Dr. Paul Leslie
The Western Sydney University School of Business mission is to “Prepare students for Enterprise futures”. In this project, we propose to connect our mission to the Graduate Employability model by developing strategies to foster intra-university connectedness between students by using connectedness enabling digital tools and infrastructure in our new vertical campus at Parramatta. We will help students to build a connected identity and work with connections through pedagogies based on social media and eportfolios and connected learning.
We will focus on two key units within the Accounting Program, which suffers from a retention rate of 50%, and a dearth of pedagogic research. “Working in Professions” is a 2nd year, professional unit taught across the Bachelor of Business and the Bachelor of Accounting. This unit averages 250 students per semester, and by sharing outcomes with two equivalent units, with average enrolments of 200 students and 90 students, provides a connection to all Bachelor of Business majors, and potentially 540 students per semester. “Auditing and Assurance Services” has an average enrolment of 205 students per semester, and serves as a capstone unit that links the main Accounting threshold concepts to employability.
Within these two units, students will employ online digital tools including cloud storage, synchronous editing, concept maps, social media, and eportfolios to share ideas as discrete objects, and so build connections with others, both locally and with larger communities, including employers. Consequently, students will also use their compiled artefacts to build an online profile and portfolio, informed by their connected interactions, for the purpose of enhancing their employability.
In alignment with the Graduate Employability model and our focus areas, the project will ask:
- How can connectedness tools facilitate the co-creation of knowledge within capstone units?
- How can connectedness tools and a supportive learning environment make explicit connections between student knowledge and employability?
We will employ a participatory action research methodology in which the students and tutors will be active participants in both the initial design of the project, and in the design of assessment tools. By incorporating an iterative approach, each activity will provide artefacts for analysis. The resulting data can then be applied to the next iteration of activities to determine future practice.
The research will also involve a phenomenological study of the produced artefacts compiled from the range of activities performed over the semester to examine the nature and depth of connections achieved through the activities. Focus groups will be conducted with participating students to inquire about their perceived ability to benefit from connections between their constructed knowledge and employability, and the nature of those benefits. Data from the focus groups will help to inform the phenomenological analysis.
Answering the question, “Why”, in the classroom
To help focus on motivating students to prepare for class, the following bibliography and associated quotes are presented to provide discussion around factors that contribute to motivation.
In What the best college teachers do, Ken Bain (2004) writes:
“The most effective teachers help students keep the larger questions of the course constantly at the forefront. Donald Saari, a mathematician from the University of California, invokes the principle of what he calls “ WGAD ”—“ Who gives a damn? ” At the beginning of his courses, he tells his students that they are free to ask him this question on any day during the course, at any moment in class. He will stop and explain to his students why the material under consideration at that moment — however abstruse and minuscule a piece of the big picture it may be — is important, and how it relates to the larger questions and issues of the course.” (Bain, 2004, p. 38).
Freire provides two texts, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1996) and Pedagogy of Freedom (Freire, 1998) that address larger questions around education. In the first, he comments that without a guiding question or focus, students may view their weekly tasks and readings as:
“detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance” (Freire, 1996, p. 52).
In the second text, he asserts that it is the teacher’s duty to:
“Accept as a duty the need to motivate and challenge the listeners to speak and reply” (Freire, 1998, p. 104).
Similarly, in studies based on undergraduate, ‘college’ and post-graduate students, Kember (2015) comments:
“If teachers wish to motivate their students ’ learning they need to find ways to show the relevance of topics included in their courses. If relevance was established, students took an interest in the topic.” (Kember, 2015, p. 83)
To highlight the need for relevance, faculty too, are advised to keep perspective on what they are doing.
“I have to think,” she told us, “about why anyone would want to remember particular pieces of information.” (Bain, 2004, p. 30).
“Teachers need to know the learning intentions and success criteria of their lessons” (Hattie, 2009, p. 239).
McLuhan (1964) warns that as we become more specialized in our tasks and classes, the greater the danger that we do not see the larger whole to which we are contributing.
“The specialized task always [escapes] the action of the social conscience” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 73).
Autonomy and control in the classroom
Autonomy and learner control in the classroom are widely seen as crucial to motivation. In Gardenfors’ (2011) TEDx talk, he describes learner control as a central factor of motivation.
Figure 1: Factors generating motivation (Gardenfors, 2015, 18:25).
Freire (1998) adds that the practice of Education is a,
“permanent exercise in … the development of the autonomy of both teachers and students” (Freire, 1998, p. 128).
While the concept of andragogy, or adult education, faces a range of criticism, it is differentiated from K-12 education by the fact that university students are here by choice. There is ample evidence that,
“Adult education [is] characterized by learner control and self-responsibility in learning, learner definition of learning objectives in relation to their relevance to the learner, a problem-solving approach to learning, self-directedness in how to learn, intrinsic learner motivation, and incorporation of the learner experience.” (Blaschke, 2012, p. 58)
With the increase in ‘new’ media, ‘social’ media and other tools in our classrooms, it is useful to remember that technology is by no means new to education.
Mcluhan, in 1964, commented on the ability of technology to engage us.
“As the age of information demands the simultaneous use of all our faculties, we discover that we are most at leisure when we are most intensely involved, very much as with the artists in all ages” (McLuhan, 1964, p. 379).
McLuhan (1964) also argued extensively for the use of technology and various media, not only in the classroom, but in society, as a tool to:
“translate more and more of ourselves into other forms of expression that exceed ourselves” (p. 63).
More recently, to support arguments around the concepts of idea management and learning portfolios, McLuhan (2003) also discussed the idea that,
“one of the peculiarities of the electric age is that we live simultaneously in all of the cultures of the past. All of the past is here and all of the future is here” (p. 213).
