Thursday, September 20, 2012

A4PL 'Learning Journal'

Module 8 – Professional Judgements

Norman Evans writes about the diversity of evidence and assessment methods in RPL, both of which are considered and chosen via the professionals’ (facilitator and assessor/s) judgements.

‘As with all academic assessments the method of assessment needs to be appropriate for what is being assessed…Whatever manner of assessment is used, it must be such that the judgement made can be considered by external examiners and boards of examiners alongside and with the same degree of confidence as other more traditionally assessed performances such as formal examination results.’ (Evans, N. P.81)
However, the discipline within which the candidate wishes to be assessed will also determine what form the evidence comes in and what assessment method is used;
‘…the nature of the discipline heavily influences the most appropriate approach to indentification of prior learning. These variations between the disciplines also can produce different approaches to assessment.’  (Evans, N. P.83)

To make an informed professional judgement of a candidate’s skills, the context for the assessment may be ‘work based’. Assessors and facilitators may visit the candidate’s place of employment. (This is a practice run through Otago Polytechnic’s CAPABLE department – ‘Work Based learning’)

As well as the reasons behind a candidate engaging in RPL and/or what qualification the candidate is hoping to earn, it is a facilitator or assessor’s subjective beliefs, unique perspectives and experience that determines what might be considered evidence in a prior learning assessment situation.
This is because learning in the 21st century takes place in mixed forms – any time, any place. (Carpenter, H) 
The places where RPL is assessed and the evidence material for RPL could be as diverse as snowflakes. However the facilitator and assessor must be sensitive enough, or similar in experience to the candidate enough to appreciate the learning. I see this as a major hurdle for RPL.
A network of experts available for consultation would be ideal. However consultation would need to happen within the time-frame of the candidate’s RPL process. (Another hurdle)


Carpenter, H. One Assessor’s Perspective. CAPABLE NZ website.

Evans, N. Experiential Learning – Assessment and Accreditation. P. 81, 83. Routledge, London. 1992.

Module 7 – Diversity and Cultural Sensitivity

Diversity can be viewed in terms of Age, ethnicity, background, neuro-diversity, religious belief, gender identity, sexuality and a plethora of other factors.
Some previous study on how to acknowledge students with Asperger’s Syndrome can be found here in my blog. – Link 
The following link to my blog also talks about acknowledging diversity specifically in a classroom environment and particularly to do with acknowledging different learning styles. Learning styles in the classroom can cross over to the facilitated portfolio workshop situation, specific for RPL. – Link 

Sometimes an acknowledgement that you don’t know the best way to show sensitivity is necessary, and asking the candidate about their background and needs might be appropriate. Or we might need to consult someone with more understanding of the particular diversity.
For example, myself as a Pakeha, can show cultural sensitivity when engaging with Māori content by involving other people who are more appropriate to deal with content than myself. When working with a candidate who identifies as Māori I would check the chart which the Kaitohutohu has produced which directs an OP staff member through the appropriate routes of consultation, and is available on insite. (‘Awhina me te Muru’ - Staff Guidelines) 
If in doubt – consult!

The Kaiārahi at Student Support is available too, although I’m not sure if RPL candidates would access Student Support services.

Module 6 - Professional assessment conversations.

Professional assessment conversations are an opportunity for the candidate to express more about their prior learning than the evidence in the portfolio does.
Dave Hornblow writes about preparing for an interview with candidate, facilitator, assessor and candidate’s advocate;

Before the interview, the RPL facilitator spoke by phone to all parties involved and stressed the positive and supportive nature of the RPL interview. The aim was to make sure everyone had the opportunity to state their case in an atmosphere that was friendly and at the same time, allowed for valid and reliable academic assessment.

In this case study, Hornblow describes how the facilitator helped to create a more freely communicative environment in the interview;

Jenny (the candidate) arrived. She looked nervous. The RPL facilitator eased her tension by chatting with the others… and then invited her to talk about her family. Specifically, he asked about a daughter who (as her knew from previous correspondence from Jenny) had been ‘quite a challenge’ but who was now doing very well as a typist and receptionist… Jenny responded warmly to the question and the conversation merged naturally into her experiences in managing various groups: her family, religious and community organizations, and the accounting firm.

