FIRST TIME: BLOGGER, ‘TEACHING AND LEARNING WONDERLAND’ RABBIT-HOLE DIVER, AND GIF USER

Hi Folks! Welcome to my blog.

This is a graphic representation of me in 2020 diving into the new role of 'Learning Facilitator':

And this 2021...

Flying into the Wonderland that is 'Teaching & Learning':

Perhaps not flying so much as "falling with style" (Buzz Light Year, 1995).

I confess. It's a lot more like falling down a rabbit hole!

It turns out that there is exactly as much to being a successful 'educator' as I thought. This is why I pursued careers in accounting, business, and more recently photography. With great respect for the profession, it wasn't a career consideration until a former teacher put me forward for a role. 

I thought "Why not? I am passionate about my area of expertise, I want to create real change for people, this is something I can do."

So, I jumped.

Very quickly, I realised that there was a gap in knowledge and skills to the detriment of student learning. To better serve students I needed to self-educate, and fast!

Enter the 'Teaching and Learning' wonderland.

NATASHA DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

The depth of this rabbit hole of 'learning and teaching' is so vast that the term 'Professional Identity' was an entirely new concept. The first example of the extent of the journey ahead. To determine how successful I have been in achieving learning outcomes so far, an examination must begin at the entrance of the vortex: 

What is my professional identity?

Words like 'mentor' and 'educator' resonate the most. As somewhat of an expert in the field of photography, having studied the exact subject material as a student, and having created a successful business from that knowledge, professional identity was in the scope of a mentor with the capacity to help others reach their goals by teaching them the same steps. What I have learned recently is that there is an academic basis for this professional identity.

What have the learning and teaching theories meant for the development of my professional identity as a Learning Facilitator?

The learning approach that I utilise in the classroom is a combination of Pedagogy, which is the traditional content-focused method of helping adults learn, and Andragogy made popular by Malcolm Knowles who identified that adult learners had the capacity to be more self-directed (Knowles, 1988, pp. 1–3). The theories of Behaviourism and Cognitivism that underpin the Pedagogy approach propose that external and internal motivators respectively are the key mechanism to learning (Keesee, 2020). An example of this in action is that despite great effort, very little engagement from online students occurs in my classroom. These students are motivated by grades and are not confident to actively participate. They are passive learners (Keesee, 2020).

What I now understand is that the three main learning approaches form the learning highway described in research as "the PAH Continuum" with the ultimate goal to evolve to the self-determined model Heutagogy (Garnett, 2013). The theories that are fundamental to Heutagogy are Constructivism, based on self-directed learning, and Connectivism based on digital learning in a self-directed environment (Halupa, 2015).

Dr Michele Schoenberger-Orgad said in a TDU Talk paper when discussing 'The evolution of my identity as a teacher' that "thinking about the evolution of my identity as a teacher made me realise that I needed to reflect on myself as a learner first" (The University of Waikato, 2011). That rings so true for me. It's also the place to start understanding why Heutagogy is the approach that most challenges me. 

What kind of learner am I?

The first time I heard the Heutagogy term "self-determined learning" (Hase & Kenyon, 2007, p. 112) I thought "preposterous!". 

Despite the initial reaction, there is hope yet. Interestingly, learner identity and professional identity align where I am in the same place of comfort which is to travel along the learning highway. This can be considered Constructivism (Garnett, 2013). I am greatly motivated by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. At times I can extend into a more self-determined learning model. I am de-motivated by public exposure when operating as a passive contributor. This results in a withdrawal deeper into the Peripheral (Wenger, 2000). 

No greater demonstration of this is available than my participation in the community of practice.

Participating as a Community of Practice

Like all concepts so far, the idea of Community of Practice was also wholly new. Wenger (2000) identified that at the core of learning is participation in community frameworks to create opportunities for peer learning. My experience is that this is true.

Primary learning occurred from watching the recordings and listening to and engaging in conversation with peers. So compelling was this experience that I had to share the impact of this with the community of practice. Similarly, peers within this community of practice have also mentioned that their experience is positive. This supports the fundamental idea that we learn more from our peers than we do from content (Wenger, 2000).  

where do i fit in?

My own participation in the community of practice has been through legitimate peripheral participation rather than active (Wenger, 2000). The core reason I can identify for this is ability. While I benefit greatly from the peers of this community of practice, due to a significant lack of experience in education both occupationally and theoretically, I have less to contribute, and therefore they learn more from each other. This is simply an honest reflection.

What do I mean by 'ability'? To explain this, I will draw from Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956).

blooms taxo-what?

This list of verbs formulates part of a toolbox to assist with the "classification of education goals" (Anderson, Krathwohl, & Bloom, 2001; Krathwol, 2002) to assist with learning. Based on this it can be argued that I am Surface Deep Thinking and there is work for me to do in order to progress into Higher Order Thinking (Anderson, Krathwohl, & Bloom, 2001; Krathwol, 2002). On reflection, the reason is that at my level of knowledge the content feels like learning a new language. Likened to examples provided in the community of practice about the experience of teaching students with language barriers.