Through media and technology, we can access more information than ever before. The challenge is to give our students both the motivation and the skills to benefit from it.
Scroll down or click here to see a presentation on Idea Management presented to the Curriculum Advisor Team at Werrington, July 29th, 2016.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college teachers do. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Blaschke, L. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1076
Freire, P. (1996). Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin Books.
Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Gärdenfors, P. (2011, October 11). How to motivate students? TEDx. Norrkoping. Retrieved May 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blWcbY5qA58
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. Oxford: Routledge.
Kember, D. (2015). Understanding the Nature of Motivation and Motivating Students through Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Singapore: Springer.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media. Cornwall: Routledge.
McLuhan, M. (2003). Understanding me. Toronto: MIT Press.
The following are excerpts from the feedback I gave to students about their video on "My Growth So Far", as part of their final reflections in the course.
Comments about Trust
You discuss breaking down barriers and I guess that gets to the issue of trust, which has been a big topic of discussion in many module 5 reports. There is no easy way to establish trust, as many of your classmates have commented, but I hope that you find some strategies that will work for you among the many proposed by your classmates.
I thought you also gave some great comments about encouraging risk and inspiring trust among the participants. You have to have a degree of trust before you start to take risks in the community. By risks, I am thinking of perhaps, sharing a new or dissonant idea? Disagreeing with someone? I would like to see some examples of risk.
That was a great video. I liked your comments about social presence as the force to create trust, highlighted by the literal process of reviewing your partners’ social presence online. It’s always interesting to Google yourself!
In your video, you talk about accountability. That is an aspect of trust in that we need to believe that our work is being valued and that we are working with those who will reward our own work. I do not believe that is a selfish issue, but rather one of equity.
I think using the term ‘idiosyncrasy’ with collaborative inquiry is a great adjective. There are so many factors – as many as there are personalities.
I liked the phrase “many and varied complex processes” involved in PLCs. Yes, that about sums them up! When you are dealing with people in the heart of their work, PD, you will get along of emotion and a lot of social interaction.
Comments about Professional development
I was intrigued by your comment that teachers might see their profession as something separate from themselves. That gives rise to a different view of development. We always talk about 'leaving the office at the office', but PD always seems to span the two worlds.
I noted your comments about ‘value-added’ PD. I think that is a crucial element. I have been to so many sessions and activities where the PD was great for the presenter, but not so great for the recipients. I think that is where a PLC is a good answer in that they help to keep the PD relevant to the teachers.
Your comment about vulnerability is also crucial. Another of our students comments similarly that the emotional aspect of being in a PLC is not to be toyed with and that teachers might see the PD as an object or thing separate from themselves. This may help to address issues of seeming or admitting to not already being good enough.
Comments about inquiry within Collaborative Inquiry
I also liked your comments about 'happenstance' versus intentional collaboration. I think opportunistic collaboration is great, but I have found a bit of intention goes a long way.
You have touched on a very important point. Collaboration will be more rewarding if you have some intention (goals, focus, etc) in your interactions. That is what drives any community. Katz (2013) talks about doing the “right work”.
I liked your example at the end about the unfortunate deletion of work. That they came back for more shows that the work itself was intentional and driven by purpose.
You noted that teachers often felt powerless to effect change in their work or professional lives, but that through PLCs they can begin to share and help each other in ways that are responsive to their needs.
I think you are correct to describe it as a fluid activity. There are so many factors to consider, not least of which is leadership as you mention. How do we keep the PLC focused and moving forward with good leadership, but leadership that does not overwhelm or subsume teachers’ own goals?
I think you are spot on when you discuss that many people like to think that collaboration is somehow an organic interaction, whereas in reality you simply don’t get very far organically. A bit of structure and purpose goes a long way.
You are correct to note that established goals need to be negotiated and to ensure understanding. Otherwise, finding out that you have gone off on a tangent is almost more demoralizing than not having a clear goal in the first place.
You comment that it is the inquiry, as opposed to the collaboration, that is the secret to this work. In a community of inquiry for example, as espoused by Garrison and Anderson et. al., the inquiry is what gives guidance and focus to the community.
You commented about being in a PLC as a participant. That highlights the benefits of reading the ‘Facilitator’s’ guide to PLC. From the other side, you can really appreciate the fine balance of keeping people motivated and focused on their work.
You discussed appropriate problems. This speaks to the need to a clear focus on the inquiry aspect of collaboration. You go on to mention intentional choices. That is another form of having a good focus on the inquiry and the process of conducting the inquiry.
Comments about Personal Growth
I was pleased to read your comments about becoming a lifelong learner. I have always felt that one way to be a good teacher is to continue to be a student.
Thanks for your honest appraisal of your work. I was pleased to hear that you feel you have progressed and are able to manage the process and contribute more meaningfully now. Much of facilitation, if not all, is really about process.
Comments about the use of technology
I loved your comment about using technology to help break down some barriers to collaborating. As several people commented in the Module 5 work, working face to face is not without challenges and often some technological intervention can really help a community move along towards common goals.
I liked your comments about using technology to remove barriers. Several of your classmates have noted similar points and I think that is an important element to share with those who might be resistant to collaboration due to similar barriers.
I liked your reflections on using technology. While I think that being in a room together is the best way, I also think that technology opens a world of possibilities that simply are magic to me. The possibilities of social justice in the sense of how many people can benefit through the use of technology to enhance their learning is a great thing.
Have a look at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/icts/m4ed/ to really be inspired!
As I have mentioned to others, technology is a great tool for social justice. It allows many of us to access education and resources that otherwise would forever be out of reach. Regardless of your location in the world, technology can open so many doors to education and the enrichment of our lives.
Comments about the nature of teaching and learning
As teachers, we still need to know our stuff – the content. But what we really do, is help others interact with that content and do something with it. In our knowledge economy, we are not expected, nor can we be fonts of knowledge anymore.
