PIDP 3250 Journal 3

4.3     Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Positive Learning Environment

4.3.1 Objective:

According to Virgo (2016), student engagement, motivation and learning can be maximized when the instructor provides a positive learning environment that is safe, supportive, inclusive, engaging and challenging.

Safe: Students need to feel not just physically safe but also emotionally and socially safe in the classroom.

Supportive: For students to learn they must feel supported. It is important that they feel respected and valued as a learner.

Inclusive: Students need to feel included in their learning environment.

Engaging: Students need to be engaged in their learning for it to be a positive learning experience for them.

Challenging: Learning needs to challenge students individually. Some students may find things easier than others, but as an educator one needs to challenge students intellectually, emotionally and socially.

4.3.2 Reflective:

While attending elementary and secondary schools (all eight of them!), I was badly bullied. When I complained to the principal, he did not support me or protect me whatsoever. In order to avoid the daily beating, I would hide in the washroom. When I was discovered by a teacher and forced outside, I hid in front of the school until I was discovered by a teacher and forced into the school yard. So I went home sick because I didn’t want to get beaten that day. I missed school often to avoid beatings. In class I sometimes told the teacher that I didn’t know the answer (when I actually did know) to avoid being singled out as the ‘smart kid.’ I eventually made friends with the janitor, who let me hide in his broom closet during recess to avoid the beatings. Then at age 14, I started lifting weights to be the ‘strongest man in the world’ so that nobody could beat me up. It is very likely that my attendance at school would have been much better had the environment been safer.

Both of my children experienced social bullying from classmates at school. My daughter ended up changing schools to escape from one particular bully. My son quit dancing due to bullying. Kids at school called him cruel names alluding to homosexual orientation because he danced competitively. It was a shame that he quit because he was invited to the National Ballet Junior Training Camp. His skills were exceptional – he won Canadian and US Nationals for his jazz and acro solos, duet and two of his teams for which he was the lead. Had he felt safe at school he may well have continued to dance.

I experienced a significant lack of inclusion when I attended elementary school. I was at best, the last pick for any teams because I sucked. Mostly they didn’t pick me at all because I was considered a burden rather than a benefit. Once all the other students were picked over, and I was the only remaining unpicked student, typically everyone just walked away and left me standing there without actually picking me at all. It was very humiliating. I hated phys. ed. class as a result of this exclusion.

To this already damaging situation my phys. ed. teacher added a significant lack of support. At age 13 I decided I didn’t want to be fat anymore. I started dieting and jogging. The first day I jogged about 100 meters because that was as far as I could jog without stopping. Then I walked for a bit and then jogged some more. It took me almost a year to be able to jog all the way around the 2 km block (we lived out in the country) without stopping. About 15 months after I started jogging, I happened to be one of the first ones out of the school onto the school field after changing into gym clothes for phys. ed. class. I realized that for the first time, all of the fast runners were still in the school getting changed and I actually had the chance to be first to finish running a lap around the field, prior to the fast runners being out on the field. So I ran as fast as I could and for the first time I finished first. But my phys. ed. teacher came out after I started and didn’t pay attention to me. When I finished first, the teacher told me that I could not possibly have finished first without cheating. He wrongfully accused me of cutting the corners and he insisted that I run another lap, refusing to acknowledge my hard-earned victory. I had never missed a day jogging, but I never ran for that despicable teacher ever again. I hated him and his class. That was the moment that I disengaged permanently from phys. ed. class. I competed successfully for positions on the school rowing, football and wrestling teams but that was the end of my engagement in phys. ed. class.

This lack of support was actually trumped by my grade 6 music teacher, who told me the first week of school that she hated my voice and I was not allowed to sing ever again. She forced me to write lines for the entire music class, every class, for the entire grade 6 school year. I never sang again. Not ever.

