How can I “Acknowledge the Opposite” when Preparing to Teach? #fslt12

As I am putting the final tweaks in my preparation for my 3-hour on-campus session of my Pace University course, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing, I am again pausing for a moment to explore and further develop my COWIL model (Consider the Opposite of What I Like) to better meet the needs for my students. Students who like what I like or think similarly as I do are already fine — I will meet their learning needs more easily as we are already approaching learning in a similar manner. The trick is being able to meet the needs of other students who don’t approach teaching and learning as I do. Yes, I can focus on my methods that already seem to work, but is that really taking them where they are and working with them? Is that really respecting some of their own interests?

I cannot consider the opposite unless I am clearer on what I like. While I did enough of that to get me started on this process, I want to turn my reflective attention to considering what I do not like, or to put it more gently, to more clearly articulate what does not resonate as much with me. To do so, I will reach out again to borrow from the work of Stephen Brookfield, this time his work around around the critical thinking process:

  1. Identify assumptions embedded in words & actions (discourses & systems)
  2. Assess grounds – evidence, accuracy & validity
  3. Take alternative perspectives – intersubjective understanding / perspective taking
  4. Take informed action / agency

While I am not seeking to critically think through things at this time, I do want to focus on the assumptions aspect, namely to identify those things I assume — those taken for granted beliefs about the world, and our place within it, that seem so obvious to us as not to need to be stated explicitly (again, from Brookfield).

As I see my COWIL model developing, I intentionally want to identify the things I assume are not the case about the world and my place in it, in this context teaching and learning, and explore if there is some way I can bring those things into my class as UNDOUBTEDLY there will be people who think differently enough that perhaps their needs may be met.

Let’s try a simple example I have in mind. I assume people learn by discussing (constructionist) and also by internally grappling with content based on personal experience. However, this assumption does not readily allow for watching videos and then discussing them (as I personally do not watch a lot of television, videos, movies or the like). However, in Considering the Opposite of What I Like (COWIL), perhaps I should try a video or two (like we try all things in class to see if they work for the learners, content, time, etc.) in the course.

Yes, this is a simple example that may not need a degree in education to see, but what better place to start than with something simple as I am exploring and fleshing out this model? After all, if a video or something more multimedia does not work, what has been lost? If nothing else, it becomes another teachable moment as the experience (consider actor-network theory) may more closely resonate with common learning approaches for some. 

I will let you know what I find, though working through COWIL from the critical thinking frame to flesh out those assumptions can be quite useful.


Using Reflective Practice to Plan for Friday’s Class (via #COWIL and #ANT for #fslt12)

This Friday is the first of my five on-campus sessions for my course at Pace University, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing, so there is no better time than the present to further develop the COWIL (Consider the Opposite of What I Like) model I started to develop in my post yesterday (Reflective Teaching and Learning via COWIL). I really appreciate this consideration opportunity as part of the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education mooc.

I have chosen to focus on the Areas of Activity Dimension of the Framework as part of my reflective practice:

  1. A1  Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. A2  Teach and/or support learning
  3. A3  Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. A4  Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. A5  Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

When I planned to use actor-network theory (ANT) in this reflective exercise, it was due in part to its focus on treating “everything in the social and natural worlds as a continuously generated effect of the webs of relations within which they are located” (pg. 1). In other words, thinking about my first on-campus session, we will all be there in a network of all our experiences, held in place at that time with all our technologies, artifacts, perspectives, likes and dislikes, etc.

What does that mean for my own preparation, especially in relationship to these Areas of Activity? Choosing only one of them to consider right now, such as “A3 Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance,” I will now apply COWIL, which begins with my thinking about what I like.

Let’s see, in a class of adult learner degree students, I like discussion, open ended questions, answers that are not closed or limited, more questions than answers, and a certain discomfort in pushing new ideas. What don’t I like? Lecture, pretending to give all the answers, and students not reading the texts and preparing for the discussion ahead of time.

Hmm, ANT would also remind me about the other factors that will combine into Friday’s 3-hour class session, such as the food that will be provided, the room set-up, computer and other technologies in the room, unspoken student expectation, biases against the course topical area, questions about my own background, concerns about tuition payments, the air conditioning, etc.

What am I doing here? In considering how I will normally prepare for my class (the content, objectives, clarifications over assignments, and the like), it is easy to assume (or simply not even notice) the effect all these other factors bring to the room and help maintain the interaction of the experience together. How can I consider and give voice and experience to some of these other factors if I am going to focus on the effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance? Perhaps I can use a brief YouTube video or chart for some of the content (neither of which I want to do, but both of them may help learners capture some of the sense of the material and experience I want them to have). Perhaps we can address the food and air conditioning to see if they meet the needs? The room set-up can accommodate changing the tables and seats (as I just learned) if we change the classroom (something else I just learned is possible). While I don’t like lecture, perhaps I can model some of the way my own thinking has developed over my years of study of this content, something that will allow the content to be discussed without lecture (these are all bright DNP students; they can read and do not need lecture on this topic).

These are some of the things I am considering regarding the learning environment and approach to my first on-campus class in this blended course. I hope that  including elements of the opposite of what I want (COWIL), along with some of the non-human elements of the expected learning (ANT) will help all of us in the course have a more engaging and open-ended experience that promotes more personal and critical learning.


Reflective Teaching and Learning via COWIL

As I started in my post on Friday, Initial Musings on Reflective Practice for #fslt12, I have been thinking about the elements of the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education 2011 as per our first assignment for the First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education mooc.

Comprised of 3 dimensions–Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge, and Professional Values–our assignment is:

Choose one of these three dimensions. What are your initial thoughts about the points listed in that dimension? Could you demonstrate understanding of and engagement with any of the points listed?

I spent the last few days considering which of these 3 dimensions are the best for me to work with with my summer class that I am teaching that begins this coming week at Pace University, NURS 840: Teaching and Learning in Advanced Practice Nursing). While I was the co-developer of this course back when the program itself was being put together and as I have taught the course since its inception, I thought this may be a great course to keep in mind regarding this mooc assignment. Why not consider this assignment in the real context of my course that is again about to begin. Who knows, some of my nursing students may even see what I am considering and give me some feedback!?

I think I am going to focus on the Areas of Activity, which seems to focus around the teaching and learning processes themselves.

While I have taught in some capacity my entire life (with my teaching over the past 10 years occurring on my own time, and not as part of my full-time position), I believe there is always an opportunity to improve. I firmly believe that reflective practice is an element in this. While  considering Brookfield’s work on the 4 lenses related to educational reflective practice (see his excellent paper integrating these in practice, Radical Questioning on the Long Walk to Freedom:
Nelson Mandela and the Practice of Critical Reflection
), I am going to consider my own teaching and learning through another perspective — Consider the Opposite of What I Like (COWIL).

If I am working in a certain practice or teaching or learning or working in a way that seems to get what results I want, or that feels right, or that somehow makes sense to me, then that will probably work somewhat well for those who also approach the phenomenon in a similar way.

How about others? How about those people who need to do when I want to talk, or need to listen when I want to draw or even who believe teaching is objective when I believe teaching is a manifestation of power relationships where a certain message is taught while others are often (un/in)-tentionally suppressed?

Let me instead COWIL.

Now, I am still developing this frame, so feedback here will be well appreciated.

As I am planning for my first on-campus course of my course, how can I do this? Let me consider this from the A1 frame–“Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study.” When I am developing my course, or in the practical realm, my actual 3 hour class session, I will develop this as I normally would, focusing on the content we already identified and using the methods I like. Then, review it all again so I can Consider the Opposite of it, and then acknowledging that some of these things may not be especially useful for me, but prepare introduce or discuss or somehow address them in class for the benefit of those learners who may need to see those things.

While I am still building this frame, it is heavily influenced by using actor-network theory (ANT) to describe a current phenomenon, thereby allowing it to be interpreted from a variety of alternate perspectives. For more in ANT, consider this chapter by John Law or text by Fenwick and Edwards.