Tag Archives: PIDP

Journal Entry – PIDP 3240 Week 1


The world of education is changing. With that change has come a new focus on the ability of graduates to perform effectively in the workplace, and the question of whether credentials themselves are valued less than the skills, learning or knowledge they represent. In 2015, several leading companies, including Ernst and Young, Penguin Random House, and Deloitte all removed the requirement of a university degree from their recruitment policies, citing no clear link between holding a university degree and better on the job performance (BBC, 2015).

More and more students are taking online courses, with over a third of all post-secondary students taking at least one course online and over 70% of academic leaders saying that online learning is critical to the long term strategy of their institutions ( Allen & Seaman, 2015). With that, educators are starting to focus more on developing the skills needed for the 21st century economy, which has meant that knowledge management, or the ability to find, analyze, and apply information, and new information in particular, has become more important than all of the knowledge gained during one’s course of study (Bates, 2015).

Add to this pressure from administrators to embrace new classroom technologies, as well as an influx of tech savvy younger teachers entering the college system, and the stage is set not only for change but also for some huge opportunities for existing instructors to re-think how they teach their craft.


For teachers, this can be a scary thought. Most instructors I know, particularly at the post secondary level, were hired on the basis of expertise in their field. To now face a cohort of digital natives, who have access to the breadth of information accessible from smartphones anywhere there is wi-fi or a data plan, poses a whole new set of challenges, and can be downright scary. Much of the information students bring forward will be untested, unreliable, or even downright wrong. There will also be things you as an instructor haven’t seen and new insights that will add to your expertise.

This will undoubtedly create some discomfort, particularly for faculty who have been teaching the same subject matter for a long time. In my field of expertise (cooking), there have been huge changes in style and technique is the relatively short time since I left the industry, so without some way of being connected to those trends, there is no way that I would be able to even fathom some of the concepts that questions students may have questions about.


The question becomes, what to do as a teacher in this environment? Some will try and grasp furiously to tradition, and others will willingly embrace the technology that has effected the change. To be able to access something close to the sum of all human knowledge from the palm of your hand is overwhelming and presents a host of distractions, but also creates the opportunity to leverage that power for the collective benefit of the class. Technologies change rapidly, and as quickly as they emerge they change or are overtaken by a new trend. Without awareness and understanding of how students are changing their ways if accessing information, how are we supposed to help the students make sense of the informational overload and learn to select, analyze, and disseminate information? Perhaps we should be encouraging students to individually search for the same content and then work together to separate the wheat from the chaff. More than anything, we need to help students harness the technology and the world they live in and apply it to the context of learning.

By embracing the technology and speaking the same technological language as our students, we as teachers have the ability not only to be current, but also to be a leader and a catalyst for change within our organizations. For me, as an individual who entered the workforce just at the same time the personal computer did, I have seen the evolution and insight that using technologies as they emerge can bring. Having had to write assignments longhand or type them, without the benefit of spellcheck, fonts, or formatting, I jumped at the idea of a personal computer and every new technology since that has emerged with a new opportunity.


I’m actually quite excited about the opportunity that today’s connected society brings to the classroom. It’s now a given that students can go out and find as much information as they need on anything. I love the fact that I can watch something happening in the kitchen of one of the world’s top restaurants in real time on Periscope and interact from half a world away in real time. As I write this, the twitterverse was aghast at the rumours of moving from a linear to an algorithmic feed (Fingas, 2016), but it’s just another example of how rapid information moves in today’s world.

The role of the teacher is transitioning just like the world around us, and actually is allowing us to focus more on helping students understand the information they are given, than a focus on being the fountain of all knowledge. We need to be connected, to use the platforms they use and discover new tools for ourselves. We should be coming into the classroom knowing what was happening in the social feeds since we last saw our students, and we should be finding ways to use the tools of their generation to connect the knowledge of ours. To do anything less would be to turn our backs on why many of us wanted to teach in the first place – a commitment to the sharing of knowledge and life long learning.