The relaxed conversation functioned as an ‘ice-breaker’ but also helped to build a more detailed picture of Jenny’s circumstances. Relaxed discussion in this context of a professional conversation or relaxed interview illustrated Jenny’s previous learning which was embedded in her life experiences.

Hornblow, D. ‘Recognition of Prior Learning in New Zealand: What Has Been, What Is, and What Might Be’. The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. Lower Hutt. 2002

Simosko, S and Cook, C. Applying APL Priciples in Flexible Assessment: A Practical Guide. Kogan Page Limited. London. 1996

Module 5 - Process and tools for assessment.

Advantages and disadvantages of the portfolio and e portfolio.

An advantage of a portfolio is that candidates have a lot of control over how they present themselves. They can tailor their portfolio to their own learning and development goals. (Simosko & Cook 1996, P.95)
A disadvantage of the portfolio could arise when a candidate lacks literacy in the areas of writing and computing and does not have experience presenting information. They may struggle to present the evidence in a clear communicative manner.

We see varying degrees of ability in producing portfolios in the Certificate in Creative Studies. Our applicants must produce a portfolio of their work when they apply for entrance to the programme. This helps build a picture of the potential student’s literacy and work ethic as well as visual arts practice.
It’s at this point that I can say we DO assess for prior learning in Creative Studies by examining their portfolios. The outcome of that assessment can indicate the applicant’s suitability to the course or give an indication as to what programme the applicant might be better suited to.


Portfolio of Evidence for assessment of:
The National Certificate in Horticulture
Unit Standard 20557  - Propagate plants from seed.
Unit Standard 20558 – Propagate plants from cuttings.
Reflection - I thought I would have plenty of evidence to prove the above. But now as I search for photographs of ‘before’ and ‘after’ my garden work, I realise they don’t prove the exact requirements of ME personally PROPOGATING the plants from seed and cuttings. I could have bought the plants from a garden centre, and nature has done the rest.
The only way of me proving my knowledge is to write or discuss what I know about propagation from seed and cuttings.

Unit Standard 20557  - Propagate plants from seed:

-       Collection of seed from the plant
Timing is important to ensure the seed is sufficiently developed, yet not so mature that the seed falls on the ground. After flowering, the seed heads need time to develop, usually turning firm and black, as in Hebe and Parsley, which can then be tapped out of their pods. Other species with pods such as Kowhai and Tree Lucern indicate the seed’s readiness by opening the pod. Collect each type of seed in it’s own container and discard any damaged or diseased looking seed.
-       Storage of seed
Seed must be kept in a dark, dry not too hot environment until ready to use. I use paper bags. Foil is OK if the seed is dried thoroughly before wrapping. I air-dry my freshly collected seed on paper for a few days before storing.
-       Sowing
Seed raising mix or a fine textured rich soil is used in trays or pots as a bed for the seed. One seed per pot, or rows of seed 40 – 50mm apart in trays, at a depth of from 4mm - 20mm depending on the size of the seed. Small seed should be shallower than large seed. Hard-shelled seed like Kowhai can be nicked with a sharp knife or nail-clippers then soaked over night before sowing.
Fill free-draining tray or pot about 4/5 full with soil mix, lightly level / flatten and gently pack the soil down. Make indentations with a finger into the soil to the depth you want to sow the seeds. Place a seed into every indentation then cover the indentations with more soil.
Apply water to the pots / trays with a sprinkler attachment as to not disrupt the placement of the seeds, then place in a warm sunny spot, preferably a greenhouse. Keep soil moist throughout germination.
-       Pricking out / Planting
Plant out into bigger pots or garden beds when roots start to emerge from drainage holes or when seedling looks strong, approx 50mm in height, whichever comes first.

