Tag Archives: Classroom Etiquette

Cool Tools

Until PIDP 3240 I had never heard of Web 2.0 tools.  But now, thanks to my colleagues, I am up-to-date with the lingo and have discovered a plethora of cool tools that can be used in the classroom, for teaching prep, for getting organized, for designing graphics, for blogging, and even for travelling!

I discovered Kahoot – a Web 2.0 tool that sounds super fun, and it’s FREE!  It allows users to design games that can be used in the classroom.  Basically it’s a new, modern interactive way to present multiple choice questions (videos and animations can also be added).  The students then respond to the questions on their personal devices, and all results are compiled on the classroom projector (so that all students look up).  The site boasts that it’s easy as 1-2-3, and it really does look that easy and the slogan is Learn Happy Learn Loud.  Sounds like it would make for a fun class!  My students are always requesting to play review games – I might have to try this one!  My only hesitation is that it requires students to use their personal devices and a) not every may be comfortable or willing to do this, and b) do I really want to encourage students to be using their devices during class?  Sure, the instruction would be to use just for Kahoot, but it may be harder for students to turn them off when the game is done.  Nothing is ever perfect….sigh.

Here’s a tutorial video:


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My first infographic!

It is well-documented that instructors must receive and respond to feedback in order to improve their teaching practices.  As instructors, we ought to seek out feedback from our students and our peers (self-directed learning).  One formal way of doing this is by using a Critical Incident Questionnaire.  I chose to design an infographic for the digital media project in PIDP 3260.  I had never made an infographic before, but I’m pleased with how it looks.  Next up is actually using the CIQ in the class!

CIQ Infographic

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March 13, 2016 · 4:22 am

Keeping Your Cool

Yes, college instructors are professionals, but they are also human.  We always try to be calm, cool and collected, but sometimes students make this very difficult!

There can be many factors that might lead to an instructor blow-up (or meltdown)…classroom behavioral issues, unmotivated students, being challenged on something, feeling attacked on a personal level, stress/pressures from administration, or maybe we’re just having a bad day.  Regardless, it’s our responsibility to keep it together.  Image result for college instructors angryThis can be challenging, especially in the heat of the moment.  In a recent experience with a disrespectful and disengaged learner (see The Resistant Learner), I found that my emotions escalated very quickly and could have gotten involved in a very childish (“Yes, you are!” “No, I’m not!”) kind of argument.  Luckily I stopped myself, saving myself from acting unprofessionally and becoming involved in a pointless argument.

So, to help this from happening to you, here are a few strategies to help you stay calm and avoid doing something that you will regret:

  1. Take a deep breath and try to understand the situation. Listen objectively and with an open mind.  Ignore rudeness, and respond to the content of what the student is saying.
  2. Call for a break.  Use the break time to either speak with the offending student privately, or take a break yourself.  Don’t bring your frustration back into the class with you.
  3. Request to speak with the offending student after the class, or if you need more time to simmer down, in your next office hours session.
  4. If you feel yourself getting worked up, imagine your department head walks into your classroom.  What are they going to see? hear?  This might help you keep things professional.
  5. Take time for reflection after each class.  If things went well, why?  If you “lost your cool” – why?  Was it something that could have been prevented?  Or should you have handled the situation sooner? or in a different way?

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Team Teaching

“As teachers we all bring different gifts, and handicaps, to the table” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102).

This quote originates from Brookfield’s (2015) chapter on teaching successfully in diverse classrooms. He suggests that no matter how much effort an instructor makes on meeting the diverse needs of each learner, he or she will never be fully successful.  Brookfield proposes the idea of team teaching – where two or three instructors with “different racial identities, talents, and personalities form a teaching team” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 102).  Having a team of instructors teach a course will generate more opportunities for the varied learning needs of students to be met.  One instructor who wrote an article on her experience with team teaching stated, “we magnified each other’s successes and minimized each other’s failures” (Tomlinson, 2015, p. 90). 

