Chapter 16 – Resistance to Learning

The author started with an interesting perspective: We teach what we love so we do not understand why students do not want to learn. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me. I think I only like teaching, but not the academic English I teach. I have problems memorizing those rules myself, and found them annoying if I do not use them every day (as an academic scholar) Therefore, I do understand why they do not want to learn and why they cannot learn well. Perhaps this is what the author suggested: to use ourselves to understand resistance.

I do not quite agree with many of the points made by the author on learning resistance, such as poor self-image disjunctions of styles and fears of unknown/change. Perhaps I always position what I teach as a kind of skills, i.e. citation skills and their proficiency in English play a role only. Also, the education and exam system are demotivating enough, so students do not position the above problems as problems, i.e. they are used to it. Having said that, some of the points made by the author are still valid, such as the pace of less, the attitude of students towards the teacher, and teacher’s instructional ability. I think only classroom-based issues like these will affect students’ learning resistance.

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Advertisements

Program accreditation

laurentian-sign.jpg

Photo Source: CBC News (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/laurentian-university-social-work-programs-accreditation-1.3803591)

 

Program accreditation (I only realize I am using the British spelling when I do the search) did not seem to be a huge matter to me in my own Hong Kong context. An accreditation (/ validation) exercise can be conducted by a statutory body, to accredit the level of qualifications, but it can be conducted by a professional body to recognize the professional status of their graduates (e.g. Engineers, Nurses, and Social Workers). I attend quite a number of interviews and spent a year of my career to go through the entire accreditation process for a newly established Vocational English Program. I thought that it is a simple peer review process which faculty submits documents and members attend meetings. Eventually, the program will receive some recommendations from the panel and some conditions if there are some mandatory requirements.

I looked for some cases of losing accreditation in Canada, and I found them quite interesting. For example, Laurentian University in Ontario will lose its accreditation status for its Social Work programme if it cannot hire enough faculty members (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/laurentian-university-social-work-programs-accreditation-1.3803591). This is an amusing case to me, because I cannot imagine how a university faculty that offers academic program not to have sufficient (or close-to-sufficient) number of staff members. This program was requested to hire nine more staff members. Of course, it can be hard to look for an appropriate staff member for some specialize areas, but I thought professoriate staff members are more stable and they do not always just resign together. Therefore, I doubt if this is more of a management issue.

University of Ottawa will lose its accreditation status for its residency program in neurosurgery (http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/u-of-o-receives-notice-of-intent-to-withdraw-accreditation-of-neurosurgery-program) because of a list of weaknesses of the program. I am not familiar with the operation of a medical program at all, but I think this is more a political issue than a program quality issues. For example, on the list of weaknesses, a lot of the issues are about how the “students” spend their time and one of those being “Concern the program doesn’t allow residents to take on increasing responsibility in the operating room, due to lack of delegation by faculty”. Few of these weaknesses are about the inadequacy of certain areas for the program.

In fact, I read one more about Law program in the Trinity West University and I think that was even more about politics.

All these seem to me that the problem of losing accreditation is not something that can be dealt with by frontline teachers. It seems that many of the problems are political instead of academic.

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

A Reflection of PIDP

I have to complete four PIDP course before proceeding to the project. PIDP 3260 is my third course, before completing the course on media-enhanced learning. I wanted to complete a PIDP because I want to teach in Canada after completing the course. Most of the tasks I do are not country-specific so I just learn a bit more about teaching / interactions with students and reinforce some well-rooted principles in my heart.

I think the most important learning point would be the interactions with other classmates in Canada. In the first course, I talked to a teacher who teaches engineers. Even though the discussion is more about professional issues such as having authentic equipment, I start to find that teaching can be, to a certain extent, similar in different places. In this course, I meet another teacher in Canada. I enjoy the online discussion with him, as I start to see the differences in the standards when talking about ethical issues. The line is drawn differently because of the cultural difference. I really enjoy the discussion because I should understand such difference earlier than later. I realize that there are certain assumptions that should not be made in Canada. I think these are very important to me when I start my teaching career in Canada.

I can not think of some very similar action to allow me to talk to people in Canada more often. But I will pay attention to professional conferences host in Canada which I got chances to talk to people again.

