Dr. Paul Leslie

Dr. Paul Leslie

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 23:18

Discussion of Assessment in PME 801

Dear Students,

In this professional learning experience, assessment is ongoing, and evaluation is holistic. I view all discussion board activities and tasks as central to your learning and overall growth.

I engage in each module as a participant, course moderator, and teacher. I loosely follow the ICE (Ideas, Connections and Extensions) Model of assessment as a guide for my interactions. You will note that this model is based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.

I will participate in each discussion board activity as much as reasonably possible and will at times pose additional questions for you as a group, or individually. I am a strong proponent of the Community of Inquiry Model of online interactions and have integrated this model into my teaching for many years. I am also an advocate of a social constructionist approach to Education that posits, “human systems are not just living systems that can adapt to the environment, but systems that can imagine a better future and co-create it together” (Camargo-Borges, 2015).

For each task, I will provide descriptive feedback and ask questions to challenge you to further develop your ideas. These tasks will not be assigned a grade, as they are viewed as tools for development and extension. I will note your efforts to challenge yourself and to meet challenges posed to you by me or by your classmates.

There are 2 self-reflections and consultations (as outlined on the work map document), which provide you an opportunity to reflect on specific areas of your performance in the course. These consultations also provide me the opportunity to provide a wider range of comments and feedback to you:

Mid-course consultation: you will complete a rubric of professional inquiry highlighting the criteria associated with your performance in the course. This includes a reflection on your learning to date. I will respond with my own comments and reflection and provide a written assessment of your performance to date in the course. (Please post your completed self-assessment of the Professional Inquiry Rubric to the course Dropbox no later than Feb 12th.)

Final Course Consultation: This follows the same process as detailed above. Once your self-assessment is submitted, I will provide my comments and feedback about your course participation and provide a final letter grade. You will have a chance to respond to your grade before it is formally submitted.  (Please post your completed self-assessment of the Professional Inquiry Rubric to the course Dropbox no later than March 19th.)

Given this approach, you will not receive a breakdown of specific course tasks and associated marks. Instead, you are encouraged to commit to excellence in your learning and in supporting the learning of others. I am happy to discuss any of this at any time should you have concerns about your assessment.

Sincerely, Dr. Paul Leslie



Camargo-Borges, C. (2015). Designing for Learning: Rethinking Education as Applied in the Master in Imagineering. World Futures, Vol. 71 (1-2)., p 26-39.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 22:41

Syllabus - PME 801 - Winter 2017

Winter 2017 – GDPI–PME 801 Collaborative Inquiry

Instructor: Dr. Paul Leslie             

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Office: Virtual office hours by appointment


Jan 9 – March 20, 2017

*This is a 7-week course spread over a 10-week term. There will be 3 “off” weeks: Jan 30-Feb 5, Feb 13-19, and Feb 27-Mar 5. These off weeks help to balance the workload.

Please note:

  • There is overlap in the timing of the modules and they are of varying lengths.
  • Module 4 is perhaps the most intensive as it requires group work, an extensive literature review and engagement with external communities (the name of the course is Collaborative Inquiry).
  • As you will note in the course Gantt chart (following the weekly syllabus), you should start thinking about potential group members and associated work in Module 2.
  • I urge you to review the entire course structure in order to be clear on the progression of ideas and content and to be able to make connections between the various elements of the course.
  • I am happy to negotiate deadlines and due dates as needed. However, please consider your classmates when doing so.


This course will enable the student to understand the foundational principles of collaborative learning and to enact those principles in professional practice. This, in turn, will lead to the creation of a collaborative learning community within the context of the course where the knowledge and skills of professional inquiry will be explored and demonstrated.


  • Develop a general understanding of collaborative inquiry
  • Develop an understanding of core concepts related to collaborative inquiry including collaboration, inquiry, problem solving, and design.
  • Develop an appreciation that collaborative inquiry can take different forms in different professional communities
  • Build awareness of the role technology can play in supporting collaborative inquiry
  • Develop an understanding of key concepts beyond the core concepts related to collaborative inquiry, including (but not exclusively): contextual constraints, problem framing, inductive/deductive and abductive reasoning, and knowledge building
  • Engage in critical review of a problem and the context in which the problem exists in a community
  • Propose solutions to a problem that are sensitive to the concerns of the stakeholders

