Week #5 – Professional Ethics

Students’ resistance to learning:

It seems like an odd thing to be faced with in a college setting but resistance to learning is a reality in every classroom. I naively thought that, if my students were going to pay thousands of dollars to take my course then they would be willing to learn, that’s not always the case. The vast majority of my students do want to learn but I have had a few experiences with ones who simply don’t and I was ill equipped to deal with it. Brookfield lays out some interesting options in the ‘Skillful Teacher’ that were helpful for me to hear. Fear of the unknown, general dislike of teachers, fear of looking foolish in public, these are all valid reasons to resit learning and being aware that these are some of the challenges that may be facing students is valuable. When faced with a resistant learner it is so easy to devote all your energy and resources to try to get them on board but it can be at the detriment of the other students. Where there is something for us to do as instructors to aid this person we should do it……but not at the detriment of the class as a whole, a balance has to be struck.

Professional Ethics:

There are a many ethical dilemmas that we face as instructors and one that I was recently discussing with a friend was that of the ethics of grading. The question was raised to me, ‘Do you find it hard to fairly grade a student you dislike?’ my response was that I actually find it to be the opposite. Grading a project for a student that I don’t have an overly fond relationship with is far easier than grading one for a student who I ‘like or get along with.’ When it comes to grading the first situation, as long as I have set the academic standards and rubrics properly, the grading is just checking off boxes completed and the grade settles itself out. When grading a student who you ‘like,’ especially on a more subjective item, it becomes much harder to separate your personal bias for the individual and look only at the work that has been submitted. I read an article, WHATS FAIR AND UNFAIR? which deals with some of these ethical issues. the most surprising stat that I pulled out of the article was the realization that what one person sees as an ethical dilemma may not be for others. There are a few black and white issues that there is little debate on but the reality is that very few of those are the ones we struggle with.

Reflections on my PIDP:

3260 is my last PIDP course to finish of my diploma, it went by really fast and looking back there are many gems I have taken away from it. The one that sticks out to me foremost is ‘student motivation,’ primarily my role in that motivation as an instructor. The more time I spend with students the more I realize that well written tests, course outcomes, and assessment tools mean very little to students if you don’t actually show them you care about their success as individuals. All these building blocks that I mention make a strong class and aid in student success but students don’t really care, it is just assumed that it will be in place. The areas where we can make the largest impact is with building relationships with the students to encourage them to care, to value their time and the effort that they put in. My fondest memories of past instructors are of the ones who I created a connection with, the ones who called me out when I wasn’t doing the best I could be and the ones who had higher expectations of me than I had of myself. These sound like the easiest things to do but in reality I think they are the hardest.



Week #4 – Teaching in diverse classrooms

Diversity with in my classroom is very limited. There are for sure shifts in our demographic from year to year but compared to my peers who teach in international business programs my classroom make up is fairly stale. The majority of my students are white middle class Canadians. The most striking diversion is the fact that my class generally is a 50/50 split of male and female. At a glance that is not a big deal but in the trades sector where the majority of trades programs hover around 15-20% it is something of note. There are from time to time more visible minorities in the class but it is some what rare. I am not 100% sure the reasons for the make up that we get, we are a small college in the interior of BC but most of our students come from other provinces. I do have a couple of prospective students coming from overseas this year and I am looking forward to the change of dynamics that will bring to our discussions.

Professionally within my new role as an instructor there are so many areas of growth I would like to work on. First and foremost I need to improve on my skills as a teacher. I have years of experience in my field of expertise but only limited experience teaching. The PIDP program has been a great asset to move me to the point I am at now but there is still work to be done going forward. In respects to my technical skills in the trade of Fine Woodworking it is not something I need to necessarily improve on but it is a skill that if not practiced regularly becomes hard to hold on to. My job as an instructor has defiantly limited my ability to keep my skills sharp. More time needs to be devoted to actually doing what I teach. To improve on this I have negotiated with my employer to have a portion of my professional development time dedicated to skills refreshing each year. This may be as simple as building a project in the shop or going to take more advanced training off site. Time will tell and I will likely focus on the areas that I am most interested in.

My 5 year plan for my career is still in development and ever shifting but I have no desire to move away from teaching the course I am now. There are areas that can and will be improved upon but over the next five years I see my role staying somewhat the same while developing the course from a certificate granting program into a diploma with the option for transfer into a degree level program.

