Reflections on Experiencing Teaching – 1st Chapter in The Skillful Teacher

Some really great quotes from this chapter in The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom:

“The truth is teaching is a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction, and risk are endemic” (p. 1)

“Our lives as teachers often boil down to our best attempts to muddle through the complex contexts and configurations that our classrooms represent” (p. 1)

“…teaching is riddled with irresolvable dilemmas and complex uncertainties”  (p. 2)

I like how Brookfield is just very upfront with the realities of teaching and “muddling” through otherwise highly complex and unpredictable situations. I have often found myself in situations where I’ve had to “muddle through” – A student stabs another student in the back with a pencil (this is in Grade 1), I lose complete control of the class because students are restless and bored, I’m playing a video to students and out pops a terrible swear word that has been unexpectedly dubbed over the original in the YouTube video. Those are just a few of the examples where I’ve had to muddle through, improvise, change course suddenly and throw out my otherwise perfectly planned lesson.

‘Growing into the Truth of Teaching’

I also appreciate Brookfield’s honesty and in stating some of the truths he has come to in his teaching career. Here are the ones that stood out to me:

“I will never be able to initiate activities that keep all students engaged all the time” (p. 9)

“Making full disclosure of my expectations and agendas is necessary if I am to establish an authentic presence in the classroom” (p. 9)

“I always have power in the classroom” and can’t make it so that students don’t notice me in the room (p. 9)

That kind of gut level honesty is highly appreciated and makes me reflect more deeply on my own convictions in teaching. It also helps me to know where my role starts and ends, and where the student is responsible for their own learning. After all, I cannot force learning onto a student. They must decide whether they want to learn or not. But I can also not be completely self negating and show no confidence in my teaching skills, or disregard the power and authority I hold as a teacher in the classroom.

Liberating Structures

Bumbershoot+wksp+seriesIn reading through Chapter 1, I find that I disagree with Brookfield on one point. He gives an example on pages 4-5 of how he was confronted by a silent classroom where none of the students wanted to speak, despite several successive questions asked by the teacher to the whole classroom. He then goes into a long speech about how no one was obliged to speak and that he wasn’t presuming failure on their part if they didn’t respond. It was a nice speech and I do agree that it probably alleviated some students’ minds to actually want to speak but. However, I think he could have solved this in a much easier, less dramatic way by simply using a “Liberating Structures” technique such as 1-2-4-All. In this simple group configuration activity, the instructor gets students to spend 1 minute thinking about the question, then 2 minutes talking in pairs with another person, then get into groups of 4 to come up with the best response worthy of sharing with the class, then in the final “all” stage, the teacher calls on all groups to share their discussions with the whole class. If Brookfield would have deployed this simple structure for promoting discussion, he would have avoided all the blank stares and the subsequent dramatic speech he had to make, which in the end amounted to simply more “teacher talk time” or TTT.


Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lipmanowicz, H., & McCandless, K. (2013). The surprising power of liberating structures. New York: Liberating Structures Press.

Teacher Talking Time. British Council. Available at:


Taking the Teaching Perspectives Inventory – reflections

I just tried the Teaching Perspectives Inventory, created by professors from UBC’s Faculty of Education. It’s an interesting tool to “collect your thoughts and summarize your ideas about teaching” (TPI Website). The TPI is supposed to help teachers understand their views on the “5 Perspectives” on Teaching:

  1. Transmission – “substantial commitment to the content or subject matter”
  2. Apprenticeship – “teachers are highly skilled practitioners of what they teach”
  3. Developmental – “planned and conducted from the learner’s point of view”
  4. Nurturing – “long-term, hard, persistent effort to achieve comes from the heart, not the head”
  5. Social Reform – teaching that “seeks to change society in substantive ways”

(Quotes from TPI Website – The “Five Perspectives”)

I took the TPI and found it quite easy and short to complete. Here are my results:

Teaching Perspectives Inventory

The context for my “teaching” was more of an instructional design/advisory role in a Career Development co-curricular course. The two nearly dominant teaching perspectives for me were “Apprenticeship” and “Nurturing”. Without going into much more in-depth detail about an exact interpretation of the results (the interpretation page was quite confusing to decipher), I would have to say “off the bat” that it makes sense that Apprenticeship is a dominant perspective, based on what I can reflect on as my beliefs in teaching.


