Friday, 22 December 2017

Learning and/vs Grades

One of the things that I love about working within an academic calendar is that the year is made up of 4-month semesters, each with a beginning and an end. The beginning offers opportunity for a fresh start each semester and at the end I am inspired to reflect on the previous 4 months and think about what the next 4 months might look like.

As I think about next semester I am thinking about our students, about LEARNING, and about facilitating learning. This comes on the heels of the hours spent assessing assignments, projects and calculating grades: percentages, letter grades and GPAs. I am sometimes conflicted when it comes to values of learning and development, and how we define achievement. We calculate a grade based on demonstrated achievement, but does that grade always accurately reflect the learning that took place? The system can be viewed as performance-based and as such some students are primarily concerned with what they need to complete in the short term, in order to achieve a passing grade and be allowed to continue to the next level, I think in such a case students sometimes miss seeing learning as a continual process where one level builds to the next and where a solid foundation is important in the long term.

Particularly in the last couple of weeks of classes we sometimes hear ”what do I have to do to pass?” Happily, with one student I was able to shift this question into an opportunity of discussing “what still needs to be learned to be prepared for the next level?” The student was motivated and in the end we were both satisfied with what she learned through those final activities. However, due to previous circumstances in the semester, the final grade assigned does not reflect the overall learning and development that took place. By the same token, some students who chose to do the minimum to pass, often are left with gaps in their knowledge and skill, which leaves them with an unstable foundation as they continue in the next level.

As I think about goals for the next semester, I hope to encourage students to value learning by modeling my own belief in the value of learning and by creating a space that is conducive to such by fostering an environment where it is safe to make mistakes (and to learn from them); where inquiry and curiosity are encouraged and celebrated; and where learners are encouraged to work together to solve problems. I also hope to support students to break through the barrier of where they think their current potential is and establish a momentum of learning and development that continually brings them confidently to the next level.  

In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the holidays with loved ones, get plenty of fresh air and be ready to serve students in the new year.  Happy holidays!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

An Entrepreneurial Mindset

Until a couple of weeks ago, my perception of entrepreneurship was somewhat limited. In my mind, entrepreneurship is innovation related to creating and adapting businesses, providing value in the form of goods and services. Entrepreneurs tend to be creative problem solvers who are driven and who recognize opportunities. They don’t always succeed the first time, but they learn, adapt, and persist as they pursue their goals. What I had not previously considered is how this mindset might contribute to success outside of a business model, in the context of studies, work, and life.  

At the recent NISOD conference I had the opportunity to attend a session presented by Bree Langemo, President of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI) and Rebecca Corbin, President & CEO of National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) entitled An Entrepreneurial Mindset: Advancing Student Success in the Classroom and onCampusThe presenters compared the skills and characteristics of entrepreneurs with  21st century skills essential to success in the workplace. Some of these aptitudes include problem-solving, creativity, curiosity, persistence, adaptability, and awareness. In our own consultation with employers, there is consistent expression that these aptitudes are expected as graduates enter the workplace.
The experience that ELI has had in cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset has not only prepared students for the workplace, but has increased student achievement by instilling confidence, efficacy, and determination by providing tools for problem solving to overcome challenges (Schoeniger & Langemo, 2016). I am particularly inspired by the potential of empowering students to not only reach for their goals, but to actively pursue them with confidence and determination.

In further researching an entrepreneurial mindset, I came across the term motivated tactician. This term resonates with me as it implies action and describes an engaged thinker who considers strategies and takes action based on goals, motives, and needs (Haynie, Shepard, Mosakowski, & Early, 2010). Of course this applies to the context of business, but in a broader sense applies to the context of life. 

In the business context of entrepreneurship, we have all benefited from the value that various entrepreneurs have provided through goods and services. Entrepreneurship has been around me, however I haven't always considered it as a part of me. As I now reflect on the entrepreneurial mindset as a way of discovering opportunities with curiosity and determination, while connecting with others, it is clearly a means to contribute value to life and the lives around us. I am  inspired to further explore the entrepreneurial mindset and it’s potential to contribute to student success within college and beyond. Afterall, it's not just about's about life.

