Preparing for Instruction 5 – Experiential Learning

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Because the topic of experiential learning is so vast, it is difficult to define.  Lewis and Williams (1994), in my mind, summed it up best:

“In its simplest form, experiential learning means learning from experience or learning by doing. Experiential education first immerses learners in an experience and then encourages reflection about the experience to develop new skills, new attitudes, or new ways of thinking.”

During my research for this post, I found a new instructor detailing their experience teaching for the first time, and how on reflection they applied experiential learning to illustrate how effective it can be:

This really spoke to me, as I am currently debating a career change from IT to teaching.  This article illustrated for me the benefits of experiential learning as well as the importance of  creating a sense of engagement in the classroom in order to engender success.  The description of the challenges I may face in the classroom as a rookie instructor was the icing on the cake!

One other example of experiential learning that I found effective was how student placements, or ‘work terms’ are utilized.  Having been through work term placements myself, I understood how they have been used to tie together a student’s training and to give them real-world experience in the work place.  What I have not realized until now, however, was how student placements are also used to encourage other skills such as critical thinking, verbal and written skills, and other soft skills that may be used on the job, but will be effective skills no matter what the career choice may be.

This semester placement program for Marine Science students at University of Texas illustrates how experiential learning can be utilized in order to better reinforce and extend the learning that occurs in the classroom:



Preparing for Instruction 4 – Cognitive Science for Learning

Multiple Intelligences (MI):  Application of MI in the Classroom


Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences evolved from his belief that an IQ test to measure intelligence did not adequately reflect the different types of intelligence that individuals were capable of.  Gardner has defined eight different forms of intelligence:

  • Musical intelligence (“music smart”)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence (“body smart”)
  • Interpersonal intelligence (“people smart”)
  • Verbal-Linguistic intelligence (“word smart”)
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
  • Naturalist intelligence (“nature smart”)
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (“self smart”)
  • Visual-Spatial intelligence (“picture smart”)

A brief overview of these different types of intelligence can be found here:


In terms of using MI in the classroom, it’s important to be mindful of the different ways that topics can be presented.  By creating learning activities that appeal to a variety of intelligences, instruction can be more effective as learners are able to understand content in a way that engages them and is meaningful to them.

As an adult learner, the use of MI in the classroom may allow the learner to realize the way they learn most effectively, and this can lead to a more productive and worthwhile learning environment for the learner.




Preparing for Instruction 3 -Motivation

From the readings I’ve completed to date, discussions I’ve had with peers, and from my own small amount of classroom experience, student motivation continually appears to be one of the biggest issues educators have to tackle.

There are two basic types of motivation:  Intrinsic, whereby internal factors are the basis for motivation, and extrinsic motivation, which is caused by external factors.  Some examples of both types of motivation are listed below:

The link below is to an article from a middle school instructor, and what made this stand out to me was not only examining the best practices to use in the classroom to engender motivation, but her honest reflection on her successes (and failures) in meeting those best practices.  I really think that this article will be something I use to try and be more mindful in the classroom and create an atmosphere where students can find a positive, motivating learning experience.


Preparing for Instruction 2 – Creating a Positive Learning Environment

Having read several articles and watching some videos on how to create a positive learning environment in the classroom, this article and YouTube video really captured what my expectation would be on how to go about achieving that.

What the article impressed on me is that in order to achieve a positive learning environment, the instructor must put effort into enabling the positive environment by way of understanding what works and does not work with adult learning.  Setting expectations, being respectful and recognizing that adults have existing skills and experience will go a long way to enabling a positive learning environment.


This video from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness discusses with educators what they have personally done to achieve a positive learning environment.  Some elements of this that I found informative included:

  • Showing enthusiasm in class
  • Encouraging and rewarding participation in class
  • Getting to know students and ensuring they are aware that they are valued
  • Making sure as an instructor you are available and accessible to students.

Armed with this information, I then decided to speak with some of my peers who work as instructors for any tips they would suggest to enabling a positive learning environment.  A lot of what they said was similar to what was detailed above, but some of the tips that they mentioned were as follows:

  • Use the first class session:  Use the first class session to ‘set the table’for the rest of the course.  Detail what the course will cover, including learning objectives, assignment deadlines, office hours, when and where to receive assistance outside of class hours, etc.
  • Bring some personality and humour to the classroom environment:  Adults are self-motivating, so while there is an understanding that the course information is important, the use of humour can certainly build relationships in the classroom setting, and allow for a positive learning environment.
  • Commitment:  As an instructor, if a commitment is made it should be followed through if at all possible.  Trust can be lost over unfulfilled commitments.  One instructor used their office hours as an example.  If a commitment is  made to be available during certain office hours, not being available at that time to assist students can be damaging to the positive environment and result in a loss of trust.

Overall, this weeks research had brought a lot of different tips and tricks that can result in a positive learning environment for both student and instructor.  Have you tried any of the above?  Did you try anything not listed here that worked for you?

Skype Call With My Learning Partner – Joe

Yesterday I was able to arrange a time to talk with Joe, my learning partner for this course.  Joe and I both work in the IT field, and are looking to add to our skill sets by completing the PIDP course.

With his background in IT, Joe feels that one of the big trends in our field is Cloud Computing. Being able to access applications and data anywhere has given individuals a newfound flexibility and ability to be more productive in both the work and home life.