I like to “do” things rather than talk about them or “transmit” them to an audience and just have them listen. I’d rather do something, show the student, and have them go on and do it while I watch. It’s much more “hands-on” experiential type of learning. Experiential learning is an ancient approach to learning, with even Aristotle saying “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them” – (Experiential Learning in Wikipedia). I like the idea of showing students how to do something, monitoring whether it’s too hard or too easy for them (TPI refers to it as the “zone of development”), and then having them work more independently once they have some mastery of the subject or skill.


I show up as having a “35” in nurturing with an even stronger belief (13 as opposed to 12 in Apprenticeship), so there must be something going on here. I do believe in “promoting a climate of caring and trust” and helping them set “challenging but achievable goals” (TPI Website – The “Five Perspectives”). So this idea of nurturing is focused on caring for the student, having compassion on them but not giving up on principles, goals and learning objectives. It seems that the “Nurturing” perspective is most closely aligned with the concept of the teacher as facilitator or “guide by the side”. That is something I fervently believe in as well.


My third,slightly less dominant perspective is “Developmental” and admittedly I don’t do this very well so I’m surprised it is third on the list. The idea of helping students move from more simple to complex thinking, developing “increasingly complex and sophisticated cognitive structures for comprehending content” (TPI Website – The “Five Perspectives”) is quite frankly a daunting task. I can certainly say that I hold these principles as ideals of good teaching, but can’t think immediately of a really good experience where I succeed in actually getting students to move from simpler to more complex thinking. Striving for that would involve a lot of eliciting of critical thinking skills from the students, which is certainly something very needed in the higher education field especially when it comes to student career development.

Other perspectives

Beyond that I see that “Transmission” is much lower and “Social Reform” is a recessive perspective. In my position and influence I simply don’t have the leverage, means or mandate to instil social reform in students. It’s more about empowering individuals to be the best they can, not trying to change society. But I guess you could argue that if you empower enough individuals to pursue their passions, grow in their critical thinking skills and really gain the hands-on experience they need, they you would in the end change society.


Balancing Credibility and Authenticity in the Classroom

In this video by Stephen Brookfield, he explains the importance of balancing credibility and authenticity in teaching in a Higher Ed context. He gives examples how teachers can establish credibility and authenticity, and discusses how they can strike a balance between these two using the Critical Incident Questionnaire as a tool to check how they are doing in the classroom.


One example he gives of perceived credibility of the teacher by students is the ability for the teacher to answer questions on the fly. If an instructor is able to open up the classroom to any random question on their subject expertise, and be able to answer that question in some satisfactory  way, they gain credibility in the eyes of their students. e says:

“The way students judge we know what we’re doing and that we know our stuff is if we can if we can respond to questions in the moment. It seems that responding to one unanticipated question in a good way demonstrates your knowledge and ability. That seems to really enhance your credibility more in fact than anything else.” – 1:48 in video

Another example he gives is for teachers to explain why they do what they do. Talking out loud about why teachers do what they do, building a rationale for why they are doing a particular thing, also serves to enhance credibility.


Brookfield mentions the importance of full disclosure as a source of authenticity. Instructors must make full disclosure to students of exactly what it is they are assessing in the students, why they are assessing them, for what purpose and with what criteria. Students need to know your agenda, bottom line.

Responsiveness to students is also very important – the ability for an instructor to respond to challenges and difficulties students are facing in the class as they grapple with the course material. Responsiveness “focuses on demonstrating clearly to students that you want to know any concerns and problems they are having with their learning so you can help them deal with them” (Brookfield 2015, p. 51).