I found that throughout elementary and secondary schools, my classes were not challenging. I rarely did homework and still got good marks. In grade 13, I had a 93 average for two English courses, French, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Algebra, Functions and Calculus, with 98, 99 and 100 for the three maths, but without doing homework. This was a problem because I had not developed any academic skills or work capacity. At university the workload is heavy enough that work capacity and academic skills are necessary for success. When I first went to university immediately after secondary school I failed miserably. As a result, I failed to gain acceptance into medical school and instead worked as a paramedic. Eventually I went back to school, but not until my mid-forties. It is one of my greatest regrets that I delayed my post-secondary education until so late in life. I have failed to realize my most significant goals and dreams because of this delay. It is now too late for most of them.


 

4.3.3 Interpretive:

It is necessary for students to feel safe physically, emotionally and socially in the classroom and at the school in order for students to engage in learning. Fear of physical, emotional or social abuse is a strong motivator for students to withdraw, hide or hold back from engaging. An instructor can and should go to great lengths, if necessary, to provide a safe environment for students. Bullying should be prevented if possible, with education and awareness of what constitutes bullying in all its forms, and what behaviours are prohibited. Harsh punishments for bullying should be carried out. The instructor can also enforce a code of conduct in the classroom whereby students treat each other with respect.

Students should feel supported and valued as a learner. The instructor can enforce that students listen when someone is speaking, not interrupt, and respond respectfully to the instructor and to each other. All students should be included and not left out of participating in discussions or teams (i.e. phys. ed. class). Introverts may choose not to speak at times, but they should at least feel that it is safe for them to either speak up or hold their silence. An instructor can use a variety of resources and methods to deliver material, phrasing and re-phrasing in different ways to provide different ways of understanding the material so as to engage a diverse group of learners. Providing challenge to individual students may be difficult for an instructor; however the rewards are so huge that it is worth making the effort. An instructor can always ask students individually the question, “How does this relate to you personally? Is there some context in your life, family or work to which this could apply?” The more personally relevant a topic is for a student the greater the student engagement in the material. The instructor can seek out applications, activities and examples that are relevant to individual learners to increase student engagement.


 

4.3.4 Decisional:

I wish to be an effective instructor with motivated, engaged students in my class. This requires that I provide a positive environment that is safe, supportive, inclusive, engaging and challenging for my students. To this end, I commit to assure that my classroom is physically, emotionally and socially safe for my students. Should I learn of social bullying on social media that affects my students, even if it is not in my class, I will take steps to bring it to the attention of the students involved and to make sure they realize that such behaviour is unacceptable and require that they make amends for their conduct. If necessary, I will involve the student’s parents and also my Supervisor in the matter. I will take a stand against bullying and educate my students regarding the necessity of treating each other with respect. I will treat my students with respect and require that they treat me and each other with respect at all times. I will support each student with their learning by effectively communicating my expectations and providing office hours and a discussion forum to address students’ questions and challenges. I will encourage students to take responsibility for their learning. I will take the role of facilitator to support my students with resources that support their learning. Such resources will support self-directed learning strategies. I will include each students in my classroom, making the effort to teach with a variety of resources and methods to increase student engagement. I will make the effort to identify contexts, applications and examples that are relevant for individual students. I will seek to facilitate student self-directed learning so that students can challenge themselves in contexts that have relevance, interest and purpose for individual students. I will seek to model my teaching on the best instructors I have had the benefit of learning from. I will make use of open questions to encourage student engagement and to prompt consideration of contexts, applications and examples that are individually relevant to learners.

References and Bibliography

Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass: John Wiley & Sons; San Francisco, CA.

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Techniques: Supplementary Student Materials. Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies: Course Assignments & Rubrics. Handout offered by Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

Virgo, O. (2016). Positive Learning Environments. PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies: January 2016; Doug Mauger; Feb 14 – March 5: Open Forum;       Re: Positive Learning Environments; by Opal Virgo – Thursday, 18 February 2016.

