Discussions started by Gina Bennett


The Context

At some point in the (near?) future I'd like to offer a short online workshop called something like "Curriculum Planning for Extreme, Unexpected, and Downright Strange Situations." I'd like to base it on my experience delivering "intro to curriculum development" workshops in a variety of international settings. My proposed audience would be people who do (or hope to) participate as educators in international projects or other intercultural situations. 

Proposed first discussion post for participants (after the original 'welcome' sort of posts & assuming participants know how to use a discussion forum):

Here's the situation: 

You have been invited to join an international project team from your institution, going to Dodoma, Tanzania in 6 weeks' time. The overall project goal involves improving the quality of instruction at 2 small institutions: a mining technical institute and a teachers' college. Your role: to prepare, deliver, and evaluate a total of 10 hours of instruction related to "modern approaches to assessment of learning." 

Yep: seriously, that's all you've been told. 

The project leader and one project coordinator will be heading next week to Tanzania for project finalization meetings and they have let you know that they can promise probably no more than 15 minutes to gather information specific to what you may need. Your task: come up with 5 questions that you would really, REALLY like to have answered before you start your workshop planning in earnest. 

Post your 5 questions here; then feel free to respond to your colleagues' question choices. At the end of the week, we'll work together to come up with a group 5-question list.


I've been checking out some of the links in the Resources page (https://scope.bccampus.ca/mod/page/view.php?id=15567) and also the really excellent article that Beth mentioned about "wonder" (https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-and-learning/the-big-bang-of-motivation-questions-that-evoke-wonder-in-our-students/). I'm thinking I really must be intentional about how (and even if) I include a discussion forum. So as I'm preparing to draft something up, these kinds of questions run through my mind:

  • what am I trying to do with this forum? Get people introduced to each other? Demonstrate understanding or mastery of some aspect of the course content? Develop students' ability to participate in an academic discussion? Instill curiosity, develop that sense of wonder? I probably won't be able to do it all within the same discussion forum.
  • It's generally understood that increasing "interactivity" within a course will contribute positively to learning outcomes. What does a genuinely interactive discussion forum look like?
  • Whatever it is I'm trying to achieve with this activity/learning outcome ... is a discussion forum the best way to do it?
It occurs to me I've most enjoyed discussions that are a bit provocative & start off with a (perhaps deceptively) easy question. Such an approach encourages me to just "jump in" & join the frey. So if my goal as facilitator/educator will be to encourage learning through dialogue, I think provocation & (deceptive) ease, to start, might be the way to go... 


Like Hillarie, said... feels a bit scary to put this out there. I found this exercise hard to do -- although I'm starting with a TPS I completed only a year or 2 ago, I don't have a specific teaching job right now, nor am I applying for one so it feels kind of vague. I struggled especially with the last bit, trying to mention something about theories or themes that have informed my philosophy without going into too much detail. I'm keen for feedback!


Teaching is powerful. I haven't always been comfortable about that power; over the years, my role as a teacher has shortened in stature & blurred somewhat. I no longer seek to 'change people's lives,' but instead to help people change their own lives.

People pursue learning - consciously or subconsciously - because they want to become something more and I am drawn to teaching as a way to accompany the learner in the becoming process. My skill as a teacher lies in not just instruction (where needed), but also in listening, reflecting, supporting, and assisting the learner in clarification of goals. I enjoy doing this work and I do it compulsively with just about anybody I meet: students (of course), friends and family, the young woman bagging my purchases in the grocery store.

When working with students, I want to understand something about what they seek through learning. I want to develop our mutually trusting relationship to the point where they reveal some deep curiousity or articulate a need to act, serve, or to *be* differently in the world. Once we reach that point, my role morphs into something more like a waitress: 'How can I help you today?' 'What information sources can I steer you towards?' 'Do you want skills with that?'

Although I am a compulsive adult educator who will attempt to practise on just about anyone, I am especially drawn to those outside the traditional academy: those who never completed any formal program, learned to do math, or even to speak fluent English. Those who do not think of themselves as academic material, or perhaps long ago gave up any dreams requiring formal education. These are my People and I am drawn to them professionally like a moth to a lamp.

I believe education -- changing your life through learning -- is a fundamental human right. (Probably this is why I'm so drawn to the Open Education movement.) And I understand that learning changes not only individual lives, but societal directions as well. My perspective on teaching, learning, and society has been profoundly influenced by the concept of border pedagogy, as put forward by Henry Giroux, and developed more broadly by others (see e.g. this piece by Tom Heaney). In many ways, I see teaching as "border work" in which we help learners gain access to desired opportunities, goals, and communities of practice. 


I found it challenging to think (once again) about why I teach. I've written a number of teaching statements in the past, & like the Activity suggests, I've written each one somewhat differently to fit the situation. I wish I'd kept them all -- it would be interesting to see how my philosophy has changed over the years. I guess what makes it most challenging this time is because I'm semi-retired with no specific teaching assignment, yet I find myself drawn to teaching like some kind of addiction I can't shake. I do tutor several adult students who need help with ESL, which helps to keep the teaching pangs at bay :)

Why do I teach? Well, here's a start ...

People pursue learning - consciously or subconsciously - because they want to become something more and I am drawn to teaching as a way to accompany the learner in the becoming process. 


OK, here's a burning question for Sylvia Currie: I heard a rumour that today is your birthday. Can this be true???

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