Strength in Numbers

IMG_3049I love distance education. Taking courses online has always been my preference because it fits my schedule: I have full-time job and a busy personal life. I can attend class at 4am if I want. I can log into my college’s Moodle and electronically connect with other students taking the same course. I email my professor whenever I like, and I can arrange Skype meetings if I need one-on-one help.

The only thing missing is actual face to face interaction. I’ve just finished the next course in my Provincial Instructor Diploma Program at Vancouver Community College: PIDP 3220 Delivery of Instruction; it is mandatory to take this course in class. At first I was annoyed that I couldn’t take it online because I’m not used to a dictated pace, and the course is in Vancouver (I live in the Okanagan). The objective of the course is delivering three mini lessons to the class. Our instructor was Bob Aitken. His intelligent and soft spoken demeanour punctuated by many interesting anecdotes certainly taught me that for an instructor to connect with students, they must me authentic and relatable.

There were eleven of us from different vocations: dentistry, nursing, early childhood education, first aid, carpentry, computers, political science, journalism, counselling and automotive mechanics. The content of each mini lesson was not important; we were being evaluated on delivery. Bob encouraged us to use different learning domains: cognitive (remembering), psychomotor (hands on learning), and affective (using feelings to change behaviours). He encouraged us to use different types of teaching aids like Power Point, flip charts, handouts and the white board. However, the focus was on how well we could engage our students. Following the lessons, we gave each other honest verbal and written feedback. My first mini lesson was a topic that I am very comfortable with, “The International Tooth Numbering System,” but I was not comfortable delivering my lesson while being evaluated, and I was simply dictating information without a demonstration or personal accounts. My nervousness was apparent; it distracted the class from the actual lesson, and I kept losing my train of thought. Teaching is not as easy as it looks!

Of the three learning domains: cognitive, psychomotor and affective, a combination of two or more is key to a great lesson. Also, finding my comfort zone in front of a class takes concentration and practice. By the end of the week-long course, I had improved tremendously and was looking forward to delivering my final lesson because I realized how much I was enjoying connecting with a class, and I discovered that the more I was myself and not reading from a script, the more attentive and engaged in the lesson my students were. I thought about my favourite teachers and what it was about their delivery that engrossed me into: remembering what they were saying, doing what they demonstrated, and changing the way that I thought.

I learned a lot from Bob, but I also learned an infinite amount from the candid feedback of my classmates, and from watching them deliver their lessons. Learning online will continue to be my method of choice as I complete my diploma (only because I don’t live near VCC), but if I have an opportunity to take another course in class, I will opt to learn with a group. Connecting and collaborating with my classmates was empowering. No one person knows everything, and learning alongside other people is more effective and fun than learning alone.

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Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 5.10.45 PM The photographs in this post were taken at Cascade Falls in Christina Lake, BC. Taking a plunge is less scary and more enjoyable when done with others 🙂

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