I thought your discussion of the post-Gutenberg readings were very insightful. I wonder if children really do think in more complex ways. I think they do because the tools at their disposal give them the chance to access information and combine and recombine it in ways that we never could before through reading. I think of the British term for doing an under-graduate. They would say that someone was ‘reading at Oxford’ to say that they were doing their degree there. That is no longer the case.
I thought your reference to your classmates’ work was very revealing that your valued their input and learned from them. I hope they know that!
Your comments about cognitive dissonance were very much appreciated. I think that the comments from some of the readings which state that we work best with like-minded individuals are true. However, I also think that this is not a setting that will encourage growth because there will be less cognitive dissonance. That is good when you just want to get something done, but not so good when you want to develop your skills and knowledge.
The following document was written in support of work being done in an School of Business classroom.
There is a need to design processes that will support greater classroom engagement. Both teachers and students need strategies to enable classroom interactions, a set of tools to facilitate those interactions, and on-going work ‘habits’ to support their studies.
The notion of Idea Management offers strategies that span students’ academic work, that will help students use various media to articulate their thoughts into discrete ideas (narratives of learning), and make their thinking visible to their academic communities.
Figure 1: Idea management.
Students become active learners when they can make connections between ideas, outcomes, and goals, and so understand why they are doing any particular activity. Teachers need to acknowledge and support these strategies to give students the opportunity to develop good habits.
Google Drive as tool for Idea Management
The notion of idea management derives from the concept of a portfolio and its ability to support long-term, on-going reflection. To create a culture of reflection, students need a cloud storage tool that allows them to organize, manipulate and share their ideas. A client-owned suite of services incorporated in Google Drive allows students to retain ownership and control access to their ideas. It also allows students to readily share their work, participate in classroom activities, and have access to the entire body of newly constructed, shared knowledge.
Discussion: Class Observation
The XXX Course requires students to review a range of case studies and then discuss possible interpretations and solutions. Each week follows a similar pattern.
Homework review questions are completed prior to class, and reviewed in class.
Next, students work collaboratively on a case study that requires in-depth analysis. They can use Google Docs to build a group answer, synchronously editing the same document, and contributing meaningfully in a manner that overcomes shyness and language issues.
Google Drive folders are created for each tutorial group. The students themselves are given responsibility to manage their own work within these folders.
The tutor can use Google Drive to access group documents and share group responses with the whole class. The ‘live’ document can be edited during the feedback process by the owners to incorporate comments and corrections from the tutor and other students.
Figure 2: Google drive folders.
Finally, the whole class participates in an audience response using a Google form, where they are posed survey questions to answer. The answers are shared immediately and provide a rich set of data for classroom discussion. One question is an affective domain question checking on their ability to cope with the work.
Figure 3: Affective domain survey response graph.
Students also answer a cognitive domain question that checks their understand of a core concept or process from the week's work.
Figure 4: Word cloud based on cognitive domain survey question: What is a financial report audit?
Anecdotal feedback from students indicates that they are very comfortable with this technology. An informal count in class indicates that most in fact already have a Google account.
- Students were able to grasp the concepts behind the use of cloud storage within minutes.
- Students actively participated in the group discussions because they could. They had the power to edit the communal document, and be seen and heard.
- The level of engagement across the classroom was almost immediately apparent and observed to be virtually 100%.
- The survey was a highly focusing activity. All students were observed to pay close attention and to discuss the results readily and at length with their table mates. The results provided great insight to the tutor on the level of understanding across the room.
- PhD Educational Sciences - Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium 2015
- MEd Educational Technology - Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada 2008
- MA Applied Linguistics - University of Surrey, United Kingdom 2000
- BEd Social Studies - Dalhousie University, Canada 1993
- BA History - Dalhousie University, Canada 1991
- Selected Certificates & Licenses
- Teaching License (TC 5), Ministry of Education, Nova Scotia, Canada
- AACSB Assurance of Learning – Seminar I & II: Sydney, Australia 2016
- Making Thinking Visible: Harvard Graduate School of Education (Online) 2015
- Experiential Education Academy: New York & Dubai 2013
- Facilitation I: Nova Scotia, Canada 2008
- Certificat de Pedagogie Français: Université Ste Anne, Nova Scotia Canada 1994
Selected Professional Experience
Western Sydney University, Sydney, Australia 2016-Present
Curriculum Advisor, Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning Transformations) and the School of Business
- Plan and manage AACSB accreditation strategies for School of Business and measurement strategies for Assurance of Learning
- Facilitate academic working groups (up to 30 participants) to evaluate programs and learning outcome reviews
- Consult on learning transformations in the classroom through presentations, advising, and ongoing consultations
- Promote Idea Management and Portfolios as learning spaces to match vertical campus technology initiatives in 2nd and 3rd year courses with enrolments over 500 students and 1st year courses with more than 1000 students.
- Consult on institution-wide initiatives, including teacher training and assessment design
- Manage faculty teaching and research writing sessions for more than 160 sessional and 120 full-time faculty
- Improved collaborative inquiry potential within classrooms of 60 students using innovative group work and technology strategies across multiple 3rd year units.
Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada 2016-Present
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education
- Teach Collaborative Inquiry online in the Masters of Education program
Higher Colleges of Technology, (accredited by University of Melbourne), UAE 2009-2015
Faculty/Lecturer, Bachelor of Education Program
- Led curriculum development initiative for the Education program; planned and implemented a curriculum management database for the entire program using SharePoint
- Managed Mahara e-portfolio platform using PHP and MySQL for 800+ users to enhance learning outcomes and student engagement
- Conducted year-long e-portfolio research project for 30+ K-12 teachers, and managed community training project to educate teachers and students how to incorporate and use technology in the classroom
- Coordinated teaching internships and research projects for 140+ students, and created an internship database to track 800+ concurrent students
- Taught multiple courses including Educational Technology, Early Childhood, and Primary streams, for all year levels of the program, and acted as Academic Coordinator for educational technology across all campuses
- Recognized for outstanding contributions to teaching and learning at the Sharjah campus; awarded Excellence in Community Relations, Excellence in “Learning by Doing,” and Excellence in Curriculum Design
Nova Scotia Community College, Nova Scotia, Canada 2007-2009
- Managed curriculum development, and resource management for Adult Learning Program (1400 students), and African Canadian Transition Program
- Led faculty working groups for Adult Learning Program, and reviewed entire program over 2 year period with groups of 8-10 faculty for each of 22 high school level courses
- Liaised with Nova Scotia Ministry of Education, and strengthened relationship with government bodies
- Designed online resource system, managed special projects including delivery strategies and e-learning initiative, and served on special needs and learning committees
Higher Colleges of Technology, Dubai Campus, UAE 2001-2007
Faculty Team Leader
- Led online course design efforts for Math, English and Computer Studies as a WebCT Expert Designer, and managed e-portfolio project for 350-400 concurrent students
- Taught introductory Computer Studies, served as IT Team Leader, and webmaster for the Foundations Department
- Awarded Continuous Improvement (2005) and E-Learning Innovations (2004) in recognition of efforts to incorporate technology in the learning process, to enhance student engagement
- Narratives for learning: Portfolio approach to teaching and learning. INTED 2015: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference. Madrid. 2015
- Pre-service teachers and the relational construction of teaching knowledge. INTED 2015: 9th International Technology, Education and Development Conference. Madrid. 2015
- Artful Competency: ePortfolios for Educators. Presentation at the HCT M-Learning Conference, Dubai, UAE. 2014
- Ramaqia ePortfolio Project. Presentation at the Global Education Forum, Dubai, UAE. 2014
- Ipads on Wheels. Presentation at the HCT Annual Conference, Dubai, UAE. 2013
- Leslie, P. (2016). Narratives of Learning: The Portfolio Approach. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Accepted for Publication October, 2016. In print.
- Leslie, P. (2014). Professional Portfolios to Demonstrate ‘Artful Competency’. e-Journal of Business Education & Scholarship of Teaching, 8(2).
- Leslie, P. (2014). Portfolios in a Bachelor of Education Programme. In S. Bainbridge (Ed.), eJournal (Vol. 5). Abu Dhabi: HCT Press.
- Leslie, P. (2013). Communities of Inquiry and Assessment: Graded Discussions. In S. Dowling (Ed.), Opening up Learning (Vol. 2). Abu Dhabi: HCT Press.
- Leslie, P. (2012, September). Portfolio Approach to Learning: Application with Educational Technology Students. In S. Dowling (Ed.), Opening up Learning (Vol. 1, pp. 153-162). Abu Dhabi: HCT Press. (https://goo.gl/ITCVj9)
I have recently completed writing feedback to my students on their individual efforts towards completing Module 5. The following are excerpts from my comments to my students. All of these comments were posted in a discussion board and so every student could see the feedback to every other student.
About Quality of work
This is a superb piece of work. I was intrigued to see how you blended in and built upon the ideas of cognitive dissonance and digital narratives to take those ideas further and action them with your PLC.
This is a fascinating account of how you created a PLC and then guided that group to some significant learning experiences.
About Process with PLCs
You have given a great overview of your process that translates into a very practical set of guidelines for creating a PLC to answer a specific question.
It may be that your groups can grow and shrink over time as the guiding questions for your community come and go. I think that with a core of teachers such as yourself, the PLC can move from question to question and bring in expertise and stakeholders as needed.
I can see that you have created and implemented processes that create the space, physical and cognitive, that will allow dissonance to enter the conversation. Some authors argue that learning only takes place as a result of transformation, which is the result of a profound change in our understanding of something and from which we do not regress. Sometimes such transformation comes in the form of an 'aha' moment, or a revelation of new knowledge. However, much more frequently it comes in the form of a dissonance with, or challenge to our understanding of the world.
Another student pointed out that collaborating asynchronously does not alleviate the need for timeliness in responding. Although we are not F2F, we still are waiting on each other. I feel this pressure every time I see a post or email from a student. I know that there is someone waiting on the other end of the communication.
I like the revelation that while you all thought that F2F would be the way to go, that format also has lots of issues, even if different ones, and that for busy people, technology offers some great solutions. Time is simply the most valuable resource anyone has.
A significant, if not the most significant element of this is the establishment of norms for the interactions. I think that while we want to be free to think what we want, we need guidelines to remove and 'flatten' the social structure so that we can more easily more towards epistemological freedom (a la Freire).
I like your focus on the importance of the facilitator. This is a crucial role and one that is actually a lot more difficult than many people realize. One important element is the power struggle between the facilitation and the members. Sometimes, leaders think they are great facilitators, but what they are really great at is simply getting their own way.
One aspect of having your own site that may not be obvious at first is the fact that it is yours and not institution bound. With CMS sites and so forth, the content is in someone else’s control. With your blog, you will be able to take it with you when you move again to a new school.
About creating focus with PLCs
Another thought that came to me quite strongly while reading your work was the idea of what is the point of classroom activities, or these ‘pro-social’ activities? As I noted to another student, we often think that the collaborative strategies are just a means to an end. They may be in the ‘real world’ where we need to solve problems to survive, but in the classroom, I think they are quite often the ‘end’ that we are seeking.
You comment that, “The two teachers that responded are quite adamant in the development of pro-social skills be a precursor in the learning environment”. Are they precursors, or are they the ultimate goal?
