Archive for June, 2012

Why Cheating Needs to be Addressed

In my own training setting (a software trainer for a private software company), cheating amongst my learners it not something I encountered as students are not given summative assessments. Formative assessments through practice and discussions is key. As well, often, individual learners are assessed together as how they work as a team and how they can collaborate is most important as they need to take that out of the classroom and into the workplace.

However, I did want to give my perspective on cheating for the educators out there that do run into this issue.

From the video in the last post, we saw how demotivating it was for an honest student to witness cheating.  In the video, an honest student receives a lower grade for not cheating and he feels as though he is being punished because cheating students are getting higher grades. However, cheating also impacts high achieving students, if you think about it. An honest student who puts in the effort to learn the course materials can be rewarded with an equally high grade, but he/she can still feel the injustice of having a classmate earn their grade through accademic dishonesty. This can create hostility in the classroom as the honest student may not feel comfortable speaking up against his classmate as you as an educator may have spent the time building a collaborative environment or the student may feel as though he/she is breaking some code amongst his/her peers.

As educators, we cannot be passive. If an honest student approaches us and tells us about an incident they’ve witnessed, we need to address it. We need to go beyond telling the honest student, “Well, their dishonesty will eventually get them out there in the real world.”  Some type of action needs to be taken to correct this behaviour and maintain classroom harmony.More posts about Academic Dishonesty to come. Watch for a post about instructional strategies to prevent and approach the issue.

Cheating to gain short te…

Cheating to gain short term wins is essentially us cheating ourselves of our character and integrity. – My mother

Cheating in College

Cheating negatively affects honest students…and not only in the way of lower marks but also motivation. How do we as teachers manage the classroom and manage the dishonest behaviour of cheating in students? Is it something you need to manage in your classroom? How would it be different in adult education?

Tips to give Students on Learning how to Learn

The tips in this post were extracted from http://www.rod.beavon.clara.net/learning.htm. For other posts about Learning How to Learn click the category in the sidebar.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Here are some tips (with my input) that you can pass onto your students to help them learn.

Tip #1: Set the Expectation that Learning takes Time

To learn something (rather than memorize it and place it in short term memory) requires that students take the time to assimilate the information and reflect. It can be frustrating at first as students may feel that they are spending too much time on the activity of learning, but let them know to be patient as the more they learn, the faster the process will become. I see it as becoming efficient at something the more one does it.

Tip #2: Plan for Learning

Planning is key to staying on track with a course and learning. Dayplanners (electronic versions, even) can aid students in dedicating time to learning. Point out that they should have balance and plan time for family, friends, extracurricular activities, down time, or anything else they feel they need. Students should also consider including some buffer time in case of unexpected situations that may affect the time they’ve planned for learning. Also suggest that students record any reflections they may have about things they’ve learned while on the go. For myself, I find that when I’m on the bus, about to doze off, or preparing for work, I’ll have a realization that I’d like to explore. I jot it down on my mobile device, however, students can carry a small notebook instead if they prefer. I suppose bar napkins work also 😉

Tip #3: Use effective learning techniques in each learning session

In each of the learning sessions, students should …

  • plan to work for an hour. If any longer, plan for a break.
  • review the material covered in the last session.
  • have a  particular goal in mind of what they would like to accomplish.
  • skim the material to be covered in the current session
  • recast the information in a different form (into a drawing, flowchart, mindmaps, etc.)
  • skim the information again to get another overview with the new knowledge they have gained.
  • review the information you have learned and revisit areas where you’ve had difficulty. Jot down questions to ask the instructor for areas that remain unclear.

These are just some of the tips from the resource. Definitely visit the website and read for more tips that you could pass onto students. There are tips specific to particular learning activities like reading, writing, assessing graphs, etc.

Where do these Tips fit in for Virtual Software Training?

In using these tips, I would pass on this information to my learners in form of a tip sheet. However, is that really enough? One imagines that getting them to complete activities that foster this skill would mean that we, as educators, are tearing them away from their role. Corporate learners have very little time to spend on learning as they are balancing their full time jobs. However, that’s the perspective that needs to be slightly adjusted. As an educator, it is my role to help students understand that if they learn how to learn, then they are actually saving themselves time and preventing costly mistakes (from misusing the software tool). As the resource mentions, learning to learn means that knowledge obtainment becomes more efficient over time. However, we shouldn’t overlook how the effectiveness. Learning the material effectively means the student can properly use the software. This saves them time as it means that there will less likely be mistakes that will need to be addressed (which uses up more time than if it were done the best way the first time around).

Thus, in addition to providing them with the tip sheet, some time in the training session will need to be carved out so that I, the educator, can sit down and help the learners plan their first learning session outside of class. Alternatively, they can help each other since the learners typically all work together and can understand the demands of their job. Assistance like this may be required as the task may be too daunting for them to learn to do on their own while balancing their job. Thereafter, students can plan their own learning sessions and review it with the instructor or their classmates until they get the hang of it. I also believe that making a learning session plan would help commit them to learning the tool.