 Module Structure

There are five (main) modules in GDPI/PME 801 - Collaborative Inquiry. Some of the modules overlap throughout the duration of the course. There are also un-numbered modules that mark the beginning (Course & Personal Introductions module), the middle (Mid-course Consultation module) and the end of the course (Course Closure module). The main modular structure is as follows:

  • Module 1: Collaborative Inquiry about Core Concepts
  • Module 2: Knowledge Building
  • Module 3: Develop and Share Artifacts
  • Module 4: Engage in Collaborative Design with Course Peers
  • Module 5: Connect with a Professional Community: Communicating about Collaborative Inquiry


Feedback and reflection are integral to successful professional inquiry. Across the GDPI/PME courses, participants are provided with various ways to reflect on their progress (e.g. blogging, portfolio development) and to receive on-going feedback about the progress of their ideas, actions and concerns (e.g. group discussion, collaboration, written comments). The instructor, along with other participants in the course, will provide feedback as part of the day-to-day course functioning, however at two points in this course a formal interaction between the instructor and each participant will take place.

At roughly the mid-point of the course, participants will conduct a self-assessment. This process has 2 parts. First, participants will complete the Participant’s reflection section of the GDPI-PME Rubric of Professional Inquiry. In addition, participants will consider the 5 elements of inquiry represented on the rubric and construct a profile of the quality of their own learning to date. Once both sections are completed, participants will submit the rubric to the instructor via the Dropbox.

The instructor will then respond with his/her own assessment of the learning on both the rubric and through the Instructor’s Remarks. No grade is to be assigned as this mid-course use of the Rubric of Professional Inquiry is for formative purposes only. At the end of the course, again using the Rubric of Professional Inquiry and following the same pattern of interaction, a summative assessment will be completed by the instructor.


Module Duration Activity/Assignment
Course & Personal Introductions Jan 9-13
  • Introduction & Readings
  • Discussion Board: About this Course
  • Activity: Collaborator Artifact (Share link to professional portfolio)
  • Discussion Board: About me as a Collaborator
  • Discussion Board: Background

Module 1.

Collaborative Inquiry about Core Concepts

Jan 14-22
  • Introduction & Readings
  • Discussion Board: Collaborative Inquiry Core Concepts
  • Discussion Board: Case Study
  • Activity: Core concepts map (draft)
  • Discussion Board: Post concept maps

Module 2.

Knowledge Building

Jan 20 -Feb 12
  • Introduction & Readings
  • Knowledge Forum
  • Activity: Technologies Montage – video (draft)
  • Discussion Board: Post your Technologies Montage video
  • Discussion Board: Our Professional Communities
  • Consider potential group members for Module 4
  • Consider one potential professional community to join for Module 3 and 5

Module 3.

Develop & Share Artifacts

Feb 10-12
  • Introduction & Readings
  • Activity: Final Core Concepts Map
  • Submit to dropbox
  • Technologies Montage
  • Submit to dropbox
  • Activity: Professional Community Initial Proposal
  • Submit to Module 2 Discussion board: Our Professional Communities
  • Continue to consider potential group members

Mid-Course Consultation Feb 12

Submit to dropbox

GDPI-PME 801 Course Readings by Module

Introductory Module: Course and Personal Introductions


Johnson, S. [Riverhead Books]. (2010, September 17).  Where good ideas come from [Video file].  Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZGDbPFU  


Taylor, M. (2013, September 5). Collaboration: Oiling the system. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.matthewtaylorsblog.com/thersa/collaboration-oiling-the-system/


Module 1 - Collaborative Inquiry (CI) core concepts (ill-structured, discourse-based, CI as problem solving, CI as design)

Required Readings

Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Toward a Design Theory of Problem Solving. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(4), 63-85.

Spiro, R. J., & DeSchryver, M. (2009). Constructivism: When it’s the wrong idea and when it’s the only idea. In S. Tobias & T. Duffy (Eds.), Constructivist Instruction: Success or Failure (pp. 106-123). New York, NY: Routledge.

Required Case Study to Review & Discuss in D2L

Learning Forward Ontario. (2011). Collaborative Inquiry: A Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from http://misalondon.ca/PDF/collabpdfs/Collaborative_Inquiry_Guide_2011.pdf

Supplementary Readings

Akerson, V. L., Hanson, D. L., & Cullen, T. A. (2007). The influence of guided inquiry and explicit instruction on K–6 teachers’ views of nature of science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 18(5), 751-772.

