Thoughts on self-directed learning


What a concept……do it yourself learning!  Not really – we do it everyday when we face a new experience or activity.  That said, for adult learners there are a few considerations that will enhance a situation where they are in a self directed learning environment.  It isn’t just the channel where information flows – demonstrated by my home grown diagram above, rather it is the structure, which can be self managed that will enhance the learning outcomes.  I was looking at an article from the University of Waterloo  about the Self directed learning four step process.

They touch on a template for activity that includes:

  • Being ready to learn.
  • Setting learning goals.
  • Engaging in the learning process.
  • Evaluating learning.

The author observes that successful outcomes are supported by both the student and the instructor subscribing to specific responsibilities.

In another article about Self Directed learning by K. Cercone, the following observation is made:

“According to Lieb (1991), since adults tend to be autonomous and self
directed, they need to be free to direct themselves. To enable this to occur, instructors should actively involve the participants in the learning process and be facilitators for this process. The instructor should only serve as a guide. However, the instructor needs to provide the appropriate framework to allow this growth to occur.”
Cercone observes that the educational environment needs to be designed to meet the needs of the adult learner.  The article explores adult learning theories along with the development of on-line courses and the importance of incorporating a a social element in the on-line learning experience.  I see the blog assignment in 3100 as aligning with the social side of the educational experience.  One of our assignments is to work with a partner and develop a blog post specific to trends in adult education — this bring an offline and an online connection as part of the learning experience.  The article linked above is an interesting, relevant read.
Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of adult learners with implications for online learning design, AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159.

The beauty of continuous enrollment

Spring has sprung — albeit it very much delayed in the BC Lower Mainland!  tulips Deb I am enrolled in another PIDP course — 3100 Foundations of Adult Education.  Thanks to the continuous enrollment model used at Vancouver Community College, I have the flexibility of starting this course any time, as well as straying from a traditional “take this one, then this one, then this one….”.  Not to diminish or discount an orderly approach to education, as an individual preference — the ability to take a course that fits in with the program but also can stand alone on its own is a stellar feature of my experience with the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program.

Today, I bring the image of the spring tulips to my page for a few reasons:

  1. The tulips have areas of transparency — in these spots the petals allow the light to shine through and you can see the individual details and texture of the petal.  You can understand and appreciate the complexity and structure of the petal.  I compare this to a learning situation where some things are readily apparent, the detail of the subject is clear and easy to understand — in fact you may already have a deep understanding of that particular element or component of a broader subject.
  2. The tulips have areas where they overlap.  These are areas where the light does not pass through as easily and the details are obscured between the 1st and 2nd petal layers.  This represents the rest of the learning situation i.e. the stuff you really don’t know, or at least do not have a rich understanding — in the same way you would have the understanding and knowledge from the single petal described above.

What does this mean for me right now?  As a life-long learner, I know there are things I truly know, things I think I know, and things I don’t have a clue about.  The things I don’t have a clue about falls in the category of “you don’t know what you don’t know”.  Being somewhat longer in the tooth, with lots of life experience it is important for me to always respect the element of “not knowing” and be safe and comfortable in that space.  To open oneself up to learning you need to allow a certain amount of vulnerability into the space — and be comfortable being “uncomfortable” with not “knowing”.  As I continue to work on the PIDP program I consistently find nuggets of information that reinforce my beliefs or direct my attention to new ways of thinking.  I am keenly interested in how people learn, what empowers people to break through learning plateaus (those “aha” moments), and building confidence in adults to move forward in their lives.  The old saying “what do you want to be when you grow up” I think stays with a person forever — after all aren’t we all just children inside bigger bodies? — we just learned strategies to communicate and present ourselves in the adult world 🙂

So, I am still figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and having fun along the way.  Part of the adventure is to never stop learning and to be open to new ideas and concepts — just when you think you have things figured out, something else comes along to make you think some more, re-evaluate your beliefs and maybe reconsider what you previously held to be as “true”.  As I say to my friends — “if you come from a place of curiosity, you can never go wrong”.  That approach gets judgements out of the way and positions your mind to open up to new concepts and approaches in any situation.

