Pick A Word To Describe Your Pedagogy

3 purple and orange and turquoise slinky toys

So this is the last post of 9x9x25 and it has seemingly gone by quickly and yet lingered enough for us to engage in great discussions and find wonderful teaching and learning ideas from far and wide.

Those of you who have been reading these weekly (i.e. Terry) will know that I have had a theme running through my posts which is words and the origin and meaning of words. I thought words to be a good paradigm through which to think through various aspects of teaching, learning, curriculum, design, education, access, and all of the other great outcomes and goals we have in our day-to-day lives. One of the good reasons for this is that, as I have mentioned before, a lot of the disagreements we have in education are around terminology and definition of terms. If we start thinking about the words themselves and break them down, we may in fact start breaking down the barriers and find the root of the disagreement.

Therefore, for this last post of 9x9x25 I decided to start a word related challenge- pick a word (just one) that would describe your ideal pedagogy. For me this is usually really easy, my go to word for this is usually ethical because I feel it is an all encompassing concept that applies to many aspects of education. However, I started thinking about other words last night and the one that I am going to focus on for the remainder of this post is –flexibility.

Most educators will appreciate the need for flexibility. In a classroom you may have the most meticulously planned out lesson plan but the class discussion takes the concepts you are discussing into new and more interesting spaces and your best plans become secondary to what is happening in the moment. A lot of the best teaching and learning happens “in the moment” and flexibility is necessary.

The word flexibility (you didn’t think I would leave you without one last etymology would you) is from the Latin flexibilis meaning “that may be bent, pliant” (Flexible). One of the great things about flexible is all the related words that come from the same root such as circumflex (the accent sign-such as in fête in French) or genuflect (to bend at the knee), or reflection which I spoke about in the week 4 post.

Flexible or flexibility has a lot of interesting connotations in our educational spaces besides the need to be “in the moment” in the classroom. Flexibility also relates to UDL principles and design and how access means that we need to go beyond only one way to finish an assignment or activity. Flexibility also relates to how we engage with students and keeping an awareness that the very linear model that post-secondary education is built on does not always work well. Flexibility can also be very introspective; it is important to be a bit more flexible with ourselves, a bit more pliant. If you did not finish grading all 25 essays on the weekend, that’s okay. If you did not finish reading that book yet that you promised yourself that you would, that’s okay. Academia and higher education often puts up non-flexible boundaries and it’s important to start talking about them. Flexibility is applicable in many ways in our work and works in tandem with an ethical and inclusive environment.

This post touched on many of the concepts that I spoke about in the previous weeks and in the comments I have left on other blogs. So in the spirit of tying things up, think about the word you would pick to describe your pedagogy or your work and why you would choose that specific word. You can share it on Twitter with the #My9x9x25Word or put it in the comments below. Thank you all for sharing this space with me over the past 9 weeks and for sharing your insights and strategies that make our educational spaces more inclusive and rewarding for everyone.

 

Work Cited

Flexible. Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/flexible

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Accessibility and Inclusion

Pregnant person, person in a wheelchair, person with a guide dog, person with a cane, person in a sling, hard of hearing image

It is hard to believe that there is only one more week to the 9x9x25 blog challenge. I have read many great posts and learned a lot from this generous community of educators and bloggers.

This week I am going to address something that is near and dear to my pedagogy and practice which is accessibility and inclusion. Inspired by CogDog’s great post on image descriptions, I thought it was time to write a bit on what I think of when I think of accessibility and inclusion in terms of curriculum as well as in terms of teaching and learning. Irene Stewart also posted a great post on temporary disabilities and how instructors engage with disability in the classroom, in policy, and in practice. Both of these posts demonstrate that a discussion should be on going on the praxis of accessibility and inclusion.

Like with most things in education and academia terminology causes a lot of what seems like talking at cross purposes when discussing access. It would not be a blog post by me without a bit of etymology. The term accessible has a complex etymology which can also add to the cross purposes. The term accessible comes from the late Latin accessibilis meaning “coming near, an approach, an entrance” (accessible). This is from the 1400s and a new connotation of the term from the mid 1600s came to mean “easy to reach” and again in the 1960s the meaning of accessible became “able to be readily understood.” The evolution of the term incorporates the holistic understanding of access, about how access is an approach, a way to allow others to reach all spaces or understand information in different ways. It is very much in line with the different accessibility frameworks that people mean when they use the term such as the following:

  1. Accessibility in the AODA definition of the term.
  2. Accessibility in terms of class and financial barriers to education.
  3. Accessibility in terms of inclusion (who is missing in this classroom). This is somewhat tied to point 2 above.