PIDP 3250 Journal 2

4.2 The Power of Introverts: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

4.2.1 Objective:

Susan Cain, a Wall Street lawyer and author, spoke on Ted Talks (2012) regarding the ‘power of introverts.’ Self-described as a ‘quiet revolutionary’ and an introvert, she describes how introversion is shunned in our society, giving the example of her experience at camp in which she was scorned for reading books. Cain claims to have become a Wall Street lawyer rather than to pursue her dream of becoming a writer, to prove to herself and to society that she could succeed as an extrovert.

Cain states that one third to one half of all people are actually introverts who feel most alive when alone in a quiet place. Yet Cain describes our society’s bias against introversion, giving the workplace example of open office spaces that promote extroversion but remove the opportunity for solitary, quiet thinking, and also the classroom example of desks arranged in clusters facing each other to promote discussion and group work even for activities that typically were best performed independently with quiet concentration. Cain observes that introverts are seen as outliers at best and even at times as problem students.

Cain cites Adam Grant of the Wharton School of Business, who evidenced that introverts can be better leaders in particular contexts because they make decisions more cautiously and deliver outcomes with less risk involved. Cain goes on to explain how transformative leaders such as introverts Eleanor Roosevelt and Gandhi took the spotlight, reluctantly, not because they wanted to do so for its own benefits, but rather because they felt compelled to do the right thing. Cain indicates that such introverted leaders have transformative power precisely because people can readily perceive that they were not leading due to any self-gratification from exercising power or control over others, nor from an enjoyment of being in the spotlight, but rather the opposite. Their reluctance to be in the spotlight was only overcome by the importance of the message they felt compelled to share.

Cain cited Carl Jung, who proposed and developed the concepts of introversion and extroversion. Jung (2016) believed that everyone lies somewhere on the continuum with introversion on one end and extroversion on the other, with most clearly predominantly more introverted or extroverted. However, a few rare individuals lie precisely in the centre between introversion and extroversion, so-called ‘ambiverts’.

Cain goes on to show that creativity is closely linked with solitude, providing the examples of Darwin, who experienced his epiphanies while on solitary walks in nature; Dr. Seuss who wrote his children’s books while secluded in his home office; and Steve Wozniak, who invented the first Apple computer while sitting alone in his cubicle at Hewlett Packard. Cain solidified her theme ‘solitude matters’, describing the transcendent power of solitude and citing examples of sages from many differing religions including Moses, Jesus and Buddha; she evidenced her conclusion that without solitude these and other sages would not be able to experience such revelations.

Cain contrasted this against the current social trend whereby group members tend to follow the most extroverted charismatic speaker, rather than the most thoughtful, considered, analytical solitude-seeking introvert in the group. Cain points to American culture which values of the ‘man of action’ rather than the quiet, thoughtful introvert.

Cain concludes with a call to action with three requests.

  1. Stop the madness of constant calls to group work for every task with every person regardless of their intro- or extro-version. To better provide a constructive atmosphere for introverts, Cain is seeking more freedom, autonomy and privacy at work and in the classroom.
  2. She believes that both extroverts and introverts need to not only learn to collaborate and work well with others, but that we also need to learn to work independently and at times to seek solitude for reflection and deeper thought, as this can lead to revelations.
  3. In Cain’s words, we need to occasionally ‘check our suitcase’. By this she means that we need to self-reflect upon what has meaning for us and to share it with others. Cain firmly believes that the world benefits from the revelations that occur when we seek solitude for reflection and deeper thought.

4.2.2 Reflective:

Cain’s description of ambiverts resonated so strongly with me that I searched for more information. Sol (2012) described taking many different personality tests, including the Myers Briggs test, which is based upon the work of Carl Jung (Briggs-Myers, 2016), and finding that some indicated that he was an introvert, while others found him to be an extrovert. Sol believes himself to be, and describes the Ambivert as the forgotten personality type (see Figure 1 below).