I encourage any new students starting out with PIDP 3100 to embrace the blog journey and have fun with it!

PIDP reflections

Waterfront watercolour 2009

It seems appropriate to include my watercolour painting of a body of water and a shoreline when talking about “reflections”.  This is a small post card sized image that was an “out of my head” painting.  I visualized the scene and with a few brush strokes and limited palette created the waterfront image.  One of the final tasks I have in my course work for the PIDP course “Professional Practice” is to complete a reflective entry on my blog. I have taken the suggested questions provided as prompts as a foundation for my discussion below.

What is the most important thing you have learned?

Learning has been achieved on multiple levels.  I have learned practical tools and techniques in teaching including evaluation strategies, effective interaction with students, self awareness, and last but not least how to leverage the tools at our disposal to create digital products that can be used to teach and explain a concept or process.   The use of the blog as a tool, both to build skills sets in a web based environment but more importantly to drive research and review work — indeed developing and maintaining a blog was extremely useful.  My hesitation with the initial blog work was quickly eclipsed by the practical use a blog can have when you are developing and communicating information about a subject to a broad audience.  So, I learned practical things that I can use in the future, and experienced personal insight as I worked through the course material.

How has your thinking changed?

My thinking has been blessed with more self awareness.  What do I mean by that statement?  I feel like I have a deeper understanding of both the responsibility and opportunity that rests with a person responsible for instructing or training another individual.  Yes, individual–that is the key.  Everyone has their own individual perspective and motivation, and as an instructor or trainer this course work helps me to be better positioned to tap into those unique elements in each trainee or student.  Every day is a learning opportunity, for myself and those I encounter.

What actions will you take based on what you have learned?

I will continue to learn more about learning and teaching — and about myself.  It is that simple.  I continue to work towards completion of this program and appreciate the support and guidance provided by our VCC as we navigate this path.  Thank you Karen!


Evaluations and Salve for the Wound

white lion cubs wet canvas photo 22612

An image of two white lion cubs.  The cubs are communicating with each other, both sending and receiving feedback.  I show this photograph, which was a source image from the “Wet Canvas” image library, first to show the model I was working from to develop the painting below…..

lion cubs 2 wip crop.jpg

Now, here is the work in progress….as the layout and development of the painting progressed.  There is a note of comforting caring and sharing in the image….

lion cubs in frame 2

Then the final product. Much changed from the work in progress above, and developed after many hours of trial, error, and looking at the developing painting from different perspectives, lighting and finally in a frame. This is my interpretation of the original photograph.

What does this have to do with my title “Salve on the Wound”?

There are many ways a message can be delivered and many ways it may be received.  In order to coach and improve student performance the instructor feedback must be respectful and a meaningful message needs to be conveyed to the student.  I am not looking at “softening the blow” of observations that point to less than optimal performance, rather I am appreciative of a focused approach that provides supportive and useful commentary to a student that can spark them towards improvement in their work.

In Chapter 10 of “The Skillful Teacher” (2nd edition, Brookfield, S, 2006), Brookfield opens with …”Evaluating students’ learning is when the power relationship inherent in teaching becomes public and undeniable.” (Brookfield, 2006).  The instructor or teacher is the leader of the pack, the guide for the group.  Furthermore, their judgement and communication of acceptance or rejection of a student’s performance has broad reaching implications. The evaluation of the teacher involves more than just the student teacher relationship, but is branches out and also impacts the esteem within which the student’s peer group views a fellow student — as a high performer, teacher’s pet, inept slouch or just average, middle of the pack…..the students look to each other for feedback as well — and the instructor, much like a conductor of an orchestra can bring positive or negative attention to a player.  The magic in the evaluation is that the feedback is helpful not harmful.