Allen, I.E., Seaman, J. (2015) Grade Level: tracking online learning in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from http://info2.onlinelearningconsortium.org/rs/897-CSM-305/images/gradelevel.pdf

Bates, A.W. (2015). Teaching in a digital age [Bccampus open textbook version]. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/section-1-3-the-skills-needed-in-a-digital-age/

Couglan, S. (January 18, 2016). Penguin scraps degree requirement. BBC.com. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/education-35343680

Fingas, J. (2016, Feb 6). Twitter says your timeline isn’t changing (update: details). Engadget.com. Retrieved from http://www.engadget.com/2016/02/06/twitter-says-timeline-isnt-changing/

Journal Entry – PIDP 3100 Category 4

“The flipped classroom is…essentially reversing the traditional order…this approach fits adult education’s values of active learner engagement and self-direction.” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.207)


I first heard about the flipped classroom at an educator’s conference in 2013, and was immediately interested in learning more. When I saw this quote, particularly in context to the rest of the course and material I have been studying, it offered an opportunity for critical reflection, ironically enough. At first sight, the flipped classroom model, where the lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed (EDUCAUSE, 2012) offers an opportunity to maximize face to face time between instructors and students. The logic behind this is sound – why fill a student with a pile of new information and then send them home to figure it out by themselves, or with the help of their peers or parents who may know even less that they about the subject matter, when we can do the opposite.


As a concept it sounds simple enough – give the students the lecture to watch at home and work on their assignments with them in class, but in approaching the delivery sequence differently, we must also look at how we design and deliver each of the components in a different way as well. Rather than just delivering the content the same way, we will need to shift our role as educators and maximize the power of all of the technology available (Gillett, 2015). Simply flipping the classroom and sending students home with a lecture and doing the homework in class is what has critics of the approach talking about it as an ineffective method. (Atteberry, 2013)


As someone who has always enjoyed the solving of the problem more than taking in the theory need to do so, the flipped classroom offers a lot of appeal. An important insight is that the approach may not work for all subject matter or for all learners, so careful thought must be taken to ensure that what the learner is getting is best suited given the situation. Creating meaningful and engaging content that can be delivered remotely, and having giving students the tools to come to class prepared to act on their newfound knowledge are two things that are critical in the flipped classroom. One might even argue that flipped is the wrong word. For me, it’s more of a shift, as the new concept is still delivered before the activity, it’s just which portion of the learning the instructor spends the one on one time with the student that is reversed.


I see this as one of the most beneficial uses for educational technology, particularly in vocational training. Most vocational instructors enjoy most teaching the hands-on portion of their course. For a cook, standing in front of the class explaining how to use a knife is far less rewarding that showing someone directly how to adjust their grip and seeing the benefit that has on their productivity and control. To add to that, shop time is very valuable, and having students in in a classroom getting a theory lesson instead of spending as much time as possible on the tools kind of defeats the purpose. On that basis, bringing the flipped classroom to the trades is an excellent fit, the challenge for us as educators will be coming up with take home lessons that will precede the shop time in a new and inventive way, and not trying to just send them home with a recording of our face to face theory delivery.


EDUCAUSE (2012, February 7) 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. In Research and Publications. Retrieved from: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

Gillett, B. (2015, April 29) Education in the Digital Age. In Academica Top 10. Retrieved from: http://forum.academica.ca/articles/2015/4/29/written-by-bob-gillett

Merriam, S.B., Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Emily Atteberry (2013, December 5) ‘Flipped classrooms’ may not have any impact on learning. In USA Today Online. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/22/flipped-classrooms-effectiveness/3148447/


Constructivism: Building Meaning from Experience: Learning Theory Essay – PIDP 3100


Constructivism as a learning theory revolves around an assumption that learning happens when people “construct” meaning from their collection of experiences (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). This approach to learning and teaching is one I have always found most comfort with, and can be applied in many settings, both in the classroom and in the workplace. Constructivist instructors are more facilitators than traditional teachers, and learners need to be actively engaged and participate in their own learning. In this paper, I will illustrate three examples of constructivism in action, one from pop culture, one from the workplace, and finally one from the classroom.


Constructivism as a learning theory evolved from the works of Piaget, Dewey, and Vygotsky, and has laid the foundation for future approaches to education, particularly in personalized and experiential learning. Constructivists look to inquiry, reflection and experiential learning as critical parts of the learning process, and take an evolutionary approach. In other words, we build upon our previous experiences as we learn by taking in new experiences and then applying them to what we already know or creating new meaning from them, thus furthering our knowledge.

Piaget looked at how people gain knowledge and proposed that humans learn in progressively more complex ways, going through four different stages from infancy to adulthood, all of which draw on the principle that accommodation (adapting to create meaning from a new experience) and assimilation (adding new experiences to your existing frame of reference) are a part of the learning process, and build in layers as we continue our cognitive development.