Continuum Personality Scale

 

Figure 1: Introversion – Extroversion Personality Viewed as a Continuum (Sol, 2012)

Sol (2012) indicates that in spite of basing her classification system on the work of Carl Jung, who believed that everyone has an introverted and an extroverted side, Isabel Briggs Myers limited her system to an either/or introverted or extroverted classification. Sol points out that Jung believed that the qualities described as introversion and extroversion were present in all of us and manifested in varying ways depending on the context. Unlike Jung, Sol would have us believe that most people are ambiverts. Just as both Sol and Jung describe, I also believe that introverted or extroverted strategies are contextual and that each of us is more comfortable with particular strategies in each context. Certain tasks are more comfortable in solitary to remove distractions, for example activities that require deeper thinking or self-reflection, while other activities are better performed in a group context, such as having a party. Sol points out that “Jung would say that we all have “preferences” of what we would like to do, but we also have the capacity to be able to be both introverted and extroverted.” Although some have not attempted to develop either their introverted or extroverted capacity for some contexts where the one strategy they have practiced has worked well for them.

I definitely see myself as an ambivert. I really enjoy public speaking to large audiences but I also enjoy reading and/or writing while sitting quietly alone. Rather than dwelling on what I am or am not, I prefer to think of myself as a work in progress, as having mastered some skills while still needing work on others.

4.2.3 Interpretive:

Granting that Cain has provided a well-evidenced argument for the value of introversion, and Jung’s view that we all have preferences for either introversion or extroversion for specific contexts, yet we all have the capacity for both introverted and extroverted strategies, it is likely most productive for each of us to identify which strategy is most effective for each context, and to develop that skill whether or not it is comfortable for us. We can all learn to speak up and contribute in a teamwork setting, rather than leaving all the talking to the loudest extrovert in the room. And we can all benefit from solitary time for deeper thinking and self-reflection.

Just as ambidextrous describes the ability to write with either hand equally well, ambiversion best describes the ability to adopt either an introverted or extroverted strategy depending on context, rather than an either/or limitation as Myers Briggs and other personality tests would indicate. I scored very differently on every such personality test, even when repeating the same test on a different day. This was not helpful to me at all. Instead, I would benefit from an understanding of which strategies I had mastered and which ones required more skill development, as well as an understanding of which skills were most helpful in specific contexts.

4.2.4 Decisional:

I commit to learn to identify which skills, whether introversive or extroversive, are most efficacious for specific contexts. I commit to self-reflection to aid in identifying which skills require more development, also either introversive or extroversive. I commit to study and to work at continuing to develop skills that improve my performance in all contexts that I value in my life, including my roles as husband, father, son, teacher, businessman, analyst, consultant and coach.

I commit to learning more about teaching students to develop their own introversive and extroversive skills and to become comfortable with taking different roles in different contexts. I will model the process and draw the students’ attention to it. I will facilitate their learning and draw their attention to the value of recognizing the advantages and limitations of both introversive and extroversive skills in specific contexts. It is my belief that this will improve not only the academic skills of my students, but also their self-reflective, work and life skills. This new awareness and willingness to act on it should improve my offering as an educator.

References and Bibliography

Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass: John Wiley & Sons; San Francisco, CA.

Briggs-Myers, I. (2016). Carl Jung & Psychological Types. MBTI Type Today. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator website accessed from: http://mbtitoday.org/carl-jung-psychological-type/

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Techniques: Supplementary Student Materials. Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies: Course Assignments & Rubrics. Handout offered by Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

Cain, S. (2012). The power of introverts. Ted Talks February 2012. Accessed from: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

Sol, M. (2012). Ambiversion: The Lost Personality Type. LonerWolf website accessed from: http://lonerwolf.com/ambivert/