Unit Standard 20558 – Propagate plants from cuttings.
Many plants can be propagated by cutting without the use of hormone liquid / gel.
If a small part of the plant can be taken from the base of the parent plant and roots are attached, hormone gel is not needed, but simply putting the cutting in a potting mix and keeping the soil damp for a few weeks should suffice.
The key is that the lowest node on the cutting be deeply embedded in soil and the cutting is not disturbed / moved.
Far Left: Growing cuttings (Third generation) of Cranberry.
Centre Left: Kawakawa cutting treated with hormone liquid.
Left: Parent Cranberry, itself originally grown from cutting.
Left Bottom: Fruiting Gooseberry grown from cutting.
All grown in my garden.

Module 4 –The Candidates Perspective

In 2007/8 I was an art workshop facilitator at Studio2. I was working (sole charge) with adults with intellectual and physical disabilities to produce art works.
Skills required – management of adults with int. & phs. issues. Great verbal and written communication. Multi-tasking. Time management. Handling money and writing receipts.
Knowledge required – Knowledge of a range of disability types. Health and safety protocols. Basic care and use of art materials.
What did I learn? – Funding systems for ID organizations. How different service providers operate in Dunedin.
How can I prove what I learned? – Letters of reference from old boss and colleages. Could perform the duties again for an observer.

For many years I have worked in domestic gardens. Gardener / Landscaper.
Skills required – Manual labour, measurement, safe use of; chainsaw, mower, line-trimmer, hedge clipper.
Knowledge required – plants, seasons, weather, Materials – timber concrete, soils, composts. Tools – care and use of. Use of safety equipment.
What did I learn? – all of the above.
How can I prove what I learned? – photographs of my garden / property in progress. Letters from neighbour. A guided tour through my property. A narrative written by me.

I think learning outcomes are easier to describe and identify in the ‘Gardener / Landscaper’ role because it has nothing to do with working with people. The skills I needed and acquired for working at Studio2 were mainly around experience with people with disabilities. How does one write learning outcomes about that?!

Two learning outcomes from a course I have not formally studied:
From the National Certificate in Horticulture
Unit Standard 20557  - Propagate plants from seed.
Unit Standard 20558 – Propagate plants from cuttings.

An answer to the above question could be that ‘permanent products’ are easier to evaluate than ‘less permanent products’ which need to be evaluated at the time or documented well. (P19. Learning and Assessment NZQA 2001).

Types of evidence

Evidence must be:

Current, Authentic, Valid, Reliable and Sufficient (Simosko & Cook)

Evidence can be categorised under three different types: (p.84 Simosko & Cook)
  • Personal report or narrative by the candidate
  • Direct evidence, and
  • Indirect evidence

A personal report / letter / narrative by the candidate shows a general picture and gives context to her / his achievements.

Direct evidence of the candidate’s performance can be gained from products or outcomes of performance eg computer programmes, financial reports, lesson plans, musical compositions, training manuals, components, operations schedules etc.
Direct evidence can also be gained by direct observation of tasks, roles etc by the assessor. If direct observation is not possible, a simulation or role play exercise could be used to gain the required evidence. (p.85)

Indirect evidence can come from letters of validation from past or current employers, special awards or certificates, newspaper articles about the candidate, photographs of the candidates work etc. (p.85)

In a portfolio development workshop candidates can be motivated to reflect on their past accomplishments and current competence (p.80) The workshop environment is particularly useful for groups of candidates.
 Content in the workshop would include: Discussion and interpreting the standards or learning outcomes, which will help the candidate to select or develop the most appropriate evidence.
  • Understanding the standards
  • Defining the nature of acceptable evidence
  • Constructing the portfolio
  • Preparing for assessment.
The concept of evidence should not be new to anyone. It should be seen as a natural, everyday phenomenon” (p.83)

Simosko, S and Cook, C. Applying APL Priciples in Flexible Assessment: A Practical Guide. Kogan Page Limited. 1996

