Welcome to 2015!  I have a few resolutions for my teaching I’d like to share with you from some reading over the holiday.  Feel free to add yours too!  New Years Resolution

Resolution  1:  Be learner-centred.

I’ve written about this before, but translating learner-centred theory into practical advice is very helpful. Education happens in the brain, and giving learners the opportunity to use their brains, from listening to and participating in an interactive lecture, to engaging in activities and tasks makes for a learner-centred classroom.

Two fabulous resources are: Classroom Assessment Techniques, by Angelo & Cross (1993 but still great!) and Student Engagement Techniques, by Elizabeth Barkley – over 100 techniques with step-by-step instructions and examples.

Classroom Assessment Techniques is the text where I first heard of Student Generated Test Questions.  Each small group of students generates a question that has the potential to be used on a test or on the exams.  Some of our faculty use this as a way to summarize learning, find out about what has been learned and to add to questions in the exam bank. This text was also the first place I heard about using an opinion poll–long before “clickers” or other polling devices were used.  For an article that provides 10 of the 50 strategies, see:  http://www.ncicdp.org/documents/Assessment%20Strategies.pdf

Student Engagement Techniques offered me the Graphic Syllabus and Outcomes Map, and of course I devoured the pages on graphic organizers.  You might find the Poster Sessions (and my adaptation of it–virtual poster walk anyone?) or the Critical Incidents Questionnaire useful.

As part of my resolution, I’m sending for a few other books that will have some great ideas–Collaborative Learning Techniques, Essential Questions, Learner-Centred Teaching:  5 Changes… Stay tuned for ideas from these.

I just have to give you an example of how learner-centredness became the inspiration for a very successful activity for us.  Part of learner-centred education means involving students in the educational process.   Recently I asked a group of students how to make the portfolio assignment in clerkship more relevant to them.  They came up with several ideas.  I used a few of them and collaborated with Dr. Lindsay Davidson to come up with the CaRMS and Portfolio Oral Report.  From what I’ve heard so far, the students seem to feel it is an extremely relevant and useful way to use their portfolio activities.

Resolution 2:  Be more reflective.

I discuss reflection with the students in all years in our program.  This is met by varying degrees of acceptance.  🙂  But I’ve been forgetting to add one key aspect:  I need to show them my reflective practices as well.

What do I reflect on?  I ask myself often, “How can I do this better?”  and “Where can I find ideas to make this better?”  I ask others about improvement and about strengths too. In fact, this blog article is by way of reflection for me.

I start off each week with a list of work, and end it with a list of accomplishments and what got in the way of accomplishments–that reflection helps me when the next week comes around.  This is the beginning of a weekly log for me and I am resolving to stick to it!  🙂

stick to resolutions

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to become reflective teachers:

1.  Were all the students on task (i.e. doing what they were supposed to be
2.  If not, when was that and why did it happen?
3.  Which parts of the lesson did the students seem to enjoy most? And least?
4.  How much (insert topic  or skill of choice here) did the students use?
5.  Did activities last the right length of time?Was the pace of the lesson right?
6.  Did I use whole class work, group work, pair work and/or individual work?
7.  What did I use it for? Did it work?
8.  Were my instructions clear?
9.  Did I provide opportunities for all the students to participate?
10.  Was I aware of how the students were participating?
BONUS:  If I taught the lesson again, what would I do differently?


Reflective Cycle–Kolb

What’s next?  The next important step in reflection is making the reflection practical and asking “What do I do next?”  Identifying challenges, setting goals, finding out new information from the literature, from people, from observations, and putting some strategies into place are ways to make the reflection come to life.

I ask the students to fill in these blanks, “My first step was to consult this piece of medical education literature to find out more about this topic: _________________.  From this I learned this specific strategy/skill, concept that I would like to employ: _________________

I will now put these strategies into place:

  • Consult _______________(people as resources) to find out more about _________________(this subject, skill, concept, etc.)
  • Read ____________ (specific literature) by ________________(time)
  • Practice ______________(skill) by doing this: _____________ (strategy) over __________(time)
  • Set up this regular ________________ over_______________(time)
  • Implement _________________(strategy) into my teaching by X___________________

I will know I have succeeded by:

  • Short term: ___________________________
  • Long Term: ____________________________

Complete the reflective cycle by asking about the innovations:

  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I doing it?
  • How effective is it?
  • How are the students responding?
  • How can I do it better?

Resolution 3:  Be evidence-based.

Teaching can be and should be evidence-based just as medicine.  Read or sign up for an RSS feed from medical education journals such as Academic Medicine, Medical Education, Advances in Health Sciences Education:  Theory and Practice, Medical Teacher, Journal of Interprofessional Care, or others (these examples are cited in order of impact factor, 2012, found at  http://www.med.uottawa.ca/dime/eng/journals.html)  Need to know about how to set up an RSS feed that sends you the journal updates and tables of contents?  Contact a librarian at Bracken or see http://library.queensu.ca/news/web-feeds/  The articles, studies and tips in these journals will enhance your teaching.  Some texts that feature evidence through studies to inform educational practice are: Teaching at its Best:  A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors, What the Best College Teachers Do (a personal favourite!), How Learning Works:  Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching

I’ll stop there for now…Too many resolutions, and I’ll end up with none!

Please share your resolutions if you can.

Have a great educational year!