Archive for the ‘ Concept ’ Category

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.

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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?

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.

 

Classroom Management & Adult Education

What is Classroom Management?

Classroom Management is “the process of ensuring that classroom lessons run smoothly despite disruptive behavior by students. The term also implies the prevention of disruptive behavior.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classroom_management)

Disruptive behaviour from one student distracts the focus of other students. It negatively impacts learning.

Examples of Disruptive Behaviour

Here are examples of disruptive behaviour that I’ve seen from students:

  • Being late for class
  • Distracted by their mobile devices
  • Chatting amongst themselves
  • Interrupting the educator or other students

Before you move onto the next section, think about how you would handle these situations.

Strategies & Tactics for Managing Disruptions

The following resource provides an excellent table for handling disruptions.

http://www.4faculty.org/includes/108r2.jsp

To summarize, it looks at disruptions like the undermining of the instructor’s authority, leaving class too frequently, spacing out, cellphone distractions, monopolizing discussions, etc. We’ll be exploring these further in detail (relating it back to my training experience in later posts)

The solutions in the table encourage educators to recognize students as human beings, and to understand the behaviour at a deeper level. Read on for an example. I’ve taken a real life experience and have demonstrated how the solution is applied in such a scenario.

An Real-Life Example of Classroom Management

Here’s a classroom management situation that I’ve been in before. In one of my classes, I had a student who constantly interrupted me, asking about course content that would be discussed in later sessions or interjecting with how his own experiences related to the course content.

In managing this, I took the following steps:

  • Assess the source of this behaviour: For instance, is the student angry, excited, anxious? In my case, I could sense the student’s excitement. I also wasn’t afraid to ask the student questions about the current course materials to assess his feelings. For instance, at the end of the class, I may ask, “How did you feel about the course content we covered today?”
  • Validate the student: Show appreciation for their excitement. Let’s be real here, excited students are a gem. In my case, I told the student, “I’m really loving your energy and enthusiasm! It’s refreshing to see someone so gung-ho about what this software tool can do for them!”
  • Take action to correct the behaviour: This does not necessarily mean that we sit down and have a serious one-on-one talk to the student. There are soft approaches that can prove to be effective. In my case, I took better care to go back to the Course Agenda (where all the topics are laid out) to show what was covered and where we were going. I also devoted some time to explaining why the information was laid out this way. This was enough to correct the behaviour. I also adopted this technique in future classes as a preventative measure. As mentioned earlier, classroom management is about preventing disruptive behaviour as much as it is addressing it during class. I also ensured to incorporate more activities that would be an opportunity for the student to share his experiences and how it relates to the course.

What happens if that wasn’t enough and the student continued to display the disruptive behaviour? I would incorporate more strategies that allowed the student to become the expert on the knowledge. This would provide them with a deeper understanding of why the course content is laid out in the way it is. The Jigsaw Strategy comes to mind. This strategy would also allow the student to incorporate his experiences as example as an approach to teaching it to his jigsaw group. See this post about the Jigsaw Instructional Strategy.

So how did this match up with the table given in the resource in the previous section? In the table, it suggests in handling the student, we should do the following:

Many students are excited and talkative so it might be good to give them a few class periods to settle in. However, if it’s evident right away that this is a trend, it’s best to ask them to stay after class. You might approach them initially by saying that you are pleased with the amount of enthusiasm they have for discussion but were hoping that they have suggestions for getting the other class members equally involved. The student will most likely get your drift with minimal humiliation.

From this resource, it’s evident that I should also wait to see if the behaviour continues before addressing it. However, I feel preventative action can always be taken to ensure the class runs smoothly. Thus, I can still show the agenda more frequently and be more open about how the course I laid out. I also like the idea of asking the disruptive student to help in getting other students involved. This is using a very clever instructional strategy to promote active learning.

Looking for more posts about Classroom Management? Click the category in the sidebar! As well, be sure to check out the Resources menu (specifically, Other Resources) for more Classroom management resources.

Four Steps – Planning for Learning How to Learn

If students understand how they can learn, then they can utilize the tools that they know would work for them. This awareness of the process of learning is discussed quite a bit in my post about Metacognition. Check out that post for some tools that you can use with your students.

