Group Work

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Group work as an instructional strategy does not create a positive classroom. It is difficult to get a group to work together and to complete the assignment. Then it is difficult as an instructor to mark the end product. Do you give a good grade to the person who did very little because the project was excellent? What about the honors student who did most of the work? Finally, this is not a realistic activity that can translate to the world of real-life work. A student can skim through with a “D” for the group activity, but that same person would most likely get fired for the same level of work in a workplace team.

I sometimes create teamwork on an informal basis, such as creating groups to have mini-discussion or to do an unmarked mini-activity. Another activity is a role-play that is based on real-life. This involves working as a team, on the job, to solve a problem or meet a goal.


Creating Positive Learning for All Students

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The teachings of the Four Directions of the Sacred Medicine Wheel will support learning for all students regardless of individual learning styles. The Four Directions in a learning situation are Spiritual, Emotional, Physical, and Mental. Chris, my on-line classmate who facilitated the discussion forum for the topic “Introverts in the Classroom” shared an inspired strategy that fits into the Four Directions of learning.

During the discussion, Chris shared an introduction strategy that he had just tried after studying the needs of the introvert in learning. Chris first warned all of his new students that he would be doing introductions halfway through class and gave them personal information they would need to answer (mental). He then paired students up and had them interview each other with the questions (physical). Then each pair came up to the front and introduced their paired classmate based upon the interview (mental, emotional). I am sure this exercise helped the students create a positive feeling of community (spiritual). Of greatest importance, Chris’s creative adaptation of a learning strategy allowed students, all with different learning styles and needs, to feel supported and honoured.

When speaking about my students I dislike putting any type of label on that person. I was labelled “shy” as a student and I was treated as intellectually less than the outgoing and chatty students. Teaching from the Four Directions will help any teacher support the different styles of learning individual students bring to a classroom or learning environment. When I use the Four Directions, I find my students responding more positively and create much better writing and assignment work.

Practical Andragogy with the Four Directions

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The instructor of adult students can have good success when teaching with the Four Directions of the Sacred Medicine Wheel. Many of the already developed instructional strategies will address the student’s needs in a particular direction. The key to using this method is first a deep understanding of the process by the instructor, and then careful selection of instructional strategies to support each direction in sequence. Elizabeth Barkley in her book, Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty (2010) outlines numerous steps to nurture the Emotional, Physical, and Mental domains in a holistic manner. See Chapter 11, pages 135-148

The East: Nurturing the Spirit of the Learner

Teaching in the Spiritual domain can be easily misunderstood. When we speak of the spiritual, we most often think of faith, prayer, and worship in a church, synagogue or mosque, and those are very spiritual practices. Yet, there are many other important and non-religious ways to use this domain in your teaching. The spiritual domain is when the student takes time to vision, or “see”, the importance of learning the material presented. Bell (2016) recommends routine, even daily, talking circles. This process gives the student a ‘voice’, and allows each to reflect on past learning. With good facilitation by the instructor, the student can also then re-start the daily learning process by visioning what they hope to learn this day. You can learn more about this at First Nations Pedagogy Online (see resource tab). Another way to support the spiritual domain is to collective nurture each student’s spirit as well as the class spirit by thoughtful team building and community development. Some of my favorites are “Who Am I?” exercises, and challenging (not childish) games in the first few days of class.

The South: Nurturing the Emotions of the Learner

Barkley (2010) explains Krathwohl’s taxonomy that identifies the needs of the student in the affective (emotional) domain. “This taxonomy addresses the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivation, and attitude.” (Barkley, 2010) Bell describes this as “relating” to the lesson. (2016) The student will not succeed if they are just willing to learn, they must also want to learn, and this is the intrinsic student motivation that each instructor hopes for. Talking circles work well for this domain as does reflective journal writing. Peer review is an excellent affective exercise. Most students (even adults) are their own worst critic.