Allen, S. J., & Graden, J. L. (2002). Best practices in collaborative problem solving for intervention design. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology IV (Vol. 1) (pp. 565-582).  Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.

Eris, O. (2003). Asking generative design questions: a fundamental cognitive mechanism in design thinking. Paper presented at the 14th International Conference on Engineering Design, Stockholm. Retrieved from http://www.designsociety.org/publication/24150/asking_generative_design_questions_a_fundamental_cognitive_mechanism_in_design_thinking

Rittel, H., & Webber, M. M. (1984). Planning problems are wicked problems.  In N. Cross (Ed.), Developments in design methodology (pp.135-144).  Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Schön, D. A. (1992). Designing as reflective conversation with the materials of a design situation. Research in engineering design, 3(3), 131-147.


Module 2 - Knowledge Building (Deeper exploration of discourse to support Collaborative Inquiry)

Required Readings

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy and technology. In R.K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of learning sciences (pp. 97-115). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Turbin, E., Liang, T., & Wu, S. (2011). A Framework for adopting collaboration 2.0 tools for virtual group decision making. Group Decision and Negotiation. 20(2), 137-154.

Supplementary Readings

Bernoff J., Li C. (2008) Harnessing the power of the Oh-So-Social web. MIT Sloan Management Review 49(3), 36–42.

Dillenbourg, P. & Traum D. (2006). Sharing solutions: Persistence and grounding in multimodal collaborative problem solving. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(1). 121-151.

Lai L. S., Turban E. (2008).  Groups formation and operations in Web 2.0 environment and social networks. Group decision and negotiation 17(5), 387-402.

Mason, W. & Watts, D. (2012). Collaborative learning in networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109(3).764-769.

Rochelle, J., & Teasley S. D. (1995). The Construction of shared knowledge in collaborative problem solving. In C. O’Malley (Ed.), Computer supported collaborative learning (pp. 69-97).  Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge.  In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67-98).  Chicago, IL: Carus Publishing Company.

Stoyanova, N. & Kommers, P. (2002). Concept mapping as a medium of shared cognition in computer-supported collaborative problem solving. Journal of interactive learning research, 13(1), 111-133.


Module 3 - Develop and share artifacts and providing feedback

Required Readings

Valkenburg, R. & Kees, D. (1998). The Reflective practice of design teams. Design Studies 19(3), 249-271. doi: 10.1016/S0142-694X(98)00011-8


EduGains – Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010) Feedback – The most powerful tool [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/newsite/aer2/aervideo/descriptivefeedback.html

 Supplementary Readings

Schon, D. A., & Wiggins, G. (1992). Kinds of seeing and their functions in designing. Design studies 13(2), 135-156.


Module 4 - Engage in collaborative design with course peers

Required Readings

Dorst, K., (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application. Design studies 32(6), 521-532.

Dorst, K., & Cross, N. (2001). Creativity in the design process: co-evolution of problem-solution. Design studies, 22(5), 425-437.

Gassmann, O., & Zeschky, M. (2008). Opening up the solution space: The Role of analogical thinking for breakthrough product innovation. Creativity and innovation management. 17(2), 97-106.

Goel, V., & Pirolli, P. (1992). The Structure of design problem spaces. Cognitive science, 16(3), 395-429.

Supplementary Readings

Barron, B. (2000). Achieving coordination in collaborative problem-solving groups. Journal of the learning sciences. 9(4). 403-436. doi: 10.1207/S15327809JLS0904_2

Deketelaere, A., & Kelchtermans, G. (1996). Collaborative curriculum development: An encounter of different professional knowledge systems. Teachers and Teaching, 2(1), 71-85. doi:10.1080/1354060960020106.

Svihla, V. (2010). Collaboration as a dimension of design innovation. CoDesign, 6(4), 245-262.