PIDP 3250 Journal 1

4.1 Based on Barkley (2010)’s Student Engagement Techniques Chapters 1-4:

4.1.1 Objective:

Barkley (2010) proposes an ‘expectancy x value’ model (p.11) to describe student motivation. This model premises that learners “are willing to expend [the effort] on a task [that] is the product of the degree to which they expect to be able to perform the task successfully (expectancy) and the degree to which they value the rewards as well as the opportunity to engage in performing the task itself (value).” Barkley goes on to explain expectancy (p.12), citing Covington (1993), who described four ‘typical student patterns’ of expectancy, including:

‘Success-oriented’ students are described by Barkley as “serious learners who want to perform well, and usually do, are predisposed toward engagement, and enjoy learning for learning’s sake, are accustomed to success and are able to preserve their perceptions of self-worth even in the event of an occasional failure.” These learners have a high expectancy of success and they perceive a significant value in the task either for the rewards available and/or intrinsic to the performance of the task.

‘Overstrivers’ are usually successful students but are “not entirely confident in their ability and consequently worry about their grades and performance.” Barkley further describes (p.12) this group of learners as “anxious that each new learning task will be the one that exposes the lower level of ability that they have so far been able to conceal; they expend a great deal of effort to ensure that they do succeed.”

‘Failure-avoiders’ according to Barkley (p.12), having experienced academic failure in the past, are anxious that “if they fail at a specific learning activity, they will prove to themselves and others that they lack the ability to succeed.” As a result, this group of learners may avoid tasks they perceive as too challenging.

‘Failure-accepting’ students have become accustomed and resigned to academic failure and now feel hopeless, responding to learning tasks with indifference. According to Barkley (p.13), this group of students has disengaged from learning.

Barkley (p.13) clearly believes that both learner expectancy of success plays a significant role in student motivation and engagement.

4.1.2 Reflective:

Barkley’s expectancy x value model of student motivation resonates closely, but not precisely with my own observations and experiences in the classroom, both as a student and as instructor. I see myself as three of Barkley’s four typical expectancy patterns in different contexts during my academic career. In elementary and secondary schools (all eight of them) I was always a ‘success oriented’ student because I was never challenged. I had poor work habits, many sports and recreation activities, part time jobs and work at home on our farm, yet maintained a mid-ninety average throughout. I had mastered focus, attention, engagement, memory, problem solving and critical thinking skills sufficiently that I was able to overcome my very poor academic work habits and still achieve academic success. Ironically, my self-esteem was closely linked to my academic success because it was a primary, and one of very few positive feedbacks for my self-esteem. I was quite incompetent socially with no friends, no girlfriends, no popularity and no clue as to how to achieve success in social relationships.

When I first went to university immediately after high school, I quickly became a ‘failure accepting’ student because my lack of study habits so severely crippled my academic performance that I failed every course. Eventually I dropped out and went to college where both the level of difficulty and volume or pace of the workload was so low that I was able to succeed in spite of continuing poor study habits.

After 18 years working full time as a primary care paramedic, I went back to college to upgrade to advanced care paramedic (ACP). The level of difficulty and pace were more challenging than my previous college experiences, but I was motivated due to the relevance to my personal and career goals and the close link to my self-image. I started to develop study habits because I was also working 55-60 hours per week, and also training 10-12 hours per week and competing at the world class level (at powerlifting). My self-image was no longer solely tied to my academic success but also to my view of my success as a powerlifter, paramedic, father of my children and husband, which were, respectively, very positive, mostly positive, mostly positive and very negative (failed marriage). My paramedic supervisor, a vicious bully, was also a primary instructor at the college for my ACP program. In spite of my 85 average, he failed me on a final scenario test and thereby failed me in the program. I was crushed because I had expected success, had worked (average effort) for it, and it was closely linked to my self-image. I appealed the failure but was not successful in my appeal. I was very disappointed and reluctant to accept fault; instead I blamed the bully supervisor/instructor and thereafter hated him passionately. He sensed my worsening attitude and escalated his harassment of me at work for a further two years.

