PIDP 3270 Capstone Project
Vancouver Community College
August 5, 2018
What brought me to the program? What is my teaching background/subject matter expertise? Where have I taught in the past? What am I currently teaching?
Dental assisting is a profession that I love, and one that I am proud and passionate about. My current practice in an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) clinic requires me to train dental assistants new to the specialty. I consider myself an expert in the field because I have many years of experience, and because I stay current in policies and procedures through research, and by attending continuing education conferences applicable to my field. I also want to be a more effective educator. I want to develop curriculum, and learn how to deliver instruction in a positive and motivational manner. I learned about the Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) at Vancouver Community College (VCC) from a colleague who was teaching at Okanagan College. In September of 2015, I elected to enrol in the program. The PIDP fit my schedule because I could continue to practice as a dental assistant while taking the required courses. I have been working at my own pace, by taking one course at a time, with breaks in between to reflect and apply what I am learning. I am thrilled to be almost finished my diploma, and this Capstone project solidifies what I have learned over the past three years, and guides me to apply what I have learned in my professional practice.
What have I learned during my PIDP journey? What events and accomplishments did I realize? What lessons caught my imagination? What classroom experiences are memorable?
Foundations of Adult Education (PIDP 3100):
PIDP 3100, Foundations of Adult Education, was the perfect place for me start learning how to be an educator. My instructor, Glenn Galy, asked me to read about different learning theories and decide which theory I align with. I was caught off-guard by his request because I had never considered that there were so many ways to teach and to learn. I had assumed that a pedagogical approach was the way to instruct: ‘I teach, you learn’, and soon realized that there was more to educating an adult than simply being a dispenser of knowledge. The more that I reflected on my own approach to training my coworkers, the more motivated I was to improve.
PIDP 3100 also introduced and assigned professional reflection. No one had ever asked me what I thought before; I was a distributor of information based on my employer’s recommendations. This was a pivotal moment for me in the PIDP because I began documenting how I thought and felt about what I was learning, and how I could apply it; this was my first ‘aha’ moment in the PIDP. My second ‘aha’ moment was the blog that Glen assigned: I could start documenting and publishing my reflections (Glen called them ‘journal entries’). What a great assignment, because from the start of the program, every reflective writing and course work assignment is posted on my blog, as well as all the references and links that have helped me along the way! My blog has become an invaluable resource for me (and hopefully for other learners as well).
Curriculum Design (PIDP 3210), Delivery of Instruction (PIDP 3220), and Evaluation of Learning (PIDP 3230):
To discover that templates exist to assist in designing a curriculum was extremely helpful. I downloaded the template that my PIDP 3210 Curriculum Design instructor, Jacquie Harris, posted on Moodle, and used it as a template for an assignment in that course, I used it in Assignment #1 in the Capstone project, and I have used it in my professional practice. Prior to 3210, I would make lists of what I needed to cover in my instruction, but it was not organized; I did not have a clear plan of activities (instructor and learner), or a timeline. The DACUM assignment was instrumental as well, and the template that Jacquie provided was key in articulating outcomes and goals, and actual lesson planning.
My instructor in PIDP 3220 Delivery of Instruction, Bob Aitken, changed everything for me, and this has been my biggest ‘aha’ moment of the PIDP. I bristled at first when I discovered that it is mandatory to take this course in-class, because I don’t live in Vancouver. So, I took a week off from work, booked a flight (it was February, and there is no way that I was going to tackle a mountain highway in my car), found a place to stay near a bus route, and enrolled in the week-long course. I had to deliver three mini-lessons that week, and I met other educators from different backgrounds and vocations; I learned a lot from their candid feedback. BUT, what I learned is that it does not matter how well I know my topic (although this is important); what matters the most is how well I can convey it to my learners. This was a profound realization for me. My first mini-lesson was an abysmal failure. My nervousness was apparent, my delivery was very boring, I had memorized my lesson, and I was just talking about facts with no room for dialogue (discussion and feedback). By the end of the course, I discovered that the more I shared about myself in front of the class (affective domain), and not reading from a script, the more engaged my learners were in my lesson! Bob’s delivery of instruction throughout the course was punctuated my many interesting anecdotes that helped me remember what he was saying; his class and his delivery had a profound effect on me, and this will stay with me throughout my professional practice as an educator.