Water Cooler Gossip

Photo source: http://www.changingthefaceofchristianity.com/opinions-and-editorials/why-people-talk-about-other-people/

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Chapter 6 – Lecturing Creatively

Even though I do not know when and I do know how, lectures become a symbol boredom and ineffective teaching suggested by the author. I have mixed feeling about this as a student. On one hand, lectures, to me when I was an undergraduate, symbolize the progression from secondary school to university. Secondary school teachers teach and university lecturers lecture. However, I was disappointed because there were only 30 students doing my English degree and it did not make much difference. Now, looking back to my undergraduate studies, lecture, in fact, reflects the communication style but not the setting. In other words, I was still having lectures in a tiny classroom that the professor spoke without any interactions with students. This kind of one-way communication is what the author tries to change.

I think some of the ways he suggested is more useful than the others. The use of Buzz groups and clickers are techniques I use very often myself. I also walk a lot and speak from the back of the classroom to allow students to move their body in class. I think these are useful. However, I do not think skills that make the lecture organized are helpful. For example, posting signs in classrooms and let students think differently may not be helpful in my English for Academic Purposes classroom. Also, techniques like asking questions at the beginning or at the end of a class do inspire students to think and reflect and do not help change the communication style of a lecture. To a certain extent, these techniques may be useful to the author’s critical thinking class than other classes.

 Now, to echo what I said in the first paragraph, I still have missed feelings about lectures as a teacher. On one hand, I should be glad that I never have more than 25 students in my English classroom as a teacher. (at most 45 in my career) With me asking students questions frequently, students may only be annoyed, but bored. Having said that, I need to do a lot to prepare for class if I want to have a really interactive class (i.e. not one-way). I am always given good notes, but the notes only contain paper-based exercises and making those exercises interactive takes time and effort. Therefore, I still keep the communication rather one-way if I do not have much time to prepare for class.

The picture below was taken from my own university, promoting active learning in lectures. I am teaching in a similar classroom with movable chairs on Monday this semester. The setting may give me a better reason to prepare for an interactive class, perhaps……

interactive-lectures
Source: http://steelcaseap.asia/educational/en/stories.php

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Chapter 4 – What students value in teachers

When I was looking for a chapter for my blog entry, I thought that this chapter is good because there is a sentence I can work on for my reflective writing task. However, I find reading this chapter rewarding and inspiring when I started.

Reading this chapter is rewarding because it reinforces what I think. This chapter describes some of the qualities that teachers should have. Without reading it again, some of the points I recall are being an expert in the area I teach, being a person to be well expected, and being a real person. I feel that I am not perfectly competent with I teach, but I feel that students like me because I have been doing these. In fact, I always tell my class that “You may not agree with this, but this is what I will do and this is who I am.” Also, I always describe what the marking rubrics mean and mark in the same way. However, I sometimes feel that doing that may just encourage the students to achieve what they wanted, without going further. In other words, students may still do what they have to do if they just aim at a grade “C”. In any cases, despite my worry, doing what the author suggested has been my practice and I feel rewarding when reading this chapter.

 I am somehow inspired by what the author suggested as well. Quite a number of points, to me, are only valid in a Chinese or an Asian culture. This includes the need of having an authoritarian person in class, and not having students asking questions. These are quite common in a classroom with Chinese students / Asian students. However, the author still points out these in his book. I then did some further research on Stephen D. Brookfield and found that he has not taught in Asia / China (http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/). Of course, it is possible that he worked with immigrants. Still I think it is interesting to know that some qualities of students are quite similar across different cultures.

Brookfield Portrait.jpgSource: http://www.stephenbrookfield.com/

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Lifelong Learning

Unfortunately, lifelong learning can not be avoided among professionals.

Lifelong learning certainly means an improvement in skills/ competence through professional experience. In other words, professionals will learn to be smarter when handling the same situation when they have faced such situation for the second time. From my experience, I learn how to deal with the attendance of part-time students in a smarter way through experience. In my second year of my teaching career, I was a bit mean with my part-time students, in implementing the institutional attendance policy and received a number of complaints from students. Now, I know I have to handle this tactfully, considering the needs of part-time students and the policy I got. I believe this kind of on-the-job training will be similar to other professionals.

Other than learning from experience, lifelong learning can mean gaining new skills by learning them formally. I am quite certain that I am the pioneer of computers in my generation that I learn how to use computers at 6. My parents were amazed when they know that a computer can play a music CD. Similarly, I was the first few teachers who bring a thumb drive to class for teaching. Now, still, I have to formally learn how to use the cloud drive to store my files and not to bring any (seemingly) sensitive materials to class. This kind of formal learning process is important in this era when everything is changing so quickly. In my own context, it is not necessary to document this kind of formal learning. However, other professionals will have to document their formal learning and name them as “Continuous Professional Development” hours, to be a requirement for their renewal of professional membership.

