A CAT for feedback on teaching

Not that kind of cat! No clickbait here 😉

CAT as in Classroom Assessment Technique, a way to evaluate on the fly the effectiveness of a strategy, method, or approach used by an instructor.  One such CAT is the use of feedback forms designed by teachers to help them improve their classroom environment.  I could explain it here, but I’ll just show you my infographic instead!  Let me know what you think…

pidp-3260-barker-asst-5-infographic

(Look familiar?  Alright yes I really like the tidiness of this particular layout 🙂 )

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On the TWU Law School case

From the CBC in early November

“The B.C. Court of Appeal has upheld the right of future graduates of the faith-based Trinity Western University (TWU) Law School to practise law in the province.”

The formal decision can be found here.  Here’s the summary of the decision:

The Law Society decided not to approve a law school at TWU because students attending TWU must sign a Community Covenant which does not recognize same-sex marriage. TWU sought judicial review. The decision was set aside by the chambers judge. The Law Society appealed. Held:  Appeal dismissed.

The issue on appeal is whether the Law Society met its statutory duty to reasonably balance the conflicting Charter rights engaged by its decision: the sexual orientation equality rights of LGBTQ persons and the religious freedom and rights of association of evangelical Christians. The Benchers initially voted to approve TWU’s law school. That decision was met with a backlash from members of the Law Society who viewed it as endorsement of discrimination against LGBTQ persons. The Benchers decided to hold a referendum and to be bound by the outcome. A majority of lawyers voted against approval. The Benchers then reversed their earlier position and passed a resolution not to approve TWU’s law school.

In doing so, the Benchers abdicated their responsibility to make the decision entrusted to them by the Legislature. They also failed to weigh the impact of the decision on the rights engaged. It was not open to the Benchers to simply adopt the decision preferred by the majority. The impact on Charter rights must be assessed concretely, based on evidence and not perception.

The evidence before the Law Society demonstrated that while LGBTQ students would be unlikely to access the 60 additional law school places at TWU’s law school if it were approved, the overall impact on access to legal education and hence to the profession would be minimal. Some students who would otherwise have occupied the remaining 2,500 law school seats would choose to attend TWU, resulting in more options for all students. Further, denying approval would not enhance access to law school for LGBTQ students.

In contrast, a decision not to approve TWU’s law school would have a severe impact on TWU’s rights. The qualifications of students graduating from TWU’s law program would not be recognized and graduates would not be able to apply to practise law in British Columbia. The practical effect of non-approval is that TWU cannot operate a law school and cannot therefore exercise fundamental religious and associative rights that would otherwise be guaranteed under s. 2 of the Charter.

In a diverse and pluralistic society, government regulatory approval of entities with differing beliefs is a reflection of state neutrality. It is not an endorsement of a group’s beliefs.

The Law Society’s decision not to approve TWU’s law school is unreasonable because it limits the right to freedom of religion in a disproportionate way — significantly more than is reasonably necessary to meet the Law Society’s public interest objective.

After having assessed an ethical dilemma presented in my PIDP “Professional Practice” course (albeit one with a considerably smaller scope), I was curious enough to take a quick review at this case that made national news, and see if I could align the court’s ruling with Kidder’s (2009) “Nine Step Decision Making Process” we were introduced to in this course.  Let’s see how the court did…