Ironically, in our knowledge age, actual knowledge is less important than the ability to find, dissect and work with that knowledge.
About Trust in PLCs
I think there is one element of trust that might not be the more conventional idea, but that is as significant as any other. In many cases, I have found that people are willing to accord people a measure of trust up front. "You are teacher, therefore I already trust you to a degree." However, there is also the question of reciprocity of effort. I like to think that my effort to respond to people are appreciated and sometimes I participate as much for my own benefit and the opportunity to articulate my thoughts and write them down. However, there is also an expectation that we will get rewarded for our efforts in that the other person will reciprocate with a significant response.
This reminds me of the concept of 'quality time'. Sometimes, quality time simply means quantity time.
I continue to work and teach in highly multi-cultural environments and the issue of culture is a common and constant item. I hesitate to say issue, because in our increasingly global world, I think it is important to recognize other cultures but then see how we can work together, not in spite of differences, but because of the differences. How do we stay true to ourselves, our family, our culture all the while respecting others and, in my case, living in someone else’s culture.
I am not sure about the alignment of culture. We celebrate our differences in Canada as opposed to the melting pot analogy of the US. We need common goals, but we may start from different sets of beliefs. In fact, in terms of the critical friend, we will need to be very critical if we already agree on most of what motivates us.
You have discovered that trust is a prime ingredient. I think that through the community of inquiry model, the notion of social presence, which is the first presence to establish, is often over looked by many and thought to be a side issue to the more important issue of cognitive presence. However, if we do not trust each other, then where will we go?
The power relationships are important anywhere, but I have found that in school settings, for one reason or another, they are critical. I think that many teachers spend their days being the masters of their domains and so become highly attuned to that power. When they are then subject to others’ power, they react oddly. I don’t’ think you find that situation in many other professions.
I thought your comment in the discussion board was even more telling than your report. You noted that you had some ideas about how to proceed but that “I'm not sure that the administration would welcome this knowledge.” That too is a question of trust. Can you trust them to accept your suggestions in the spirit of collaboration?
This too makes me thinking that we might do well to define some of the elements of trust. Many of your classmates have commented as well that trust is a crucial element, but I think that we are seeing a range of trust issues. For example, one of you classmates commented about trust to continue to work together – trust to not report comments to others, trust to do something, trust to not do something.
Where is the cognitive dissonance in that statement? Where is, what Kelchtermans (2009) called the “discomforting dialogues”?
Taking all of this seriously, means that the scholarship of teaching is a risky endeavour (see also Loughran, 2006). Finding oneself confronted with opinions and practices that differ from or even contradict one’s own opinions and deeply held beliefs. This can be very discomforting. Yet, without these discomforting experiences, deep reflection – in which the content of one’s personal interpretative framework is thoroughly challenged and questioned – will far less often be triggered. And without deep reflection, one’s personal scholarship cannot be developed, nor the scholarship of teaching in general (as a publicly reviewed set of knowledge to build on). In order to achieve this, teacher education as well as in-service training need to provide spaces to engage in discomforting dialogues. (Kelchtermans, 2009, p. 270)
In response to questions about Module 5, I thought I would expand somewhat on the module and on the notion of a ‘Digital Foothold’ to support those of you who may be having trouble connecting with a professional learning community (PLC).
In Module 5, you are asked to “establish a set of ideas about Collaborative Inquiry (based on course content) that you feel are relevant to the identified Professional Community.” These ideas come out of your burning questions and your intentions toward the PLC. Herein lies the overlap with Module 4.
“Once the Professional Community and set of Collaborative Inquiry ideas have been established then each participant is to establish a connection with the Professional Community.”
- the Professional Community can be accessed physically then the participant can do so directly.
- the Professional Community can be accessed virtually then the participant can do so by joining into the on-line forum/discussion.
- the Professional Community isn’t able to be accessed, but the participant has a desire to join it sometime in the future, then the participant can create a “digital foothold”.
- You can use a website, blog (using WordPress or Blogger, etc.)
- If you have not connected with a PLC, you could also write more generally about PLCs, and go back to your burning questions to help guide your discussion.
“Evidence of this link (connection) can be in the form of a write-up about the physical interactions; write-up and screen shots of the virtual interactions; or a write-up and link to the “digital foothold” that was created by the participant”
The ‘write-up’ is loosely defined and so could include:
- A set of ideas about collaborative inquiry based on your readings for this course. You should draw heavily on your concept map and montage to highlight the how and the why of collaborative inquiry.
- Demonstration of the practical application of your write up in the form of your interactions with the community
- Some form of conclusion or result from your interactions with the community.
In the case of those who create a digital foothold,
- A set of ideas about collaborative inquiry based on your readings for this course. You should draw heavily on your concept map and montage to highlight the how and the why of collaborative inquiry.
- Demonstration of, or discussion of barriers to connecting with a community. What stopped you from being able to collaborate, or at least inquire about the possibility of collaborating?
- Link to a portfolio that contains the above two elements.
Your reports about connecting to a Professional Community are to be posted in the D2L Discussion – Our Professional Communities by the end of Module 5 such that they can be shared and discussed during the course closure.
I have written about the concept of Making Thinking Visible many times. However, it just keeps popping up in current literature about classroom strategies and in my own (virtual) classroom as my students explore the concept of collaborative inquiry. I am curious about the focus on K-12 students in relation to making thinking visible, when I find that the skills and activities necessary to actually make out thinking visible are highly relevant even in tertiary education and with educators themselves when trying to work together in a collaborative inquiry project.
The video linked below highlights some basic concepts of the notion of creating a culture of thinking. Oddly, one key element of this is knowing when to think. This might not be as odd as it sounds. I have found that we are often very good at teaching others what to do, but not so good as doing these very same things ourselves. A case in point is the writing circle that I participate in. I like to think that I give insightful feedback and pointers to my circle members, but then when it is my turn to receive feedback, they are giving me much the same pointers. Be clear! Remove unneeded text! Separate your sections more clearly!