So how do we address all these different paradigms? We address them by focusing on inclusion. Inclusion is another interesting word etymologically. Inclusion is from the Medieval Latin inclusivus which in its adjective form means “characterized by incorporating a great deal, leaving little out” (inclusive) and what an exact and wonderful way to think about access. All classrooms, educational spaces, and educational materials should leave little out and include a great deal. This is not just about proper font types and sizes, or UDL principles of multiple means of representation and engagement. This is about who is present and who isn’t in our spaces and why those folk may be missing. So my 9x9x25 challenge for this week, for those of you who accept it, is to look around your classrooms and your workspaces and think about who isn’t there and why they are missing- let’s think about what can we do to bring those folk who are missing into these spaces either from a larger systemic or practical approach.

Work Cited

“Accessible.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/accessible?ref=etymonline_crossreference

“Inclusive.” Online Etymology Dictionary.  https://www.etymonline.com/word/inclusive

Of Levels, The OQF, and Respect for All Educators

White building with many book cases and white stairs

I know that many 9x9x25ers were at TESS this week, and I have seen a lot of great ideas being shared from that conference as blogs and on Twitter. I was not at TESS; I was in Baltimore last week at a conference that was not in my field but tangentially related to my overarching research interests. It is always interesting to be at a conference in the States because it reminds you of the divides that exist in higher education in different countries. Conversations at these conferences are usually framed within the “are you at a 2-year college?” question and the divisions between what is seen at a “community college” and what is seen at a university. The belief behind that is that these are two different entities and thus lessons learned most be different.

This is similar to some of the conversations that I see playing out in higher education in Canada for some time now. I am often surprised (though much less so now after seeing it so often) at the divisions that are entrenched in universities and colleges in Canada and how these attitudes trickle down to how people at universities treat those who work at colleges and how people at colleges think of those who work at universities. I was inspired to write this post because I was thinking of how different people view what I do depending on where they are presently employed and how my pedagogical experience is very diverse.

I have a pretty good vantage point because I have taught at both colleges and universities and I am now at a college that shares a campus with a university. I must say that these divisions are not as apparent where I work now and I think that is because there is a very good sense of how we are an educational community which is awesome.

In my position I spend a lot of time talking to faculty about the Ontario Qualifications Framework (OQF) and the depth and breadth of knowledge in each qualification. I work to make sure that faculty are scaffolding their courses and assignments to make sure they are at the proper credential level. Whether you are teaching apprentices, or are in a certificate, diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate, or degree program there’s an awareness of this depth and breadth that is required. This is for everyone, no matter if your title is instructor, professor, adjunct, professor of practice, or sessional, everyone should be paying attention to how our courses fit in the framework and therefore everyone should be receiving the same respect for what we do, for it is all important.

I think one of the things that trips people up has to do with titling and nomenclature. Even the word adjunct, which etymologically means “something added to but not an essential part of something else” (adjunct) is a faulty term for adjuncts are often the essential cadre of educators at some institutions. We have to keep in mind that what each and every one of us does is important to education. What I do at a college is no less important than what others do at a university. A best practice for accessibility and online design is a best practice that will work at higher ed institutions and even in corporate training.

The time has come for us to really work towards tearing down these divides because we work better together than apart. There are strategies in the classroom, in curriculum design that we can learn from each other instead of dismissing them outright by saying something like “oh that wouldn’t work at a college”, or “that wouldn’t work at a university.” I know that I am better equipped to do my job because of the experience that I have had at both colleges and universities. This is why something like 9x9x25 is so great because we really can explore the teaching and learning perspectives of those who work at many different types of institutions or as private consultants. So I have a challenge for you, if you work at a college find a colleague who works at a university, and vice versa and share one best practice in teaching and learning. Maybe you can roll it into your next blog post, or tweet it out; let’s work on inter-institutional community building!

Work Cited

“Adjunct.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/adjunct

Conference Tips

I have gone to a lot of conferences in my life so far and as I have negotiated these spaces, both large and small, I have developed a set of tips, if you will, of things that I found beneficial when going to conferences.  So here are some of these tips:

  1. Network Often and Well.

If you have been put on a panel with someone you do not know because your ideas intersect then network! Have conversations and see what they are doing at their school that may be inspiring for what you are doing at yours.

