Reflection on the PIDP

PIDP 3270 Capstone Project
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
August 5, 2018

A Reflection, on Reflection

I am going to discuss reflection from my own perspective, and how I believe that it solidifies learning and motivates an individual to improve. How often are we given the occasion to reflect? How can we properly digest information within the pace of our busy lives? I ask these questions from my own personal experience: I am living proof that reflecting upon one’s own thoughts and actions fosters critical thinking and motivates one to keep learning and improving, and especially to value our own actions, good and bad, as learning opportunities. The Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) assigns a lot of reflection. Typically, three assignments per course on topics chosen by the learner, and that relate to course material and research. I admit that I did not take reflection seriously at first when I began the PIDP; it seemed frivolous. I had other assignments and projects that were due, and that had greater grading significance than the reflection assignments.

The following reflection is my final reflectionof the PIDP, submitted at the completion of my Capstone Project, in its entirety with the guiding questions included (in bold). It is the documentation of my journey from considering myself to be a skilled dental assistant through to the realization that I am also an educator, motivator, and mentor. My realization would not have occurred as affectively without reflection. The guiding questions follow the ORID method:

O = Objective (the facts)

R = Reflective (affective experience)

I = Interpretive (cognitive experience)

D = Decisional (incorporate experience)

(University of Waterloo, n.d., para. 4).

I find it difficult to differentiate the objective and reflective components of this model, because the facts, and how I feel about them are interconnected.

Objective Questions:

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 courses applicable to my field. I also want to be an 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 speed, 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 encapsulates 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” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.30). I learned about Carl Roger’s, and his reasoning that a teacher is a facilitator of learning; he endorsed a student-centred approach. Learners need to feel an involvement in the process, and relate to or apply what they are learning in a supportive environment (1969). I was also introduced to Malcolm Knowles who shaped the assumptions of andragogy, and explains how the facilitator provides a positive environment for learning that prepares adult learners and involves them in planning, delivery, and assessment (2015). The more that I considered my own approach to training my coworkers, the more motivated I was to improve my teaching strategies, and get my learners involved in the process: but, how was I going to accomplish these goals?

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, each reflective writing and course work assignment is posted on my blog (Truant, n.d.). My blog has become an invaluable means for me to monitor my progress, and compile all my resources.

Curriculum Design (PIDP 3210):

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 our class 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 (designing a curriculum) assignment was instrumental as well, and the template that Jacquie provided was key in articulating outcomes and goals, and actualizing lesson planning.

Delivery of Instruction (PIDP 3220):

Bob Aitken, my instructor in PIDP 3220 Delivery of Instruction, 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. I met other educators from different backgrounds and vocations, and I learned a lot from their candid feedback. BUT, what I valued learning most 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 boring, I had memorized my lesson, and I was just talking about facts with no room for discussion and feedback. By the end of the course, I discovered that the more I shared about myself in front of the class, 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 by many interesting anecdotes that helped me remember what he was saying. He discussed the three learning domains, and how applying them in combination while delivering instruction helps our learners: “remember what we say (cognitive: knowledge), perform what we demonstrate (psychomotor: skill), and change the way they think (affective: attitude)” (personal communication, February 21, 2017). Bob’s class and his delivery had a profound effect on me, and this will stay with me throughout my professional practice as an educator.

Evaluation of Learning (PIDP 3230):

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) (Fenwick & Parsons, 2009). 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):

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 in my career 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 teaching practice. Brian Cassell, and PIDP 3240 Media Enhanced Learning, introduced open textbooks, and digital instruction (podcasts, PowerPoint®, 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, especially as it applies to educational purposes or research. Many people assume that the internet is “fair game” (Taylor, 2017).

Instructional Strategies (PIDP 3250):

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 I did not have formal academic instructional experience, and most of my classmates were professional teachers already. They shared personal experiences (what worked, and did not work for them). I noticed that a common theme in these forum discussions was Bloom’s Taxonomy (Carleton University, n.d.) because it encourages active sequential 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 PIDP 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 on our intake’s discussion forum to solve a simulated professional dilemma. Karen provided the tools needed: Rushworth Kidder’s Nine-Step Process for Ethical Decision Making (2009) was a great resource that outlines a methodical process, and I realized the importance of discussion with colleagues to logically proceed with, and reach important decisions.

3260 also assigned a (big) blogging assignment, I complained to Karen about more blogging, but mostly I needed encouragement. Karen’s response was supportive and encouraging: she responded immediately, and acknowledgment my feelings without judgement. She explained that each PIDP assignment is designed to meet learning outcomes (and not to torture learners). Karen demonstrated what being a learner-centred teacher is. Being a great teacher also means that I will need to be a mentor, as well as a reflective practitioner. 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. Her response was receptive and professional. I was glad when Karen was appointed my Capstone advisor.

Reflective Questions:

What were the high points for me during the program?