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  So why aren’t we seeing it in our classrooms?  Most likely because of the budget.  It’s an unfortunate but true fact that post-secondary education administration is more focused on budget than on learning.  And of course they need to balance the books.  But we’re doing a disservice to our students when we don’t make “maximizing learning” the primary focus in every aspect of adult education.

Although I don’t foresee team teaching due to fiscal constraints, I can still try to help meet the diverse needs of learners.  I am obligated to try to offer the variety of teaching methods that students would receive if they had multiple instructors. Bain (2004) tells us that outstanding teachers conduct class in a multitude of ways: sometimes visual, other times auditory, individual and group work, learning sequentially and globally.  This would require a real commitment to self-reflection and making changes that may be challenging but would increase student learning.  And what Bain (2004) and Brookfield (2015) both agree on, is that the best teachers do whatever it is that helps students to learn.


Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tomlinson, C.A. (2015). Teaching in tandem: A reflection. Educational Leadership, December 2015/January 2016, 90-91.

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How Not To Be A Jerk: In A Lecture

I came across this entertaining blog post – some good tips for students!

How Not To Be A Jerk

ImageOne of the main features of university life is sitting through seemingly endless lectures. In most degrees, lectures are going to be a pretty major part of the learning process. Some will be the kind of lecture that you look forward to, either because it’s a great topic that you’re super interested in, or because you fancy the lecturer. Unfortunately, it’s much more likely that lectures will be a chore that you feel happy to skip should you sleep in an extra 10 minutes and realise that coffee beforehand is no longer an option. Considering how most lectures are already going to be tough, I’ve put together some tips on how to make each one a little bit better for all of us. To do this, I’ve used my vast experience in attending the first three lectures of any given subject I’m supposed to be doing.

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Program accreditation = the dreaded visit whereby strangers visit your workplace, look at and ask for random information, and then decide the fate of your workplace/program’s reputation.

Although accreditation happens on a regular basis, and the criteria is known in advance, universities still struggle to meet its demands.  Look at McGill University – in Feb. 2015, their prestigious medical school was assessed and found to have not met several of the criteria set out by the accrediting body, and was subsequently put on probation.  It was noted that some of the issues were administrative, and also that some of the problems were due to the fact that they were in the middle of changing to a new curriculum.  Regardless, McGill’s dean of medicine, David Eidelman admits, “There’s no excuse for being on probation, so any explanation is not an excuse […]”. 

It’s interesting, when I read through the actual report, so many of the issues were simply a result of poor communication between the department (policies, instructional inconsistencies, administrative factors) and the students.  For example, the report indicates that “the majority of students interviewed were not aware of the overall education program objectives”.  How does this happen!?  Policies, objectives, course requirements, etc. are all important elements in a program guide.  Not only does this information need to be given to the students, it needs to be reviewed with them.  And the instructor should ensure that the students understand the information (maybe a little formative evaluation would help?).  I’m sure that students in the medicine program are just bombarded with information, especially when they are just beginning the program.  And I’m sure the expectation is that they  read through the documents independently.  These are adults, after all – and future doctors, at that!  But it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t working.  There are certain things that need to be specifically reviewed with the students…I’d suggest that if McGill wants to maintain it’s accreditation, they not forget about these “little things” – because that could cost them their program.

To read the article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/mcgill-s-medical-school-put-on-probation-by-accrediting-body-1.3117241

The accreditation report: https://www.mcgill.ca/medicine/files/medicine/2015_june_-_mcgill_-_full_survey_-_accreditation_letter.pdf

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Violation of academic freedom or professional misconduct?

I just came across a very interesting article (Jan. 4, 2016) about Michael Persinger, an experienced professor who begins his first-year psychology class by asking students to sign an agreement to his use of vulgar language.  Two months into the course, he was informed that he would no longer be teaching the class, as he had violated the college’s respectful workplace policy.