Dewey added to this train of thought by introducing the concept of experiential learning. Experiential learning was part of Dewey’s progressive educational philosophy, and surmised that education and experience were related, but not necessarily directly. He posed that not all education comes about through experience nor or all experiences educational (Dewey, 1938), but that positive experiences encourage educational moments and experiences that are discouraging can have the opposite effect and lead to limiting future growth in that area. He further challenged educators to include both the teacher and the learner’s experiences into their teaching and stated “The teacher’s suggestion is not a mold for a cast-iron result but is a starting point to be developed into a plan through contributions from the experience of all engaged in the learning process.” (p.31)

Vygotsky introduced the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) which concludes that by targeting learning experiences to that which is just beyond the ability of the learner to do unassisted, we create the opportunity for the individual to grow and develop. (Vygotsky, 1978) By identifying what the learner can do on their own, what the learner can do with assistance (the ZPD), and what the learner cannot do, educators can create meaningful learning experiences.

This was expanded upon to the concept of scaffolding, or a series of supports that help perform an action. Scaffolding in the educational context refers to the support provided by someone able to provide assistance to the learner, allowing the learner to focus on those aspects of the task that are within his or her range of competence (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976, p.90) Together, the concept of applying meaning gained from past experiences to further one’s development with some guidance through instruction, mentoring, or other supports can be applied to many different learning experiences, both formal and informal.

Modern educators have further expanded on constructivist principles and many aspects of and approaches to modern education are based on the premise that education and experience are intrinsically linked.

Why Constructivism?

The constructivist approach resonates with me both as a learner and a teacher. I have always tried to relate any new experience to that which I already know, and in many years of mentoring apprentices in the workplace, always tried to encourage them to do the same. The process of accommodation and assimilation or taking meaning from every experience and applying it appropriately has always seemed to be the most natural way of learning, especially if you take the view that learning in its most holistic sense includes developing the capability to not only perform a task but to understand why and how it is done most effectively. This point of view encompasses learning in all three domains – cognitive, affective, and psychomotor, and is the basis for much competency based education and assessment.
Roles of the instructor and learner

The constructivist educator is a facilitator in a truer sense than a traditional “stand in the front of the classroom and share your expertise” teacher. Since the theory revolves heavily around the learner creating their own meaning through a combination of experiences and new ideas, the role of the instructor is to guide the learners and provide opportunities and activities that will allow that meaning to take place. This is not to say that the constructivist educator does not provide the learner with new information, concepts, or ideas, but rather that new information is presented in a way, and with a process, that allows the learner to absorb and adapt in his or her own way. The instructor also needs to be continually engaged in identifying how each individual is progressing, in order to keep challenging the learner to continue his or her developmental process, and is there to provide the support or “scaffold” as the learner heads into unfamiliar territory.

Since the constructivist approach assumes the learner will create meaning from experience and ideas, the classroom becomes a place of inquiry and exploration. Group discussion, peer to peer learning, collaboration, and latitude in terms of how new concepts are learned and evaluated are all part of the learning process. This requires the learner to be an active participant, and fosters independent thinking, creativity, and self-direction. While this may not work with all learners, particularly those who have limited experiences to draw from, such as younger students or novices in vocational programs, constructivism offers opportunities for individualized learning that other, more traditional educational approaches do not.


When reflecting on constructivist theory in action, a few thoughts come to mind that exemplify how leveraging and linking the learner’s prior experience to come to a new understanding can be an effective strategy. I always remember a moment from my youth that made me think about how we all have different ways of learning. In an episode of Happy Days, Potsie Weber decides to quit school after failing his anatomy final (1979).  Fonzie plays the role of the constructivist, and suggests that using music as a tool to remember the terminology and how the circulatory system operates might be an effective approach, which is proven when Potsie writes a song called “Pump your blood”, retakes the test (while humming the song to himself), and scores 100%. The teacher is so amazed by the result, that he accuses Potsie of cheating, as in his limited pedagogical view there is no possible way that Potsie could have learned and understood the material in such a short time.