Week #2 Teacher Perspectives Inventory

I recently took a TPI as part of my PIDP 3260 Professional Practices course. It was good to get some numbers to back up and challenge some preconceptions about myself as an instructor. Keeping in mind that the numbers that I came up with are very course specific and even specific to my present classroom dynamic, they will likely shift with time and varying groups of students. As a general overview of me as a teacher I think it was a fair assessment.

My most dominant perspective was that of a Nurturing Teacher. “Effective teaching assumes that long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head.” This is defiantly something I believe in and students success almost always is connected to their emotional engagement to the content of the course.  My second trait as an instructor was that of apprenticeship, which makes sense as well, as I am an instructor in the trades sector. Over all a fair assessment at this present time. I would like to take it again a year or two from now and see what has changed.

If you want to find out your TPI score follow this link,http://teachingperspectives.com/tpi/

The Death of the Lecture?

College is boring and the lecture is dead. True or not true you will find individuals adamantly on both sides of the debate. Some argue that there is no issue with lectures, just with lecturers, others argue that the students of today are different and they have changed and with it our pedagogy must too change. It is clear however that more students are not graduating. Even for students from the top half of income distribution and with at least one parent with a college degree, a third quit before graduation. (Bowen, Chingos, & McPherson, 2009) The fact that less and less people are finishing their studies either means the way in which we deliver content is not working or that individuals hold secondary education in a different light than they did 20 years ago. Bowen (2013) has made the case that quality of education is not solely synonymous with brick and mortar institutions any more. An individual can often get a better than average education through alternate sources online. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the average employer doesn’t care how well you did in school or even if you completed your degree but that you are competent in the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in their respective field (for reference see the graph from my previous reflection).

Contemplation of the demise of ‘traditional’ learning paradigms has led me to some interesting places….and back again…..and down more than a few rabbit holes. I have tried to resolve my schooling background with my teaching style and the changing tendencies of learners. It is becoming clear to me that the generation of today access information, process information and communicates in vastly different ways than I once did as a learner. I often find myself wondering what impact my in-class teaching is having on students, questioning if they are retaining what we are covering or just holding it until they no longer need it. Steven Mintz from Columbia University summed it up nicely, ‘According to some recent studies, an instructor generally says 100-200 words a minute and a student only hears 50-100—half. Worse yet, in a typical lecture class, students are attentive just 40 percent of the time.’ If this stat holds true than my students are only getting a fraction of what I am saying and how much they retain of that info is significantly less than they hear. Hartley and Davies (1978) found that even immediately after a lecture, students remember 70% of the content from the first 10 minutes and only 20% from the last 10 minutes. (Bowen, 2012, pg. 193)

Therefore, if the results of both knowledge retention and graduating statistics show a downward trend then we are left to question whether the model of education has not shifted to meet the demands of today’s learner. I don’t have empirical evidence but I do have hands on experience within my class which has me questioning, on more than one occasion, if students are benefitting from my lectures. At times I have felt as if I am just rehashing the readings that we have all done. ‘What are they getting from me that they couldn’t get from a YouTube video or doing some more research on their own.’ When I have had the opportunity to engage the students beyond simple question and answer times the value of the time and retention of the content greatly increases. I see it when we interact on the shop floor, there is a better understanding of the way in which the theory affects the practice.

The LCME, the organization that accredits US medical schools, strictly limits the number of hours per week students may spend in lectures. So seriously does the organization take this mandate that, in October of 2011, it placed one of Texas’s medical schools on probation, in part because its curriculum relied too heavily on “passive” approaches to learning — foremost among them, lectures (Gunderman, 2013). I work in a trades training environment where face to face interaction and hands on skills training are the norm. In more academic settings with large lecture halls it would be a challenge to try to find ways to be more interactive in your teaching. In a small setting like mine, with a max of 24 students at a time, there is little to no excuses to not have class time being interactive. My fondest memories of college have rarely been in a lecture hall. I have learned lots of valuable things over the years in these settings as well as through inspiring Ted talks but the defining factor of all of them has been the passion of the speaker. We used to be able to argue for lectures by saying that knowledge was available only in our classrooms or that students arrive unprepared for more in-depth learning. Even before technology eliminated both excuses, the best teachers were those whose classrooms were places of relaxed uncertainty, controversy, and discovery. Perhaps we need to shift away from the mentality of professors and instructors to the role of facilitator or mentor. Not to say that anyone can teach an advanced calculus class, you being an expert in your field should be a given, our job should be to facilitate the most effective and engaging way to transfer the commodity of knowledge to our students.