Haynie, J. M., Shepherd, D., Mosakowski, E., & Earley, P. C. (2010). A situated metacognitive model of the entrepreneurial mindset. Journal of Business Venturing, 25(2), 217–229. doi:10.1016/j.jbusvent.2008.10.001
Schoeniger, G, Langemo, B.(2016, May), An entrepreneurial mindset for student success. The NISOD Papers, 3, 1-4.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Passion, Pride and Performance

This past week was a busy one.  Monday was my first real day back to work, my son’s first day of grade eleven and my first day of LRNT503 – Program Planning.  I changed hats numerous times each day, between faculty, student, and mom.  I recognize that this will be the new norm.  Although it will be challenging at times, I know that I will manage, because these are all roles that I am passionate about.  It’s also important to remember the other hats that we wear and, as per the wise advice that Lori-Anne gave in a casual conversation “Don't forget being a mom and friend and all that stuff.” That other stuff to me includes daughter, sister, aunt, as well as making time for self-care.  I did manage to connect with friends and family this week, whether by phone or in person. 

As I reflect on the readings about program planning, and as I switch between hats, I am finding relationships not only with program planning situations within our college but also with how some of the concepts apply to scenarios beyond program planning, such as leadership, reaching personal and organizational goals, and even our own students’ success. 

In “Planning Programs for Adult Learners,” Caffarella (2010) cites Kouzes and Posner (2007), stating that part of a program planner’s job is to “create an environment where people are passionate about what they’re doing and take pride in what they’re doing.  The end result will always be performance” (p. 126).  She goes on to emphasize that planners need to enlist others to support them.  My thoughts when I first read this paragraph about passion, pride, and performance went immediately to the first year students that started in the Apparel Technology program a few days ago.  In our course introduction forum, many of the new students expressed a passion for costumes, fashion, art, etc.  They are energetic and excited to be starting the program. Ultimately, we want students to take pride in their work and, and as with program planning, this combination of passion and pride, should lead to performance.  I also see the importance of enlisting support and see myself and other faculty and staff as having a key role in that, for students.  If we can support students and help them engage them with the learning, they will hopefully maintain their passion and excitement and be motivated to perform successfully. 

With my own learning, I recognize that I need to be mindful of the process.  It is easy to get caught up in the task lists and focus on checking things off.  Particularly when the fatigue sets in, it is easy to lose sight of the passion and excitement.  Sometimes it is worth slowing the pace just a little and taking a step back to really enjoy the process.  I am grateful for the support that I have as a student:  fellow classmates, instructors, friends, family, and work colleagues.  Passion, pride and performance may just become a mantra as I begin this academic year as an instructor, student and mom. 

Reference :
Caffarella, R. S. & Daffron, S. R. (2013). Planning programs for adult learners: A practical
guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

My response to Sarah’s blog:  I THINK I MIGHT LEARN TO LIKE YOU, RESEARCH!

Sarah's original post: 

At the time that you wrote this post, I don’t think I was quite ready to make the same statement, but I am getting there.  I actually really enjoyed working on the article critique, which led me to reading a lot of different material as I was looking for specific information or trying to cross-reference a concept.  I didn’t end up using most of what I read, but I enjoyed the research process.  The idea of a project the magnitude of a research paper or thesis still seems a little daunting, but I am already much more comfortable with smaller projects than I was 6 weeks ago. 

Thank you for reminding me of the “whose shoulders are you standing on?” analogy and for sharing your incredible graphic renditions!