It is interesting to see, for example, just how much group work and team work is stressed in the tertiary classrooms in which I spend much of my time, but then find that the instructors do not spend much time themselves acting on team work or participating in groups.
These strategies are not for our students to test out, learn and then move on from. Once we learn to make our thinking visible, we should not then stop doing so. A common complaint I hear from faculty is that students don't read. Actually, in many cases they do, but they still don't 'get' everything. I know my students read, and then go into the discussion board to explain why they didn't understand what they just read. Or, they explain what they read, but miss key points.
I recently watched a video about a class in which the students critique each other in order to create better work. The video in that article is quite powerful. Again, these strategies are being used with K-12 students, but I find that at the tertiary level, we have the same issues and the same needs. Look at the difference in the two images below.
This is where the collaborative part comes in. In a community of inquiry, the other community members are there to help us understand, fill in missing parts and get on with the business of learning and then doing.
After reading through just about all of your reflections and reviewing your performance, I would like to share some overall comments with you in order to give you a sense of how you are doing generally and to highlight what I find are some essential skills, some essential readings and some essential pieces of advice for success in the future.
You were asked to reflect on your progress up to this point in this course. I have not included any student reflections or writing in this feedback.
Here are excerpts from what I sent back to you.
Paul Leslie – Comments
For me, the reflections are often the source of the most inspiring comments and the most telling pieces of writing about your ideas toward the course and about you and your professional lives - and sometimes even your personal lives! Of course, I do learn a lot from the discussion boards, but those are often written for a larger audience and students have a tendency to be cautious and rather effusive with praise. That is good, but we also need some gritty, nit-picky questions in the mix to get people thinking and to delve deeper in the issues.
Some general comments about, or inspired by your reflections include:
“I loved reading your reflection piece. It was very detailed, thoughtful and demonstrates an understanding of the core concepts that goes beyond the concepts themselves and extends to their practical application and reality in the classroom. I particularly liked your discussion of Freire’s comment about being responsible to make the conditions for learning in our classrooms.”
“I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which you have approached both this reflection, and your overall work. I can see throughout the course that you have been challenging your classmates, and producing work that is clearly informed by the reading and reflection in your own experiences in the classroom.”
“I think your use of the term, “fidelity” is very interesting, It conveys a sense of doing the right thing combined with staying true to your original purpose. Is that what you mean?”
“As I always tell my students: I want more of whatever you are doing, and I want you to do it better. We are all individuals and we want to be judged on our own merits, not in comparison to our classmates.”
“I appreciate your comment about ill-structured problems. In fact, the whole debate over ‘authentic’ assessment or ‘authentic’ learning materials comes out of this notion that ‘real life’ is messy whereas the problems and situation we pose for students are contrived with the wrinkles ironed out. You could argue that a well-structured problem is not, in fact, a problem at all!”
“To get back to your reflection, I would like to offer a suggestion to look at strategies for ‘Making thinking visible’.
In my own work, I have found this approach really lets students and teachers see what is in front of them in terms of the ‘problem’ to be solved and then what strategies are most appropriate for addressing those issues.”
“The issue I see with ‘best practices’ are that they are highly contextual and personal. So, while there certainly are ‘best practices’, I think we need to be very careful what we label as such. We need to do more of presenting the whole body of our work to each other so we can see the context of our work, not just isolated activities.”
“I wonder if ill-structured problems have ill-structured answers? That is why they are difficult to deal with and why they are good teaching and learning tools. They make us think and do not have clear answers. “
“With your students, how then do you let them work on a ‘common’ problem if they are to be self-determining and self-sufficient? I want to know how we adapt and give each student their individual support through group activities?”
“In your case, how will you get help from colleagues who are teaching different levels, different subjects, yet can offer help. How do you work with them?”
“The topic of education is a funny one. If you are working with Math teachers, you have the pedagogy, and you have the Math as a separate item or body of knowledge. But with teaching and education, the body of knowledge is the pedagogy.
I find discussion boards to be a great tool to give students a challenging question and then let them share ideas and build a community of ideas around a particular topic. I have used them as assessment tools for years in my own classes and have a journal paper in review right now about their use.
When they have a rubric for use and an assessment value, they do take on a different tone, and often a much more thorough and in-depth tone. I have given you several references to the Community of Inquiry model from Athabasca University. In my research, I have found that the key to a successful discussion board, or in fact any type of collaborative interactions is the notion of ‘teaching presence’.
In the model, participants, including the teacher, display three presences, social, cognitive and teaching. Social presence is what lets us interaction and feel like we belong to the community. Cognitive presence is the ideas and knowledge that is contributed or generated in the community. And teaching presence is what gives the community direction and focus through thoughtful and challenging questions.
There is an assumption that teaching presence comes from the teacher. Of course it does. However, in our course for example, there are 20 students and one of me. So, I cannot possible ask enough questions to provide rigour and challenge and depth to the entire community in a sustained manner for the entire course. So, teacher presence must also come from the students. As I have pointed out, not only do you have the right to ask questions of your colleagues, but you have an obligation!
Some comments to you about your discussion board participation:
“After reviewing your discussion board entries, I see that you have interacted very well with your colleagues and have provided them with in-depth and thoughtful answers. I see that you took the time to respond to most questions and comments made on your work. I also see that you posed a few questions for your classmates. This is excellent work.”