1 -Pros and Cons – Advantages and Disadvantages of RPL (recognition of prior learning) in a tertiary setting.
RPL IS available for Measurement. The online ALNAT assessment tool gathers the evidence.
The course statistics – achievement rates would be high. A lecturer could do a preliminary quick assessment to see whether the candidate would most probably be successful at fulfilling the course requirements. And a student who applies for RPL is unlikely to ‘drop out’ or not complete.
Boosts achievement of students who otherwise may not achieve. Boost morale, encouragement, further success.
Contributes to a more qualified workforce.
Recognizes skills and labour that was previously not counted.
A new course document would have to written for each course. Or a separate RPL version of the course?? So that the assessment criteria are ‘open’ enough to include proof of achievements outside of the programme.
Is RPL available for the Certificate in Creative Studies?
Not currently. A portfolio worthy of entrance to a degree programme is what our graduates need to be equipped with by the completion of our course. Partial credits could be awarded through RPL, but if a candidate already has a sufficient portfolio of degree entry quality, they would probably be enrolling in a degree programme. (In effect Degree programmes already employ their own version of RPL in the form of ‘the candidate must provide a portfolio and letter of motivation)
If the candidate needs more work in areas like academic writing or numeracy they could be RPL-ed the creative / development credits, whilst being enrolled in the few foundation numeracy and literacy papers. But then, why would the candidate not simply enrol in Foundation Studies, then when their study is complete, go on to their chosen degree programme.
It appears that RPL is redundant in regard to a certificate level programme

More thoughts on what RPL is:

Dave Hornblow’s paper ‘Recognition of Prior Learning in New Zealand: What Has Been, What Is, and What Might Be’ 2002 has opened my eyes to what RPL is or can potentially be. It has confirmed my ideas that RPL has potential to reach more people, to provide better access to education and to give value where there was none before. This has got me a bit excited!

Also exciting is the idea that recognition of non-certificated learning doesn’t have to lead to formal accreditation. RPL doesn’t necessitate a ‘credit’ or piece of paper, but can build a picture of the learner’s skills and experience and clear pathways to future education.
Hornblow quotes Whitaker (1989);

‘….identifying the quantity and quality of the past learning provides a content analysis that is an essential foundation for setting new learning objectives.’

Also interesting is the history of RPL in New Zealand. OP’s CAPL dept being mentioned and Phil Ker being part of a RnD team for RPL funded by NZQA in 1997.
NZQA’s attitude towards RPL seems predictable in the mid 1990’s. RPL “was being seen as an assessment methodology that did not need special impetus” I wonder if their attitude has changed??

RPL is far more than an assessment methodology.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Embedding Numeracy into Creative course

Use of the online assessment tool 'ALNAT' showed us that about one quarter of our students could benefit from some extra numeracy help. The following is a document that describes the diagnostic process and outcomes. 


Let's look at the balance of face to face and flexible learning materials and assessment methods in the sculpture course:

Learning Outcomes
Learning Activities
Teaching Strategies
Content and Assessment
Use 3D forms to translate and interpret sculptural design concepts
Intro to some historical and contemporary sculpture practices.
Workshops  using varied sculptural media and tools. Eg. Wood, stone, metal, found objects / ready-mades.
Design, plan and produce a final sculpture project.
Face-to-face lectures and group discussions introducing a range of possible sculpture practices and media.
Encourage students to play and experiment in the Design workshops.
Final sculptural work or installation. Quantitative and qualitative assessment.
Workbook. Quantitative and qualitative assessment.
Oral presentation.
Be familiar with the equipment, tools and processes involved in the workshop.
Machine safety tutorials.

Group demonstrations in the workshop. Individual training on each machine.
Student demonstrates using tools and machines safely.
Write a proposal.
In week 2, explain proposal to the group and receive feedback. Give feedback to peer’s proposals.
Explain necessary content.  Hard copy and Moodle resources on structure and APA referencing. Individual consultations.
Student emails their proposal to lecturer. Quantitative and qualitative assessment.
Sculpture project proposal must be accepted by lecturer for student to continue with project.