At the beginning of each class, during a review, I would involve students to share what has worked for them in this approach to learning to learn. This way, the learners can share any additional techniques they’ve found that have helped them learn.

How would you use these tips or pass them onto your students?

Critical Thinking, MetaCognition, Creative Thinking: What’s the Diff?

I was recently asked by a colleague what the difference is between the three types of thinking discussed in this blog thus far:

  • Critical Thinking
  • MetaCognition
  • Creative Thinking

Although I go in depth about each one in previous entries here, here, and here, defining them here in one post can give us clarity.

This the way I see it is outline briefly below.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Critical Thinking

This type of thinking requires that students objectively judge new information for its credibility and integrity. This skill is used to piece together information from multiple sources and to make sense of a concept.

Example

An educator provides an article to students and asks them to evaluate the credibility of the source and to identify any bias. They are also asked to identify how the content of the article fits in with their frame of reference…and to be objective about their own stance.

MetaCognition

This type of thinking, is “thinking about thinking”. It’s an awareness of the approach one takes towards a task or problem. I see it as a closed loop. A student develops an approach, implements it, and then evaluates it for effectiveness. Metacognition plays a large role in Learning to Learn.

Example

An educator asks the students to take a quiz about their learning styles and to identify their approach to a certain project based on the quiz and their previous experiences. The students implement a strategy and then are asked to review how it worked for them.

Creative Thinking

This type of thinking is about coming up with new ideas/solutions with no judgements of whether they are good or bad.

Example

An educator provides students with a problem. For example, “How to solve poverty” and students come up with solutions. Instructional strategies that foster creative thinking would be used.

 

An Approach for Developing and Implementing Questioning Techniques

Looking for an introductory post on questioning? See this post!

I recently came upon this resource for questioning: http://faculty.ntcc.edu/apt/module8.html. Be sure to take a gander, as I found it to be valuable in providing me with some guidance in being effective in questioning.

To summarize some of the strategies outlined in this resource…

  • Ask Divergent Questions: Divergent question’s have many possible answers. For example, “What are some possible ways to solve the problem of poverty?”
  • Promote discussion amongst students: Paraphrase and draw in other students.
  • Wait 6 to 8 seconds before calling on a student for a response.
  • “Spontaneous questions that come up during class time are helpful but questions that are thinking skill-builders usually require more thoughtful pre- planning and structuring.”
  • Paraphrase answers back to students.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

So how do we translate this summary into an actionable process? Well, I’ve deducted some steps from my own experience as a teacher. Read on for the steps and a personal example.

Step 1: Identify When to Create Questions and for what Learning Tasks

As mentioned in the resource, “questions that are thinking skill builders usually require more thoughtful pre-planning and structuring.” When should you create the questions that will encourage your students to think deeply? Typically this is done when the lesson plans are created in the curriculum development process. Were you handed lesson plans? Update it with questioning techniques where appropriate.

Looking at the lesson plan, the educator decides upon the types of questions to ask for particular learning tasks. For example, a divergent question may not be ideal for the knowledge stage of Bloom’s Taxonomy (discussed here previously) for a course concept. Sometimes questions may come naturally to the educator outside of the lesson plan. This is wonderful and organic as it draws from the educator’s experience with timing. See the other post for question ques for different levels in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Step 2: Pose your questions in Class

Following your lesson plan (feel free to be organic), pose your question. As per the advice of the article, wait 6 to 8 seconds before calling on a student to respond. This allows them time to identify what you are asking, and to gather their thoughts. The silence can be difficult for an educator. I often feel the urge to provide a number of “correct” answers. However, after waiting 6 to 8 seconds, I now say, “Any guesses?” or “There isn’t a wrong answer!” I find that this has been quite successful with my learners as then there is less anxiety in participating.

Step 3: Promote Discussion amongst your Students

Once a student has piped up, draw other students into the discussion. You can for instance ask another student, “What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with what __________ is saying?” Then further probe. Ensure that once students have answered, that you demonstrate that you’ve understood them by paraphrasing what they have said. This is especially important as validation is a key characteristic to adult learners (discussed previously in this post).

Step 4: Review

For more involved questions, you may review all the input students have provided. This aids with retention, and also gives a complete picture of what was discussed. This review could be led by students if you wish to incorporate active learning.

An Example of the Approach

I’ve used this approach to create divergent questions as I typically am more organic and impulsive with questions on the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. I first went through my lesson plans and identified learning tasks where divergent questions would be appropriate. For instance, in online surveys (the subject matter of my classes), students have the ability to allow respondents to go back to previous questions. Alternatively, they may decide to not allow this at all. I write in my lesson plan to pose the question: “Would you allow respondents to go back to previous questions in your survey?” There isn’t truly a wrong answer to this question.

Students typically answer this question in three ways: 1) No, I wouldn’t allow it, and 2) Yes, I would allow it, and 3) I would allow it for only some questions. For whichever answer a student chooses, I would then encourage the discussion and ask why. I would then ask if there was a student that thought otherwise and their reasoning.