At the end of the day, lifelong learning cannot be avoided, if we are still serving in the industry.

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Brookfield, S – Chapter 8 (Teaching in Diverse Classrooms )

Teaching in Diverse Classrooms 

I have learned a lot when reading this chapter, as I did not imagine what kinds of diversity I would be facing in a Canadian classroom. I have only taught a group with local and exchange students (mainland China), while mainland China students tend to be weaker but more motivated. I have also taught a class with older students (over 40 years old) and younger students (18 years old). When comparing to what the author discussed, the diversity I was facing seems minimal. I cannot imagine myself teaching a class with different colours (Black, White, Brown [not to mention yellow, myself]). It seems that the author offered a number of good suggestions, team teaching, mixing groups, mixing approaches, changing communication styles.

With a second thought, I am not so optimistic. I do not see I have much flexibility in doing team teaching. Also, it does not seem practical to mix the groups in different ways nor to teach differently for each type of students. I meant, do we really have the time and energy to tailor-make materials for different types of groups? I wonder.

Even though I am not so optimistic, I am quite sure that individualized follow-up may still  help. I have been using this approach when I was teaching in my diverse classroom. I tend to talk to students individually during exercise time / break time and after class. I also send them emails to follow up with them. It seems that students who want to catch up with the progress will react positively despite being an inactive member in class. As the author suggested, diversity can never be fully addressed. My approach may help and I still need to explore other approaches suggested by the author (and other colleagues).

diversity

Image Source: https://nutrition.tufts.edu/about/diversity

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Unprofessional behaviours

I was just looking for something fun on Youtube and found this video. The actors seem to be students but it was just fun to see what behaviors were identified as unprofessional in a classroom.

In my own context, my university does have a code of practice document, outlining a number of professional and ethical issues. The ideas presented in those guidebooks tend to be brief and general. For example, the guidebook would not illustrate what it means by professional behaviours and unprofessional behaviors. It will only briefly mention the needs of behaving professionally. On one hand, this means that teaching staff like me should be “professional” enough to judge what it means to be professional / unprofessional. On the other hand, examples of professional / unprofessional behaviors are not exhaustive. It will not be easy to list them all out, from time to time. Therefore, these guidebooks tend to be brief.

Most important of all, it is us, the teacher, at the bottom of our heart, who should make the professional judgment and behave in a professional manner.

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

Career Ladder

Where am I professionally?

I think I am at the entry point of the higher education teaching career. After teaching in various vocational and community colleges, I now teach in a university as an instructor. I can move up to take a more senior position in my teaching-focused centre. Or I can keep on teaching in my current position. In fact, there are colleagues, local (Hong Kong) and expatriate who will retire from this position with a decent salary.

Where I would like to be in five years?

I hope I will have moved to Canada in five years.

When I finished my doctoral degree, my thesis supervisor (who is a Canadian) said that I would not be able to start an academic career in Canada and is more feasible to consider teaching in a vocational college in Canada. I then start my PIDP.

 Now, I got a paper accepted in a decent journal and a book chapter to be published (+ a few more papers to be submitted). I start to think about an entry position in academic career in Canada again.

 In fact, I just want to teach (or work as an educational technologist) in a tertiary institution in Canada and do not have a preference how far I can go.

Living happily with my family is my life goal, and I just look for a job (not even a career) that can support this.

%e6%9c%aa%e5%91%bd%e5%90%8d-1

Image Source: Personal Photo

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 

An education-related article: College and the read world

I have never read anything from Faculty Focus before, so I looked for an article there and found this interesting article. This article was written by a college teacher describing the difference between the college and the real world to the students. This article took a more macro approach to describe the differences but this triggered me to think about this problem my own context.

college

I have been engaged in teaching engineering students how to write a Project Proposal. I was told by the subject leader that the A-grade proposals are those that really get funding for their project (from those engineering-related grants). After teaching this subject for several years, I am still a bit confused about the features of a good proposal (a very good one).

At the end of the day, the problem is I cannot tell the difference between the college and the real world if I do not know that myself. For sure, I know how to present a professional proposal in a general context and I know the grammar rules at the sentence level. With these, I can tell students how to write a good proposal, but I do not think I can tell them how to write a very good proposal. For example, I am not sure if I know how to convince a group of engineers to accept a proposal.

It seems that language teaching is a strange discipline. In a way, we try to be an expert (in language), but we are not (in a particular discipline). As a result, the students know that our requirement is different from the professor / the real world. This makes the situation even more complicated.

 

Creative Commons License
Course Assignment for PIDP by Dennis Foung is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.