Brookfield provides examples of helpful evaluations that incorporate these key characteristics:

  1. Clarity – be clear, let students know what they are being measured against.
  2. Immediacy – timing is important and allows the student to focus on the areas where improvement and success are noted.
  3. Regularity – they need to hear from you, not just at the end of the program or course.
  4. Accessibility – make your feedback understandable, and be available to discuss to ensure they have a full understanding of your evaluation — and can respond.
  5. Individualized – provide some detail specific to the student.
  6. Affirming – acknowledge effort.
  7. Future-oriented – provide a beacon to follow through clear suggestions that support positive growth and development.
  8. Justifiable – tell them why.  Relate it to the long term interests and bigger picture of their learning.
  9. Educative – consider what the student will take away and use from the instructor’s comments.  The point is……give them something they can learn from.  Make it useful not shaming.

Finally, the magic demonstrated in the video link below is more than sleight of hand, it is the magic of discovering the value of perspective.  Your perspective and your student’s perspective.  Brian Miller sums it up in his Tedx talk through one sentence.  “Our world is a shared experience fractured by individual perspectives”.
Tedx Manchester High School 2015

MILLER, B. June 17, 2015, How to Magically Connect with Anyone,  Tedx Manchester High School, Retrieved from Internet March 20, 2016,

Wet Canvas Image, Retrieved from internet March 20, 2016:


Lifelong Learning

horse watersoluble graphite 2Lifelong learning is a key part of my life.  I have retired from one career, started another in my mid 50’s, am continuing to work towards certification in my current occupation and as a sideline, am taking the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program.  Instructing adults was a life long interest for me and I continue to enjoy the course work in the program.  With the demographic “bubble” of baby boomers reaching senior years, society needs to step up to the learning needs of the senior adult learner.  In some cases the ability to audit courses, or have reduced tuition costs may be available.  I think if you stop learning you stop growing, and if you stop growing you are on the path to declining health both mentally and physically.  I completed the horse pencil drawing on this posting a couple of years ago when I picked up art as a old/new endeavour.  This drawing came out of a “how to draw horses” workshop I attended — the workshop inspired me to continue to work with water soluble graphite and voila – a profile sketch of a horse…..

Have a look at this link to a Kiplinger article on Life long learning and retirees returning to school.  It is a sign of the times……our educational institutions need to be positioning for this trend.

Kiplinger – Retirees Returning to College

Digital Assignment “The Muddiest Point”


Presentation link: The Muddiest Point

For Assignment 5, 3260 Professional Practice, I needed to master a digital presentation tool to complete the work.  That was an educational process on it’s own given my limited exposure to video software products.  I was fortunate to have Adobe Essentials 11 on my laptop, so that provided me with a tool to use — but it certainly was a time consuming, AND interesting endeavour.  Here is a link to the video.


And for some interesting video’s where instructors are reading general feedback from students….have a look at this from Harvard University. The Ivy League has it’s challenges too….

Harvard Professors feedback


Ethics, Risk and Social Media in Education

alert squirrelThis little fellow is on the alert. 

Watching and listening, attentive to any risks or issues that present a threat. 

Technology…..  Cyberspace…..  Risk….. Professional Practice in the digital age.

What are the ethical considerations when using social media in Education?

What are the privacy and conflict of interest risks that present themselves when a public, accessible venue is used for sharing information between student and teacher?

Current media is rife with reports of inappropriate behaviour in cyberspace — more recently being deemed criminal with the introduction of legislation to stem cyber bullying.  A recent US News article states “Beyond the threat of inappropriate relationships, some experts believe developing these connections on social media will tarnish a teacher’s authority in the classroom. Iris Fanning, a family-counseling provider with more than 20 years of experience for school districts in Albuquerque, N.M., says major concerns arise when students begin to see teachers as peers”.  This article does not focus on adult educators, however there are parallels particularly considering the authority an instructor needs to retain and the power dynamic that continues to exist between a teacher and student regardless of their respective age.