Jeff May was my instructor in PIDP 3230, Evaluation of Learning. I discovered in this course, that the program was becoming increasingly challenging for me, and decided that it was likely intentional. I recommend taking the PIDP courses in sequence because the curriculum builds upon past lessons and resources. By this stage in the program, I had experience as a dental assistant, had focused on the goals and outcomes required by my employers (designed a curriculum), and learned how to deliver my curriculum. Now, I had to learn how to assess my learners in an observable manner. Assessment must be reliable (consistent) and valid (reflect instruction)! Feedback must be honest and supportive: mistakes are learning moments. Jeff encouraged me to submit assignments ahead of time for pre-assessment so that I could learn from the strengths AND weaknesses of my projects and make changes before final deadlines. I found this evaluative strategy to be extremely helpful. For example, I had never created a feedback instrument before, and he highlighted structural problems with some items. I learned a lot from my mistakes, and even though my final project was not perfect, Jeff’s feedback encouraged me to continually seek a colleague’s feedback when constructing assessment instruments. I want my learners to trust me, and I want my items to reflect instruction. I think that providing advanced feedback is a fantastic instructional strategy that creates a positive learning environment!
Media Enhanced Learning (PIDP 3240), and Instructional Strategies (PIDP 3250):
Dentistry has evolved in my career. When I began practicing as a dental assistant, digital technology was non-existent. The biggest change that I have experienced is the introduction of technology in patient communication, charting, x-ray technology, diagnostics, and treatment planning. My current practice has evolved in the use of digital technology over the past decade exponentially. We converted to a paperless charting system, and digital x-rays almost overnight. The learning curve for my co-workers, most of whom are baby boomers who did not grow up with technology, was steep (myself included). I soon recognized technologies’ value in communication as it applies to my professional practice. Brian Cassell, and PIDP 3240 Media Enhanced Learning, introduced open textbooks, and digital instruction (podcasts and videos). Brian shared a wealth of student exemplars; these projects from former students helped me immeasurably, because I could see, by example, what I could do! PIDP 3240 also familiarized me with the Canadian Copyright Act (2017), and this was another ‘aha’ moment for sure, because it informed me that it is not okay to copy another person’s IMAGE from the internet without proper request and attribution, and especially as it applies to educational purposes.
PIDP 3250, Instructional Strategies, introduced how instruction should be delivered so that goals and outcomes are met. My instructor, Alison Dewhurst, encouraged the learners in my intake to talk and to share: a lot. The 3250 forums were a challenge for me because I felt that did not have formal instructional experience, and most of my classmates were professional teachers already. They shared personal experiences (what worked and did not work for them), and provided links to assist in strategizing instruction. I noticed that a common theme in these forum discussions was Bloom’s Taxonomy (Carleton University, n.d.) because it encourages active learning. Not only did my forum mates provide me with their experiential perspectives, they provided internet links to assist me. The University of Waterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence (n.d.) is my favourite because it encompasses a learner-centred approach to instruction, and it is an extremely comprehensive website for all matters applied to teaching. I also appreciated the blogging assignment too, because I had continued to reflect on the PIDP experience on my blog, and to document assignments. But, being required to do something that I had elected to do (as an escape from actual course work), was beginning to take its toll and I was getting tired of reflecting. There is a lot of reflecting in the PIDP!
Professional Practice (PIDP 3260):
I probably should have taken a break following 3250 to allow time to digest what I had learned thus far in the program, but I felt an affecting momentum to complete my diploma. My instructor in Professional Practice, Karen Brooke, introduced ethical and moral dilemmas. I liked being paired with a classmate through forum discussion and solving a professional dilemma. This was applying what had learned in a simulated situation, and Karen provided the tools needed: Rushworth Kidder’s Nine-Step Process for Ethical Decision Making (2009), and her own guidance along the way. My forum mate contributed professional experience, and we could also read what our forum mates and their partners were discussing. It was at this point that I felt over-whelmed and reached out to Karen about how I felt, because 3260 assigned another (big) blogging assignment. I complained about more blogging, but mostly I was tired and needed encouragement. I think that this is when I realized what a great teacher is: one who acknowledges how a learner is feeling without judgement. Karen’s response was supportive and encouraging, and she explained that each PIDP assignment is designed to meet learning outcomes (and not to torture learners ;). I want to mention that the textbook for 3260, The Skillful Teacher by Stephen Brookfield (2015), discusses being consistently aware “of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving our teaching” (p. 27). This leads him to create instructor feedback forms, which he gives to his learners weekly. Brookfield uses this information from students to constantly improve his teaching practices. Karen assigned a mid-course evaluation in 3260, and I tried to be as candid and honest as possible from my own perspective. I admit that I used her instructor/course feedback form as a platform to vent my own frustrations.
