How Adults Learn

Our partners at Core Strengths did a post on their website about andragogy, how adults learn.  Although they talk about in the context of dealing with clients, the lessons are just as valuable for instructors:

This is the company that produces the material that we use in orientation with the students and try to come back to over the year.  While on their site, poke around a bit and check out the lessons the students are learning about their strengths and dealing with conflict.


Showing a video, consider closed captioning

If you are sharing a video with your PACE class, it’s a good idea to turn on the closed captioning.  Depending on where students are sitting in the room, there are sometimes background sounds that interfere with the speakers.  For students who have learned English as an additional language, there may be words or terms that they are unfamiliar with and seeing them in type is a benefit.  Lastly, for some students with hearing impairment, having the closed captioning on helps them learn the material. ]

Thanks to the 2017 Fall NSD class for bringing this up when I put on a video last month.

Using Nexus To Do More

PACE makes use of Nexus as our learning management system.  It provides the ideal way to share information with and communicate with students.  Nexus is in use in all our full time programs, and can easily be set up on request for part time courses.

Beyond the basics of posting course materials and receiving assignments, Nexus offers some other features that can benefit instructors:

Help Files: Nexus has been updated to include a series of tutorials for instructors.  They can be accessed from any page in Nexus by looking for “Help” on the right side of the ribbon bar.  Clicking on Help opens a list of resources, with specific files for instructors under the heading “Instructor – Nexus Tutorials”

Mass communication: Nexus has the ability to create a mass email to your course using the Nexus built in email feature.  When in the pages for any course or program, click on “Classlist” along the ribbon bar.  That will bring you to a list of all students, instructors, and administration staff assigned to the course /program.  To filter to the students, click on the tab marked “Students” just below the heading Classlist, then select all of the students by checking the button that selects all, just above all the first student’s name.  Then click on the word “email”, a new window will open with an email addressed to all the students.  Change the subject line from the default program name to your message title.  Remember that the Nexus email system is self-contained and sends / receives only within the Nexus system.

Audio recording for feedback: Besides tracking student submissions and being able to post files as feedback, Nexus allows instructors to record and add an audio file as feedback (provided your computer is equipped with a microphone).  When in the assignment submission folder, click on the student submission, and when the file opens, scroll down along the right side, under “Evaluation”, to find a button that reads “Record Audio”.  A window will open allowing you to record and add an audio file as feedback.

Calendar to add events: besides automatically filling in a course or program calendar from the assignment folders, events can be added to the calendar for student information.  When inside a course or program, click on “Communication” on the ribbon bar.  Then select “Calendar”, this will open the calendar view and by selecting “Create Event” (in blue, a little down from the ribbon bar), an item can be added to the calendar, which then shows on the course / program main page.

Discussion boards: Nexus has the ability to have an online discussion forum within any course /program.  Once inside any course /program, select “Communication” along the ribbon bar, then “Discussion”.  Like the assignments folder, instructors can then create a discussion by clicking “New”.  Besides giving the board a title, properties can be set to have the discussion board allow anonymous posts, or to have all posts approved before being visible.

Using Nexus is a great benefit to instructors, making use of additional features can enhance instructor / student interactions, improving course delivery.

Using Student Experience to Your Advantage

Teaching in continuing education has the advantage of classes of students with work experience; that experience varies from student to student, but as a whole, the class represents a pool of knowledge that an instructor can draw on.  Using that experience offers many advantages for an instructor.

Getting students to share their personal stories, previous education, or experiences can be as simple as posing an open ended question.  It can be more direct, by asking if anyone has experience with the topic of the moment.  Sharing experiences can be accomplished as part of a peer work session, having the students collaborate together to build a response to a question and then share that answer with the class.

Using students’ previous experience is a valuable way to build connections between the lesson of the day and old knowledge.  It lets students see how their previous experience and knowledge fits with the new information.  Particularly with adult learners, this is ideal by validating their previous experiences.

Drawing out students experience and stories helps build a connection between instructors and the class.  Getting personal information, remembering it, and calling on students with experience or knowledge of an area, even just asking for experience on a topic, engages the students and creates a bond between the instructor and the student.  Even as simple as comparing the Canadian work experience to another area of the globe helps open up that connection.

With the breadth of experience that is in our classes, asking for the input of students can be help in taking the ‘pressure’ off an instructor to know every answer.  It’s not possible to know every nuance of a topic, or to have had every opportunity to try a concept out in the real world.  Soliciting student ideas can broaden a discussion, bring in an alternative viewpoint, and provide a different voice on a topic.

Acknowledging that our students have previous knowledge and experiences helps to build a connection with the instructor, showing the instructor values different input and ideas.  It allows students to more easily connect current ideas with their past experiences, ultimately aiming to improve learning of the new material.  Instructors should work to extract that experience and knowledge from students on a daily basis in our classes.

Active Learning

I’m a big proponent of active learning, where the instructor has the students do some activity during the class as part of the learning.  This article:

Written for Magna Publications’ Teaching in Higher Education website puts the spotlight on how active learning can go amiss.

In using activities during your lesson, it’s important to remember what the learning outcome is.  Are you doing an activity for the sake of killing time?  That shouldn’t be the reason, if you are using an activity specifically for a learning objective, that expectation should be clear to you in designing and selecting the activity.

I’ve often found it useful after an activity to share with the class specifically what the purpose was.  If you are struggling to find two or three sentences to say what the objective was, the learning outcome may be missing.

With our full time classes, 6 hours can be a long, long time to sit and just listen, so I always encourage the use of activities.  Just be sure that they have a purpose that ties the activity the day’s learning outcomes.

Improving Discussions in the Classroom

If you are looking at using discussions in your class, or looking to improve on what you are already doing, check out this article for some tips and ideas:–IFDn7L_EcP4yPLTmZ60KMfa9I-lYwnsewkyb4qtjYQ0AH0Qkdt37zfBBqEe3s5WwgSaYqW87VBUpj5AuMK1yWkCapdQ&_hsmi=59834196#continued

Building Retrieval into Class time

Recently, the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast featured the topic “The Science of Retrieval Practice”,, giving the statistics behind the benefit of students practicing recall.  In short, even though students may not always feel like they are getting a benefit, practicing memory recall helps at test time.

As instructors, we can help with this by building time into class to do retrieval practice.  Any time that new material is presented, repetition helps students to build long term memory.  Using a retrieval practice during the class can help with that.  This can be a quiz (for no marks), or a game, such as Jeopardy or Kahoot, breaking up the day with something fun can be worthwhile and bring a benefit to students at the same time.

Students may feel some frustration at trying to recall material they’ve just learned, but the science is there.  If you listen to the podcast, the benefits show during exams even when students struggled to recall in class.

Some Tips To Start 2019

Happy New Year, and welcome to the start of another great year of programming at PACE.

Over the holiday break I had an opportunity to catch up on some reading, in particular this article that was shared with me by one of our instructors:

It has some great tips and reminders for instructors at all levels of experience. In particular, three stood out for me:

  1. Teach from the heart
  2. Practice vulnerability without sacrificing credibility
  3. Avoid using the same approach for everyone

Teaching from the heart, teaching with passion, how ever you phrase it, is often cited by students as a reason why they enjoy particular courses.  Having an enthusiasm for the topic and the group helps keep students engaged, which helps with learning.

Admitting vulnerability is about not being perfect.  We are all human, and we don’t know everything.  It’s okay to tell the class, on occasion, that you don’t know the answer to something, or that you’ve misspoken – but find the right answer after!

Varying your approach is a key part of teaching.  Not everyone is going to learn the same way, have a variety of teaching methods in your day.  Use different examples.  Try to incorporate something for everyone (visual, auditory, tactile, note taking, etc.)

Check out the article for more tips and examples of how to make your teaching more impactful.

Teaching Within Programs

Many of us have either worked in or read about the dangers of working in a silo.  Businesses work to break down the mentality that has people focused on only their piece within the organization.  At PACE programs and courses are much the same, with the danger that people can be focused too narrowly on only their single course.

It’s important to remember that, with only a few exceptions, all PACE courses are delivered within programs, programs that include courses which build on one another to equip students with the knowledge and skills to be successful and competent in the workplace. Within a full-time program, it is advantageous to be aware of  the other courses that are delivered to the class.  Look at commonalities, and tie in concepts in materials so that students see the full picture of how the pieces come together, and not just within a silo.

Every diploma from PACE includes courses which focus on developing written and oral communication skills, as well as courses such as organizational behavior, and business fundamentals.  Each program has a variation on the topic of strategic planning and leadership.  Tying concepts from these courses into your specific course can provide students with more comprehensive and concrete understanding of  work related topics and organizations.

The integration of concepts from across a program, by referring back to concepts already taught or foreshadowing courses to come, helps with the overall student learning experience.