The practical application of scientific concepts also works well with a constructivist approach. Theoretical concepts and explanations about what is happening at a molecular level are often hard for people to grasp in real terms, and being able to build understanding of the concept through a hands on activity can be helpful. When learning to cook, apprentices must be able to monitor changes that are happening as heat is applied to food and then translating that information into an understanding of the cooking process. Coagulation, such as when proteins cause custard to thicken as it heats, is a good example. Young cooks must learn to apply their understanding of how the heat affects the protein (in this case in the egg yolks) by look and feel in order to fully master the process, as the mixture needs continual stirring, making any formal method of checking for a target temperature nearly impossible. Similarly, mathematical concepts like fractions are sometimes better understood when portioning a whole item (such as a cake or pie) into equal size pieces.

In the classroom, creating opportunities for learners to develop their own knowledge not only engages the entire classroom, but allows for the collective experience of the group to be leveraged. Think of the classic exercise of having groups of students try to build the longest or strongest bridge they can using a fairly weak building material – spaghetti or straws. The students need to share their collective knowledge and experience, come up with some new ideas, and then through trial and error determine which type of design will yield the greatest success. I doubt that the average grade 7 student is well versed in the tensile strength of spaghetti or the principles of construction that make a strong bridge possible, but any group of students, given this task will come up with a wide range of possibilities, and with various degrees of success.


Although constructivism is more a collection of similar trains of thought around the role experience plays in learning than a single learning theory (Merriam & Bierema, 2014), it has greatly influenced the world of adult education. Constructivist approaches can be applied in a variety of settings, from informal learning and self study, to formal training and the workplace, and are the foundation of so many of the guiding principles that modern educators apply today. By creating environments where our students can turn new experiences into rich learning moments, each with their own context and frame of reference, we as educators can help them get from learning to understanding and from knowledge to capability.


Dewey, J. (1938) Experience and Education. New York: Kappa Delta Pi. Retrieved from: http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/ndemers/colloquium/experienceducationdewey.pdf

Merriam, S.B., Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Paris, J. (Director), Marshall, G. K. (Producer). (1979). Happy Days: Potsie Quits School (season 6, episode 27). Hollywood, CA: Paramount Television. Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/rh5chIzEk8g

Vygotsky, L.S., Cole, M (1978). Mind in society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

WNET Education (2015) Concept to Classroom: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html

Wood, D., Bruner, J., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. In Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (vol. 17), 89–100.

Journal Entry – PIDP 3100 Category 3

“learning from one’s experience involves not just reflection, but critical reflection.” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p.117)


Reflective practice as a part of the experiential learning cycle has been a key component in modern education since Kolb and Fry first developed their experiential learning model and learning style inventory in the mid 70’s. The Kolb model is used by educators and business leaders alike as a way to create meaningful learning and evolving trains of thought, and a road to continual improvement. But it is not only taking the time for reflection, but critical reflection that stands out in this reference. Brookfield proposed three stages of critical reflection – taking our assumptions, scrutinizing them, and then reconstituting them (as cited in Merriam & Bierema, 2014). By including critical reflection, we are creating a call to action that should result in meaningful change and growth. This thought process is evident in the development of transformative learning as a theory posed by Mezirow that identifies 10 stages of transformation, starting from a life crisis or major transition which triggers a disorienting dilemma, through to reintegration.


Critical reflection is a way for the learner and teacher each to challenge their own assumptions. As humans we are naturally inquisitive, as anyone who has lived through the “why” years of raising young children can attest. By including regular reflection and evaluation into our lives, we offer ourselves the opportunity to make changes and also to question why or why not we do things. We learn from our own reflections, but also by the critical reflection that comes when asked a question that seems relatively innocent. In my early years as a chef, I used to get really worked up for the busy weekend evenings. I would work faster, push my team to do the same, and thought nothing of it, until one day a 16-year-old dishwasher asked me a fairly simple question. He said, “Chef, why do you get yourself and everyone else so worked up on Fridays? We only do 10 more dinners than we do on Thursday.” From that moment on, I used that same rationale to calm down others I saw creating bigger challenges for themselves than they needed to in similar situations.


By looking at critical reflection as a natural part of the learning cycle, we place ourselves in an place that can have both high reward and risk for the teacher. Are we really able to have our students challenge our assumptions, or to ask difficult questions of us? I hope so. Offering students the opportunity to reflect critically on their own work is one thing, but a huge part of growth and learning to teach and to lead is to develop the ability to critique in a manner that is constructive, and to build trust by offering up opportunities for students to critique and challenge your assumptions as a teacher or leader. Without doing do, we run the risk of reflection being a cursory exercise, with out the meaningful insights that come from looking truly at opportunities for improvement. This quote challenges us to not fall into that trap, and that in order to really learn, we must be willing to reflect critically and make changes as a result.