Another useful tool I found is from the Study Guides and Strategies website: http://www.studygs.net/metacognitiona.htm

According to the Study Guides and Strategies website, there are 4 steps in learning to learn:

  1. Begin with the Past
  2. Proceed to the Present
  3. Consider the Process and Subject Matter
  4. Build in a Review

On the website, there are questions that belong to each of the above steps that can help students develop their strategies to learn.

Students should first begin with the past and assess the strategies that have worked for them before. They can ask themselves questions like, “What is your experience about how you learn?”, “Did you like quiet or study groups?”, “What are your study habits?”, “What has worked, and what hasn’t?”

Then they assess the present and ask themselves questions like, “How interested am I in this?”, “What affects my dedication to learning?”, “Do I have a plan? Does the plan consider my past and learning style?”

Next, students consider the process and subject matter by asking themselves, “What is the heading/title and keywords that jump out?”, “As I study, do I ask myself whether I understand?”, “Should I go more quickly or more slowly?”, “If I don’t understand, do I ask why?”

Lastly, students build in a review and ask themselves, “What did I do right?”, “What could I do better?”, “Did my plan coincide with how I work with my strengths and weaknesses?”

Check out the website for more questions within each of the four steps.

When would you have students go through an exercise like this? Before a project or exam? At the beginning of the course?

I think for my own training scenario, I would have students go through an exercise like this before the course starts or at the beginning of the first class. I would then incorporate a group activity where they share with other students techniques that work for them. This can help other students adopt new techniques they haven’t tried before in learning.

Questioning Techniques – Purpose and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Why use Questioning in the Classroom?

Guy Claxton, Professor in Education and Director of CLIO Development University of Bristol (source: http://teachertools.londongt.org/?page=questioningTechniques) states that…

[q]uestioning enables teachers to check learners’ understanding. It also benefits learners as itencourages engagement and focuses their thinking on key concepts and ideas.

I agree with what Claxton is saying. Think back to being a student. What provoked you to think about something in a deeper way? When an educator asked questions, or when  he/she who lectured and made statements? It’s likely the former. As well, I find that by using questioning techniques, it makes for a more interactive class. No longer is the educator at the front of the room talking and filling the heads of students like a vessel.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Questioning Techniques

Bloom’s Taxonomy can provide you with guidance for the types of questions you can ask your students.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a pyramid that illustrates the levels of learning and thinking. Educators aim for higher levels of learning and thinking in their students, however, one should note that levels of learning and thinking at the bottom of the pyramid need to be present before students can move up the pyramid.

The table from the University of Victoria Counselling Services webpage (http://www.coun.uvic.ca/learning/exams/blooms-taxonomy.html) gives a definition of each level and question cues.

If you’re more of an audiovisual learner, please check out this video:

To summarize these two sources, see the table below. I’ve also added examples to each.

Level

Definition

Question Cue

Knowledge At this level, students are asked to recall factual information in an objective manner.For example, “List the document types that you can create in Google Docs.” list, define, tell, describe, identify, show, label, collect, examine, tabulate, quote, name, who, when, where, etc.
Comprehension At this level, students are asked to demonstrate their understanding of the information. This may include interpreting facts, predict consequences, and translate knowledge into new context.For example, “Differentiate between Spreadsheets and Fusion Tables in Google Docs.” summarize, describe, interpret, contrast, predict, associate, distinguish, estimate, differentiate, discuss, extend
Application At this levels, students are asked to use information, methods, concepts, theories in new situations. They may also be asked to solve problems.For example, “Relate the Two Factor motivational theory for job satisfaction to the educational setting.” apply, demonstrate, calculate, complete, illustrate, show, solve, examine, modify, relate, change, classify, experiment, discover
Analysis At this level, students use information to identify patterns or components, recognize hidden meanings, and organize part.For example, “Explain what the sample cross tabulation report is showing.” analyze, separate, order, explain, connect, classify, arrange, divide, compare, select, explain, infer
Synthesis At this level, students use old ideas to create new ones, generalize from given facts, relate knowledge from several areas, and draw conclusions.For example, “Prepare a plan of how you will use the software tool to support your business process.” combine, integrate, modify, rearrange, substitute, plan, create, design, invent, what if?, compose, formulate, prepare, generalize, rewrite
Evaluation At this level, students assess values of theories, makes choices based on reasoned argument, recognize subjectivity. The use of critical thinking is essential here.For example, “Recommend a solution for the business based on your assessment of related theories.” assess, decide, rank, grade, test, measure, recommend, convince, select, judge, explain, discriminate, support, conclude, compare, summarize

From the table, as students are close to the top of the pyramid, they are move involved with knowledge and information.  However, there is value in questions at the lower level of the pyramid. They can help students build familiarity with course concepts before they move into synthesis and evaluation. There is an appropriate time for questions in each level in Bloom’s Taxonomy.