The West: Nurturing the Physical Skills of the Learner

The psychomotor domain or the physical aspect of learning is the stage of “figuring it out”. According to R. H. Dave, in this stage, the student is practicing, demonstrating, replicating, or inventing from the lessons given by the instructor. (Barkley, 2010)  This can be a time of great frustration as some students take longer than others to figure out how to become proficient at the given task. It can be difficult to implement the psychomotor domain in arts courses such as history or English, but with careful planning, the instructor can introduce movement techniques. One example could be the Cocktail Party discussion where students mingle with their peers as they participate in the required discussion. (Barkley, 2010)

The North: Nurturing the Mental Skills of the Learner

The cognitive or mental domain is the stage when the learner knows how to “do it” and is ready to implement the task or idea. Anderson and Krathwohl revised the original Bloom’s taxonomy by replacing the terms “knowledge and synthesis” with “remember and create”. This domain is where the learner has confidence to successful complete the task alone, or the confidence to apply the knowledge in higher order thinking situations.

Teaching With the Four Directions

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The teaching of the Sacred Medicine Wheel is a belief system of many of the Indigenous groups of North America. It supports the belief that every action a person makes should be one that creates balance in the emotions, mind, physical body and the spiritual soul of the person. These concepts can be effectively used as an instructional strategy to create situations whereby students can learn holistically. (Barkley, 2010) John Ratey (2002) indicated that the current understanding is that the brain and body systems are intertwined throughout the entire “self” of the person. The instructor must be aware that the learner cannot separate emotion, cognition, and the physical body. (from Barkley, 2010). The Sacred Medicine Wheel teachings add the fourth element of the spiritual to this concept. Every person, child, adolescent, adult, or elder learns best when these aspects are considered by the instructor or learning facilitator.

Nicole Bell, an Anishinabe Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Professional Learning at Trent University explains the pedagogical value of the Medicine Wheel. With some adjustments these concepts are successful in andragogy. Bell explains, “In the east the gift of vision is found, where one is able to “see”. In the south one spends time in which to “relate to” the vision. In the west, one uses the gift of reason to “figure it out”. Finally, in the north the learner uses the gift of movement to “do” or actualize the vision. Bell argues that the learner cannot “do” or actualize the learning until the learner understands who they are and the learning material from the other three elements.

Barkley (2010) explains that the instructor of adults must consider how the student “feels” about themselves and the content the instructor wishes to impart. Barkley goes on to indicate that the psychomotor domain is required to plan, calculate and form the intent to learn the content. The cognitive or mental domain is vital for making the decision to “do” or actualize the learning. Bell argues that first the learner must spiritually “see” how this new content has meaning and importance. How all of this can be achieved in the classroom is explained in the next post.




Trends and Roles

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The Trends and Roles assignment was a valuable learning experience. I teach in a formal learning situation while Peter, my learning partner, teaches in the workplace. This different perspective of the two subjects was very instructive.

New Insights: Role of the Teacher

At our initial meeting, Peter and I chose to investigate facilitation as a role of the teacher. My research helped me to see the importance of incorporating this role in my own teaching. I am intrigued with the idea of stepping away from the director position and facilitating a class environment of trust and openness where everyone is the learner. In our web-conference, I gave an example of directing discussion with my Gitxsan students about the pros and cons of their Nation negotiating a land-treaty. As a non-Native, I am not the expert, but I can guide my students to explore the topic so they are able to take a personal position on this issue. Peter wisely commented that while facilitators do not take the position of expert, they nonetheless must be knowledgeable. He had just come back from a job-site course at the Spokane Fire Department, and they had developed the courses out of necessity for no one was teaching the required information. While reflecting about the experience, Peter indicated that he realized that those instructors were professional facilitators. Peter also indicated that he had realized that he teaches primarily through facilitation. I personally wonder if facilitation works all the time in a formal classroom like mine, but I certainly plan on beginning to incorporate this concept on a more regular basis.