I repeated the entire ACP program the following year, achieving a 90 average while continuing to work 55-60 hours per week and training 10-12 hours weekly, as well as competing at the world class level. My increasing success with powerlifting (I was lifting Canadian records daily and lifted a few World records) bolstered my self-esteem and pulled me out of a depression that had lasted several months after the failure. Around that time I hit black ice while driving in hazardous driving conditions and broke my wrist. In spite of the severe pain of this injury, I lifted a World record three weeks later because I relied on my success as a powerlifter very much for my self-esteem. I had a self-image as a success with my lifting and I was willing to go to extremes to maintain it.

Coming up to the final scenario test I developed an anxiety disorder due to my awareness that the previous year my 85 average was not sufficient preparation or assurance of success on the final scenario test; the evil supervisor/instructor was also escalating his harassment of me, both at work and in the classroom. I complained about him to the college program coordinator, who did nothing to help me and told the evil one about my complaint. He further escalated his harassment of me and I began having panic attacks. I requested that he not examine me yet I failed the final scenario test again anyway, due to an anxiety attack. I became suicidal. Only the thought of my children and the unfair impact on those innocents stopped me from actually following through. I had a significant depression lasting several months.

I repeated the ACP program a third time, fully engaging and investing heavily in it, I had become an ‘overstriver’. I cut back my work hours to 42 hours per week by quitting my second job and cutting way back on hours for my third job. I stopped competing at powerlifting for the first time in 16 years. I developed excellent study habits. I earned a 95 average. Based on my formative experiences in elementary and secondary schools, I believed that I was above average intelligence, but I also believed that these were not assurances of success against the evil one. I realized that my feelings toward my persecutor were unhealthy and started seeing a counsellor, which helped a little. I practiced for the final scenario test every day for the four months leading up to the final scenario test, never missing a practice, even during a snow storm. This gained me the respect of my classmates, who were also my peers at work. As a result, my self-esteem improved from the assurances from my peers, who now universally believed that I had been robbed by the previous ACP failures and was more than worthy of academic success in the ACP program. Yet this was not sufficient to overcome the devastating, crushing, debilitating losses, including huge financial losses previously experienced. A few weeks prior to the final I escalated the difficulty of my practice scenarios, with the help of my classmates, making the practice sessions insanely difficult yet still forcing myself to master them. This helped my confidence somewhat.

My Base Hospital Director, an Emergency physician with 30 years’ experience, as well as coordinator of the ACP certifications and directly responsible for my ultimate certification as an ACP, had me work directly with him during the final stage of ACP clinical training prior to the final scenario test. During my final shift with him, he called me aside and told me that he believed that I was “head and shoulders above my peers with respect to my clinical thinking and skills,” and that I “should consider going to medical school because I was wasting myself working as a paramedic.” He also let me know that if I was failed yet again on the final scenario test that he would intervene on my behalf. This sufficiently bolstered my confidence that I actually requested that the evil one test me for the final scenario test. I forced myself to face my nemesis. During the final test the bully interrupted me repeatedly until I politely but firmly warned him not to do it again or I would leave the videotaped test and go directly to the Dean’s office to complain about him. He acquiesced and I completed the test successfully. The following year I filed a harassment grievance against the evil one and was successful, winning a very large settlement. I left the employ of that service and worked elsewhere, where my peers gave me the nickname “Dr. Sean.”

After these experiences, which profoundly shaped me, I had the courage to return to university. I worked 60 hours per week while carrying a full course load in a challenging pre-medical-school undergraduate program, achieving a 90 average and 3.87 GPA. I began the undergraduate degree as an ‘overstriver’ and became a ‘success oriented’ student in the process. I had to overcome the bitterness associated with not even receiving an interview for medical school in Ontario; I was accepted at schools in the US and the Caribbean, but could not afford to go. I was obligated to pay tuition for my children instead and still had a mountain of debt to pay off. I learned to more accurately identify my strengths and weaknesses and made efforts to improve my weaknesses. I learned and practiced excellent study habits. I relied heavily on my work capacity; hard work was my go-to solution to cover my weaknesses. I demonstrated a ‘failure avoider’ strategy by avoiding courses that were too challenging for me.