Bowen, J.A. (2013). Teaching Naked. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bowen, William G. & Chingos, Matthew M.  & McPherson, Michael S. (2009). Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities

Gunderman, R. (2013). Is the lecture dead? The Atlantic: Health. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/01/is-the-lecture-dead/272578/

Mintz, S. Active Learning. Columbia University: The center for teaching and learning. Retrieved from http://www.columbia.edu/cu/tat/pdfs/active%20learning.pdf

Online learning vs face-to-face education


Online learning is a relatively new style of learning that I only became aware of since stepping back into the academic world. When I originally started my post-secondary schooling it was still all face to face instruction. I complete a bachelor’s degree, traveled and worked around the world then went back to school to completed my training in the trade of Joinery all just before the onset of the digital learning age hit. Over the last 15 years or so there seems to have been a major shift in the way that knowledge is being transferred and it is only just as I am starting to enter back into the academic world that I am being challenged to reconcile the education model that I was taught within and the future of online learning that is already here even if I am just now catching up. It is not an issue of needing to reconcile the value of face-to-face (F2F) education vs online learning, as both have their own merits, it is more about coming to a consensus on the strengths and weaknesses of both educational model.

As I contemplated the value of F2F learning vs online learning I couldn’t help but be torn between the two, partially because of my indoctrination from the model that I was educated in, but primarily because there feels at times like it is one or the other. There is great value in both platforms but it is very much student specific and field specific. I see the inherent value in making knowledge accessible to as many people as possible. Bowen points out that the 2011 Sloan Survey found that 48.8% of institutions saw increases in demand for face-to-face instruction, 74.5% saw increased demand for online instruction. (Teaching Naked, 2012, P. 11) We live in an ever globalized world where access to technology is making education much more accessible to all people regardless of their economic situation, it is clear that free or less expensive options of education will continue to drive the demand for learning, as it should. Access to the written word was a leap forward in learning for our fore fathers and I would argue that digital access to knowledge is an even larger step forward for global knowledge and equalization of status and economic class systems.

I can’t help but question whether the shift towards online learning platforms is driven by the learners yearning for more knowledge, the institutions yearning for more profit and limited overhead, or the demands of industry. I feel in the first few chapters of Teaching Naked Bowen made a great case from the perspective of the learner but failed to address the other two underlying factors in many educational models, the institution and industry stake holders. In the grand scheme of things, the students are the end goal but simply because students want more online learning doesn’t always mean it is the best way to deliver to knowledge. I am not advocating for restrained access to information but simply that we think about the most effective way in which we can help people to learn and not just the simplest way to deliver content. There is a huge difference in our ability to disseminate information and a learner’s ability to absorb knowledge. I realize as I write this that it may appear that I am calling for the propping up of traditional learning institutions and Ivy League elite universities and that the four-year degree system that I learned with in is the best and only way to learn, I am not. I read a report from the Brookings Institute that stated that ‘half of all STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs are available to workers without a four-year college degree, and these jobs pay $53,000 on average—a wage 10 percent higher than jobs with similar educational requirements.’ https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-hidden-stem-economy/)

It’s clear that industry is less concerned with a student’s ability to complete a bachelor’s degree and more with their ability to have the hard skills to complete the task that employers set out in front of them. A recent survey of employers desires in their applicants makes it clear that demand for credentials is less important than the demand for skilled workers with applicable experience. (http://www.chronicle.com/items/biz/pdf/Employers%20Survey.pdf)

What Employers Want!


It’s clear that digital learning platforms are here to stay and that they are for the benefit of learners, institutions, and the industry stakeholders. It is however, unrealistic to think that for all but a few select industries an online only education is sufficient to fully train students for the reality of the workforce. However, if you remove the demands of employers and expectations of society it is hard to argue against the merits of online education for the simple task of acquiring and transferring knowledge. The short comings of a digital learning environment will almost always be in the realm of experience, hands on physical interaction with physical tasks. I recognize that I look at this through the lens of a trades person where the bulk of the work we do is hands on. I understand also that within many professions; graphic designers, computer animation, video and audio editing, etc., there is less of a need for in person F2F interaction between the learner and the educator but within my industry the role of apprentice and Journey Person still plays an invaluable role in the transfer of skills, knowledge and experience that cannot always be fully reproduced in a digital environment. In my situation as a trades instructor I see the role of technology as a tool in which I can gain more F2F interaction with students rather than less. We have a limited amount of hours to try to teach our students some complex skills and the more time we can have in the shop one on one, the more likely my students are to grasp these technical skills they will need in industry. Our use of Moodle, online testing and grading and in the near future extensive video teaching has afforded me more time to actually do technical training rather than being bogged down with theory in a classroom. My desire is to continue to use as much technology in my courses as possible to augment and increase the students learning experience and increase the retention of knowledge. Above all, the needs of the learners must direct the use of technology and digital learning as opposed to the ease of digital learning directing the delivery of content.