  1. Is this a genuine moral question? Right is being seen as pitted against right here, in the legal sense in this case.  There are moral arguments to be made that allow individuals control over their private lives outside of school, and arguments to be made around the rights of private organizations to insist on certain characteristics of their membership.  In the decision, the court discussed legal rights: i.e.,  “the sexual orientation equality rights of LGBTQ persons and the religious freedom and rights of association of evangelical Christians.”
  2. Is the court responsible for settling this issue?  The legal courts have both the obligation and the power to regulate the actions of an organization with the specific task of training lawyers who will be responsible for participating in the legal system on behalf of their clients.
  3. Have the relevant facts been gathered?  Between the original court case and subsequent appeal one assumes this has been done, especially since the concerned parties bringing this case to the court were themselves part of the Canadian legal system, as both professionals and trainers of professionals!
  4. Is one alternative clearly morally wrong?  The court seems to have considered this and decided that no, neither alternative was ‘clearly morally wrong’.  Instead, the court attempted to weigh the impact of the decision on the rights engaged”. That is, to recognize the rights stated in (1) are both valid, and to therefore try to determine which should override the other.
  5. What sort of dilemma is it? To me, given the options Kidder provides it would seem that this could best be described as an ‘individual vs. community’ sort of dilemma, but it may perhaps be more accurately described as a ‘community vs. smaller community’ issue.  That is, the interests of the legal or student community as a whole vs. the interests of a subset of that community (i.e. a group that holds specific beliefs).  In referencing a ““clash of commitments” in our country between the “prevailing ethos” of the rule of law and the claims of religion”, the court’s description seems to have considered the dilemma closer to a ‘justice vs. mercy’ type.  Hm, I’ll have to leave it to the reader to try to sort that one out!
  6. Which is most relevant: the ends-based, rules-based, or care-based principle?  Although legal decisions may often seem to default to a ‘rules-based’ principle, our legal system relies heavily on precedent, so the ends should always be considered as well.  In this case the court considered “the impact of the decision on the rights engaged”, suggesting that they took an ends-based approach (or at least tried to!).  That is, considering how to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
  7. Is there a compromise that could satisfy all parties involved? It’s not clear that the court actively searched for such a ‘third way’, or that they felt any obligation to do so.  If anything, the ‘third way’ might have been the referendum approach of the Law Society mentioned in the judgment, that was subsequently rejected by the courts.
  8. Make a decision.  Well, like it or not each court is rather required to come to a decision one way or the other!
  9. Revisit and reflect on the decision. Although different individuals were involved, the fact that this decision went to an appeals court necessarily means someone had to revisit the decision!   Similar issues will undoubtedly resurface, as different Charter rights and freedoms certainly can and do conflict, so this decision may very well be revisited in the future as well.

The upshot? Kidder’s approach seems to be applicable to many ethical dilemmas, and frankly I’m just glad I’m not in a position to have the last word on some of them!

 

References

Kidder, R.M. (2009) How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. (Rev. ed.) New York: Harper Perennial.

Laanela, M., and Merali, F. (2016, November 1) Trinity Western University Law School wins legal battle in B.C. court. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/cbc-news-online-news-staff-list-1.1294364.

On creative lecturing

…Or perhaps that should be: “I’m not here to entertain you!”

To be honest, every time someone tries to talk to me about being ‘creative’ in the classroom I balk.  Come on, I’m neither an actor nor a party clown!   A couple of the courses I teach are human anatomy & physiology courses, and really I should be able to be the most boring lecturer in the world and students should still be interested, right?  I mean, it’s how your own body works for crying out loud!  Not to mention that nearly all students in those courses are there because it’s a required course for a program that they’re trying to get into, for a career they want to do, so they should be highly self-motivated to work hard, right?

Well, not really.  Even I’m not quite that naive.  Granted, some of my students would probably do well with a cardboard cutout standing at the front the class and a computerized voice reading passages from their textbook.  And yet… students do enroll in in-person classes, and most do attend class regularly, so there must be some value in live interactions with an in-person instructor.  It’s not as though I’m ever going to be quite as entertaining as Crash Course videos, or quite as detailed and well-rehearsed as videos from Khan Academy.  I nevertheless continue to sprinkle my lectures with comics and cartoons, bad jokes and puns, and plenty of enthusiasm, and students nevertheless continue to enroll in and attend class.  Despite dire warnings to the contrary, “the corpse of lecture-based teaching shows remarkable signs of life” (Brookfield, 2006, p. 97).  So what’s going on?  Is there some value in lecture-based teaching, that it persists?