Looking at the activities and assessment methods of the first learning outcome in the table above;
'Use 3D forms to translate and interpret sculptural design concepts'

The activity: Intro to some historical and contemporary sculpture practices is an overview of sculpture practice and currently in slideshow format. It is uploaded to Moodle as a Powerpoint presentation. The slides in the presentations have images and captions. I can see a chance to improve this by adding an audio recording of the presentation given in class. There is more information to be discussed about the art works that would otherwise clutter the slides with too much text.
Further, instead of a asking the students to open the audio file of the lecture and the Powerpoint separately, I could record sound directly into the Powerpoint file. Having a similar feel to this presentation on London Graffitti art by David Christopher.

The content for the assessments of the first learning outcome: Final sculpture, workbook and oral presentation are usually handed in face-to-face. There could be more flexibility with the format of submitted work, providing dead-lines are still adhered to.
Students could make a video recording of their presentation and email it. They could also digitally scan their workbook and email that.
The final sculpture is more tricky. Contemporary sculpture recognizes that documentation of the work does not necessarily substitute experiencing the work 'in person'. Factors which influence the viewer's 'reading' of the sculpture can include; installation method, lighting and sound. The veiwer's bodily presence may also activate aspects of the sculpture.Therefore, pictures of the sculpture alone will not be sufficient for assessment.
If the student can't present the final work here on campus, a travel allowance could enable the lecturer to visit the site?

Now focussing on the second learning outcome: Be familiar with the equipment, tools and processes involved in the workshop, we have the activity of 'Workshop safety tutorial'.
Moodle really is a great tool. Students can access the lectures, handouts and directives through a computer any place any time - provided they have a decent internet connection. However, the necessary interaction with tools and materials in the sculpture course can't be substituted with a completely digital experience (at this stage) so workshop sessions are timetabled.
Our workshop technician who is also the school's Health and Safety officer takes the students for a morning in which they learn about tools, machines, safety gear and protocols in the workshop. At the end of this, the student is acknowledged as having workshop competency or a 'machine licence'.

Assessment criteria for this being: Student demonstrates using tools and machines safely. This could be observed at any stage in the duration of the sculpture project. The sooner the student demonstrates workshop competency, the sooner they are allowed access to the school's workshop unsupervised. 
The current method for delivering the workshops and assessing student's abilities is working well. As I'm aware we have excellent safety standards and a very low incident rate (touch wood).
Students are always extending their skill base in the workshop as they are encouraged to try new things.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Flexible Learning Idea


  • I teach a numeracy skills paper called 'Measurement' which is compulsory for students identified as having low numeracy skills.
  • Working towards embedding literacy and numeracy into the course.

  • Making course content accessible to all learning styles and neuro-diversities.

The Plan

A multi media package to use in class and upload onto Moodle that includes:

  • An instructional video on how to make a frame or box.

  • Supporting images/thumbnail images that act as bullet points, with brief descriptions.

  • Worksheets

  • Questionnaires

The video will have material shot in the Design workshop, and some footage shot at Grey's Studio - a professional picture framers.
The footage shot in the Design workshop will feature familiar tools, machines and people, while the Grey's Studio footage will show hi-tech computerized picture framing machinery.

The idea is to get numerical concepts such as measurement of lengths and angles into the course content by using a practical exercise.
The package including the video, supporting information and worksheets will be available to all students in the course and across programmes. This will mean that students may no longer be exposed to their peers as needing extra maths help, and ultimately may lead to numeracy testing at the beginning of courses being fazed out.

Instructional videos can be uploaded to Youtube or a similar open, free view website so any interested parties, whether enrolled at Otago Polytechnic or not, can view them.

Here is an example video from Youtube. My video will be more focused on the measurement techniques.

supporting thumbnails

Holding side against guide. Important info.

Mark the length of the inner side

With the mitre saw set to 45 degrees, cut, not your fingers.

Now doing something else very useful and informative.

Links to questionnaires about the video

Links to measurement worksheets

A DVD of the resources will also be available.

Who will benefit?

  • The package will be accessible to students, wherever they are in the world.