Module 5 - Students plan and carry-out connecting with broader professional community (Various professional communities and their approaches to collaborative inquiry)

Required Readings

Ontario Leadership Strategy (2010). Exploring five core leadership capacities: Promoting collaborative learning cultures: Putting the promise into practice.  Ontario leadership strategy bulletin, 3, 1-23. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/leadership/ideasintoactionspring.pdf

Ontario Ministry of Education (2010).  Collaborative teacher inquiry: New directions in professional practice. Capacity building series, Secretariat Special Edition #16, 1-8. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_Collaborative_Teacher_Inquiry.pdf



Hsu, P. (2013).  What can PLCs do for you? Research brief: are you a true PLC? 1-8. Retrieved from http://qualityschools.lausd.net/sites/qualityschools.lausd.net/files/Are%20You%20a%20True%20PLC.pdf

Supplementary Readings

Bell, T., Urhahne, D., Schanze, S. & Ploetzner, R. (2010). Collaborative inquiry learning: Models, tools, and challenges. International journal of science education, 32(3), 349-377. doi:10.1080/09500690802582241

Capps, D. K., Crawford, B. A., & Constas, M. A. (2012). A Review of empirical literature on inquiry professional development: Alignment with best practices and a critique of the findings. Journal of science teacher education, 23(3), 291-318.

Ehn, P. (1993). Scandinavian design: On participation and skill.  In D. Schuler & A. Namioka (Eds.) Participatory design: Principles and practices (pp.41-77).  Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Keys, C. W., & Bryan, L. A. (2001). Co‐constructing inquiry‐based science with teachers: Essential research for lasting reform. Journal of Research in science teaching, 38(6), 631-645.

Lakkala, M., Lallimo, J., & Hakkarainen, K. (2005). Teachers' pedagogical designs for technology-supported collective inquiry: A national case study. Computers & Education, 45(3), 337-356.

Muller, M. J., & Kuhn, S. (1993). Participatory design. Communications of the ACM, 36(4), 24-28.

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 18:47

Writing Workshop

The School of Business recently sponsored a writing workshop for full and sessional academic staff. I worked closely with two other colleagues to prepare the agenda for the day. As the lead facilitator, I was responsible for the final agenda, speakers, and the actual facilitation and success of the workshop.

Supporting documents for the workshop can be found here.

The agenda was as follows:


  • Overview
  • Presentations
    • Mr. Mark Smith:
      • How to make your story relevant.
    • Professor Lynette Sheridan Burns
      • Write for your audience
    • Keith Parry
      • Uses for writing - The Conversation
  • Short sessions on G-Doc
    • Review of available data sets
    • Writing topics and current expertise
    • Matching topics to targets
  • Short writing and review sessions
    • “Shut up and Write” (not our title!!)
    • Report to whole group

 sbus ww cover 200

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 19:21

Designing for Learning Workshop - 2016

I presented at the 2016 Designing for Learning Workshop held at Western Sydney University (Parramatta Campus) on Tuesday, November 29th, with two of my colleagues. You can view my workshop notes here.

Our abstract for the workshop:

Engaging students through active learning

Active learning is "anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing", which can include discussing, collaborating, critical thinking, problem solving etc. In this 50-minute hands-on session, participants have an opportunity to participate in active learning activities that can be implemented in classroom environments and adapted to a range of scenarios.

Participants will be required to bring a learning and teaching activity schedule / lesson plan, in which, they wish to incorporate active learning strategies. During the session, we will have three activity stations where participants will discuss the key principles of active learning, as well as, participate and explore active learning strategies.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016 15:04

Narratives of learning: The portfolio approach

I have recently had another paper on portfolios accepted for publication in the The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. While I am waiting for the paper to be published, you can access it here.

woman irrodl


This paper will explore how a portfolio approach to teaching and learning can help the educator incorporate unique forms of reflective practice into his or her daily work. By being able to express ideas more clearly to himself, the educator can better promote the relational construction of knowledge in his educational communities. This paper, as part of a larger body of research asks, how can a portfolio approach to teaching and learning help the educator develop unique forms of reflective practice that will help him express his ideas more clearly first to himself and then secondly to his educational communities? Research methodology is primarily participatory action research and includes an autoethnographic review of the author’s work, reviews, interviews, observations and focus groups with student teachers and professional teachers in the United Arab Emirates. The research concludes that in consideration of McLuhan’s (1964) notion that the ‘medium is the message’, the interactions that arise through the use of new media tools can lead us to relational, co-constructed ideas that are not those simply passed on from other texts. By making our thinking visible, the portfolio approach allows the educator to capture the contextual relationship between the author, the audience or community, and the knowledge being created.

               Keywords: portfolio, relational construction, education, scholarship, reflection

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 06:43

Entrepreneurship in Education

I recently attended a workshop on entrepreneurship and education (http://www.uts.edu.au/future-students/business-practice/events/event-series/futuresedu/program ) at The University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Please have a look at the conference brochure to see some names of presenters and an overview of the workshop. (https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4HFfMtbPDDZRTVJOVA2Tjh5dlU). The following is a discussion of some of the main points and a few collected reflections about the workshop.