When I think of ‘lecturing’ I think of one person talking at a group.  But as Brookfield (2006) points out, lecture-based teaching doesn’t mean the absence of discussion.  In my classes for example I do still rely on lectures to explain concepts that are generally difficult for learners to understand, and was pleased to see the Brookfield (2006, pp. 100-101) lists this among “proposed reasons” to lecture!  The others he lists include some that looked familiar as well: To establish a broad outline, to model intellectual attitudes and behaviours, and to encourage learners’ interest.  He also includes introducing alternative perspectives and interpretations, which I have yet to incorporate successfully in my own classes (although I’m working on it by trying the instructional activity “Think again!” outlined in Barkley, 2010, pp. 256-258).    What I appreciate most about Brookfield’s approach is that he doesn’t consider lecturing in isolation, but as part of a toolkit that instructors can make good use of.  This approach does make me feel considerably less guilty about what I had seen as relying on an old familiar approach that I’m familiar with. In effect I feel as though I can give myself permission to sometimes stick with the classics if they work the way I want them to, even as I continue to look for different approaches to improve my own effectiveness as an instructor.  But improving my own effectiveness means also improving my skills in every activity or approach I choose to use in the classroom, so maybe trying to be at least a little engaging when talking “at” students isn’t so bad after all.

 

References

Barkley, E. F. (2010) Student Engagement Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield, S.D. (2006) The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

A brief word on wrestling with ethical dilemmas

As part of a “Professional Practice” course I’m in the midst of, we’ve been asked to discuss an ethical dilemma.  To prepare us to have a meaningful discussion, we were referred to a summary of Kidder’s book “How Good People Make Tough Choices”.  To my surprise, one of the ethical dilemmas we’ve been presented with is one that I’ve struggled with personally more than once now: a student has had issues in the past but has improved greatly, and although they come very close they don’t quite meet the requirements to pass a course, do I as their instructor find some way to allow them to pass?

There’s plenty of additional information to be had for sure, and the scenario is far more nuanced than I’ve presented here.  But in reading through Kidder’s paradigms for “right vs. right” dilemmas and his “principles for resolving ethical dilemmas”, I find all of them relevant!  Although his “nine steps for ethical decision making” don’t purport to provide The Answer (which doesn’t likely exist, or it wouldn’t be an ethical dilemma!), I look forward to working my way through the process.  I’ll be curious to see if after discussing it with others and working through a more formalized series of steps, whether I’ll come to the same conclusions that I had when I dealt with remarkably similar situations in “real life”!

 

References

Kidder, R.M. (2009) How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. (Rev. ed.) New York: Harper Perennial.

“Teach me. I dare you.”

zits-teach-me

…or rather, my thoughts on Brookfield’s (2006) “Responding to Resistance” chapter, wherein Brookfield discusses how to understand and ultimately deal with students’ resistance to learning.  How many of our students take – or seem to take – the attitude portrayed in that comic?

And yet something seemingly irrelevant jumped out at me when I read this chapter… Is this what it’s like to have a bee in one’s bonnet? Zeroing on one thing that annoys you at the expense of everything else?  My personal bee seems to be Learning Styles, that again here rear their ugly head!  In this case, Brookfield (2006) mentions a “disjunction of learning and teaching styles” as a potential cause of students resisting learning (p. 219).  But again, thankfully Brookfield ends by concluding that the solution is to use a variety of teaching methods, rather than relying on just one, a conclusion on which we can both agree, even if I find his reasoning for it lacking.

That out of the way, back to the topic at hand!  Having tried for a while now to ferret out the potential causes for resistance in my own students, I must say it would have been useful to have the first half of this chapter at the start of my career, wherein Brookfield (2006) tried to walk his readers through some potential underlying reasons for students to be resistant to learning.  On the other hand, perhaps reading through all those reasons why students might resist my efforts to help them learn anything would have put me off teaching altogether!