Autobiographical disclosure is the last example he gives on authenticity in this video. In his book he refers to it as “disclosing personhood”, the “perception students have that their teachers are flesh-and-blood human beings” (p. 52). There is a right time and a right amount of autobiographical disclosure to do. Too much and it becomes inappropriate and off-topic, but too little and the instructor appears wooden and cold.

 Striking a Balance

Brookfield concludes by talking about how to strike a balance as an instructor between credibility and authenticity. He says none of us can find that perfect balance. It’s the “nature of the pedagogic beast” that you can’t get everything perfectly balanced ever (video, 4:28).  However, what helps Brookfield the most in his own teaching is constantly using a Critical Incident Questionnaire to gauge the appropriate balance he is giving to both credibility and authenticity. The CIQ will reveal how students are feeling about his teaching, and he can make adjustments appropriately based on their feedback.


Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brookfield’s The Skillful Teacher – Reflections on Researching Student Learning

I am so glad I discovered Brookfield’s “The Skillful Teacher focuses on what students value in teachers”, thanks to the Provincial Instructor Diploma program I course I am taking, 3260 Professional Practice. I was finally got my hands on the 2015 edition. I find his stated purpose for writing the book extremely helpful:

“The essence of skillful teaching lies in the teacher constantly researching how her students are experiencing learning and then making pedagogic decisions informed by the insights she gains from students’ responses” (2015, p. ix)

I’d like to break down that quote in my own context:

Researching how students are experiencing learning

My biggest question in this regard is to what extent instructors are able to do this practically on a day to day basis. Brookfield recommends doing a weekly “Critical Incident Questionnaire” (p. 34) where he asks students to describe when they were engaged, distanced, affirmed, confused or surprised during the course of his lessons. I have not heard of that strategy being implemented before, but it could be very easily done anonymously, online, and even with mobile devices at the end of class using Google Forms.

My concern is not the practically of doing research into student learning experiences, but whether instructors have that curiosity from the get go at all. Do they really have that on their agenda at the beginning of term to monitor how students are doing with the learning? This is especially crucial for 1st year undergraduate Non-commerce students coming to, say, an introductory class on accounting, and having no background in business or accounting whatsoever. Monitoring their learning experiences early on in the term would avoid pitfalls later on when instructors start finding out the majority of students are struggling with the content.

Having in place a standard, efficient and quick means of getting a pulse on the class such as the digital or paper CIQ would be helpful to implement across the faculty, or at least make available to instructors as an option to enhance their awareness of student learning. As part of course design, I plan on raising this issue with instructors at opportune times to help them think of how to better track student learning experiences.

Making informed pedagogic decisions

The concept of making informed pedagogical decisions midway in a course based on student learning experiences happening in real time is a new one to me. I hear more often that instructors are “capitulating” to student demands and either extend a deadline, make an assignment slightly easier, or reduce the deliverables on a group project. But those decisions are often not necessarily “informed pedagogic” decisions based on taking a true snapshot of student learning experiences in the course. There are of course some that do, but part of the problem is the unwieldiness of the surveying technology we have, and the reluctance of instructors to go through the effort of collecting that data, whether in paper or digital form.

This is why data visualization and quick feedback loops tied into learning analytics is so important. If instructors were to have a digital, online, always live and real time data visualization interface to monitor student learning experiences – both of online activity and classroom experience via survey results — they would have a much better pulse on student learning without the time consuming effort to collate, analyze and interpret results of questionnaires manually. Even if the instructor spent a few seconds glancing over a very clear, concise and accurate data visualization chart of student learning (how many students found a particular topic confusing, how many requested more clarity on a certain issue for example), that in itself could foster a rich discussion or a slight but effective turn in the direction of the course that could better assist the students in their learning.


Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Critical Incident Questionnaire Resources from Stephen Brookfield’s Website: 

  1. The Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire

  2. Understanding Classroom Dynamics: The Critical Incident Questionnaire

  3. The Critical Incident Questionnaire (CIQ): From Research to Practice and Back Again   By Jeffrey Keefer, Adult Education Research Conference Proceedings, 2009

PIDP3260 – Professional Practice Intro Post

I work as a Learning Eco-systems Support and Solutions Manager at Sauder School of Business at UBC. It’s a bit of a mouthful of a job title but what I do on a daily basis is help instructors, professors and staff make the best decisions possible on which types of learning technology to use in order to enhance the overall student experience and ultimately improve student learning.

I’m taking the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program because initially I needed to brush up on the latest approaches, research and best practices in adult learning, especially since I had moved from k-12 education into Higher Education a few years back.

I am especially looking forward to the Professional Practice course since it will give me an opportunity to reflect on my work both as a manager and as an adult educator (training instructors on tech use). It also affords the possibility of my own reflection on the professional practice of instructors in higher ed and how to encourage reflective practice in a university context. So I am hoping to take away not only skills that I can use in my own career, but also to help other instructors enhance their own careers and improve their instructional skills.

You can follow my blog posts by subscribing to my blog here.

Asking the Right Questions

According to Hal Gregersen, author of The Innovator’s DNA, the only way to solve the problems of the future is to “build a capacity in ourselves and the people around us to ask the right question”. He argues that innovators excel in asking the right questions, and know “how to create a space and environment around them that let the new right question surface and emerge to take them down a completely different path.” They also know how to teach that inquisitive mindset to others. He also warns of having a “right” answer to the wrong question. We must learn how to ask the right questions, training our minds to search after the right question to ask in the right context.

Michael “Vsauce” Stevens at TEDxVienna inspires us to be constantly asking “why” and not be afraid to ask the absurd questions, to really dig deep into the reasons behind things, to have that natural curiosity for the world we live in. 

In reflection, I’m struggling to get my mind around a few things: firstly, how to have that mindset to even start wanting to ask the right questions, and secondly, how to actually ask those right questions at the right time.

How to have that mindset to even start wanting to ask the right questions

It helps to have an incentive. In my case it’s entering a new role at work where I’m required to ask questions as a strategy for helping improve the outcome of a project. Incentives give you the initial push to start thinking of how to start formulating the questions you need to ask. But there is something deeper that must go on. One needs to realize that asking of questions will actually help initiate a potential healthy and rich discussion that may lead to improving a system, allowing a project to succeed or helping another colleague overcome a difficult problem. Knowing that you will make a difference in the outcome directly because of the well-formulated questions you pose is really the mindset you need to have.

How to actually ask those right questions at the right time

 This is probably the most difficult one for me. I am a slow processor by nature so things will pass me by in the moment, and I will later on reflect on that moment and be able to formulate an appropriate question to ask, but the meeting will be over! So there must be a way anticipating discussion topics, formulating questions beforehand and being present in the meeting enough to know when to ask your question at the appropriate time. So perhaps steps will look like this (in the context of needing to ask the right in a project meeting):

  1. Understanding everything there is to know about the proposed meeting agenda and specific discussion topics
  2. Invest focused time in formulating a list of questions to ask
  3. Come to the meeting prepared to ask the question at the right point in the discussion

The only problem is that step 2 needs to be unpacked.

How to invest focused time in formulating a list of questions

This would involve brainstorming, mindmaps, process flows, visual diagrams — anything that will stimulate you to generate creative ideas. Perhaps using the Six Thinking Hats will help divide up the questioning into the categories of managing, information, emotions, discernment, optimistic response and creativity.

Another need is to formulate what you in your role are trying to steer the project team into looking at, conceptualizing, rethinking and ultimately deciding on. A clearly defined goal for what you want to achieve in the meeting needs to be clear to you, and then working backwards from that goal, formulate questions that will generate discussion towards that goal.

It would be too ambitious to think of your “right” question always guaranteeing you the ability to change other peoples’ minds. But there is still power in “putting a rock” in the shoe of another person. That is, your question can spark a thought process in the minds of the listener that they will later go away and mull over. It may irritate them like a rock in their shoe, and they will eventually want to take it out, look at it seriously, and consider addressing that question. That could very well create a “change” moment in that person where they decide on reconsidering their original response.