Joe felt that Cloud computing has had a massive impact on educational process and practice.  For example, instead of purchasing a traditional textbook and studying at either school or home, students now have the freedom to purchase an eBook, and can have that with them 24/7 enabling the student to study on their terms, at whatever time works best for them.  Cloud computing has enabled a more open, less regimented educational process.

When we spoke about some of the trends in adult education, one of the things we spoke about most was the advent of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.  In our discussion, we spoke abut how MOOCs allow students to access educational courses who may not necessarily be able to otherwise, either due to geography, financial situation, or ability to dedicate time to educational pursuits.  MOOCs also cover a broad area of topics.  IT, Engineering, business, science, chances are there’s a MOOC for that!  During our conversation I also found out that most MOOCs are free, or almost free.  I thought that was wonderful.  It allows for self-directed students to sample topics to see if that topic holds particular meaning for them before dedicating themselves to pursuing that qualification.  I thought that a great opportunity!

I’m looking forward to speaking further with Joe in this course and working with him to make the most of this program.


Preparing for Instruction 1 – Characteristics of Adult Learners

Malcolm Knowles is credited with coining the term ‘andragogy’, which has become synonymous with the education of adults.  From 1980 – 1984 he proposed 6 assumptions regarding adult learning.  Using these assumptions, I thought about my recent (and not-so-recent) experiences in the classroom as a student, and reflected on what I valued as an adult learner.  Some of the things I felt most strongly about as an adult student included:

Self-concept:  As a person matures his/her self-concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being

While I certainly feel more independent and self-directed as an adult learner, I have found the approach of self-evaluation has been a big challenge for me, as I find sometimes find it easier to be critical rather than feeling like I’m ‘Tooting my own horn’. My goal for the evaluation component of this course is to try to come up with concrete examples of what I feel I’ve excelled at this course, as well as honest, accurate feedback as to what I feel I could do better.

Adult Learner Experience:  As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.

This was very apparent to me in my most recent training, an Instructor Skills Workshop.  As part of the workshop the class was required to teach three mini-lessons.  The class as a whole drew not only from their educational training, but also their life experience.  There were lessons that reflected some individuals chosen career path (IT Security, marketing, engineering), as well as hobbies or personal interests (Taekwondo, date growing, concussion prevention).  Through the duration of the workshop, it became quite apparent that people were able to both instruct (and learn) from their individual learning experiences.

Readiness to Learn:  As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.

In my experience as an adult learner, I relate strongly to this.  Over my working career I have been employed in many different fields, including business, social services, and most recently Information technology.  As my career in IT has changed from a support role to a supervisory role, my focus on learning has shifted from technical-based (network, server, security) to a more leadership and soft-skills based education (project management, leadership skills, service management and delivery).

Orientation to Learning:  As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application, and accordingly his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem centeredness.

As an adult learner, I find that my desire to learn is primarily based on how applicable the topic is to my day-to-day work or home life.  Will this subject matter enhance my existing skill sets in some way, or teach me something new that I have an existing or new requirement to know?  I recently was required to have a surgical procedure and in the weeks leading up to the procedure I spent a considerable amount of time learning about the surgery, the latest scientific developments in the surgery, as well as potential complications.  My knowledge in the specific area quickly became vast enough that when questioning the surgeon I brought up new advancements that the hospital staff had not yet been trained in or availed of.

Motivation to learn: As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal, rather than external.

This assumptions is pretty well illustrated by some of the above reflections. Why do you want to learn?  Personal growth?  To better your career or possibly create new job opportunities?  Due to a new need or requirement in your life?  While not all learning as an adult is driven by internal motivation, being able to recognize the value of the learning can make the learning opportunity more rewarding and effective.

Rationale for learning: Adults need to understand the reason for leaning a topic.

Associated with the motivation for learning is the rationale for why we learn. Adult learners desire to know why the learning is required, as well as how the learning will be applied.  I find this resonates very strongly in how I approach learning as an adult.  If I can see a value in the need to learn something I am MUCH more likely to show interest, work hard, feel engaged, and show that interest by asking questions.  Conversely, if I see no value in the learning opportunity or feel a lack of engagement, I find myself distracted, not interested and generally feel the opportunity is a waste of my time.

Looking at the above, it’s easy to see how important it is for the instructor to recognize the characteristics of the adult learner in order to be able to tailor coursework that will give value to, as well as engage the adult learner.

Trends in Adult Education – Gamification

One educational trend that I have seen used successfully in the classroom is the gamification of educational materials.  Simply put, gamification is the use of gaming design principles within a non-gaming context.  While there are many tools and strategies for gamification of the classroom currently in place, this could become a more popular strategy as tools and educator skill sets become more attuned to the possibilities of gamification and the advantages it can bring, such as:

-Creating a more engaging learning environment

-Enhancing the competitive nature of students

-Providing frequent, small rewards or positive feedback to the student

-Giving a boost to critical thinking skills

One gamification tool I have seen used in the classroom recently is the Kahoot Response System (  Kahoot allows the instructor to utilize multiple choice questions as a quiz, discussion or survey that are displayed to the class and answered in real-time online on any device the user wishes, so long as it is connected to the Internet.  It’s been utilized in several different ways by educators, and their website is filled with tutorials and examples (and rubrics) of how Kahoot has enhanced learning in the classroom.

Has anyone tried using gamification in their lessons?  Did you find it successful, or do you have any tips that others may find beneficial?