Tag Archives: Learn to learn

Educational ACDC

Here’s an interesting spin on teaching!  And no, I don’t mean the band.

  • Active Learning
  • Cooperative Learning
  • Discovery Learning
  • Community

“ACDC Leadership and Consulting was created by Jacob Clifford in 2007. We are dedicated to creating student-focused teaching resources that make learning exciting, powerful, and fun. We offer teachers, schools, and districts a variety of programs, activities, and workshops. […] we have what you need to get students out of their seats and into the curriculum.” http://www.acdcleadership.com/

One example of a student project using the ACDC program is having the students create a music video using course content as lyrics.  I remember taking anatomy and physiology and wishing it could be converted into song lyrics…the terminology would be much easier to remember if I could sing through it!

Here’s another example of using movies/music to help student remember content that may be difficult to recall:  (I shared it with my nursing class and they loved it!)


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Effects of music on learning

1147531654The Mozart Effect isn’t a new theory.  The phrase was coined in 1991 and the idea is that music (specifically, listening to Mozart) somehow improves the brain.

In our PIDP 3240 discussion forum however, a colleague revealed that she prefers to listen to classical Indian music while studying.  Interestingly, this was not related to her cultural background.  I had never considered that other forms of “classical” music may also have some positive effect on learning.  I did a little searching, and it turns out that there are actually 5 recommended types of music to enhance learning.

Check them out here: http://www.trade-schools.net/articles/music-for-studying.asp


Judging by the multi-million views on Youtube videos of “Study Music”, many people subscribe to this theory.  It doesn’t work for everyone, and it won’t work for all learning tasks, but perhaps it’s worth a try…

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No letter grades here!

Here is a little further reading to my last post.  Apparently there are colleges that don’t give letter grades…not many, and none that I found in Canada.  But here’s a look at some colleges in the States that have innovative grading systems.


Check out this article for more information on how they score their students: http://www.bestcollegereviews.org/colleges-without-letter-grades/

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Is school more about grades than actual learning?

Here is an interesting live debate, weigh in if you like!  Is school more about grades than actual learning?

I was interested in this topic after marking the first assignment for my nursing school class.  One student made the comment, “oh, we thought it was just an easy assignment so that everyone would get guaranteed full marks as a head start on their final grade”.  In personal appointments with more than one student who was unhappy with their mark, it was very obvious that they were hoping I’d change their score.  Yet, it was very clear when they questioned my marking, that they did not understand the assignment.  I felt then, like it was more the lost points they were worried about then learning why they had lost the marks.  importance-of-grades-to-college-students

It was the same when I marked the midterm exams…  I sent everyone their mark and also let them know what the average score was.  I received 4 emails back (in a class of 38), with students telling me they were disappointed in their score because they were anywhere from 0.2-0.4 points below the class average.  As well, I had one student who was disappointed with her mark – 92%!!  In fact, it was the highest mark in the class.  This kind of response from the students, with a focus on the actual score, rather than the exam content, made me question whether the course means anything to them, or if it’s just a grade.  Perhaps the assessment tools (exams and assignments) need to be re-vamped.  Or, maybe, as this article suggests, the students should appreciate the challenges and the valuable lessons they learned in college, and strive for self-improvement as a result of hard work.

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Book Review

My college is offering an instructional development workshop, and unfortunately I am unable to go.  But it sounded interesting, so I Googled the title of the workshop, and discovered that it is actually discussing the topics from the book “How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching” by Mayer.51b2baegk6pl-_sx333_bo1204203200_

Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of the book to provide my own review, but I did find one report that summarized the views of 25 health professions faculty educators.  Being in nursing, this review was very relevant!

The book covers seven topics, discussing them separately in each chapter:

  1. Students’ prior knowledge can serve to help or hinder learning.
  2. Students’ organization of knowledge impacts how students learn and apply what they know.
  3. Motivation determines, directs, and sustains what students learn.
  4. To develop mastery, students must develop the skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply them.
  5. Goal-directed practice coupled with targeted feedback enhances learning.
  6. Level of learner development interacts with “course” climate to impact learning.
  7. To become self-directed, learners must be able to monitor and adjust their approaches to learning (pages 4–6).

What I liked about the review was that it assured me that the book is relevant for those teaching in the healthcare subjects.  Quite often, educational resources are geared more towards undergrad students, and not those in trades or vocational programs.  But based on the reviews, this book seems pretty great. I’ll be looking to pick up a copy of this book ASAP!

Click here to read the book review and see if it might be helpful for you too!

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Somewhere lies the truth…

I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion with my PIDP colleagues.  There was a suggestion (backed by research evidence), that a student’s social environment can have an impact on their academic success.  Authors stated that most students who surround themselves with high-achievers improved their performance over time; the opposite was also true.  (To see the article, click here.)

But, what about John Hattie’s synthesis of over 800 studies that looked at student achievement?  I’ve discussed his idea of Visible Learning earlier in my blog, but just to review, he designed a meta-analysis and came up with a way of ranking various influences related to learning and achievement.  And where did peer influences fit on his list?  Nearly halfway down the list of positive influences.  At the top of his list is the teacher’s estimates of achievement.  So…perhaps the teacher estimates similar achievement for certain pockets of students?  If this is the case, both studies could be true…  Or does peer influence not really matter all that much?