“I do encourage everyone to ask questions and I see that you have been very encouraging with your classmates, and I encourage you to continue to feel free to really question everybody. That is what we are here for – to ask questions and to learn from everybody – that is another form of collaboration. I know that people sometimes feel a bit self-conscious, and when challenged may feel somewhat affronted. Nevertheless, in our quest for epistemological freedom (a la Freire), we must challenge each other and ask questions.“
“Thanks for the extensive feedback you gave me. That is the power of asking questions. You get answers!”
“Your posts to the discussion board have been great! I have read through them and you especially your very detailed response to my question. The thing I love about discussion boards, is that now the answer you posted is available for all students to read and be inspired by.”
“Did you see my post here: http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/courses/course-1/item/718-comments-coi”
“I appreciate your comments about working with others and the continual question of trust and how do we know our thoughts and comments are being taken in the spirit that they are intended. I encourage you to read up on the community of inquiry model (and see how that might apply to your work. The same issues arise in the discussion boards here. You mention that you need to establish trust. I wonder if you can apply an appreciative inquiry model and assume a level of trust as a measure of good faith?”
“My advice is to try and read a bit more of your classmates work and perhaps try to be a bit more regular. I see that you are logging in regularly, but you seem to have posted many of your comments in just a few sittings. It is better to check in more often for shorter periods of time. I know some people try to save up their work and do a big check at once. But this style does not work so well in the online course format and you really need to do ‘bits and pieces’. It takes time to digest the work and instructions and if you look at some other work first and ask questions, you will get great insights to your questions.”
“You also need to ask more questions, because not everyone will answer! In return, you will be asked questions. Always answer! You know the old saying, the best way to learn something is to try and teach it. Well, similarly, a great way to understand something, especially your own thoughts is to explain them to someone else.
“My advice is to try and ask more, genuine questions that you have. I see that you are asking some questions, but might suggest that they are ‘easy’(?). Don ‘t be afraid to ask challenging questions. I see that you commented in this issue in your reflection and you are concerned about how this will be perceived. Well, hopefully it will be perceived as exactly what it is – you asking challenging questions!”
Concept map and montage
The concept map and montage are important elements of the course. The map gives you a chance to show your overall understanding of the concepts and processes of problem solving and collaboration. The montage gives you a chance to think about some tools to use to bring those processes and collaborative techniques to life.
“I liked the revamped version of your map in Mindomo. You have a lot of information packed in there. I think you have really covered the topic, but encourage you for your students’ sake to think of it as a map to other, more detailed information. The details should be linked from elsewhere. If you are teaching online through D2l, use your available tools to make connections and draw attention to other sources.”
“To go back to your map, you use the terms ‘shared vision’ and ‘common goals’. I think these are important, but often do not elicit the self-determination you are looking for. Sometimes, we work with the same people because our goals align for the moment. As soon as they stop, we tend to drift apart. This is a natural progression. So, I wonder if the question is about how do we work together and get the best from each other even when we don’t always have common goals. I am working with a small group of people at the moment with very different goals, but we get together to share ideas and collaborate on topics that might not have a shared vision, but the ‘shared’ part of the vision comes through when I see how the others think. It is very rewarding.
“Your map conveys a great sense of the complexity of collaborative inquiry and it is very well supported by your technology montage. You have done a great job to link the collaborative processes to tools that will support such work. Between these two artefacts, you have demonstrated a strong understanding the overall concepts.”
“In light of your comments in your reflection, I ask you if you designed this for yourself, or for others to read?”
“I like the focus on Sustained knowledge as an end point. That is many ways is what we are after – to learn something and attach it to our schema and long term memory. I also love the focus on problem solving as means toward that end with strands going out to types of problems and strategies for solving them – this is excellent work. You should make sure you share it with your colleagues and you should put it into a learning and teaching portfolio. This is something you can show to students and then point out to them on the map where they are going to work for the day.”
“For example, having the characteristics of CI overlap with the 4 stages was a great example of the relationships.”
“I think that you will do well to spend some time go back and look at some of the later maps and second attempts. Some of your classmates have produced spectacular maps. They will be great examples for you to look at. As for using maps on your teaching, I think they are a critical tool both for you to explain concepts, and for your students to make to help dissect concepts.”
“Personally, I think Poplet is a great tool, but it is a difficult tool to use to represent more complex ideas.”
“I totally agree with your points about using a suite of tools rather than a collection of different tools that may or may not work together and that will require a set of passwords, some of which may be different. 90% of people already have a Google account.”
Burning questions and PLC
Finally, the burning questions and the start towards working with a PLC were very interesting! Technically, the burning questions and PLC discussion were not part of the mid-course consultation, but of course if you have not started this section of the course yet, you need to get busy! I gave considerable feedback to many of you on the communities. Because the nature of much of this feedback was directly related to your questions, it may not be relevant to share here.
Nevertheless, in the following comments, you will see the main points you need to consider.
“Is that a more formal group, or are you an active participant? In other words, do you know the participants and engage regularly with them. If yes, you could easily use that group as a PLC. I have encouraged others to go with a PLC that they work with directly rather than one that is more distant and from which you may not receive regular or direct replies.”
“One note to consider is to try and pick a PLC that you have some chance of getting a reply from. In this light, you might be better off with a smaller group, rather than a larger one.”
“Although you are supposed to engage online, I think that nowadays, even with F2F, so much of the engagement process happens online, especially in terms of sharing documents, synchronous editing, cloud storage and other such collaborate tools.”
“Going forward, I encourage you to take some time to read about the Community of Inquiry model if you are not already familiar. There are some interesting comments about establishing ‘presence’ with online groups and even f2f groups. https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/. Specifically, look at the social presence. This model is intended for online communities, but the work translates very well into f2f or blended situation as well. Under the social presence section of the model, there are lots of papers and measurement tools that will help to define what behaviors contribute to making the interactions more engaging.”