For example, if I as an educator have just introduced a new theory, I would not ask students to rank this theory against others (Evaluation) without ensuring that students comprehend the theory and others first.

For more posts about Questioning Techniques, click the Questioning Techniques category  in the sidebar.

Creative Thinking & Adult Education

What is Creative Thinking?

Before we jump into the relationship of Creative Thinking to Adult Education, we should first define what Creative Thinking is. According to Infinite Innovations Ltd. (as cited from here: http://www.brainstorming.co.uk/tutorials/creativethinking.html), “Creative thinking is the process which we use when we come up with a new idea. It is the merging of ideas which have not been merged before.”

Moving away from the abstract, here’s an example of Creative Thinking (Source: http://psnetwork.org.nz/what-are-the-benefits-of-creative-thinking):

3M chemists were experimenting with glues and accidentally came up with one that was so weak you could peel it right back off. A glue that won’t hold? Quite a problem. But this problem was also a solution, as it inspired the creation of Post-It Notes.

Pairing this example to the definition, we see the merging of two ideas: Paper and Weak Glue. We also see that the problem (weak glue) is an opportunity for innovation.

Creative thinking could also be seen as using something or a concept in an unordinary way. See the next image of binder clips used to organize wires.

Binder clips are intended to keep papers together, but here, it is used outside of what it is intended and is an effective solution for organization.

What are the benefits of Creative Thinking?

Here are some of the benefits of Creative Thinking according to the The Network of Public Sector Communicators (source: http://psnetwork.org.nz/what-are-the-benefits-of-creative-thinking/):

  • Lets you explore new avenues of thought
  • investigates a wider range of solutions to the problem
  • allows everybody to contribute ideas
  • can lead to ground-breaking achievements
  • focuses on getting results

From what we’ve seen from the two examples, creative thinking allows us to become better problem solvers and to rise to the occasion when faced with a challenge. Tim Brown in his TedTalks speech about creativity and play supports this and states that the sense of play (i.e. creativity) helps us to get better solutions and do our jobs better.

By practicing creative thinking, students can transfer the skill and benefits out of the classroom and into their professional and everyday lives.

Instructional Strategies for Creative Thinking in Adult Education

To foster Creative Thinking in the classroom, the very first factor to consider is building a positive learning environment.  In his speech, Brown mentions that adults can be conservative with their ideas because they fear being judged. Look for posts about Positive Learning Environments by clicking on the Category in the sidebar.

Brown mentions the following for fostering creativity:

  • Exploration: Going for quantity over quality. For example, Brown asked his audience to fill up as many of the circles on a sheet of paper in a 30 second timeframe. It could be smiley faces, patterns, objects, etc. My interpretation of this is that quantity is key as it forces the participants to speed up and not think about whether the idea is feasible or not. Essentially, it is to lower any barriers to creative thinking.
  • Building and thinking with your hands: This typically involves making low-end prototypes out of ordinary objects. Brown gave the example of roll-on deodorant and the first commercial computer mouse for Apple Lisa and Macintosh.
  • Role playing: This can help us have more empathy. For instance, acting out the problem and solution and seeing how it works. Brown gives an example of how one individual wanted to understand the pain felt by chronic care patients and had his chest waxed.

Role playing is used primarily in my virtual training sessions. For example, I teach students about creating forums, and reading reports. However, there is a module of the course where the students need to go through what the experience is like for their forum participants. The purpose of this module is so that my students can empathize and understand what that experience is like for their intended audience so that they can focus on building an engaging forum.

Looking for more instructional strategies that foster creative thinking? Try this website: http://www.squidoo.com/creative-techniques. It lists Assumption busting techniques, brainstorming, Edison’s Idea File, Koinonia (Generate by brainstorming with others in your field), Lateral Thinking, The Lotus Blossom Approach, Mind Maps, Introduce a Random Element, Reverse Brainstorming, and Scamper. Some of these techniques will be discussed in later posts. To pull up all posts about Creative Thinking, click the Creative Thinking Category in the sidebar.