Here’s a neat infographic depicting Hattie’s results:

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james-stevenson-i-m-sorry-rhett-but-now-i-don-t-give-a-damn-new-yorker-cartoon_a-g-9179761-8419447Well, this is an interesting teaching concept, excerpted from Teaching Naked (Bowen, 2012), but actually referenced from another book I have previously blogged about, Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do (2004).

In short, the professor writes WGAD (who gives a damn) on the whiteboard each day.  Students can interrupt at any time during the class with “WGAD!”

No, the instructor isn’t supposed to get all flustered or offended.  The instructor couples this motivating offer to debate anything with the expectation that students keep an open mind and honestly debate both sides of every WGAD objection.  Another aspect of this technique that I like is that it really helps learners make relevance of the material.  Adult learners especially need to know why they need to know something.  Allowing them to ask WGAD helps them to make this connection.  technical-communication-futurist-by-scott-abel-25-638

I am teaching a “nursing fluff” kind of course.  Or at least, that’s how the health promotion course is perceived by the students and even by some senior faculty.  And it’s true, even without taking the course the students would probably turn out to be good nurses.  However, if I offered the WGAD opportunity, perhaps they would value the content of the course and discover how it can change their views of nursing.  It would also be a good challenge for me to be able to think on my feet and make connections between course content and nursing practice.  I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try this technique on my first time through the course….but maybe next semester!?


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

Bowen, J.A. (2012). Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your college classroom will improve student learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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Teachers Who Inspire

Who was your favorite teacher?  Why?

These are great questions to reflect on as I come to the conclusion of Professional Practice (PIDP 3260).  In fact, the answers to these questions should help me to define my own teaching philosophy and goals.  Sure, I liked the teachers who gave good marks and were nice.  But actually, the teachers I liked the most were the ones who challenged and inspired me.

It’s funny that I can’t actually recall many of my instructors from nursing school.  (What is worse is that it’s difficult to even remember some of the content).  But there was one instructor who I will never forget.  The one everyone was scared of.  She had a reputation among the nursing students as being ‘mean’, ‘hard’, and absolutely never gave perfect marks.  Horror stories were passed down from students who had taken her course before.  There was a battle for students to complete their course selection quickest so they could avoid her.  But…even though I was a little scared of her too, she was probably my favorite teacher.

Why did I like her so much?  She was fair.  She had high expectations of us.  She challenged us to continually learn and improve.  She respected students who worked hard, even if they didn’t always do well.  And underneath her seemingly cold exterior, she had a sense of humor and cared about the students.

In a program where it seemed like everyone got 100% (even if they wrote the assignment the night before), I appreciated that marks accurately reflected effort and achievement.  She marked fairly, using the assignment rubric and she was always available for students to receive extra help.  When I got involved in a research project, she was my biggest support and guide – and she celebrated my completion of the project as excitedly as I did.

I feel badly that she was labeled as the ‘scary’ teacher.  Perhaps the students felt this way because she encouraged us to go beyond our learning comfort zones, and it was actually the responsibilities and expectations that the students felt scared about.  This instructor taught us as adults, and maybe some of us weren’t ready for that.  Now that I’ve made my way through most of the PID program, I can see that the other instructors taught us as children.  And while that felt comfortable and easy for us, we actually missed out on more advanced learning that we were capable of.  So…thank you, (‘Scary’) Mary – you inspired me!  Not only as a nurse, but also now as a new nursing instructor.


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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

PIDP (in)progress

I began taking the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma courses at the suggestion of my assistant department head when I was hired.  She told me that the college values PID even more than a Master’s degree, and subtly hinted that completing the PID program was a way to climb up the pay scale.  Although my motivation may have been kick-started with dollar signs, the financial benefits of this program are far outweighed by the educational benefits.  The neat thing about PIDP is that it’s really about teaching and learning.  The common thread in each of the courses I have taken is the importance of self-reflecting.  For instructors to continually improve, they must always reflect on their teaching and reflect on their learning.  The things we learn about ourselves, our students and our subject area must guide our practice so that we might always be improving.

I started with PIDP 3100 – Foundations of Adult Education.  It was theory-based, but far from being boring!  This course introduced me to ideas and terminology that have carried throughout the program.  Andragogy: the way in which adults learn…this theory created a huge shift in how I view post-secondary education, both in instructional delivery and in how we address the characteristics of adult learners.  We watched a pretty neat video on Changing Education Paradigms that really challenged the way I thought about educating adults.

I have also completed PIDP 3210 – Curriculum Development, PIDP 3250 – Instructional Strategies, and PIDP 3230 – Evaluation of Learning.  Who knew that designing an exam was so complicated!?  Just joking.  Actually, I’m not joking.  I had no idea that there were so many things to consider when designing evaluation instruments.  Reliability, validity, weighting the exams, the types of questions, etc.  This one was a lot of work, but very practical.

There was (and is) a lot about teaching that I didn’t know.  What experienced instructors make look very simple actually takes a wealth of knowledge that the PIDP helps to provide.  From setting up a classroom to planning learning activities so that students are successfully evaluated in achieving learning outcomes, each decision is made with a specific intended purpose.  As I begin to teach more, I hope that I will be able to integrate what I have learned into my teaching practices.  Only two more courses to go before the Capstone Project!


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