Throughout my Masters ’ degree I was a ‘success oriented’ student. My classmates recognized me as ‘the best student’ with the greatest work ethic and exceptional analytical and critical thinking skills. As a result of the overstriving lifestyle of working 88 hours per week for more than a decade, I experienced severe health challenges, including major surgeries and heart problems, and my mother passed away during my studies, yet I managed to achieve an 85 average and received full scholarships throughout my Masters’ degree. I definitely invested more heavily, both time and engagement, in the courses I valued. As for courses which lacked value to me, I engaged only sufficiently to assure a grade of at least 80.

4.1.3 Interpretive:

In my experience, Barkley’s ‘success oriented’ students have experienced some significant academic success, and in the process have been able to identify some of their own academic strengths, such as memorization skills, problem solving or critical thinking skills, abstract or conceptual thinking, organization and planning skills or work habits. This group of learners have achieved at least a competency if not mastery of at least some of the above academic skills, which are necessary for academic success. Learners in this group may not have mastered even a competent level of skill for one or more of the above academic skills, but they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and either preferentially select courses which require strengths that align with their competencies or which at least allow the learner to compensate with their strong skills and still achieve academic success. An example of this would be a master memorizer selecting a biology rather than math or physics course to assure success.

Inherent in the perception of the value of academic tasks in which ‘success oriented’ learners engage is the positive reinforcement of self-esteem associated with the recognition by peers, instructors, family and friends for the student’s academic success. This tends to increase the confidence of the successful learner. These learners have also identified that engagement is a requisite of academic success, which the learner values as a measure of self-esteem; they tend to engage even if the perception of the inherent value of the particular course is low as a matter of pride because there is a close link between the student’s self-image and academic success.

Another factor which directly effects student perception of value of a course or academic program is the weight the student places on academic success with respect to how the student measures his self-image; if other facets of a student’s life adequately serve to bolster self-esteem and they also compete for the student’s time and attention in order to obtain success, then the academic engagement may suffer. Examples include achievements at work or sport.

A further factor which directly effects student perception of value of a course or academic program is the relative importance of the academic goal with respect to other responsibilities currently in the student’s life, such as family or work responsibilities as well as health issues. For example, if the course or program could maybe someday aid in obtaining a promotion and salary raise at work, but it is competing with a crying child, the child’s immediate needs tend to win over studies; this is true even more so if success with the task requires the student to use his weaknesses or if the student is unsure of how to start the academic work.

Barkley’s description of ‘overstrivers’ (p.12) appropriately identifies the learner’s lack of confidence in academic abilities; this is not necessarily all academic skills but may be just particular skills. In my case, this is speed and memory. When I was young my speed and memory were excellent but no longer. Since returning to school, I have performed very poorly on speed or memorization tasks but performed well on tasks requiring other skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, attention, planning, preparation, organization and work habits. My academic performance has closely reflected my strengths and weaknesses. When my financial and employment obligations permitted, I tended to commit my strength of work habits to overcome my poor memory by spending more time on memorization tasks. When competing for acceptance into medical school, I was always concerned that my poor memory would adversely affect my academic performance. In many cases it did. My failure to gain acceptance into an Ontario medical school tended to reinforce this need to overstrive and consequently I expended an even greater effort to cover my weakness with more work. Eventually this habit destroyed my health.

I have failed financially again and again throughout my life, in spite of the goal of financial success and in spite of great effort with courses, mentoring, and implementation of many financial and business projects. My absolute perfect failing record with respect to financial success has broken me. I have given up. I now have goals only to survive, try to keep my health, and provide what I can for my family. I consciously avoid looking at expensive cars or houses and avoid watching television shows that display or edify financial success because I wish to avoid the accompanying bitterness of seeing what I can never have. Financially I am a ‘failure accepter.’