From my current perspective, the most interesting part of the chapter for me was the second half, appropriately entitled “Responding to Resistance”.  I do like solutions, after all!  I’ll skip over harping again on the reference to Learning Styles in this section too (Brookfield, 2006, p. 228), and instead zero in on the two final pieces of advice, which I’ll admit shook me a bit: “admit resistance is normal” (p. 232) and “acknowledge the right to resist” (p. 233).  This returns us yet again to the issue of treating students with respect, that Brookfield addresses throughout his book.  It also speaks to the importance of recognizing that our students are for the most part not yet fully developed (e.g., Bennett & Baird, 2006), in that we should recognize that it is also our responsibility as instructors to model how to recognize and evaluate the reasons behind their own resistance, rather than reflexively argue with them.    Earlier in this part of the chapter, Brookfield (2006, p. 226) also supports this idea by suggesting that instructors should ask themselves whether the students’ resistance isn’t in fact justified.  This requires instructors to be capable of enough self-regulation to not generate a knee-jerk response along the lines of “you should just do what I say”, but rather to engage in self-reflection and assessment of their own ideas, motives, and approaches.  I constantly have to remind myself that my students are in an introductory class, and my occasional gut “we’ve been over this a million times!” reaction to some of their questions is a result of me having explained it to many different groups of students; the people standing before me in a given moment may never have heard this information before.

After all, if I truly want my students to be developing skills of critical thinking and expressing themselves clearly to others, they must be allowed to both question anything I tell them or ask them to do, and to talk about it (and, hopefully, through it) with me without fear of reprisal.  On my part that means taking some responsibility myself for trying to both understand and overcome the resistance I sometimes face in my classroom.  If students are resisting, for example, presenting something out loud in front of the class, are they uncomfortable speaking in public?  Is it necessary for them to stand in front of everyone, or would working in a smaller group be just as useful in accomplishing the goals I have set?   (With the number of students with anxiety issues I see in my classes, I personally have been favouring having students work in groups of 5-7, rather than insist they speak to an entire room.)  Or if a student finds learning a particular process or list of structures particular frustrating, is it because they don’t have the background information I assume they do?  Should I provide them with that information as part of the course, should I direct them to the peer tutors available at our institution, or can I develop a ‘background info’ package with independent exercises that uncertain students can use for self-directed review?  (I have in fact used both the first two approaches, weaving background information into in-class discussions as well as directing students to outside sources of assistance, and am in the process of developing ‘background info’ packages.)

In the end, if we’re going to challenge students by pushing them to learn new information and develop new ways of thinking and approaching the world, we’re going to have to expect resistance from them.  Recognizing the value in their resistance, in that they are questioning the world around them, and nevertheless trying to encourage them to overcome their resistance by providing them with our reasoning for asking them to do so, are both bound to make us more effective instructors and educators. Dare away!

 

References

Bennett, C.M., & Baird, A.A. (2006) Anatomical changes in the emerging adult brain: a voxel-based morphometry study. Human Brain Mapping, 27 (9), 766-777. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20218

Brookfield, S.D. (2006) The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

Scott, J., & Borgman, J. (2001, August 31) Zits. Retrieved from http://zitscomics.com/comics/august-31-2001/

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”

I’ve mentioned already the workshops I participated in with Ross Laird; in one of them, he quoted the tennis player Arthur Ashe* in a phrase that I’ve made the title of this post.  Let’s rephrase one my own goals – to help my students learn as best I can – as me striving to achieve greatness as an instructor.  Sounds rather presumptuous maybe, but let’s put the emphasis on the ‘striving to’ part of that phrase, shall we?