One of the more difficult things about teaching adult learners, especially those who have developed the skills to think critically and to participate actively in the learning process, is letting go of any assumptions that you might have about being the “expert” in the room. Just as the skills managing people need to change and evolve depending on the individuals, their needs, so does the approach to teaching. We should always be looking for ways to be more effective, more engaging, and to create the most meaningful opportunities for our students. Critical reflection not only offers us the opportunity to make that happen, it is a necessity. As a friend of mine once said when addressing a group of young cooks, “Every day, I try and do what I have done before just a little bit better. Even if I’m just making mashed potatoes, I think about how I can make them better today”


Kolb. D. A. and Fry, R. (1975) Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. In Theories of Group Process. London: Wiley.

Merriam, S.B., Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Wikipedia. (2015) Transformative learning. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformative_learning

Journal Entry – PIDP 3100 Category 2

“adults are problem-centered, not subject-centered, and desire immediate, not postponed application of the knowledge learned.” (Merriam & Bierema, 2014, p 53)


This quote summarizes the fourth assumption of Knowles’ work on andragogy – immediacy. Knowles posed that people as they mature become more self-directed, build on a reservoir of experience, develop a need to learn instead of being told they need to learn, and seek immediate application of their knowledge (Knowles, 1980). This also reinforces the idea that with a problem at hand, we are more motivated to seek out an answer (Merriam & Bierema, 2014) What really caught my attention was how Knowles further linked rapid cultural change (both social and technological) to an observation that rings truer every day and foreshadowed the challenges we see in the 21st century, namely “knowledge gained at any point in time is largely obsolete within a matter of years, and skills that made people productive in their twenties become out-of-date in their thirties.” (p.41)


As a result, we have to look at teaching that which students can apply immediately, and giving them opportunities to do so. With this comes a responsibility to adapt and update our material and lesson planning on a much more frequent basis, and failure to do so will put us at risk of irrelevance. I think about what I learned when I went to cooking school, and although the fundamental concepts are the same, I see students, some even in high school, regularly demonstrating techniques I didn’t learn until much later into my career, and re-interpreting ideas that I still think of as being new. Our students have immediate access to information from around the globe and if we are not prepared to at least keep up with them, we can’t be successful at helping them learn.


Not only are we tending to seek immediate application of the knowledge we gain, we have moved to a just-in-time learning model. When I read the quote, I immediately thought that not only do we as adults want to apply new knowledge right away, we can seek out information immediately for a task at hand. With technology, we have moved into a space where we no longer even need necessarily to learn how to do something before we attempt it. In many cases we can learn it as we do it, which has a fundamentally huge implication in how we might approach teaching in the future. Not long ago, we decided to upgrade the stereo in my older car. In a previous era (perhaps only 5 years ago) I would never have just assumed that we could go out to the store and purchase the stereo, drive home, take out a smartphone, and watch a YouTube video on how to install a stereo on my exact model and year of car while we put it in. Less than an hour later, we had a new stereo installed and a fine sense of accomplishment. What does this mean for us as teachers? Are we at risk of becoming obsolete, or do we have to embrace the reality and come up with creative ways to include this change into our classrooms.


One tech school in France, Ecole 42, had 70,000 applications for just 900 spaces last year. They have no books, no teachers, no tuition, and offer no degrees, yet they propose to turn out highly qualified software engineers who will spend 2-3 years solving increasingly difficult problems with their classmates, and finding all of their own resources to do so (venturebeat.com, 2014).

I don’t think this means that we will see droves of teachers showing up with no lesson plans or learning resources, assuming that they and their students will be able to find whatever they need through their phones, but certainly there are aspects of this that can be applied in every classroom. Consider setting out a task and seeing who can find the best online resource in the moment, or offering more experiential activities integrated with a theory lesson to build on that need for immediacy. For me, embracing the change is an exciting challenge, that also offers opportunity to learn myself.


Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall/Cambridge.

Merriam, S.B., Bierema, L.L. (2014) Adult Learning: Linking Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Venturebeat.com. (2014) This French tech school has no teacher no books no tuition and it could change everything (June 13, 2014) Retrieved from: http://venturebeat.com/2014/06/13/this-french-tech-school-has-no-teachers-no-books-no-tuition-and-it-could-change-everything/