What are the liability issues that educational institutions expose themselves to when they use social media tools in the educational process?

All interesting and thought provoking questions.  As part of my work on PIDP 3260 we are required to develop a blog.  Good practice given this is the age of electronic communication.

I wonder, as part of the requirement in the course delivery if a disclaimer should be required for the blog owner to indicate “all entries are the responsibility of the author”…or something like that, with all due respect to anything already covered by creative commons.

Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, or texting by telephone — channels exist that require sober second thought by the end users.  This is particularly critical where misinterpretation of communication can occur and professional distance is required.

If what you post is not suitable for tomorrow`s headlines — or in the case of the student-teacher relationship — outside the boundary of acceptable professional communication and practice — then ethical issues arise, let alone the potential for liability which can be significant.  In this brave new era, where we are only recently enacting legislation to deal with cyber bullies, how much legislation really protects both the schools and the teachers (let alone the students) in cyber space?  Yes, schools may have established codes of conduct and these policies may be handed out as part of a package of material when new instructors are hired.  But, I pose the question —  how often are the “rules of engagement” reviewed, and refreshed commitments made between the educational institution and the instructor regarding ethical behaviour and use of social media channels?  Are the ethical standards reviewed along side current legislation?

Other jurisdictions have developed workshops and staff training events to tackle the issues of ethical and professional dilemmas.  One example is the workshop developed by the Conneticut Teachers Education and Mentoring Program.  They acknowledge “educators must develop a keen awareness and sensitivity to a variety of dilemmas and circumstances they may encounter in their daily contact with students, families and the community. It is vital that educators make conscious ethical decisions to ensure that their professional practice meets the highest possible ethical standards of conduct and responsibility”.  Their facilitators guide includes training scenarios involving social media.

On the flip side of the social media coin, this link takes you to a best practices summary for use of Twitter.  Should Twitter be promoted as an educational tool?

In Section 5 of the Okanagan College Social Media Policy it states:


The College expects that:

a) employees will exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for colleagues,
associates, students and the College community when using social media; and
b) employees be mindful that all posted content on social media may be subject to
review in accordance with the College’s policies.


Employees may be subject to discipline for conduct on social media relating to their Employment, the College or other employees, which violates College policies while using social media sites.”

Is this enough? How do we ensure ongoing policies and standards are robust enough to provide the guidance and level of protection needed in an education environment where there is a power imbalance (teacher vs. student)?  Traditional dynamics experienced in an education setting are exacerbated by the ballooning use of cyberspace for all aspects of our social engagement (work, home, school, entertainment).  Just makes me wonder when there will be a remake of the 60’s classic “To Sir With Love”….including twitter and Facebook in the classroom.  Yes, there was “To Sir with Love 2” set in 1996 – but the digital revolution was just starting to evolve…….



Connecticut Teachers and Educators Mentoring Program, Facilitator’s Guide – Understanding the Code of Professional Responsibility for Educators (January 2012)  retrieved February 21, 2016 from

Educase Review, Tweeting in Higher Education: Best Practices, Amy L. Chapman, September 14, 2015 retrieved February 21, 2016 from

IMDB “To Sir with Love” (1967) retrieved February 21, 2016 from

Clavell, J., Sloan, J. R., Woollard, T., Whittaker, I., Wilson-Apperson, J., Carpenter, J., & Glasow, B. (Producers), Clavell, J., Grainer, R., Martell, P., Beeson, P., Thornton, P., Campo, D. D., . . . Karnon, T. (Writers), & Clavell, J. (Director). (1967). To sir with love [Motion picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures Corp. presents.

Okanagan College, Okanagan College Code of Ethical Practices and Policy (November 6, 2014) retrieved February 21, 2016 from

Okanagan College, Okanagan College Social Media Policy (January 7, 2016) retrieved February 21, 2016 from

US News, Student-Teacher Social Media Restrictions Get Mixed Reactions By Ryan Lytle Aug. 10, 2011 retrieved February 21, 2016 from