus using such methods as ringing a bell or breathing exercises
2.Where are you now? – This means taking a few moments and asking everyone where their minds are right now and either sharing it in the classroom or writing it in journal.
3.The art of pondering? The instructor asks more “what if” or open ended questions which opens up the door for more insightful and creative questions from the students.

For online training, there are other options, such as software that forces you to pay attention during training.(See Link) If this worked for self-motivation, I would certainly buy it!

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Student Engagement

It is our role as educators to consider many factors of the students world. In the article “Mindful Adult Education – Theory and Practical suggestions”, there is a very thorough Didactic sketch (p.6) for planning adult education. “Didactics simply means the action of planning educational events mindfully. It is to consider the wholeness of the learning situation, from your own motivation to small, practical issues.”

In my previous learning experiences, I had an instructor who taught a course at the lowest level on the Bloomberg chart with the cognitive type of learning. He was not responsive to questions and once told me my question was an “id-10-t” error. My entire class nearly failed that course with that type of instruction. I learned that the learning environment needs to be positive, supportive, non-judgemental, and open for learning.

The article lists that adult students’learning depends on many conditions, including respect, knowledge the subject can improve the person’s life, positive collaboration with other students, positive interaction with their instructors and be able to share life experiences as part of the learning process.
A few teaching methods that are discussed are as follows:

  • Learner centered teaching
  • Multiple intelligences
  • Cooperative Learning

Each of these methods have some positive and some challenges. However, it would be beneficial to combine some of the methods and get student feedback about what works for that particular course and what doesn’t.

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