Working with Partners

As I was researching for the different Trends and Roles with in my industry and among adult educators I had assistance from David Stryck. Stryck was my assigned learning partner for this particular assignment that was part of my Instructional Training through VCC. Not only was he my assigned partner but he has been a co-worker in one fashion or another for close to ten years. We both worked in the same field and now both teach alongside each other at the same college. Having this assignment to discuss together was a great opportunity to debate about where our industry is going, both the strengths and weaknesses, as well as discuss what areas we wanted to focus on in the program that we teach at Selkirk College in Nelson, BC. If you have read some of my past posts on this subject you know that there isn’t a clear direction of what a woodworker is and as instructors we are pulled in both directions about how to best teach our students to give them the most suitable skills for their futures. It has been great to be able to bounce ideas off of each other, it not only helped for this particular assignment, but it has encouraged me to think more critically about what I am teaching and the changes that I want to make to the curriculum. The Fine Woodworking course at Selkirk College has a long history of producing exceptional students and as a direct result exceptional works of art. I feel I have a burden of responsibility to continue on this tradition of excellence as best as I can, at the forefront of my mind is how I can improve as an instructor to give the students the best possible chance of success.

Lesson Planning Resources

As an ongoing portion of my instructor training at VCC I was asked to delve deeper into some aspects of lesson planning. The following are some very brief thoughts and links on five topics I found interesting.

#1 – Blooms Taxonomy

I choose Bloom’s Taxonomy because of my lack of knowledge in the area. The cognitive domain resonated with me more for some reason, I think it gave me insight into my own way of thinking. The steps when laid out in sequence give a good picture of how we think. We often don’t give much thought to the steps we take when thinking about something, it just comes natural, but what I realized is the importance of the steps. You can’t jump from a stage of remembering info straight to designing new thoughts on the subject, there has to be a process through the stages. Remembering this with students is crucial, it takes time to formulate original thoughts when faced with a new concept, time and energy has to be put in by the learner and the educator.



#2 Characteristics of Adult Learners

Knowing and understanding andragogy is interesting to me but also an issue of survival. My Students are all adult learners, some are 20 year old learners and some are 60 year old learners. Understanding their diversity and individual differences will make me more in tune with their needs as a learner. The innate ability of adult learners to self-direct their learning is to my benefit as an instructor and should be encouraged and not fought against. Above all the need of adult learners to be respected will play the largest roll for me as an instructor. They are putting in significant time and effort and that needs to be recognized.



#3 – Creating a positive learning environment

Creating a healthy and positive learning environment is critical to the success of individual learners, the group as a whole and the instructor. Adult learners operate in a very different manner then adolescent learners. The need for existing skills and experience to be recognized is paramount. Clear and meaningful expectations need to be laid out so there is little to no confusion and it is often best to address errors and issues in a private setting away from others. The enforcement of classroom rules is often not a challenge if the rules are clearly laid out and agreed upon by the group.



#4 – Motivational Techniques

There are many motivational techniques that can be used in a class but with adults I believe the most effective is the issue of relevancy. In grade school we commonly hear, “I’ll never use this in the real world!” Adult learners are keen to know how this info actually applies to reality. Asking students what they hope to accomplish as result of the course helps students establish relevancy and gives them responsibility for their own education. Another technique worth incorporating is unpredictability or varied deliveries of content. Everyone wanes from repetition and keeping it fresh helps to break up the days.



#5 – Assessment

Assessment of adult learners is three fold; pre-assessment, ongoing assessment (feedback), and post assessment. With pre-assessment we get an idea of what we are working with, with post-assessment we get an idea of what we have accomplished. With ongoing or continual assessment the educator has the largest ability to influence the learning outcomes of the student and the student has more opportunity to make changes of course to positively affect the outcome of their education. Often referred to as ‘feedback’ but a more apt definition that I recently heard was ‘feed-forward.’ This feed-forward approach gives information about where students are at when it can have a positive impact on future assignments.