  • Students that don't like classroom environments, for example, 'Student Y' that has Aspergers Syndrome
  • Learners that want to revisit the tutorial how ever many times they like, whenever they like1.

  • Students with a diverse range of preferred ways of absorbing information, or 'learning styles'2.

  • Learners who have slow computers and thus have difficulty watching video, can still benefit from the thumbnail imagery, written descriptions, worksheets and questionnaires.

  • Students with low levels of numeracy skills can enjoy privacy and not be identified as 'innumerate'.

  • Learners who are not confident with computers or who lack computer access at home can enjoy viewing the resources from a DVD.


Moodle training.

Film making capability.

At this stage I believe I have everything I need to produce the video. My department has video cameras. The computers at work have MovieMaker and my laptop has iMovieHD (my preferred program).

Part or all of the numeracy assessment could be completed through Moodle via the questionnaires and worksheets.


Shared / open access digital resources such as video, worksheets and questionnaires lessen the need for paper resources, which reduces waste and cost.

Recorded tutorials that are freely available to students means facilitators only need to spend the time demonstrating a particular skill once.

Commitment to Maori and Pacific Island students

Be actively seeking feedback and advice on how to best facilitate learning environments that are more suited to Maori students and Pacific Island students.
This feedback should be welcomed from students, iwi, staff and local community.
Be actively working towards embedding principals of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, The Treaty of Waitangi.

Flexible Learning and Otago Polytechnic

My plan is cooperative and harmonious with the Otago Polytechnic Charter 2006-2010, which can be found here.

Chapter 3, P.4. Our Vision, states the following which Otago Polytechnic is to be recognised for:

  • Our practical approach to learning which connects theory with practice through applied research, cooperative learning and practical experience.
  • The flexibility of our delivery and our willingness to accommodate the specific learning aspirations of students through individualised and cross disciplinary programmes of learning.
  • Accessibility for all learners.

  • The creative use of innovative technology to support learning.

My flexible learning plan includes objectives that are in line with the Otago Polytechnic Charter 2006-2010 including being recognised for accessibility for all learners.

Numerical skills and information may be received by more students in a more meaningful way by engaging in hands-on creative exercises with reinforcing media of video and digital stills, questionnaires and worksheets which support the diverse learning preferences of our learners.


1 Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory has labelled four stages of experience a learner goes through when learning something new; Thinking, Feeling, Reflecting and Acting. The four stages are linked in the cycle. The learner can enter the cycle at any stage depending on their learning preference.

The medium of an instructional video leans towards learners with preferences for observing / concrete experience and reflection.
A student who learns best through concrete experience and reflecting on the action will find it useful to revisit the video however many times is necessary, without having to 'make do' with only one tutorial/demonstration, or have to wait for a lecturer to repeat the demonstration.

The worksheets and questionnaires in the package would cater more to the other side of the cycle to do with abstract conceptualization, where learners can apply information gathered in reflection of the video to solve other problems.

VARK learning styles have highlighted four ways learners can absorb information; Visually, Aurally, through Reading/writing and Kinesthetically, and that we can have preferences towards one mode or a combination of two, three or all of them.
Except for Kinesthetic, all the VARK learning preferences will be addressed in my package by the inclusion of many different media.
Visual- Still and moving images with the video and thumbnails.
Aural- Soundtrack with a spoken explanation of what is happening in the video.
Read-Written- Bullet points. Questionnaires, worksheets.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Day in the Life of Student 'Y'

Student 'Y' is studying on the Creative Studies course. He has 'high functioning autism' or Aspergers Syndrome.

A characteristic of students with Aspergers as stated by the University of Indianapolis, Disability Services Aspergers, is students 'may be very literal, concrete, logical, rule-oriented, rigid in applying social rules, and may lack comprehension of humor.'

Student 'Y' can find classroom situations difficult because of the many distractions. Those distractions could be: The other students, noise, harsh fluorescent lighting, changes in routine of classroom activity.
Student 'Y' might find his time in the classroom or studio spent predominantly being distracted by conversations in the room. He is unable to 'block out' the other students talking.
He may not enrol in the course in the first place because he does not believe the institution has understanding of his 'neurodiversity' and therefore cannot provide for his learning needs.