If there isn’t a student that identifies an alternative perspective, I may introduce one and fuel the discussion. For instance, let’s say a student answered my question with, “Yes. you should allow the to go back and change their answer in a previous question on the survey…because what if they made a mistake. This would give you more accurate data because they can correct it.” If other students do not disagree, I may play devil’s advocate and say, “But what if they change their answer to avoid answering MORE survey questions because they figured out the survey logic for skipping. Would “No” be better for accurate data?” This discussion can go on for awhile as there are many benefits and challenges with each possible answer.

At the end of this activity, I then conduct a review. I prefer that students lead this. I divide students up in groups to represent one of the possible answers to the divergent question and ask each camp to summarize what it is we have discovered with each possible answer.

Introverted Students, Positive Learning Environments, and Classroom Management

This journal entry gives insights on introverted students. How do we create a positive learning environment for them? How do we manage the classroom so that they are included and recognized? After completing this entry, I actually found an additional related resource that would be worth visiting: http://www.transformativeclassroom.com/more.php?axi

Objective

“In the Ted Talks video,(http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html), Susan Cain shares her insight on introversion. Here’s the summary from the Ted Talks website:

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Cain discusses how school and work environments are geared towards stimulating extroverts, and ignore the low-key stimulation that introverts need.

Here’s the full video:

Reflective

Upon watching the video above, I thought, “Oh, thank goodness! Someone has finally said it!”

Interpretive

Much like Cain, I am more introverted, and have felt the pressures to be more extroverted. For instance, once upon a time, I was once in an impromptu meeting with senior executives to discuss the development of a training program. After the meeting, I emailed them some additional thoughts I had on what was said. Their reply was a professional scolding for not sharing these thoughts during the meeting. The senior executives used negative reinforcement to promote extroversion when I felt that I should have been given positive feedback for further exploring the ideas in a deeper manner– a natural activity for an introvert.

I didn’t always identify myself as an introvert. For a long time, I was in denial about this characteristic. This denial came from my need to be accepted in a society that values extroverts. I did everything I could to be a social and personable individual and ignored the uncomfortable feeling of being in a high-stimulation environment.

Because of the pressures to be extroverted, I chose to study Marketing and Communication in university. I thought that if I were surrounded by extroverts (typical of the Marketing and Communication disciplines) that I would somehow transform into a social butterfly. I also thought that I could become an outgoing individual if I studied these disciplines because the subject matter was about about interacting with the public and strangers.

When I obtained my degree, and started my career, I ended up being an educator (software trainer). The pressure to build rapport with strangers (i.e. my clients/learners) was so great that I had gone as far as Googling, “how to make small talk”. I suppose this search itself demonstrates how much of an introvert I am — engaging in research and deep thought ABOUT socializing versus taking the more extroverted approach and heading into a crowd and thriving from the energy and potential experience.

I believe at this point I realized that I was more of an introvert than an extrovert. The evidence was surmounting:

  • I prefer individual activities in my free time like reading, knitting, running, and yoga.
  • I find that I am mentally exhausted after socializing. Even being around large crowds of people is tiresome.
  • I find high-stimulation environments distracting.
  • I tend not to ask others about themselves as I feel that I would be intruding.

Now that I’ve watched Cain’s talk and have recognized the pressures that society has put on introverts, I feel the need to modify my teaching approach to create a positive learning environment that fosters both extroverts and introverts.

Currently, in my training sessions, introverted students are pressured to be extroverted in order to be considered good performers. All class activities are collaborative in nature. There are no activities where learners are independent (unless you get a session with one student). In the sessions, the trainers are constantly passing mouse control to students and facilitating group discussions.

Decisional

In creating a balanced menu of learning activities, my department will need to adopt and create tasks that stimulate introverts and extroverts. For example, we could pose a discussion question for learners to take with them to think about outside of the training session. In the next session, we would have students communicate their findings. The chance to reflect and think critically outside of class would satisfy the yearning of introverts to engage in deep thought, and the presentation of information in the following session would satisfy the stimulation that extroverts need. This is just one example. I feel my training team will need an arsenal of these activities. I will set up a brainstorming meeting. (By the way, I like how these journals give me so many great ideas for my team. My team members are often excited when I let them know my findings from these entries.)

However, what I should point out is that no individual is completely introverted or completely extroverted. So likely, these activities would not cause severe cases of anxiety in students.

Another action item would be to create a pre-course quiz that would actually let students know if they are more on the introverted or extroverted side. I know that many assume they are more of one over the other, but sometimes these results can be surprising. This information can be revealing because students who are actually more introverted may discover that they are actually behaving like extroverts because of societal pressures (which can be stressful for introverts). This can provide them with insight about how they learn best and give them a sense of ownership in helping the trainers mold the session to their needs. This empowers students to learn the way they want – which is an intrinsic motivator.