Monthly Archives: April 2010

Me, Myself, and I, I, I, I

Inductive work, Input, Implementation, and Integration – Vella’s “Four Is” – provide a structure to create effective learning opportunities.  This framework strikes me as especially useful with adult learners, particularly the inductive work since adults likely have a broader set of life experiences they bring the classroom vs. younger students. 

Get off to a good start!  By first determining your students’ prior knowledge through the inductive work, you can avoid starting your teaching at the wrong place, by either repeating information already known or skipping the fundamental pieces, and thereby losing your audience right from the start. 

Keep the momentum going.  During the induction phase, you’re already engaging the learners by drawing out what they know about the topic.  When you get to the input phase, content should be presented in an engaging manner and where possible, try to build off things you learned about the students in the inductive work to continue to show the relevance of the information. 

The proverbial truth.  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  People learn by doing, so the implementation phase is critical to the learning process.  This is the time when students get to “try on” the new information and see how it feels, how it works, and what questions it raises.  Engaging the students with the content deepens their understanding of it.

Save the best for last.  Now that students have had the chance to give the new content a dry run, help them discover how else this information can be useful.  This is Vella’s integration phase.  It’s Fink’s notion of significant learning.  It’s what Weimer is talking about in our text when she says, “we do not want more and better learning at some abstract level” (p. xvi).  It may sound selfish, but in the end, it’s all about what’s in it for me?”  How am I, the learner, going to take this information and use it in ways that are relevant to me? 

I see this integration happening all around me.  While I am not yet actively teaching, I find myself making connections to things we talk about in class with other things in my life – my job search, my volunteer commitments, even with my family and friends.  It’s making me realize that the line between learner and teacher can be blurred, and maybe it should be.  Maybe what makes a good teacher is continuing to be a good learner.

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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in ADLT 603


“I Get My Kicks on Route 66”

The second week of group presentations did not disappoint!  Both the Hands-On Active Learning and the Effective Learning in Groups strategies were well-presented.  While I may still be hesitant to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a complete stranger, I hope that I have some confidence to help if I ever find myself in that situation.  And I thought the choice of the exercise by the Learning in Groups team – where we had to defend our opinions and yet come to a consensus – was a very creative and engaging activity.  A glimpse of things to come for me when I get to ADLT 612 – Learning in Groups & Teams.

But the question of the night was what the heck is the Phillips 66 active learning strategy?

I had to look it up.

Phillips 66 is a strategy where 6 people have 6 minutes to discuss a topic or perform a task.  A brief Google search indicated that this strategy is used more in business settings than academic learning environments, although I didn’t see much about why.  It sounds like a method for quick brainstorming on an issue at work, but I can see it being helpful in an academic environment to break up a lecture and to let the students interact with and reflect on the topic. 

Supposedly the name comes from a combination of the last name (Phillips) of a professor who coined the phrase and the brand of gas, but it seems to me a better name would be the Route 66 learning strategy.  After all, the discussion could be the start of a journey – a learning adventure – that might take you to some interesting places!

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Posted by on April 27, 2010 in ADLT 603


Group Presentations – Round 1

We gave our group presentation on concept mapping this past week, one of two group presentations that night.  Our intention was to have them concept map their ideas on Adaptive Teaching, except few remembered to read that article, so we had to change our plan on the fly.  Which, ironically, is part of adaptive teaching.  I think the presentation ended up being more fun for the class because we chose the topic of planning a summer vacation for the concept mapping exercise.  It made it more fun for me, too.

Overall, I think our presentation went well and was well-received.  A few people in the class had used the tactic before, and they contributed to the discussion.  Some folks were brand new to the idea.  Even if the class didn’t realize it, I recognized that we were still demonstrating the idea of adaptive teaching – creating the middle ground where the most learners can participate – with the way we structured our presentation.  Concept mapping “newbies” heard from “the pros” about practical ways to use the maps, and the pros said they learned new things they could incorporate into their practice of mapping.  And everyone was able to participate in the mapping exercise since the topic we ended up using was familiar to all.

I recognize that not all teaching or training glitches will work out so well, but at least when it happens again, and I know it will, I will know all is not necessarily lost.

The second group that presented explained how automated classroom response units, or clickers, can be used.  This was my first exposure to the clickers, and I have to admit, the technology is petty slick.  I can see where there is opportunity for misuse or bad use of the clickers, but I really like the idea that the clickers promote independent thinking because you can’t just say, “I agree with what he/she said.”  With the ability to show the range of responses, the system also allows students to assess their own learning against their classmates without any stigma or embarrassment because the answers are anonymous (at least to the class).  I hope to have the occasion to learn more about how to use these devices and to have hands-on experience in future coursework.

Wonder what fun things I’ll learn in the remaining group presentations?

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Posted by on April 22, 2010 in ADLT 603


Assessment… how did I do?

I recently took the Miller Analogies Test, or MAT, as part of my application package for this Masters program.  The questions are supposed to start out easy and get harder as you go through the 120 analogies that make up the test.  I knew I was in trouble when the first one I had to skip because I didn’t know it was only #16.  By the time I got up into the 80s, I was skipping blocks of questions at a time, not because I couldn’t figure out the analogy, but because I couldn’t figure out most of the words!  I briefly chastised myself for not taking Latin in high school so that I might now have a chance of figuring out what these words meant by determining their root.  Because I took the paper based test versus the online test, I left the room not knowing how I did and knowing it would be two weeks before I’d know. 

The two weeks passed rather quickly, and one day I got the envelope with the Pearson return address.  I couldn’t wait to open it and see how I did!  Unlike most tests, you don’t get a score that says how many you got right or wrong.  With the MAT you get a scaled score which is calculated based on the number you got right, but the exact formula is a mystery (at least to me).  You also get percentiles based on the current norm group for both your intended major and the total group.  So here I am looking at these test scores and wondering what they mean.  Are they good enough for me to be accepted into the program?  I hoped so, but I didn’t really know.

 Assessments are necessary in a learning environment, but what the teacher and learner do with the information in the assessment is what makes the assessment a valuable tool.  The assessment could be used to determine if learning is actually happening, or how much the learners already know if it’s given as a pre-assessment.  If assessment is done periodically, it can be used to re-direct instruction and learning to match better the pace and needs of the students.  But if an assessment is given as an end result and never viewed with an eye toward how it can be used to improve learning or teaching, has there been a bigger opportunity missed?

 If the MAT is a pre-assessment to make sure I have a basis of knowledge acceptable for entrance to the program, how does my score indicate which areas I did well on and whether those are relevant to my adult learning studies?  Knowing how I struggled with many of the analogies, I wonder how one of my classmates whose native language is not English could ever struggle through the MAT.  That brings up another area of concern for testing, and possibly another blog topic – considerations for multi-cultural assessment.


Posted by on April 6, 2010 in ADLT 603