My response to Jody’s blog:  More on Reading

Jody's original post:

I enjoyed reading your post about how reading has changed for you.  It’s true that a mere 5 ½ weeks ago I too found the readings somewhat intimidating and although some of the articles that I have recently come across are challenging to read, I am much more comfortable and am reading much more in terms of volume. I have found that both the reading and writing that we have done have contributed to an increase in my comfort level when writing, too.  I think that the reading required for our last article critique has had a particular impact on my learning to read deeper. I could see a transition from focusing on the meaning of words to the meaning of each paragraph and the article as a whole.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts on reading!

My response to Mark’s blog:  My Role as An Educator in the Digital Age 
Mark's original post:

You make some very good points here, Mark.  I agree that many teachers feel the challenge of keeping up with the skills to support students in learning technologies, and the question of willingness is a good one.Some teachers feel so taxed with demands already and are intimidated by the idea of having to do more, which is a common perception when we are faced with doing things differently. We were exposed to these perceptions in some of the conversations with some of the MAELM students during residency. There are many teachers that are resistant to technology for one reason or another.  Maybe as advocates of learning and technology we can inspire others to make the move, one manageable step at a time. 


P.S. the visuals in your blog are great!
Open Minded and Skeptical Curious

I am not comfortable with the word skeptical.  I came across it recently as I was reading articles about critical thinking, in preparation for writing my article critique for LRNT502. I am not a skeptical person. In fact, I consider myself to be optimistic and trusting.  If someone tells me something is true, I generally give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not gullible, but I generally believe people have the best of intentions.

In Becoming a Critical Thinker, Robert Todd (2004) states that “The most distinctive features of the critical thinker’s attitude are open-mindedness and skepticism” (p. 4).  He points out that these can be considered opposite to one another. “Sometimes what looks like open-mindedness is simply gullibility and what looks like skepticism is really closed-mindedness” (Todd, 2004, p.4).

I do consider myself to be pretty open-minded (not gullible), so I can live with being an open-minded critical thinker, but not an open-minded skeptical thinker. This actually had me feeling somewhat concerned as I embarked on the article critique, thinking I had to approach it through a skeptical lens. Of course this wasn’t the only reading that I did on critical thinking, and I was able to find many other articles and tips that resonated better with me.  Words such as evaluate, reflect, analyze, assess and particularly CURIOSITY are words the rest well with me. 

As I approached the article critique through a lens of curiosity, I was pleasantly surprised that I did not find it as difficult to evaluate as I had anticipated. As I read through the article (again), I captured the essence of each paragraph in the margins.  Focusing on summarizing each paragraph forced me to consider what made sense and to question it when there was something that I didn’t understand. My copy of the article became quite annotated. As I continued to work through the article and compared it with other readings, I was reading deeper and noticing details that I hadn’t noticed previously.  

Photo by Lori Kemp

I spent time reviewing the articles from the author’s reference list, reading what the cited authors wrote and comparing it with how the author presented the information in the article that I was working on. I was surprised and a little miffed that the very first reference that I checked did not even address the concept that my author had cited it for.  I felt like the author had tried to pull the wool over my eyes. It was hard to believe that could happen in a peer reviewed, published article.  By the time I was finished evaluating the article I was actually gaining confidence in my own research and writing abilities!

Writing the article critique was not as difficult as I thought it might be. It was interesting to compare the perspectives of different authors and even to observe how the subject had evolved through the years of articles. This process has emphasized for me the importance of gathering research from multiple sources and to consider the validity of the sources and of the information. 

Now that I reflect on skepticism versus curiosity, skepticism suggests negativity, before even determining if there is a problem. It seems to me that a skeptical thought is an opinion that something is wrong, but with no substance to back it up. I agree with Todd's (2004) suggestion that it has the potential for being associated with being closed-minded.

Curiosity on the other hand, implies questioning with a purpose, without bias. One question leads to another in the search for answers, with evidence to back up the information that emerges. The idea of being open minded and curious feels not only comfortable, but exciting and full of potential for discovery. 


Todd, R. (2004). Becoming a critical thinker, (pp.1-27). Retrieved from