Another way to think about it is within the:

the zone of proximal development

Vygotsky determined that The Zone of Proximal Development is "the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can do without help" (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978). Where I sit is somewhere in the central zone. What this looks like represented by the graphic below, most likely is that I sit in The Zone of Proximal Development further towards the right rather than I believe my peers do, who appear closer to the left. This is based on observations of the community of practice.

As a learner, a framework is required to support the potential for development. Vygotsky calls this:

“scaffolding”

(Vygotsky, 1962, 1978)

Scaffolding is a strategy for supporting learners to develop into higher levels of competence (Kong, 2002). By using this framework to determine where my level begins, it will be possible to determine a pathway forward. This is a powerful revelation. 

Here is yet another confession. Despite the resistance, I am learning a great deal. This can be attributed to:

constructive alignment

On reflection, it can be argued that the learning environment and exercises have been constructed in a way that has made learning the desired outcomes inevitable (Biggs, 2003). This experience could not have come at a better time. Intuitively, I understood that there have been elements of the content I have been delivering that required review. Without knowledge of the way that learning outcomes operate within Constructive Alignment, it was a challenge to map a pathway forward. Now, there is opportunity. 

What does this mean for my emerging professional identity?

Through the process of being a learner I can now recognise that classroom delivery is impacted by professional identity, and that consideration of student ability is also critical. At my level of teaching, Diploma students still rely heavily on content-focused learning. However, there are opportunities to utilise Mezirow's idea of the Transformative Learning approach to create a more student-focused classroom (Mezirow, 2015). In recent weeks, for one class I have swapped out a PowerPoint based 'lecture' style class once a week for a completely slide-free class based purely on student question driving engagement. This is the first step.

Participating in and learning about community of practice has been an eye-opening experience. It has evolved the way I think about classroom delivery. As a learner who now understands the benefit of Scaffolding, this has impacted the way I plan to approach my craft.

As a fresh Learning Facilitator, I could relate to Mazur when he discussed the "curse of knowledge" in relation to losing perspective of the student experience as you understand the content more deeply (Mazur, 2020). Currently, this is a challenge that requires consideration.

A more comprehensive understanding is required of student ability within Bloom's Taxonomy and Scaffolding that is appropriate in consideration of Constructive Alignment techniques (Bloom, 1956). I look forward to reflecting on each student and their location within The Zone of Proximal Development to assist them better (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978).

successfulness in achieving learning outcomes

Based on the learning so far, I feel transformed by examining learning and teaching theories and techniques and reflecting on how this impacts the way I approach delivery. By participating in a community of practice I now understand the challenges and benefits that arise. Aligning my emerging professional identity with skills and knowledge is developing and will continue in this direction using the frameworks provided by Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, 1956), Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development and Scaffolding (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978), and Constructive Alignment ideas (Biggs, 2013). Identifying challenges and opportunities both personal and professional have been an exercise in personal growth that will be immediately applied in the classroom environment. By no means has this rabbit hole found an end yet, but there is light at the end of the tunnel now.

The first question that needs to be asked is:

"What is my role in the classroom?" (Mazur, 2020).

References

 

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning,

Teaching, and Assessing — A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives; Lorin W. Anderson, David R. Krathwohl, Peter W. Airasian, Kathleen A. Cruikshank, Richard E. Mayer, Paul R. Pintrich, James Raths and Merlin C. Wittrock (Eds.) Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 

Biggs, J., 2003. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. The Society for Research into

Higher Education and Open University Press, 2003.

 

Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational

goals. New York, NY: Longmans, Green

 

Conversation at Home with Jack Mezirow. (2015, July 6). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEuctPHsre4

Garnett, F. (2013, March 4). The PAH Continuum: Pedagogy, Andragogy & Heutagogy. Heutagogy Community of Practice. https://heutagogycop.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/the-pah-continuum-pedagogy-andragogy-heutagogy/

Halupa, C. M. (2015, January 1). Pedagogy, Andragogy, and Heutagogy. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/297767648_Pedagogy_Andragogy_and_Heutagogy

Hase, S., & Kenyon, C. (2007). Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4(1), 111–119. https://doi.org/10.29173/cmplct8766

Ian Robertson. (2009, May 11). Blooms taxonomy and lesson planning [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrKmM1cEffU

Keesee, G. (2020). Teaching and Learning Resources / Learning Theories. Teaching and Learning Resources. http://teachinglearningresources.pbworks.com/w/page/19919565/Learning%20Theories

Knowles, M. S. (1988). The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy (Revised ed.). Cambridge Book Co.

Kong, A. (2002). Scaffolding in a Learning Community of Practice: A Case Study of a

Gradual Release of Responsibility from the Teacher to the Students. 47th Annual International Reading Association Convention, San Francisco.

 

Peer instruction and why assessment is a killer of learning Eric Mazur, professor at Harvard. (2020, May 8). [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EyJOLTUvqc&t=2s

Shabani, K., Khatib, M., & Ebadi, S. (2010). Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development: Instructional Implications and Teachers’ Professional Development. English Language Teaching, 3(4), 237–248. https://doi.org/10.5539/elt.v3n4p237

Wenger, E., (2000), Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems, Organization

7(2) 225‐246

University of Waikato, (2011). TDU Talk – Exploring Your Teacher             Identity. Available: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/tdu/pdf/tdutalk/SepOct11.pdf

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