Let’s begin at the beginning… where am I?  Three years in to full-time teaching as my official profession, I’ve at least discovered that I have no regrets about my decision three years ago to cease pursuing a research-based career in favour of focussing on teaching!  Three years in and I’m still not feeling exhausted or overly frustrated with it, so that’s a good sign 🙂  In making the switch in focus from research to education I had felt inadequately prepared for the task, so I began training in the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program I’ve mentioned here previously.  I’ve been pursuing both on-the-job training and classroom-style training simultaneously… rather like being a student again when I had a part-time research job.  I suppose education never really ends…

In any case, the PIDP courses I’ve been taking have helped provide me with both the courage and the inspiration to try new (to me!) and weird (to me!) ways of doing things in a classroom.  It’s encouraged me to try untested activities, without worrying that something disastrous will happen.   It’s helped make my job… well, if not exactly easy, at least very enjoyable!  More enjoyable than I’d expect daily lectures would have been, for sure 😉

It’s also given me a vision to work towards in the near future at least.  I’d like to continue teaching where I am, with all my congenial and collegial colleagues and coworkers!  Which brings me to all that I already have: a supportive and encouraging work environment, and if not unlimited resources at least people who are willing to help me find either what I need to carry out some crazy new idea, or a usable substitute!

What can I do?  Having over the last few years developed enough new materials and activities to be able to nearly entirely revamp how one course at my college is taught, I have another 3 specific courses set in my sights over the next few years…  I’ve also got several introductory/remedial type mini-courses (Blackboard modules) in preparation for students who might desire additional background in mathematics, chemistry, and biology to succeed as best they can in their biology courses.  I’ve been working with the freely-accessible “open” textbooks, particularly those developed by OpenStax authors, to be able to provide students with accessible resources specific to our courses so they can be better aware of exactly what is expected of them.  Plenty to keep up on, for sure!  And plenty to still learn as the technology I’m using now changes… if the past few years are any indication over the next five years I’ll be trying to convince myself to learn a whole host of new technological tools to better provide resources and learning opportunities to my students.  Wish me luck… greatness, here I come!

 

(*Even my “strong Google-fu” failed to lead me to any authoritative sources or specific references for the quote, although there exists a whole collection of inspirational quotes attributed to Ashe.)

Brookfield 3 (or is that 8?): Teaching in Diverse Classrooms

Following hot on the heels of my comments on Chapters 1 and 2 of the third edition of Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher” book, something struck me in Chapter 8 (Chapter 9 in the second edition), wherein Brookfield addresses some of the issues around teaching to a non-homogeneous group of students, that I just couldn’t let go: the casual mention of “learning styles” (Brookfield, 2015, p. 104).

I’ve already harped on the problems with the concept of ‘Learning Styles’ in a previous post so I won’t entirely reiterate the issues I have with it here.  What I would like to address to Brookfield’s credit is that he does propose that mixing modalities – using different techniques and attempting to engage as many senses as possible during learning – as “the most obvious response to encountering educational diversity” (2015, p. 105).  While I might not agree with his reasoning as it relates to the assumption that “learning styles” are a Real Thing, his suggestion to mix many different techniques and try to access as many different modalities/senses as possible when teaching is something I try to do in my own classrooms.

When I first started teaching I relied heavily on the influence of my own instructors, and was primarily lecturing to students, with lots of words on my Powerpoint slides.  I have however been moving towards including more group work, adding more images to and removing more text from my presentations, and including more exercises in which students produce visual representations of major concepts.  The possible danger I see now is that I enjoy some of these so much that I may be in danger of tipping the scales too far in the other direction!  I find myself trying to balance group and individual work, oral and visual information and exercises, experimental or experiential and observational activities… I’m not sure there is a perfect ‘balance point’ to be found, but I have the impression that as long as there is a mixture of approaches and activities to be had in class that students who particularly enjoy one or another approach can adapt the material presented to their preferences on their own as well.  Based on student feedback, some students certainly like some activities more than others, but on the whole as long as there’s something for everyone the students seem to recognize that it’s all done for their benefit and they’re generally game to play along.

Which brings me back to waaaay back in Chapter 2, where I noted that Brookfield identified the importance of instructors being trustworthy, respectful and honest with students.  While presenting material in a variety of ways may be helpful and conducive to learning, such variety won’t be of much use if students don’t see the utility in it, or if it isn’t done in a respectful and open way.  Although apparently lacking from the third edition (!), in the second edition of his book Brookfield in Chapter 9 (“Teaching in Diverse Classrooms”) does link these ideals with addressing the issues around diversity by recognizing that, for example, having students occasionally speak out loud in class so that they are “listened to and responded to seriously by a teacher” (Brookfield, 2006, p. 168) shows respect for students, while fostering trustworthiness in the classroom can be done in part by providing clear directions whose justification is apparent to students (Brookfield, 2006, p. 170), and/or by providing teacher demonstrations that model expected behaviour (Brookfield, 2006, p. 165).

The main point of all this for me is that a diversity of approaches in the classroom is great! But that diversity should be accompanied by thoughtful rationale.  Pursuing variety just for variety’s sake risks the loss of student trust to a needlessly eccentric instructor.  Instead we should aim to censure that students understand right from the start the point of all this variety and ‘mixing modalities’ in a classroom, so they’ll be most willing to participate and ultimately get the most out of their instructor’s attempts to help them learn.

References

Brookfield, S.D. (2006) The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

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

Speaking of Ross Laird…

I wanted to share this:

As I mentioned a post ago, I recently attended a pair of workshops led by this same fellow.  In the last third of that video above he talks a bit about what he believes instructors should be doing to improve our current educational system, which was the focus of the workshops I attended.  I found myself in our workshops nodding an awful lot at what he had to say, and realized that that nodding was in large part because his approach to education was aligning rather nicely with what I’ve been learning in the PIDP courses I’ve been pursuing!  Makes me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something right after all 🙂

Brookfield 2: Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching

So… I’ve been reading through Brookfield’s “Skillful Teacher” book, and am about to lay out in a rapid-fire series of blog posts my thoughts on the contents.  I’ve already commented a bit on the first chapter in a previous post here, but let’s see if I can’t work my way a bit further through the text!

Next up then is, conveniently enough, the second chapter: The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching.  (These posts won’t all be presented in chapter order, or cover all the chapters equally, but hey let’s keep things simple initially, right?)  Right away I noticed that Brookfield didn’t choose to title this chapter something like “Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher” or “The Qualities of Great Teachers” or “Top Ten Qualities of a Great Teacher“.  Instead, by referring to ‘assumptions’ rather than ‘characteristics’ or ‘qualities’, and ‘skillful’ rather than ‘great’, he tacitly acknowledges that (1) whatever he’s about to say is up for questioning debate and testing and (2) there is some level of skill that can be cultivated rather than requiring some form of inherent ‘greatness’.  The cautious scientist in me is intrigued!

In the second edition of his book, Brookfield (2006) summarizes the core assumptions he believes skillful teaching is grounded in as (1) skillful teaching being whatever helps students learn, (2) skillful teachers critically reflect on their own practice, (3) skillful teachers need a constant awareness of how students experience their learning and how they perceive their teacher’s actions, and that this is the most important item for teachers to know.  In the third edition of his book (Brookfield, 2015), he’s added a fourth assumption that “college students of any age should be treated as adults”.  The first point and that last addition are points I’d like to say a little something about…

I’ve looked in another course at John Hattie’s (2009) “Visible Learning” report, in which he examined in an enormous meta-analysis of previous research the effect sizes of a variety of interventions.  The underlying idea seemed to be to determine which interventions in the classroom would be effective in increasing student performance, and therefore worthwhile for teachers to pursue.  One big takeaway for me in reading through that report was that nearly any intervention produced a positive effect on student performance. This suggests then that Brookfield’s first assumption should amount to: “skillful teaching involves doing something!”  But as Brookfield points out, keeping in mind the goal of helping students to learn can allow teachers to become more open to trying new activities or approaches that they might otherwise avoid.  It seems the act of trying anything in the classroom, with the goal of assisting students, can suffice to enhance student performance.  Hattie (2009) suggests that one of the best predictors of student success is whether a student perceives their instructor as credible, i.e. as both competent and trustworthy.  As long as the activities undertaken in a classroom as perceived by students as having some useful reasoning behind their use (establishing competence) and as being undertaken with the goal of helping students in some way or other (building trust), the specifics don’t seem to matter!  New teachers in particular who lack a wealth of experience to help them feel confident about “what works and what doesn’t” can take some comfort in the idea that as long as you’re genuinely trying, you’ll be helping your students learn.