4.1.4 Decisional:

Hindsight is 20:20; I have many regrets and would wish to relive my life differently. Conversely, my adverse experiences have increased my tenacity, resilience and work capacity, but at the expense of my health. I learned that I can accomplish anything if I commit, fully engage and work hard enough. But in many cases the rewards may not justify the great personal sacrifice required, especially my health. I assign a much higher value to my health and to finding ways to succeed that don’t require such a great sacrifice. Balance in life is now more important to me. I am resigned to live a life of mediocrity rather than to continue to strive with such intense, absolute commitment that success or self-destruction is assured. I seek lower paying jobs that I am well qualified for and that do not require a commitment that would take me out of balance with my family and academic priorities. I have a good wife and I strive daily to nurture and protect that relationship, which is a constant positive source for companionship, friendship, love, support, encouragement and self-esteem.

In my classroom I recognize that at any moment, my practice of encouraging and believing in my students could and sometimes will, sometimes unaware to me, provide a student who lacks confidence in his or her academic skills, with sufficient courage to strive to work harder or longer or smarter or to seek a mentor to improve a weakness, and thereby succeed academically. I learned this lesson when a coach encouraged me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself immediately prior to a decisive test that resulted in my achieving a position on the Junior National Rowing Team when I was only 17 y/o (Brown, 2015).

I realize that I have the responsibility to provide a safe learning environment in which students are not afraid to engage. My role as an instructor is not just to teach content, but to teach students how to learn. I can teach students how to identify their academic strengths and weaknesses and how to strengthen and cover their weaknesses, i.e. how to succeed academically by investing in the development of academic skills. I can improve student motivation by initially providing tasks that students with weaknesses in their academic skills can perform to boost their confidence, then gradually progress to tasks of greater difficulty as the term progresses. I can show students where to turn for resources that improve academic skills both on campus and online. I can emphasize to my students the importance of work habits and show students how to prioritize, plan and organize their work. I can show students how to start work on challenging tasks, provide time to start work on these tasks in the classroom, and give encouragement and support to students who lack confidence. I can mentor my students where possible, modelling a commitment to lifelong learning, a positive attitude and good work habits, and I can support students’ efforts to improve themselves. I can assure that learning tasks are relevant to increase student engagement. I can assure that my expectations are realistic and clearly communicated to the students. I can provide feedback that is encouraging as well as helpful even as it corrects. I can provide students with direction to learning resources that will guide students in how to improve academic skills. I can recognize, praise and reward performance improvement.

I aspire to be an instructor who inspires, motivates, guides and mentors students to grow and become more confident as they develop improved academic skills. I can make a difference by inspiring students to engage and develop improved academic skills that lead to improved success in academics and in life. I can learn to not see life’s failures as a reflection of my self-worth so that I don’t model this mistake to students. I hope to be able to teach students not to take their failures personally so they will have the courage to accept failures as a part of life and to move past such failures and go on to future successes. I can teach students to cover their weaknesses with hard work.

As someone who recognizes that I am and always will be, a work in progress, I can show my students that it is acceptable and even desirable to live one’s life perpetually in such a state, encouraging a life of continuous self-improvement and lifelong learning.

References and Bibliography

Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. Jossey-Bass: John Wiley & Sons; San Francisco, CA.

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Techniques: Supplementary Student Materials. Ministry of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

British Columbia (BC) Provincial Instructor Diploma Program (PIDP) (2015). PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies: Course Assignments & Rubrics. Handout offered by Vancouver Community College: Vancouver, BC.

Brown, S. (2015). Transformational learning saved my life. LinkedIn post retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/transformational-learning-saved-my-life-sean-w-brown?trk=prof-post

Covington, M. (1993). A motivational analysis of academic life in college. In J. C. Smart (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, Vol. 9. New York: Agathon Press.

McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2013). Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding. ASCD: Alexandria, VA.

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