Role of government in entrepreneurship

Several speakers discussed the role of government in entrepreneurship. Among the areas in which government can play a great role are the following:

  • Business management
    • Government needs to listen to business more closely to help sort through red tape and bureaucracy. One example given was the rise of Uber. Taxi companies had become so burdened by red tape and regulations that Uber has almost completely wiped out the conventional model of taxis. There will be a lot of pain amongst taxi drivers, but the future is Uber and government needs to listen more carefully to help this transition.
  • Incubator support
    • Similar to the previous issue, government needs to provide space and assistance to new companies. Starting a new company is extremely difficult. So, people are going around the government and so we see a rise in undercover entrepreneurship.
  • Digital transformation
    • The government of Australia has spent 5.6 billion per year on ICT in recent years. It is ow recognizing the power of data to improve services

Projects from K-12 Schools

There was a lot of talk about things such as genius hour and trips to companies. I am always concerned about holding students up as geniuses (unless they truly are). I think that these expectations are hard to meet and the definitions of greatness are awarded too frequently, too selectively, and too subjectively. This is damaging to the ‘regular’ kids.

At the tertiary level, there was discussion of internships. These are always valuable if done properly. If not, students might be free labour for a couple weeks, or worse, a drain on resources. Internships are all about experiential learning.

Keep it real

There were some words of wisdom and caution from Professor Glen Murphy from Queensland University of Technology. He started by saying, “I hate start ups”. He notes that there are enormous amounts of money poured away on start-ups that often go nowhere. He adds that there is a fundamental difference between pitching a business and growing a business. In his classroom, he want students to be challenged when they walk into our classrooms  and comments that there needs to be a balance between entrepreneurship and actual skills. Students need to have the capacity to actually do the work.

In a comment reminiscent of the Dean of Business from Chicago, teachers need to remember civics and citizenship to ensure proper ideas and the ability to collaborate.  

Jack Delosa: The Entourage (https://www.the-entourage.edu.au/ )

Jack talked about changing paradigms and offered up a lengthy list, of which I have captured a few:

  • Future will resemble the past / Preparing for a unknown world
    • Life really is different now.
  • Succeed or fail / fail forward
    • Well, failure is seen as a means of growth which is good, but it is also costly and we generally do not want to fail, especially with other people’s money.
  • You are or are not an entrepreneur / more inclusive description
    • This has something to it. As we tend to move from job to job and experience moments of unemployment, we need to be able to control that future more readily. An entrepreneurial spirit might help.

Cognitive computing

Andrew Johnstone-Burt – Global Business Services – gave a compelling discussion of the near future of technology both in business and for education. He noted that technology factors are number one external force in changing enterprises.

He commented that when using or considering technology, there are three imperatives:

  • Engagement
  • Relevance
  • Value

He added that there are three key drivers of technology in business

  • Digital technologies
    • Proliferation of data
    • Mobility
    • Distribution by social, cloud, security
  • Exponential technologies
    • Robotics, automation, internet of things
  • Cognitive & AI technologies
    • Augmented intelligence
    • Cognitive computing
    • Machine uses unstructured data e.g. Images, voice, video, speech
  • Understand unstructured data much like humans
  • Reason - they understand syntax and underlying concepts
  • Learn - keep using and building on data making links between data
    • Infuse Ai into teaching and learning
      • Intelligent content tagging
      • Insights in course feedback
      • Understand preferenceHarvest and curate external learning

Tim Wark, (http://data61.csiro.au/) offered another intriguing discussion of technology, more closely related to changing job environment.

Click here

One very interesting fact is that the top 5 mega companies are technology-based companies compared to 10 or 15 years ago. I looked this up, and the Forbes report did not support this contention, However, I think it may not be far from the truth. He also noted there is a growth in creative jobs:

  • Less printers and more photographers
  • Less print and more designers
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 17:28

Distance, Online and Transnational Education

A recent webinar discussed the future of online, distance and transnational education. This is a topic in which I have a great interest, stemming from my involvement with these elements, or aspects, of education from personal and professional experience. My own background includes study at a university in a different country, online, and now I am teaching online at a Canadian university, while living in Australia. My own experience and examples highlight the rather confusing sets of circumstances that make this topic interesting.

In the accompanying article and and slide show (included below), the authors and participants discuss various issues confronting the growth of Transnational Education and provide some interesting statistics. In one slide, they note that fully 41% of all transnational education is in the form of online education, compared to 10% for branch campuses or 26% for joint or dual degrees.

type tne poll

This percentage rises to 51% among students in the UK, and among those in Australia, 77% are 'offshore'. These are large numbers. One of the significant understandings that I take from the article and presentation in this area is the need for a greater understanding of how technology can support education. Another important take away is the notion of, "whether to consider online as a separate, specialized track of education or as an amalgamated entity with traditional on-campus programmes." (Jenvey, 2016). Along with this distinction is the concept of integrating technology more fully into the day to day teaching and learning in universities. Are we disadvantaging students by not setting high expectations for the use of technology at all levels?

One other important take away is the idea of micro-masters, in which students can piece together a degree from courses taken at different universities. This will allow students and institutions to provide a more specialized training and education experience that suits the widening demands placed on universities.I think this last speaks to a great need for a portfolio type tool that allows students to capture and demonstrate their varied competencies.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016 22:59

Professional Learning Communities

As part of the course I taught online at Queens University over the summer, we investigated PLCs (professional learning communities), and the students were required to engage with one and report back on their success. As a follow up, I received an email the other day from a former student asking about PLCs. Here is an abridged version:

Hi Paul, I hope all is well. I was in your Collaborative Inquiry course during the summer. I honestly and truly enjoyed and learned a lot from the course. So much so that at my new job we recently had our first PLC meeting. It was quite awkward (which I know is to be expected). I was talking to my breakout group about building trust and getting to know one another. They asked me to share this with the larger group and I did (reluctantly being the 'new guy') and the principal of my program said that she would like to speak further to me about PLCs. 

I am of course a bit nervous both being new to the school while still wanting to share all of the good things I learned. I am wondering if you have any suggestions as to how I should share? I believe all of my apprehensions go directly to the issue of trust in a PLC, but want to know how to best overcome this and present ideas effectively. Do you have any ideas or could point me in the direction of an article that would explain this? Sorry to bother, you but I feel that you were the best person to contact in this instance. Best regards, your student

My response was as follows:

Well, you have gotten off to a good start in your new position. That is great. As for the question of PLCs, you have identified the most crucial element. As a teacher, that is the very same element that we need to secure first in the classroom – is it safe to ask questions? To be me?

 I have found a great deal of inspiration through the community of inquiry model (https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/), which I think applies in many collaborative situations. I wrote a paper which is in review now about using this model to manage communities. The goal I think is to make the community feel safe through the social presence – making sure they understand the purpose of the community and letting each other know their own personal goals within the larger community. This is a great activity in itself to let the participants place themselves in the community and in a context where they feel they can contribute.

 COI model front

Also, you as facilitator, need to manage this process.

 The next step is to clarify the notion of teaching presence. This is the guiding force of the community. These are the questions that we ask each other and more importantly, the include the permission to ask questions. If we expect questions and tell each other that we are expected to ask questions, when we actually do so, it is easier. You may have noted that even in our discussion boards, people still get a bit put out when some one asks a question or challenges them. However, that is the point. And we just do it in the context of learning.

 Once we have social presence and teaching presence, then we will get cognitive presence, and not before.

 Have a read of the two articles and look at the website and the actual model. It may take awhile for it all to sink in, but trust me, I have been relying on this model for at least 10 years and it still works perfectly. 


Thursday, 08 September 2016 01:16

Collaboration in the new Learning Space

Lately, I have been engaged in a variety of projects to help faculty prepare for our new learning space. One recurring item in my conversations and work is the notion "Making Thinking Visible". This is not a new topic for me (just search for the term)! The following discussion is part of a larger piece of work that I am sharing with colleagues in order to spark discussion about how to manage our new collaborative spaces that we will be moving into in the fall (January for our northern hemisphere audience).

Tell Show me what you think of / know about …

One of the most important elements of engaging students is ensuring that they know what to do.

  • Do they know what to do right now in the class?
  • Do they know what to do for next class?
  • Do they know how all activities relate from…
    • Preparation for class to …
      • Classroom activity to …
        • Assessment to …
          • Unit outcomes to …
            • Success by passing the unit to…
              • Graduating

The more clearly we can articulate opportunities and expectations, the more engaged our students will be. Concurrently, in order to help students see the relevance of their work, we also need to give them the tools, and the strategies to use those tools, to allow them to make their thinking visible.

They need to make their thinking visible to themselves first and then to their colleagues and peers, and finally to their stakeholders and assessors. 

We need to make our expectations visible through as many means as reasonably possible.

Modelling Thinking

In order to help students interact with ideas and content in meaningful ways, we need to provide strategies, or thinking routines, that can be employed in the classroom to help facilitate the learning process.

These routines can be a leverage point for us to help students extend their critical thinking beyond their normal limits. We need to get the thinking out of their heads and on to paper so that others can see it.

idea manage classroom

If we are Distinctly Student Centred, then it is our responsibility to ensure that all students participate – not for their own good, but for the good of those around them. If a student does not want to participate, that is their decision, and they should be encouraged to leave without penalty. However, it is your decision to let them stay and then adversely affect the rest of the class through their (in)actions.

The learning studio is designed to facilitate collaborative inquiry and support group work. Much of the activity in the class will be noisy and challenging. As the tutor, your role is to both offer content expertise and manage the process. 

idea manage

Managing the process:

group work

At all times, ensure that the students are engaged in the class. The main reason students disengage is that they do not know what to do. A secondary reason is that they think you do not care. To help ensure engagement:

  • Are students listening? Wait for attention. Wait… wait … keep waiting
  • Are they participating? If not, why not? They may not have a pen!
  • If you ask a question. Don’t immediately answer it for them.
  • Do not be afraid to have quiet. Students need time to think.

If they have not prepared,

  • Ask why not. Have they done anything at all? Can they still answer the question or participate in group work?
  • Indicate the consequences, for their classmates. Highlight who has come from where, or given up what to be in the class. Stress the importance of being able to contribute to their classmates.
  • Is there time for them to look at content?
Monday, 08 August 2016 22:41

Idea Management in Higher Education

Idea Management

In order to support students in their academic efforts, the notion of Idea Management can offer a series of processes and strategies that can tie together, both conceptually and practically, their interactions with important and recurring concepts. Such processes can be reflected in assessments that are designed to help students articulate their thoughts, to themselves, their academic communities and their assessors, in a coherent and complete manner.

Idea management is a notion that speaks to the highly interactive nature of the flipped classroom, a model that is quickly gaining prominence, especially in Australia and elsewhere. Many current assessment strategies include opportunities for students to demonstrate competency through a variety of practical activities. Students now need a structured, holistic approach to these assessments that will allow them to compile and curate the range of ideas, skills and concepts that they produce through their classroom and assessment work and that are related to the various practices they are expected to master. These processes will be designed to support their ability to recall and reuse concepts and strategies across units.

Variation Theory

The ability to recall and reuse, and apply concepts speaks to the issue of threshold concepts. In many areas of study, the ability to be successful relies on students being able to grasp elemental concepts and then develop and build on those concepts. Variation theory, as means of working with threshold concepts provides a means of modelling activities that support student success.

Variation theory may be viewed as an application of Schema Theory (Ausubel) supported by Differentiation and the notion of Ill-structured knowledge domains (Spiro). Schema theory suggests that in order to understand a new concept, we must be able to place or attach it to the context of our current understanding. Ill-structured knowledge domains consider the idea that knowledge is not usually linear and hence requires a variety of ways to represent and understand it. Differentiation suggests that we all learn in different ways. Hence, variation theory suggests that we might learn better if we are given opportunities to interact with new knowledge in different ways in order to account for all of its permutations and combinations.


Feedback from a number of fellow colleagues in higher education suggest that a coherent strategy would be appreciated and would offer meaningful support, both longitudinally beyond the duration of a unit through a course, and concurrently across units. Feedback also supports the development of a coherent strategy that could be modelled for other units and courses. Feedback from literacy advisors indicates that there is need of an overarching strategy that can support students to address their other literacy needs and that can be used to track progress and to guide further personal development.

Idea Management and Student Work Space

The notion of a student work space refers to a set of tools, and processes to make the best use of these tools in the pursuit of excellence. One of the elements of this approach will be a curated collection of work to serve assessment purposes.

A structured work space for idea management outlined through assessments provides students a range of lifelong learning skills including communication and presentation skills, collaboration and participation skills, analysis through curation, and critical self-reflection. It also provides a set of skills that help students to function in a knowledge economy and that will provide coherency and consistency across the span of a student’s university career and hopefully beyond as they pursue lifelong learning.