On the last assumption that Brookfield does not specifically state in the second edition of his book but conspicuously includes in the third edition I do have a bit to say as well.  My training is in neuroscience, and especially since I officially became “an Instructor” of adult students, I’ve become acutely aware of research into human brain development (Bennett & Baird, 2006) that indicates that humans aren’t actually mentally mature until around 30 years of age. What then does it mean for someone to be ‘adult’?  I recently attended a workshop led by Ross Laird who holds that most of our students being in their 20s means that they are not fully mature, that they are still vulnerable to stressors and insults (in the physiological sense as well as the colloquial sense of those terms), but can’t be assumed to have fully developed senses/skills of empathy, self-regulation, and the like.  Brookfield (2015) himself acknowledges that to treat college students as adults doesn’t mean telling them that they know as much as the teacher or are on equal footing with the teacher, but rather that they should be treated with respect.  That they should not “be talked down to or bossed around for no reason” (Brookfield 2015, p. 24).  In short, that teachers should be trustworthy, respectful and honest with students while being, as Brookfield (2015) puts it, “authoritative, not authoritarian” (p. 24).

So what’s my beef with Brookfield’s claim?  Where I take exception to ‘treating college students as adults’ isn’t in the idea that we should treat students with respect, nor with the idea that we should work to cultivating trust and honesty in the classroom, but with the idea that this should be unique to college students!  Why would these same principles not also apply to younger students?  There is nothing magical about the transition from high school to college; although there are procedural and lifestyle differences (e.g., once a student is legally considered an ‘adult’ their instructor is prohibited from revealing their grades to their parents), the idea that students should suddenly be treated substantially differently by their instructors seems to me rather absurd.  Instead, I would argue that all students should be treated with respect by their instructors, and that cultivating trust and honesty in the classroom is just as important for students of any age.  The specific methods used may differ – there is no doubt that there exist specific challenges to students that differ between different developmental points – but the inclusion of the single word ‘college’ in Brookfield’s (2015) fourth assumption to me sets up a false dichotomy between learning in childhood and learning in adulthood.

Well that went on a bit longer than expected!  No time for back-editing at least, just got on a roll and had more to say 😉 I’ll be curious to re-read these posts in a week and see if there’s anything about them I’d change… if they still hold up maybe this sort of rapid-fire posting will encourage me to write more often after all!

 

References

Bennett, C.M., & Baird, A.A. (2006) Anatomical changes in the emerging adult brain: a voxel-based morphometry study. Human Brain Mapping, 27 (9), 766-777. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20218

Brookfield, S.D. (2006) The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass.

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

Hattie, J.A.C. (2009) Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Speed blogging!

Alright so I’ve procrastinated long enough.  Time to get this ball rolling…

I’ve commented here and there already about how writing blog posts and forum posts and the like isn’t easy for me… I’m well aware of the fact that although I like to tell people it’s because I’m busy with other, more important tasks, it’s not *really* so much that I’m “too busy” to get to it, but that I like to convince myself that’s the case to avoid facing (1) the feeling that I don’t have anything interesting or important to say in public and (2) anxiety over putting “out there” anything that I haven’t decided is perfect (to my mind, at least).  So I’ve challenged myself today* to write a series of blog posts, taking no more than 20 minutes to research and write each one.  I’ll take brief 10-15 minute breaks in between posts to step away from the computer and deal with other life stuff that must be dealt with, and promise to not use that time to revise or edit posts 😉  If I have any further comments I’ll post them as comments rather than change the original post.  Wish me luck!

(*Why today, you ask? Nothing to do with a course deadline, I assure you.  Nope, not at all.  OK maybe just a little.  😉 )