The bottom line

It will take work for you to formulate that right question, and to be present, prepared and ready to ask that question at the right time to the right people. It will take the work of formulating a number of questions around a topic in order to achieve a specific goal, and then whittling down those questions to maybe one or two really good ones. You will need as much information about the topic you are asking the question about in order to formulate the best response.

Flow in STEM Education


The concept of flow, a term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, is also known as “the zone” and is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity” (Flow in Wikipedia). It is this idea of “being in the zone”, being completely focused on a task, being totally motivated to do a specific task in a concentrated way. When someone is in a state of flow, they have managed to put their emotions completely in service of an activity such as performing or learning. When one is in flow, they enjoy doing that they are doing, they have a sense of losing track of time (Luxenburg 2011).

flowLuxenburg, in his video “The Flow Experience in Education I”, explains the following diagram based on Csíkszentmihályi).  Luxenburg states that flow is the perfect balance between how difficult an activity is and the skill level of the student. If the challenge level is too high and the skill level low, then anxiety occurs on the part of the student. However, if the challenge level is too low and the skill level high in the student, boredom occurs. So the idea for instructors is to constantly strive to achieve that balance of maintaining challenge level and skill level to achieve flow.

anxiety_arousalAnother interesting diagram shown by Luxemburg is the same diagram (also based on Csíkszentmihályi 1990) but with a more granular detailing of emotional/psychological state. Luxemburg basically summarizes the goal of video games as achieving for the player a constant state of arousal leading to flow leading to control and back again. As the player goes up the levels in a game, they are constantly pulled back into a state of arousal which eventually leads to flow which settles down to control.

I am fascinated by this idea of flow because it relates to me personally first and foremost as in how it applies to the creative process of music making. I have often experienced the state of flow and this timeless focus on creating music in my early years as a music composer in high school and later in university. More recently, and more closely related to education, I see how flow applies directly to the ways in which students in our Robotics classes engage with the activities, the programming and the building of robots. It really helps to break down the lessons in terms of challenge level and skill level, so I will spend the rest of the journal breaking this down, so applying flow to the planning and implementation of STEM activities for elementary school students. I’m thinking that especially the two diagrams of Csíkszentmihályi will be very helpful in understanding where students are at in their motivation and engagement with the materials, and how to improve their state of “flow” in the course.

Flow in STEM Robotics? 

Students in the STEM  Robotics program enter with a very low skill level in general (except for the occasional robotics fanatics or returning students who have already been exposed to robotics). They have no experience with the building materials, no experience with programming and some have very little experience even controlling a trackpad on a laptop. The challenge level is also a little beyond what they are familiar with, because they simply haven’t seen these products and software before.

Challenge levels are adjusted according to age and grade level. Students in kindergarten to grade 2 are given an easier set of building bricks, sensors and motors to use, as well as a simple programming block interface on the computer, whereas the Grades 3-8 students are given an interface which can in fact be used all the way up to university. The higher group of students are given a challenge level appropriate for their age but not so challenging as to cause anxiety, but not so simple as to cause boredom.

The trick is to catch students in this state of flow. It would look like students being so engaged in their problem solving, their set of tasks or the building of their robot, that they’ve lost all sense of time and in fact don’t want to leave when it’s time to go. They would be fully engaged without the instructors ever having to tell them what to do or to be on task. They will go from arousal (excited about the project they are about to do), to flow to control over what they are doing. At that point ideally the class would end and they would move on in the next class to yet a new, slightly harder challenge that will arouse their interest sufficiently.

Flow – Between Anxiety and Boredom

The research I have done on flow definitely leads me to be much more conscious of observing flow, anxiety, boredom, even arousal and control, in the students I teach. Particularly, I want to try to be much more intentional about guiding students into that state of flow, balancing challenge level with skill level. I imagine this would be hard with students with varying levels of skill. Perhaps grouping similarly skilled students together will allow me to move those students forward to that appropriate challenge level so they can achieve flow based on their skill level.

Arousing student interest in new projects would be key to maintaining that video-game like cycle of constantly gripping students’ attention with new and interesting challenges. This goal would significantly shape future curricular planning for upcoming courses, in that I will start intentionally planning for achieving flow through successively more difficult tasks. As students get more skilled at particular programming and building features, I need to be constantly challenging to push themselves further to improve their skill level. If I were to design a series of robotic missions that students have to complete, then those missions would have to be successively more challenging and would need to prompt students to use a variety of increasingly more developed skills.

I am excited about observing, encouraging and planning for flow in my students because I believe that ultimately students will be much more excited about the program, engage more deeply in the tasks and are so focused on play that they are not aware of what is going on around them (Luxenburg 2011).



Csikszentmihályi, Mihaly. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row.

Luxenburg, Avi. (2011). The Flow Experience in Education I. Retrieved from YouTube at on November 22, 2015.

Wikipedia. Flow (psychology). Retrieved from: on November 22, 2015.

Reflections on Gamification, Badging and Scaffolding

Gamification and Scaffolding

At work, we want to start using BadgeOS with LearnDash in WordPress to gamify modules in a co-curricular career development course. The idea is to allow students get earn and collect badges once modules are complete.

The reasoning and research behind this is that gamification “provides visible milestones of the student’s mastery of content in real time” (Kapp 2014). Visible signs of mastery of a specific content can help students see broadly what they’ve accomplished or which content they have already gone through and completed. Gamification can also provide continual, instant feedback to learners on their progress. It serves to “orient the learner to where they are in the instructional process, where they are going, and how much further they have to go until the end” (ibid.)

So students need to “see” their progress, and they need to progress through a series of increasingly more challenging or difficult levels. So the badges that display whenever they pass a specific module add up to display a certain level of competency a student has achieved.

Kapp’s article, “Show the Learner Visible Signs of Their Learning” goes on to talk about scaffolding, the process of “controlling the task elements that initially are beyond the learner’s capacity, so that the student can concentrate on and complete elements within his or her immediate capability” (Kapp 2014). Scaffolding relates to gamification in that the movement a student makes from one level to another with increasing difficulty, requiring them to apply more skill to master that new level is very much like the approach to scaffolding (ibid.).

Putting it in context

The students: First to fourth year undergraduate students at a major university

The program: A career development co-curricular program

The learning technology platform:  WordPress using LearDash and BadgeOS plugins

Duration: 4 years to complete the co-curricular program 

Levels of Mastery: 4 levels, Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Masters, each level with 5-9 modules per level.

Gamification could be applied in this context to giving students badges in the different levels and modules. Specifically we would give students one badge per module. We would distinguish the badges visually from each other using logos related to the subjects of each module. Users would have a profile panel in which to see their progress in the course and the badges they have accumulated.

Reflections on applying Gamification to this program

It seems that for the career development program, there is definitely a series of steps students need to accomplish to achieve greater mastery of specific skills. In that way gamification could be applied to provide those visible milestones of student progress over progressively harder material. Scaffolding is used in the sense that the beginning levels are much simpler and basic than the higher levels and so students should be able to accomplish most of level 1 on their own initiative.

What this article (Kapp 2014) has brought up for me is the concept of Zone of Proximal development, which is “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Kapp 2014 quoting Vygotsky, 1978). It would be an interesting exercise to see which activities students can do independently and which activities would need, in this case, career development professionals to monitor and guide the student in a more hands on way.


Kapp, Karl. (2014). Show the Learner Visible Signs of Their Learning. Available at:

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Reflections on Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers

I just discovered Hattie’s Visible Learning and the following book Visible Learning for Teachers which is more applied to the teaching context. I am truly amazed and excited on this find, and surprised I didn’t find out about this earlier or have been told about this in my more than 12 years of teaching experience.