Trends in Education

The need for more skilled workers was a trend that appealed to both of us. I picked a report from the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development (OCED). The authors of this report accessed numerous studies about adult employment, and they concluded that employment rates and income of the low-educated are much lower than those of the higher-educated. A different perspective was again found in the discussion between myself and my learning partner. Peter is involved in on-the-job training, while I work in a facility that provides formal education (academic courses) and informal (first aid, Food Safe, etc.) training. We agreed that this issue is an important trend that educators, employers, and employees alike must be concerned about. Related to this, we also discussed the issues of low-literacy and numeracy rates and how this affects an adult’s ability to take further training and write exams. We agreed that this is an important issue. Formal institutions must strive to improve literacy and numeracy levels as they partner with industry and governments to develop on-going education and training for adult workers.

Web-Conference Reflection

The initial web-conference with my learning partner was stilted and difficult, for neither of us was fully comfortable with the medium. However, our longer meeting was valuable and more relaxed. We reflected that each of us was uncomfortable with the blogging component of this assignment, but we also agreed that we were determined to prevail at all cost. The research that I conducted for this component was instructive and thought-provoking. I know that my learning partner positively challenged me to think outside of the “formal-learning” box. His experiences and challenges helped me to understand that there are many ways of teaching/learning, and Peter helped me see the needs of industry and government work-sites. Life-long learning was a recurring theme in our web-conference, and we each agreed that it will be an important component for the years to come.

Components of Learning

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Characteristics of Adult Learners: Experiential Learning Albert_Einsteinwquote
Experiential learning is an important component, for it closely resembles the ancient Indigenous methods of learning, and I want to find strategies to more deeply engage my First Nations students. Experiential learning cna create a more meaningful learning experience for the student, and this is often lacking for the Native student. I plan to implement this as a lesson plan component in a combination of projects and classroom activities that are a part of cultural learning. This will replace the overuse of worksheets and rote writing.

Learn more about this at

Creating a Positive Learning Environment: Humour keeper n me
This component has great value, for it is often difficult for a non-Native instructor to connect with Native students. Humour (especially Native) is one of the best ways to interact with Native students. The author of the linked article indicates that humour can be helpful, but it must be kept appropriate, and humour is most appropriate when it is related tot he current lesson. This can be achieved by including the humourous expressions of First Nations authors. I will help my students become comfortable in their new class, while introducing them to some of the best literature in North America.

Motivational Techniques: Goal Setting SMART-Goal-Setting-Chart
Maintaining motivation is often very difficult for an adult student, and retention is one of my major concerns. S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based) goals have been proven to be very effective, and I already use this component for my Career and Education planning unit. I now see that this component has many more applications. I will be using these concepts throughout the year to guide students toward intrinsic rewards. S.M.A.R.T goals will become a weekly part of most lessons, as students will be encouraged to use goals to organize their tasks, direct their own behavior, and celebrate success. I also want to implement class goals that are generated by teacher and students.

Instructional Process/Strategies: Active LearningActive learning
Class lectures can be important, but I chose to explore active learning to find strategies to break away from the lecture format. With these methods, I will more deeply engage students and involve the entire class in positive learning experiences. I am most interested in including better discussion techniques, role playing, role reversal, and jigsaw team work.A short lecture followed by an activity that gets students out of their seats and working on an exercise will break through shyness, create fun learning opportunities, and alleviate boredom.

Structured Lesson Planning keep-calm-and-pretend-this-is-on-the-lesson-plan
Lesson plans are important, yet I often feel as if I am just “flying by the seat of my pants”. This component challenged me to look at structured ways of planning. I am excited about having a structured guide for creating effective lesson plans. The templates that I found on the Alberta Ministry of Education site also provide templates for multiple intelligences and tools for assessing the outcome of the lesson. I will use these lesson plan templates to assist me in creating strong, exciting, and inclusive lessons in the future.

Hello world!

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Well,this is my very first blog, and I have found the experience to be quite, quite stressful. I am taking my first course in the Provincial Instructors Diploma Program, and a blog spot is required for the course. Here’s hoping I can create an interesting and readable blog.