Known worldwide for his research on the human brain, Michael Persinger also won the TVO Best Lecturer Award in 2007.

Professor Michael Persinger


It’s a challenging situation – balancing professional conduct with personal teaching styles.  His motive was to help students learn, so that they are comfortable asking questions, partaking in discussions, and to help develop critical thinking skills.  But does this make it right?

The college is arguing for protecting the respectful workplace environment, and the teacher’s association is fighting back for freedom of teaching and discussion, regardless of how controversial.  It will be interesting to see who ‘wins’ this one…

Read the article here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/persinger-psychology-class-1.3389410

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The Resistant Learner

Funny that this is the topic for the week….I had an experience just yesterday that relates perfectly.

The story (in brief): I was called in to teach a practice lab for a group of level 1 students.  We were learning a very important foundational skill – one that carries through the Image result for adult plugging earsprogram and into the workforce.  There are very specific guidelines for performing the skill, which the students were to practice with their lab partner.  I circulated around the lab, observing each pair, offering feedback and answering questions.  One particular pair was always “just finished” by the time I made it to them, and so I made a point of being present the next time they were beginning the skill.  As I observed, I asked a few questions and gave some constructive feedback.  I was not well received!  The student became defensive and angry, and then stated I was picking on them.  I was stunned, and not in a good way.

Anyhow, this experience gave me context for Brookfield’s (2015) discussion on student resistance to learning, and responding to resistance.  Why was the student resistant?  I suspect that the student lacks confidence and may feel that feedback is indicative of failure.  Maybe they’ve had negative experiences in the past where feedback was degrading rather than constructive.  I don’t feel that Brookfield really spoke to this kind of learning resistance in his book.  The student was seemingly willing to learn (partaking in the activity), but not receptive to any feedback.

How did I respond to the resistance?  I was feeling pretty uncomfortable with the situation, to have “teacher power” thrown back in my face, especially being a very new instructor who really doesn’t exude much power.  I did my best to respond to the student’s comments, but I had to be careful not to get sucked into acting unprofessionally (e.g. arguing back, saying something I’d regret).  Although the situation diffused somewhat, I don’t think the interaction did anything for breaking down the student’s resistance. But I also don’t believe this is achievable in one class for any instructor/resistant learner.

Reflecting back on how the situation made me feel, I was surprised at how “little” the student made me feel.  But the prevailing thought from the day was surprise that a student would shut-down an instructor so boldly.  I am certainly not an expert, but I was in the lab to help the students learn a new skill.  I know students aren’t always excited to learn, but I assumed that they would all at least be willing to learn.  Isn’t that why they are there?

Reference: Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Classroom Etiquette

As educators, is it really necessary to discuss classroom etiquette with adult learners?  One would think that classroom behavior is pretty straightforward, but maybe it’s not always as obvious as we think…

Considering the variety of cultures, backgrounds, ages and experiences of adults, it is probably a good idea for the educator to discuss classroom etiquette at the start of a course or program.  Doing so sets the tone for the duration of the course, and the decision to leave these guidelines posted for the duration of the course provides learners with a reference point if they are unsure of how to behave, or have concerns with the learning environment.  Providing learners with guidelines as to how to ask questions (hands up or call out), technology restrictions, etc. helps clarify expectations and responsibilities for the learner.  The instructor should also open the discussion up to the class to identify any expectations they may have for maintaining a positive classroom experience.  They may also suggest ways that they would like to see the instructor behave/conduct the class.  By having this discussion, the educator and learner establish a relationship, and helps to promote a positive and comfortable learning environment.

I also feel that using the term “etiquette” or “guidelines” is more positive than saying “rules”.  Choosing appropriate words and tone of voice will make this conversation easier and better received.  Likewise, in an online course, it may be helpful to provide some information on expectations, and perhaps a review of general “netiquette” behavior.

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