Some solutions:

For the distracting environment, Universal Design strategies can be employed. These strategies benefit ALL learners.
For Student 'Y', it is ideal that we have classrooms that avoid sensory overload (C. Vogel 2008), this is difficult in a studio based arts and design course.
Incorporating movable screens with storage space, or, rolling cupboard units would 'kill two birds with one stone'. The screens can create smaller insular areas for working while the shelf/cupboard space inside them provides a much needed home for all the random art gear strewn around the place.

For the perceived lack of institutional understanding -
At pre-enrollment time, when the learner is researching their options, a statement somewhere on the OP website and prospectus that acknowledges neurodiversity and a willingness to discuss possible accommodations with students.
A statement read out to all students in Orientation week, or the first week of classes. There are some sample statements here on the University of Indianapolis website. I'm not sure about the amount of information our students are given about Disability Services from Student Services.

Response to reading and watching...

Having read for the second time, the chapter from the book by Collis, B. & Moonen, J. (2001). Flexible learning: it's not just about distance, I found it to be a very sensible and holistic approach to flexible learning.

A few points and ideas about flexible learning that have jumped out to me since watching the video on Youtube 'A Portal to Media Literacy' ( and re-reading the Collis & Moonen reading are:
Flexible learning is important because technology is advancing faster than we can learn it. In 'A Portal to Media Literacy' Michael Wesch talks about the students being the ones to shape and decide on the content of this technology in the future.
Flexible Learning strategies are important if our students are to be involved in the future of information. Students need to be equipped with the skills to not only negotiate the web, but to know that they have the power to network, share information and change the landscape of cyber space. Students need to know they have the power to contribute ethically and sustainably to the great pot of information and systems.

So, what is Flexible Learning? At present I see it like this: It's not about 'passive' learning. It's about students understanding their potential and learning ways to achieve that potential.
'Flexible learning is a movement away from a situation in which key decisions about learning are made in advance by the instructor or institution, towards a situation where the learner has a range of options from which to choose with respect to these key dimensions' (Collis & Moonen. p10.)

An antidote for 'passive' learning (where students try to absorb the packets of information that the lecturer dishes out, a.k.a the 'Acquisition Model') is the 'Participation model' (Collis & Moonen. p20,21,22.)

'With the Acquisition Model, the focus of learning activities is on the acquisition of pre-specified knowledge and the development of predetermined concepts. With the Participation Model, the focus of learning activities is on becoming a member of a community of practice, learning from the community but also contributing to it....with the Participation Model the interactions that the learner contributes to may serve to change the knowledge base of the community even as he or she participates'

'Who wants flexible learning?' is a question raised in the chapter that I think is very relevant.
I'm sure all students want some degree of flexibility, but different kinds of flexibility are wanted from one student to the next. Two main 'kinds' of student jump to mind at this point;
*The kind that asks: 'Can I do this? And this? And what about this?'
*and the kind that asks: 'What do I do now?'

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Flexible Teaching Practice

The students in my class are so varied, in their learning styles, range of knowledge and previous education.
I find it pays for me to have a wide range of resources at hand that can cater to the different learning styles, and also offer illustrations for the different levels of understanding that they have.

One of my goals as a teacher is to facilitate a learning environment in which the students will learn at a deep level. Flexibility in my delivery of information is crucial if I want to 'reach' all my students.
I'm a teacher that likes to sit WITH my students to teach and learn together, with sprinkles of 'stand up at the white board' instruction. The 'sit down together' approach encourages dialogue with lots of questions and discussions.
Some students prefer not to talk. For those students I make sure to have handouts with diagrams, images and other information that they can ponder in their own time.

The majority of my students have limited research skills, and often have difficulty with self directed learning and motivation. These areas could potentially benefit from Flexible teaching and leaning practices.
I will be examining an online tool that may address the issue of lack of motivation for research. So, more on that later...