  1. Give Some Love.

Praise is a difficult thing sometimes, so if you liked the paper or panel you just attended and it really made you reflect on bigger ideas, tell the presenters. It is almost guaranteed that they will appreciate knowing that their work was inspiring.

  1. Attend the Events, Yes All of Them.

You don’t know how sad it makes people who are presenting on the last panel on the last day to see one person in the audience because everyone else is at the pub. You would want people to be there for you, so be there for them.

  1. Make the Most of the Place you Are Visiting.

Do a bit of research before you leave and discover the cool, inspiring places where you are visiting. Think of things that are both professionally and personally rewarding- art galleries, museums, the cool restaurant. These are all places where you can find ideas to bring back to work (yes even the cool restaurant, especially if your institution has a culinary program).

  1. Enjoy the Silence- Your Hotel Room is A Great Space for Work.

Even if you are at a conference you still have work to do. Things like emails, reviewing files, even reading, can pile up while you are away; your room is a great quiet space to do work.

  1. Help Graduate Students or Precariously Employed Folk; If You Can.

Getting someone to buy you a meal when you just spent a lot a lot of money to get to a conference is awesome. If you can, please buy a precariously employed person a meal or even a coffee. That gesture will mean so much to them.

  1. If You Recognize Someone from Social Media, like Twitter, Don’t Be Afraid to Say Hello.

If you appreciate what they talk about, what they have written about, and the work that they do and disseminate every day, then tell them – giving love and respect is good. Also I love meeting people who follow me on Twitter so if you meet me at a conference say hello!

Reflect(i)on

I am taking advantage of the trade-in offer that Terry so kindly suggested Thursday of 3 comments in exchange for 1 blog post because we are a bit behind. I liked that as a concept as well because sometimes writing these posts you feel as though you are in a bit of a silo and it is good to stop, reflect, and engage with the ideas that are out there instead of letting them fly past. I have decided to post twice this week as well as way to catch-up. Therefore, by the end of the week we should have 5 posts (+1 trade-in for the comments so 6, yay!).

The topic for today is inspired by this trade-in offer and the need to connect which is reflection. Reflection is very important in our work and it is something that we bring to classrooms, and hope to inspire in learners. As you can see, I put a bit of deconstruction into the title of this post to help reinforce how the I is in the middle when we reflect on subjects.

Going back to the etymology theme, reflection comes from the Latin reflectere which means to “bend back, bend backwards, turn away” (“reflection”). So reflection is a return, a way to bring forward what may have been lost previously. In a pedagogical environment reflection does a lot to bring learning forward. It allows both the faculty and the learners to think about what has already been discussed and how that can be applied to other concepts.

A lot of the discussion about reflection centres on how reflection seems like a passive educational activity. In fact it is very active, for if done well it will allow the connections in topics to become apparent. There are many ways to encourage reflection practices in your teaching and curriculum planning- I will list a few strategies here:

  1. Blog or Vlog Reflections: Like we are doing now with 9x9x25, this is reflective practice that learners can also incorporate in their studies. The blog or vlog format allows for comments from other learners and from the instructor to help guide learning going forward.
  2. Word Clouds: Get the group to think of a word or two that best describes the concepts addressed in class. As a class create a word cloud either by using a word cloud generator like Wordle or on the white board or flip chart to reinforce concepts.
  3. Cumulative Portfolios: Have learners collect ideas, pictures, quotations, or anything that is indicative of the topic, ideas, and discussions each week. They may choose to add a few words to help identify why they selected these pictures or quotations. These portfolios give the instructor and the learner a good overview of the cumulative learning over the semester.

Giving learners a space and time to reflect is important curricular and teaching practice. I am also a big advocate for practicing what we teach in our own work environment, and I am lucky and grateful that I work in an environment where reflection is built in and actively encouraged. Reflection makes a huge difference and fosters the type of inclusive thought you want in a classroom. What reflective practices have you used in your classrooms or what practices have you encouraged others to use in their spaces?

Work Cited

“Reflection.” Online Etymology Dictionary https://www.etymonline.com/word/reflection

What is Instructional Design?

This is week 5 of 9x9x25 and this is only the third post here, so I am actively thinking about how to make up the gap. Today’s post will have something to do with planning and gaps, because the topic for today is instructional design, which is work that requires a lot of organizing.