The activities that support and are supported by this approach also speak to a range of learning items including learning styles. The notion of differentiation discusses the value of presenting information in different ways, and the need to consider the students learning styles as well as our own. 

We need to consider how students take in information and ‘digest’ it. Most people learn in a variety of ways but will have a preference or a particular strength in learning in one of these ways. We also need to be very cautious not to generalize from our own experiences when trying to understand how others learn.

Students receive ideas and information from a variety of sources, and are expected to do a variety of things with that information:

  idea manage 200

Another way of viewing this work is to look at it through a sequential process.

  idea manage classroom 200

Students themselves are often not aware of how they learn and so should be given the opportunity to experience multi-modal methodologies. For example:

learning styles three 200

  • Auditory learners: Learn from or when hearing others talk.
    • How: Let them talk! When they speak aloud they quickly realize they do or do not know what they are talking about.
    • Let others talk
    • Share videos online
  • Visual learners: Need to see the information
    • How: Write new concepts and vocabulary on the board – leave them there as a reference throughout the lesson
    • Use presentation tools with graphic images with or instead of text.
    • Let students design their own graphics and concepts maps.
  • Kinesthetic learners: Need to move or physically interact with information
    • How: Provide opportunity to take notes, remind them to write something down
    • Let them get up and write on the board,
    • Let them handle things (manipulatives – e.g. spreadsheets), “hands on” activities,
    • Work in groups to make a concept map.

How do we then integrate these methods into our classes?

  work spaces 200

By providing structures for work spaces, associated classroom activities, and incorporating these processes into formal assessments, the faculty can encourage students to come to class much better prepared for the flipped classroom. By employing cloud storage tools to capture and share ideas, students should always have access to their work and be able to draw upon previous work and documentation.

The notion of “Making Thinking Visible” allows students and faculty to externalize their ideas – to literally take the ideas out of our heads – and through the use of various media create ‘discrete’ ideas which can be manipulated, shared, sequenced and put on display for others.

By using a few select, freely available tools, students can bring their old ideas with them to new classes. They can reflect on past work and make connections by virtue of having a range of thoughts and ideas arrayed before


Students should use their own cloud storage tools for the actual storage of their data in its various formats. There are a variety of different tools available.

Google is recommended because it offers a range of tools under one log-in account and is already widely used around the world. It also offers longevity for the account, easier access to other account holders, ample storage space and an integrated suite of tools.

The following is a selection of tools and purposes offered as examples.

Personal work space

  • Google Drive

    • provides ample cloud storage space (15GB)

    • Accessible from multiple devices and integrates into multiple platforms.

    • Can’t be forgotten at home.

    • Can’t be lost

  • YouTube

    • provides a video platform.

  • Twitter

    • can hold links, articles,

    • Share ideas

  • LinkedIn

    • Profile, employment related groups and discussions

    • Great source of professional communities

    • Can be linked, used for communication, updated and shared

Community work space

  • Google docs
    • Synchronous editing
    • Exports to Word, Excel, PPT.
    • Supports forms
    • Documents and videos from these platforms and from social media including Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. can be easily embedded.
  • vUWS
    • Discussion boards, wikis,

Assessment and Competency

  • vUWS

    • Supports assessment documentation and provides various efficiency means for assessing and providing feedback

      • Classroom activities

      • Work sheets

      • Quizzes and results

      • Presentations

      • Discussion boards

      • Wikis

  • Blogger

    • Can hold embedded documents, RSS feeds from Twitter, LinkedIn profile etc.

    • Can be used for reflective writing and exported.

    • Can be closed, shared, partially or fully public.

  • Folders:

    • Personal folders can be shared in such a way as to support assessment of individual items.

    • Folders can be assessed for such aspects as:

      • Completeness / inclusion of

        • Instructor and / or peer feedback

        • Individual homework items

        • Reflections on activities

      • Presentation of contents

        • Ease of access to contents

      • Curation

        • Are the contents representative of some element of the unit e.g. real world examples of unit content found in media / imagery

    • In class activities need to be:

      • Related to the weekly content in various formats in order to allow for the flipped model to function.

      • Map from outcome to activity to assessment needs to be explicit.

      • Can incorporate a point system for the portfolio activities.

      • Need to consider recurring strategies that allow the students to be familiar with what they need to do and what tools they might need to use.

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