In each PIDP course, my instructors provided amazingly timely feedback. I appreciate this because I need to know if I am on the right track. This reduces my stress-level and boosts my confidence immensely (a great teaching/learning strategy). The PIDP, delivered online, is very self-directed; receiving immediate feedback allows me to reflect soon after I complete and submit an assignment. Fenwick and Parsons (2009) call these reflections think-backs. “Think-backs are critical reflections on prior experiences, with the intention of seeking insights that will help you improve your practice or learning” (p.18). Timely feedback, and think-backs guided me to begin considering myself as a professional educator, and not just a dental assistant. I felt an improvement in my day-to day instruction, and valued my time spent self-assessing.

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 email notifications on my cell phone to maintain the boundary between course-work and the rest of my life! Connecting with my forum mates in real time was the biggest challenge, but I learned an invaluable 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.

Interpretive Questions:

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. How do I authorize my expertise to my learners? How do I convey my abilities? How do I foster trust? Brookfield explains, that when learners witness a facilitator’s “relatively unconscious display of a high-level command of content or skill,” (2015, p. 44) credibility increases. And, “if a teacher responds clearly, quickly, and knowledgeably to questions that seem to come out of the blue, their credibility rockets” (2015, p. 44).

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 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. For me, being a reflective practitioner means applying a learner-focused approach to my reflection. In What the Best College Teachers Do, Bain (2004) explains that evaluating one’s methods and best practices of instruction are important: “do they use the latest technology, generate class discussions, call on students by name, write clearly on the board, return examinations promptly, limit lectures, use discussions or case studies, and lecture clearly?” (p. 164). However, a reflective practitioner asks “the fundamental question, does the teaching help and encourage students to learn in ways that make a sustained, substantial and positive difference in the way they think, act, or feel?” (p. 164).

What is one key insight that I now have as a result of this journey?

I am not a just “dispenser of knowledge” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 30); 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 and effective learning environment? What system will I use to determine success? In Classroom Assessment Techniques (1993), Angelo and Cross outline dozens of activities to assess teaching before a lesson (this reinforces respecting where learners are in terms of their own experience), and after a lesson (to improve teaching strategies).

What teaching approaches most influenced me as a professional?

Developing instructional strategies has influenced me as a professional: it can be rewarding if a strategy is successful, or a learning moment if the strategy does not work as planned. Mostly, 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? Another great resource I found from my research in the PIDP is Collaborative Learning Techniques – A Handbook for College Faculty. Barkley, Major, and Cross maintain that “teachers cannot simply transfer their knowledge to students. Students must build their own minds through a process of assimilating information into their own understandings. Meaningful and lasting learning occurs through personal, active engagement” (2014, p. ix). The handbook contains many techniques to foster learner collaboration in face-to-face and online environments.

Decisional Questions:

How will this educational experience inform my professional practice? How will I continue my professional growth in the future?

I want to highlight the textbook in the first PIDP course (3100), Adult Learning – Linking Theory and Practice (Merriam & Bierema, 2014), because it introduces the ‘how’s?’ and the ‘why’s?’ of teaching and learning, and it introduced me to Carl Rogers and Malcolm Knowles. At the onset of my PIDP journey, 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. “’Much of adult vocational education is focused on identifying skills needed for specific occupations, teaching those skills from basic to expert levels, and then requiring learners to demonstrate certain levels of competency before performing those skills” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p. 28). But, the assigned readings introduced me 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 struggling with the principles of andragogy throughout my career as a dental assistant and trainer; now I can articulate it upon serious research AND reflection:

– 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: Are there obstacles that will prevent learning?

– Reflection: Have students been given the autonomy and opportunity to critically reflect and act on what they are learning?

– Motivation: What intrinsic value does learning possess?

(Knowles, Holton III, & Swanson, 2015)

I elected to take the PIDP to be a better trainer and developer in my current professional practice; 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 have changed through reflection. Carl Rogers discovered that the most effective facilitators had a high level of regard for their learners (1969). He wrote,

            “The only [person] who is educated is the [person] who has learned how to learn; the [person] who has learned how to adapt and change; the [person] who has realized that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security” (p. 104).

Change is the product of reflection. I am a facilitator. I care about my learners. I want to continue to learn and to grow by being a reflective practitioner. “Excellent teachers develop their abilities through constant self-evaluation, reflection, and the willingness to change” (Bain, 2004, p. 172).

As I reread this reflection, and edit it for submission, I am stricken by an overwhelming feeling of realization. There is so much more that I could have included. To sum it up, the PIDP certainly advanced my knowledge of becoming an adult educator, it improved my skills as a facilitator, and it undeniably changed my attitude about creating a learner-centred environment. 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, Glenn, Jacquie, Bob, Jeff, Brian, Alison, and Karen 🙂

@ Please refer to my Resources page for works cited