End of semester reflection

Being on both sides of the mirror, I see both the student and instructor points of view.  I must say, both sides are limiting.  I was very excited about this semester.  I had taught this class before and I just needed a bit of “tweaking” to make it just right.  Wow, was I wrong.  I didn’t realize that a change in two assignments would change the whole dynamic of the course.  It was good intentions, but they were not as successful as I had hoped. 

First, individual teaching demonstrations.  This is a good thing!  We encourage groups and teams in the program, but we need to continue to work on individual accountability.  With a group project, strong students are able to steer their peers in the right direction.  Without that influence, many students struggle.  I found that this semester.  Was it just easier to revert to old habits?  Perhaps that’s one lesson learned.  It’s a powerful lesson and one we need to continue to investigate.  Theory to practice. 

Another interesting component was the blogs.  I did not want to be rigid with the assignment and gave more freedom in my class than other classes.  (Was this a surprise, especially with my dissertation research??)  Even though it was worth a (small) grade, it was often neglected or brushed aside with minimal content.  That does reaffirm research that has been done.  I find this interesting phenomenon.  If we, as instructors, give so much weight/guidance/push, are students just doing it for the grade?  Are they really learning something or are we just forcing a fake activity of reflection?  Or, if we leave it so that it’s open and less rigid, do students not do it because it’s not required?  What’s the answer?  How do we get students to reflect meaningfully on their learning?  Perhaps we can only lead the horse to water, but can’t make them drink?  (Just a saying, please, students, do not be offended here!) 

I’ve been on both sides.  There was a time when I did not want to reflect for a course and I did it because it was a required activity.  However, in the process, I learned something.  Is that the answer?  Would I have learned as much if I did not keep a reflective journal?  Perhaps; perhaps not.  To me, it had nothing to do with the content of the writing; it was the simple act of just doing it!  There were no requirements as to the length or topic.  It just had to be done!  I ending up really getting into the writing of it.  I reflected on all sorts of things that had in some way had to do with the class, but in many ways did not.  Only at the end could I bring it all together.  Perhaps other students saw no value in the assignment.  What makes it work for some and not for others? 

One thing I do know is that reflection can be multi-faceted.  There is public reflection and private reflection and close-knit reflection.  I have a much more difficult time with public reflection.  I learn more about myself when I am able to write my personal thoughts and feelings to a few, select readers that give me honest and appropriate feedback.  I have to trust that these readers can give me something valuable in return.  Perhaps one answer is to block blogs to select groups of readers – just a few small blogging buddies that students feel comfortable sharing instead of the entire program of students.  ??  I don’t know.  Feedback anyone?  Suggestions?  Personal reflection works, too, but often I have a hard time making sense of it all alone.

As I finish out my contract at VCU, I can’t help but reflect on my time here.  As Bill has said, I’ve transformed.  I need my own Educating Wendy movie!  I think part of reflection is what you’ve learned.  I’ve learned too many things to list here, but I do have a few “nuggets of goodness”:

  • I’ve learned that just as you’re finishing something, you’re really just starting something new. 
  • We don’t get “do-overs” in life, but we can learn from our mistakes. 
  • It’s okay to change courses in life.  Education opens up even more possibilities.
  • Be open to diversity, new ways of thinking, and get out of your comfort zone.
  • Surround yourself with people that know more than you and ask A LOT of questions.
  • Do the right thing, even if it’s hard. 
  • Growing pains means you’re growing.  It may be uncomfortable, but eventually it’s worth it. 

Thank you all for a great semester.  M.Ed.’s, I hope to follow all of your progress in the program!  Nurses, best of luck to all of you!  Thank you all for teaching me more than I was able to teach you. 

Why I love Jane Vella’s books

Jane Vella is one of those people who just see the bigger picture in life.  Learning is dialogue, cooperation, and respect.  When you read her works you know she’s pulling pieces from all the greats.  I picture her sitting on her back porch with a cup of tea, reading Cyril Houle with the pages creased.  She truly is an awesome woman.  I feel selfish wanting to call her again asking her to have another conference call with ADLT 603.  It was such a great culminating experience last year, that I want all of you to experience it, too.   Let me see what I can do… 

Many of you commented on Eleanor Ray (LNRA) podcast.  I have to laugh.  When “input” is given in such a humorous way, you can’t help but remember it.  I’m confident everyone will remember to add LNRA to the first learning task from now on! 🙂

Reflections so far

I’ve had such a great start to this semester.  I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs and commenting back.  I feel like I need to get in the game and make my own posts!  

I really like our third week where we tie in our personal beliefs, values, and attitudes with how adults learn.  (Or in the case of the video, how people learn in general).  I do belief in many of the components of andragogy, particularly for motivation and experience.  But as A Mind of their Own showed, even children come with experience and baggage.  We assume experience helps us, but it can also hinder us!  Sometimes we need to undo learning to teach things the right way.  We all filter information and it’s only through authentic assessments (more on that later in the semester), can we find out of it fully “clicked.”  

This makes me think of how songs and phrases get distorted.  You hear a song, you think you got it, but you continue to quote it wrong.  Little kids do this all the time with church music and hymns.  They didn’t have anything to “hang” these new words on, so they fall back on familiar things.  To them it makes sense.  My daughter used to say she could hear my heart “beeping.”  To her it was a beep; she didn’t think to connect the beating of a drum to the beating of a heart.  Once I made that connection for her, she got it.  Okay, so those are examples of a kid.  How about adults?  This is the conversation I just had the other day with my husband….oh, please do not tell him….

blah, blah, blah “bobbed wire”……

“do you mean ‘barbed wire’?”

“you know the kind that bobs up and down around the prison”

“that would be ‘barbed wire’; it has metal pokey things around it”

“are you serious? oh my god….for real”

“for real…(snicker, snicker)…”

Needless to say, the man beats me a Jeopardy every time, but didn’t know “barbed wire”.  Of course, he likes to get back at me for all my wrong chorus lines in songs (I’m worse than the kids when it comes to that, which is why I thoroughly enjoyed the above conversation)!  

Yes, this all has to do with perception, hearing, and LEARNING!  In these instances we’re not going to harm someone by saying the wrong words, but if a nurse connects the dots incorrectly, uh-oh!  As educators we just need to be aware of what experiences have influenced our learners.  We’ll be coming back to this idea when we talk about assessments later.  What I love about education is the cyclical nature of it!  Anyway, this week’s class was just to push your thinking…maybe adults and children aren’t so different after all?

New Year, New Semester

I’m so excited about the start of this new semester!  For those of you already registered for ADLT 603, yeah!  We have another full class this year!  I’m changing things just a bit from last year, but all for the better.  I’m just about finished with the new syllabus and I’ll be sending emails to students next week.  I can’t wait to see you all on the 15th! 

Multiple blogs, multiple posts

Having a personal blog and a “school” blog is interesting.  I’m more of a holistic person.  Anyway, conference went fine.  To read more, go here

I rec’d my chapter 3 in the mail from Dr. Davis yesterday.  That was thoughtful.  He said that I’ve already met my requirements for 890.  That’s good news, but I’ve been trying to do deal with “requirements” of the seminar and more on the requirements of getting to my prospectus.  I’m sure he’ll have a lot more to say when this class is over on what needs to occur before I get to do that! 

I’ve been on other to-do’s for my dissertation.  One of which was to create a picture of my networked blogs for the study.  I tried Visio, but ended up just going back to PowerPoint.  I think it looks fairly good.  Let’s hope they don’t change!!  I’ve also been trying to figure out the ins and outs of NVivo 8.  I’m a little frustrated running it off VCU’s server.  I’m debating whether or not to buy a student edition and just run it off my own computer.  Hmmm. 

I’m done, no more today

I’ve spent most of the day today researching blogs.  One of the things that Dr. Davis had suggested that I do now is to identify the blogs for my study (no analyzing, of course) and create a chart of explaining their various attributes.  I need this to explain to the IRB that the information that I need is available and this is where it is located.  I thought this would be a fairly simple task, but I’m spent.  This little exercise actually helped me figure out what I don’t want in my blogs. I don’t want them to be from another country (you would be surprised how many Canadians and Australians are in debt, too).  I don’t want them to have other major issues – trying to lose weight, husband/wife not on the same page, etc.   Yet I need them to be diverse (maximum variety sample).  And I prefer them to be in a network of other bloggers (comments, blogrolls).  Oh, and I want the blog to be around for at least a year.  One is Jan 2007, but by the time I get this to IRB, it will be a year.  Oh, and my final criteria….it has to be a standard format that I can extract the data.  It’s already hard enough to copy and paste the information.  Most formats are good, but I found one that was nearly impossible due to how they archived their posts.  They only show the first couple of sentences and then you’d have to click on the post to read it, then click again for the comments.  I’d be at that forever (or be paying someone a lot of money to extract the data).  No can do.  And I’ll write that in my methodology!  If I had more time, I’d love to work with a CIS major to have them create a script to get all of this data.  Some of the other studies I have read were able to do this.  

Anyway, I think I have my preliminary list.  My relationship network has arrows pointing all over, but it’s a good visual.  I’ve got 10.  We’ll see if these 10 stick while I dig for information to create my chart.  Due to the nature of blogging, the information is everywhere/anywhere/nowhere.  How much debt did they start with?  Are they married/single/black/white/young/old?  I think my chart will certainly have various types of information for each blog, but I’m hoping with some basics.  We’ll see.  Talk about emergent process!

Anyway, I’m done for the day.  I worked on the M.Ed. blogs this morning and then my blogs.  Too much blogs in one day.  Now I can see why you have to be passionate about your dissertation.  This can get old quick!  Oh, joy, I just can’t wait until the coding….rrgghhh.  

Moving along

I met with Dr. Davis yesterday.  My literature review is coming along fairly well.  There’s certainly some additional material I need to bring in to tie it all together.  We’re going to meet about Chapter 3 on the 19th, so I need to send him the draft by the 17th.  It looks like my laptop and I will be good friends while I’m at the conference

We also discussed two other matters.  First, apparently my dissertation will be six chapters.  He feels that due to the emerging qualitative design, I need a chapter just to discuss how the process emerged.  If I try to do that in Chapter 4 with my results, it will become muddy and very, very long.  At first I was shocked by the thought of another chapter, but now it makes sense.  This actually should help me focus my writing and keep my results chapter truly my results.  Second, there was some final tweaking of my committee.  I think it will all work out, but I’ll see how it all goes over the next week or so. 

Great students, great presentations

I am really enjoying teaching my 403 class this semester.  Tonight we had more class presentations and they were just great.  The first group incorporated quiz questions throughout their presentation and had several activities built in as well – crossword puzzle, matching, case studies.  The second group played bingo with the chapter definitions after their presentation.  (I was the fourth to win and got a duck pen!)  Considering they are undergraduates and have never taken an Adult Learning course, they’ve picked up some of the strategies quite quickly.  I’m very impressed!  

Sunday afternoon

I’m still working on Chapter 2, which is due Wednesday.  Thank goodness it’s a rough first draft.  I’m spinning my wheels with the first part discussing the difference between critical constructivism and social constructivism. I’ve sort of left that for the end, with most of the rest of the chapter written.  I’m focusing on social constructivism so how much do I need to say about critical constructivism?  I’m hoping very little. 

I’ve also been reading more debt blogs.  I wish Kindle would be able to read any blog and I would snap that thing up in a heartbeat (although it IS Oprah’s new favorite thing).  I wish I could read them more on-the-go, but I seem to have to just sit and read them in large chunks.  I have some on an rss feeder, but I need to really read them from inception.  It takes a while.  At least they’re somewhat entertaining.

Can dress me up, but…

Today was the first day that I actually got dressed and went to work!  Perhaps it was a long day because by the time I went to teach my finance class, I was spent.  I had a light night planned anyway, but still…  I had several students out and those that came actually had tried some of the homework for this week.  I was not quite prepared for that!  It’s been so long since I’ve worked on all of the formulas that I have to prep myself.  Needless to say, I was thrown off by their questions tonight.  I have a great class, so they took it in stride.  The wording on a few of the problems were odd and I could see the cause of the confusion.  We spent our time going over the work and talking about the upcoming projects.  I’ll spend the next two weeks reading ahead for next class!  I’m liking this class better and better.  Great students, great people.