A conversation that I often have with colleagues, not only in higher education institutions but also working on contract in industry, centres around the definition of instructional design. Just like the conversations that we have about hybrid and blended learning, instructional design seems to sit in a nebulous space for some where many are unsure what instructional design is and what the limits or boundaries are around instructional design. The results of a survey released a few days ago here, suggests that most inside educational institutions are unaware of what instructional designers do, where the instructional designers are, and if they can help with the particular idea/concept/problem you may be having with your curriculum or teaching and learning. The article suggests that awareness of who instructional designers are is key- the IDs need to be visible. The Instructional Design Interest Group posted a blog recently (which I cannot access sadly) entitled “Is Everyone an Instructional Designer” and the title suggests that what instructional designers do or do not do is important and varies depending on where you are working.

So here are some responsibilities  I have had as an instructional design consultant in the past at various colleges and universities in Ontario:

  • Review curriculum content to make sure it aligns to course learning outcomes.
  • Map course learning outcomes to program learning outcomes to ensure there is no repetition in courses.
  • Chunk curriculum content in preparation for module creation in e-learning authoring software to ensure accessibility and instructional goals are being met.
  • Low-level module edits (typos etc.) in e-learning authoring software.
  • Suggest design elements of assignments and content that would work best within e-learning authoring software or face-to-face curriculum delivery such as photos, charts, graphs, or other learning objects.
  • Act as a liaison between subject matter or content experts and the design team or faculty.
  • Guide subject matter experts to resources that can help with curriculum development

There are more things to be sure but these are the few that come to mind as being the most important to the work I have done in the past, and some of the work I am doing now. My past work was almost solely within online environments. Now most of my work is about face-to-face delivery but with some elements of curriculum as presented on LMSs.

The one thing that I always made clear to people when I would say I work in instructional design is that I do not know how to code. This often shocked some, especially those in industry, because there was an expectation that an instructional designer would know how to code. But depending on where you work, the coding part is done by other super amazingly talented people who make objects look amazing. I am there for the pedagogical standards and alignment, information access and comprehension, those kinds of things. So the big question is- what does instructional design mean to you? Is it an all encompassing term or something very specific?

Next week you will probably be getting a blog post on the top 20 do’s and don’ts of conference attendance as I will be away at a conference and I have a feeling I will be inspired.

What Do We Mean When We Say Curriculum?

I had the privilege to attend the Learning Outcomes and Experiential Learning Symposium at the end of last week in Toronto. One of the great focuses of the two days was terminologies and defining what we mean when it comes to experiential learning opportunities and work-integrated learning. This discussion is part of an overarching thread and trend in higher education- what do we mean when we say (insert any educationally related word here)? Let me give you some examples.

Example A:

What do we mean when we say rubrics?

Possible discussion between colleagues can sound like this:

“I don’t like the word rubrics, I prefer to use grade descriptors because it allows for more flexibility.”

“But grade descriptors are not the same as rubrics.”

 

Example B:

What do we mean when we say hybrid learning?

Possible discussion between colleagues can sound like this:

“Oh that’s when you have one week in-class and the next week is online.”

“Wait that’s not what we do at our school, at ours hybrid is when you have an extra hour online on top of the in-class work.”

“Oh wait, we call that blended at our school.”

 

You get the idea. So when you use a word like curriculum everyone has an idea of what it means conceptually but in practice it can be something very different for each educator or for each school. Some see curriculum as the content piece of a class so that could mean anything from LMS modules, to PowerPoints, to assignments, to rubrics. To others curriculum is the alignment piece, looking to make sure the learning outcomes for the activities and assignments align to the course learning outcomes which in turn align to the program learning outcomes. To still others the line is not so clear.

Going back to the importance of etymology mentioned in the previous post, curriculum was first used in an English context in 1824 to mean “a course, especially a fixed course of study at a college, university, or school” (“curriculum”). So in this sense, curriculum is actually another way of saying what we would understand now as program of study. The Latin root of the word relates to running (currere) so curriculum is something that both moves but is clearly identifiable, a pathway if you will.

Curriculum becomes this catch-all term sometimes when what we really need it to be is a precise description of what we are working on or how the concept impacts our roles. Like everything in education we need to be able to incorporate that flexibility of terminology in our day-to-day work environment. Today I have worked on learning objectives, rubrics, program of study templates, and program descriptions. All curriculum and all valuable in its own way to advancing and promoting academic enrichment as well as student and faculty success- so what does curriculum mean to you?

 

Work Cited

“Curriculum.” Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/curriculum