I’d like to reflect on teaching in my context (Higher Education) based on Hattie’s definition of teachers (Hattie, 2012, pp.19-20)

Powerful, passionate, accomplished teachers are those who:

  1. focus on students’ cognitive engagement with the content of what it is that is being taught
    1. This implies that there must be a way to observe evidence for that cognitive engagement. Assessment is one way to do this, also projects and presentations or simply dialogue between student and teacher. This also brings to mind the necessity of challenging students with activities that are higher up on Bloom’s Taxonomy, i.e. creating, analyzing, synthesizing, applying. Activities that promote that kind of cognitive engagement must be prioritized over things like heavy assessments with multiple choice which just test remembering.
  2. focus on developing a way of thinking and reasoning that emphasizes problem-solving and teaching strategies relating to the content that they wish students to learn;
    1. Problem solving is something we probably need to do more of in Higher Ed, using real-life problems in the particular subject area students are studying. Case studies are a great way to do this, also projects that involve coming up with a solution to a known problem in that area (say, trying to build an ethically based company, or a sustainable business initiative, in the case of Business School students). Teaching strategies then need to be geared towards promoting that problem based learning. SETs for Problem solving from Barkley (2009)  would be excellent to apply.
  3. focus on imparting new knowledge and understanding, and then monitor how students gain fluency and appreciation in this new knowledge;
    1. It would be hard to define “new knowledge” in this age of ever-present knowledge on the internet. Perhaps evaluating what learners already know first would be the first step, then introducing new concepts in a very methodical way, then testing their understanding of those new ideas. There is also an interesting discussion around what it means to “impart” – is that lecturing, just giving a reading to do, or could it be more hands-on in some way? I would like to think that an instructor can impart new knowledge by presenting a new problem to solve and then working backwards to uncover the new knowledge as secret as it were to solving the problem.
  4. focus on providing feedback in an appropriate and timely manner to help students to attain the worthwhile goals of the lesson;
    1. Feedback is always a tricky one, and I often hear teachers not giving timely feedback, or the feedback mechanism is very slow and not very user friendly. In the case of online content, there are quick ways to give feedback to students (such as with assignment feedback or quiz/test feedback that could be relatively instant). The timeliness of feedback is something certain instructors are starting to understand as being very crucial for student development. Once they connect the timely feedback with student attainment of learning goals, they would be more eager to provide that to students.
  5. seek feedback about their effect on the progress and proficiency of all their students;
    1. Normally this is done through “Course Evaluations” but that happens at the end of the course when it is almost too late to change anything. It would only have an effect on the next semester’s students. But feedback on instructor effectiveness in the classroom should probably be done earlier in the year, perhaps by using anonymous surveys.
  6. have deep understanding about how we learn; and
    1. Not enough students and not nearly enough instructors really know “how we learn” and there are often misguided beliefs in effective learning strategies. I loved this article showing how effective certain study habits were: The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn!
  7. focus on seeing learning through the eyes of students, appreciating their fits and starts in learning, and their often non-linear progressions to the goals, supporting their deliberate practice, providing feedback about their errors and misdirections, and caring that the students get to the goals and that the students share the teacher’s passion for the material being learnt.
    1. That sounds like a great ideal, very all-encompassing and idealistic, but the stance, the belief and passion of the teacher to do this is so important. I’m wondering what motivates the majority of teachers, and whether it is this or other things that motivate them. Often in a classroom of 200 plus students (large lecture halls) teachers can be very detached from students. Some have tried to solve this through discussion groups, online participation, forums, etc. But what this statement is saying is that the attitude of the teacher is so important for there to be a healthy learning environment. Encouraging that stance in teachers requires inspiration, comradery, and mutual encouragement. Perhaps when educatational leaders provide those opportunities for teachers to get together to do just that, more of that attitude can be shared and passed on.


Barkley, E. F. (2009). Student engagement techniques: A handbook for college faculty. John Wiley & Sons.

Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.