“There is no doubt that this is difficult and stressful. My best advice is to consider the concept of ‘tolerance for ambiguity”. There will be lots of unanswered questions through this process and that is intentional as an effort to develop such tolerance. One way to clarify, is to then consider the notion of ‘making thinking visible:
- http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/main/archives/item/656-making-thinking-visible" target="blank"
- http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/main/archives/item/664-making-thinking-visible-part-2" target="blank"
- http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html" target="blank" “
“It is a challenging topic and I advise you to go with it. I think there is a great deal of research to be done in that area and it would make a great PhD topic down the road for you!”
“I see that one of your burning questions is directly looking at the idea of digital working portfolios. (http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/main/archives/item/579-pedagogy-of-freedom )! This would be a great focus for your professional communities. How can we use portfolios to engage with our community? Look at the AAEEBL (http://www.aaeebl.org/ ) as a professional community.
“I guess one question is, what is the difference between formal and informal? Is that the difference between group work with a group submission versus working with groups but submitting individually? How will that work in a ‘real life’ situation? Also, I was very interested to note that you have brought in the element of the size of the group. Very interesting! I am currently involved with designing some processes that are being developed by a small group, but that will impact 100s of academics across our entire school. How does that fit?”
“How does the level of formality affect the level of participation?”
“I see that you have contacted some others about questions regarding resistance to collaboration. That is a highly worthy topic and one that will challenge you and the other students.”
“In this case, you might need to be much more direct and forthcoming with your own ideas than you are accustomed to. In Canada, we are far too polite and unwilling to impose or burden others. However, the spirit of collaboration needs to start somewhere, and it might as well be with you. I am sure they will welcome every bit of advice and experience you can share.”
“You should look at Kolb's experiential learning model.”
“Going forward, I encourage you to think about this specific question. If you cannot work with others, you are clearly not collaborating. While it may not be incumbent on you to be the initiator, it is always good to take on that role and see where it leads.”
“The real essence of collaborative inquiry is to learn from each other and more importantly to appreciate other viewpoints in an attempt to broaden our own understanding. The point isn’t to persuade or be persuaded, but rather it is to achieve a greater sense of freedom through understanding what those around us believe, think and feel (http://www.paulleslie.net/index.php/main/archives/item/579-pedagogy-of-freedom ).”
I have had a few questions about the upcoming work with Modules 4 and 5. The following are a few guidelines for the activities you will be pursuing.
I will note here that the work for the two modules does not have to be conducted consecutively. Indeed, you will not have time to do so. You should be working on both modules concurrently. This is why a PLC that is less formal and ‘closer’ to you (e.g. an actual workplace PLC) will be a benefit.
I will also note up front that these are guidelines only. If you have an original approach that you think will fulfil in substance and spirit the requirements, I am very much open to an innovative, thought-provoking project in some other format.
Some guidelines for my expectations in Module 4 include:
- The whole paper should not be more than 2500 words (not including the process account). I would be surprised if you passed in less than 1500-2000 (some of my feedback to you was more than 1000 words!)
- Be very concise. Be clear. I will be impressed by good writing.
- Be harsh with each other in the editing. Allow others to edit your work. They can only make it better.
- Don’t be afraid to delete.
- For every article or source of knowledge that you cite in your paper, include a reference at the end of the paper. I do not want an annotated bibliography.
- I prefer APA, but do not actually care. Whatever you use, be consistent. The whole point is to let your reader follow your ideas and find their provenance.
The outline should be something like this:
- What problem or burning question do you have around working collaboratively?
- When you work with a group, what issues concern you about how you can work with other people?
- What is the context of your issue? (e.g. are you working at a distance? With the same people over and over? Are you the principal? Is there a power relationship at play? Are the cultural differences / misunderstandings?)
- WHY do you think this is an important issue?
- Literature review
- Use the articles that you have been provided in the reading list. Feel free to do some searching as well.
- What do others (authors!) say about your problem? How have others handled the problem?
- Proposed solution
- This follows logically from your literature review. Did any of the authors provide a solution that you might try? Have you cobbled together a couple of pointers from each author?
- Relate the solution to your PLC.
- In your groups, each of you might have a few points about how each of you might tackle the problem with you own PLC.
- Or, you can focus on one PLC but then in Module 5 you can go on a different tack with your own PLC
- If your whole group has joined the same PLC, then you might want to consider how each of you will either work together, or address different questions within that same PLC.
- Don’t be afraid to cite authors in this section as well
- Process account
- Copy the notes from your google doc or extracts from your emails etc. It will be very helpful to highlight important concepts or points where you reached agreement, or highlighted differences etc.
For Module 5, you will hopefully be able to put your solution to the test:
- Identify a Professional Community with whom to connect
- You have already done this, but you are free to change your mind and pick a different PLC. At this point, my advice about picking one that might respond to you will become relevant.
- Starting with one of your burning questions, and quite possibly the burning question you worked on with your group, take the introduction and literature review from your group work and define a set of core ideas, related to Collaborative Inquiry and based on course content, to be shared as appropriate, with your chosen PLC.
- You might not actually share this verbatim. The point is to prepare yourself to address issues (burning questions) that you feel you will encounter.
- In your evidence of connect (see next point), you can show how you tried to implement your solution and connect with your community.
- Connect virtually and/or physically with the PLC and document your interactions.
- Provide evidence of a connection to the identified Professional Community.
- Where virtual and/or physical connection is not possible, you will need to create a “digital foothold” where you can communicate the set of core ideas that were identified related to Collaborative Inquiry and the particular Professional Community
- You might not get a reply from your PLC.
- Then you will need to show a digital foothold.
- This is the point where you will find the work better and more rewarding if you can actually connect with your PLC.
- Create a link between your digital foothold and the course.
- This will be a reflective piece of writing in the discussion board.
I hope these notes help to clarify.