What were the high points for me during the program?
In every single PIDP course, my instructors provided amazingly timely feedback. I really appreciated this because, I needed to know if I was on the right track. This reduced my stress-level and boosted my confidence immensely. I started viewing myself as an educator, and not just a dental assistant.
What were some of my challenges or frustrations? Speaking generally, how did people influence me?
The forums in 3250 were at times invasive and all-consuming, and I had to turn off all notifications on my cell phone. Connecting with my forum mates in real time was the biggest challenge, but I learned an invaluable and immeasurable amount of information from their professional experiences and perspectives, most of whom had years of formal experience teaching adults; I felt like a ‘fly on the wall’. Apart from the mandatory in-class delivery of PIDP 3220, I chose an online delivery for all the PIDP courses because I live four hours away from VCC. Initially, I thought that the online courses were too self-directed, but I came to appreciate and rely upon the insightful exemplars of current and past PIDP students.
What was the turning point for me during the program; an “aha” moment?
My greatest “aha” moment was the realization that it does not matter how well I know my subject, although that is extremely important. I discovered that what matters most is how well I can convey my knowledge, skills, and attitudes to my learners. This realization was initialized (as I mentioned, in 3220), and has become clearer as I progress through the PIDP.
In what ways did this program change some of my thinking about being an adult educator?
I am typically not comfortable with self-assessment and self-reflection; it’s tough to do! But the PIDP has taught me that reflection as a professional is an integral aspect of growth and improvement. I have a responsibility to my students, to my employers, to my profession, and to the public to be a reflective practitioner.
What is one key insight that I now have as a result of this journey?
I am not a just dispenser of knowledge; I am a facilitator. I have a responsibility to my students to prepare them to succeed in their own professional practice: Have I specified learning objectives? Have I selected instructional strategies to assist in meeting objectives? And, have I developed a system to determine whether objectives have been met? In other words, have I created a positive learning environment?
What teaching approaches most influenced me as a professional?
Developing instructional strategies has influenced me the most. I want to get students involved in the learning process. Make learning about their success at meeting or exceeding goals and outcomes. For example, can the student teach what they have learned to someone else? Can they build upon and share what they have learned? Can the student become the teacher?
How will this educational experience inform my professional practice? How will I continue my professional growth in the future?
Rubrics and student exemplars were lifelines for me throughout this program; they guided me throughout the self-directed nature of the PIDP. Designing a rubric is a goal of mine. Rubrics reflect intended goals and outcomes. I will use the rubrics in my professional practice so that my learners will know exactly what is expected of them. And lastly, the resources in the PIDP are fantastic! I won’t mention them all except for the textbook in the first PIDP course (3100), Adult Learning (Merriam & Bierema, 2014), because it introduced the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ of teaching and learning. This is the book that Glenn Galy asked me to read and align with a learning theory. Initially, I thought I was a behaviourist because dentistry is a vocation that requires strict knowledge and skills: a pedagogical approach to delivery. But, the assigned readings introduced me to Carl Rogers (1969), and Malcolm Knowles (1973 & 2015) and to the humanistic learning theory which focuses on a student-centred approach to learning: andragogy. I discovered that I can do this! I HAVE been doing this throughout my career as a dental assistant, and now I can articulate it:
– Value: Do learners know WHY something is important?
– Information: Have learners been given all the tools that they will need to learn?
– Relatability: What knowledge or understanding do students already possess?
– Readiness: What will motivate students to learn?
– Reflection: Have students been given the opportunity to critically reflect and act on what they are learning?
I elected to take the PIDP to be a better trainer and developer, and it has exceeded my expectations and I can see the value in what I have learned because I feel more confident as an instructor. I recently applied for a substitute teaching position in the dental assisting department at Okanagan College and I got the job! I am living the dream in that I can continue in my current role at the OMS clinic, and I now have a faculty position at Okanagan College!!! Thank you, Provincial Instructor Diploma Program. Thank you, Vancouver Community College. Thank you, Jenny Leong (Program Assistant), and a special thanks to my instructors, Glenn, Jacquie, Bob, Jeff, Brian, Alison, and Karen 🙂
@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited