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Linking Theory and Practice – Reflections

Journal Entry – Category #1

“There are few educators who would disagree with the principle that lifelong learning is a good thing but the important questions are about the types of learning that the concept promotes, the life that it encourages us to lead, who benefits from this and the nature of the society that it upholds (Merriam, 2014, p. 20/21)”

In my welcome blog I introduced myself as a life long learner (LLL). In that article I was referring to the fact that I had been in school for the majority of my life. I was not connecting to the informal and trial and error learning that I experience on a daily basis. For example, my blog is a perfect example of e learning combined with a large dose of trial and error and collaboration with my learning partner Avi. Although still a new comer to the blogging world I have been able to take this newfound skill set and apply it to my work environment. This learning is just as valuable to my personal growth as the learning I have attained through ongoing studies.

I would now define LLL as a personal belief that requires a willingness to search for growth opportunities and to be engaged in those opportunities – whether it is in school, informally with my colleagues or through the multitude of free online educational opportunities (I have included some of these in the resources section of my blog).

As a teacher I believe a key-learning outcome for LLL is personal resiliency. Because LLL enhances everyone’s life journey – whether through professional development, personal development, custom training or community engagement – I believe there should be a more consistent effort to address the needs of our very diverse communities.

My ‘Aha’ moment came after a conversation with my colleagues. Two years ago I was hoping to teach in our Continuing Education program and it was suggested that I take the PID program. I declined that suggestion. Two years later and employed in that department I chose to sign up for the PID program. The difference was a willingness to engage but more importantly recognizing the value of the program to my personal and professional development. As a teacher it is my responsibility to highlight the value of the diverse connections and networks as well as connect the value of the learning to the student.

My reflections on this quote have provided insight on individual motivators and how the instructor can support student motivation by supporting both the classroom and external environments.

Merriam, S., Bierema,L. (2014). Adult Learning, Linking Theory and Practice (1 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Journal Entry – Category #2

“an educated person is one who has learned how to learn…how to adapt and change.”(Merriam, 2014, p. 31)

I once read that the learned inherit a world that no longer exists. I take this to mean that an educated person is only educated as long as they continue to grow, develop and adapt to the changes of our globalized world. I have considered myself someone who thrives in a problem-based environment but I have come to value the proactive environment of looking at opportunity.

My ‘aha’ moment came when I was part of a re-organization at work. I had to adapt and change, as my professional portfolio was completely re-shuffled. I moved into a department where I had very little experience, although there were many transferable skills. I saw opportunity in this department and I have been able to use my education to build an exciting new niche for my career.

Carrying this forward into the classroom I would like to incorporate more real life experiences that will increase the complexity of the learning issues and provide a number of different outcomes. Increasing the critical awareness of the students will provide them with a strong basis when dealing with problems in the real world- recognizing that there is no one right answer and that the right answer chosen today may be the wrong answer tomorrow. The classroom culture should build on the flexibility of learning and recognize that the process of learning is as valuable as the outcome of learning. The classroom should be a microcosm of the real world where the students and instructor introduce varying parameters.

Merriam, S., Bierema,L. (2014). Adult Learning, Linking Theory and Practice (1 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Journal Entry – Category #3

“learning from one’s experience involves not just reflection, but critical reflection”(Merriam, 2014, p. 117).

If learning occurs through our experiences, we need to analyze those experiences. Critical reflection forces us to look for the network of connections that give meaning to the concepts, beliefs, and values that shape our learning. Through language, dialogue and reflection we can further understand and recognize false assumptions that can negatively impact the learning. Critical reflection can peel the layers of complexity to understand what is going on; and can ask why something is represented in a certain way; what has been harmed and what can be restored?

Bringing the real life experiences of the students into the classroom is as easy as analyzing a concept through the diverse lens of each of the learners. My ‘aha’ moment came during an employment skills class where we were talking about discipline within a childcare environment. There were twelve students from a number of cultures – Aboriginal, Chinese, Muslim, South Asian, and Indo Canadian. The experiences were multifaceted but through understanding sharing, and interrelating, their stories began to break down the stereotypes of within these different cultures. The women have been together for two months and they have developed great friendships and networks of support as they work through their program.

People have personal opinions and unique lenses through which they see the world. The facilitator, as we bring those perspectives forward, must facilitate openness to alternative perspectives and provide permission for critical reflection on the assumptions of others. As a team we must listen and be able to clarify ideas; take time to fully understand the voice of others; be non-evaluative in our dialogue; develop trust; and find ways to validate all claims to knowledge.

Merriam, S., Bierema,L. (2014). Adult Learning, Linking Theory and Practice (1 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Journal Entry – Category #4

‘Persevering at online learning is also affected by computer and information literacy, time management…online communication skills…self esteem, feelings of belongingness in the online program and the ability to develop interpersonal skills with peers…”(Merriam, 2014, p. 199)

As I reflected on my own on line learning I could see comparisons between the concerns for higher drop out rates in the online community and the traditional on campus learners. Computer and information literacy, time management, self-esteem, feelings of belongingness etc. are all concerns within the online and traditional communities. As ‘feeling creatures that think’, I believe the most important connection is feelings of belongingness. My connection with my learning partner kept me connected to the program and kept me accountable to our work.

Although I always knew that the relationships we created with our students were essential to their success, for the most part, those relationships developed organically. There is a need to structure activities to connect students in a variety of ways. Avi is my learning partner but I was also connected to people who had previously taken the course and I had a very supportive work environment. My networks kept me accountable – but have not yet been able to cure my procrastination.

My ‘aha’ moment is tied to the holistic development of our students. The learning is tied to the educational journey; the community of learners and the networks they develop. Unfortunately it is easier for an online student to alienate themselves from the community. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to create structures that keep the online learner connected. The use of Skype, writing introduction letters, and developing on-line learning groups can all build networks of support for the online learner. I have also experienced a hybrid form of online learning where we connected for three weeks of traditional learning before continuing on in an online format. This method allowed me to “see” my learning partner during our own line discussions and group work. Whether it is online or traditional learning the sense of ‘belonging’ or ‘mattering’ are key to the continuing success of the student.

 

Merriam, S., Bierema,L. (2014). Adult Learning, Linking Theory and Practice (1 ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

 

 

 


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