Posts made 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 ( and also the really excellent article that Beth mentioned about "wonder" ( 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... 


Emma, *loved* your use of voki! And yes -- it does indeed sound "creepy & mechanical." 

I'm thinking about Beth's question ... thinking that if you want to guarantee a lackluster response, the trick is NOT to be either creative or kooky. The trick is to be boring & predictable (which kind of translates as "mechanical", as you  mentioned). A discussion post opener that starts me yawning even to think about it is "In a few sentences, tell us why you are taking this course." Another sort of discussion post question I find particularly annoying is the question to which the instructor (or poster of the question) obviously already knows the answer. Such a question is obviously not trying to promote true discussion at all & it guarantees a lackluster response from me (unless it's for serious marks in which case I will grudgingly post a minimal reply.)


Thanks so much for your detailed & helpful feedback, Sue! I realized from the start that this draft was too general & vague -- your observations would certainly help me to tighten it up, drop some parts & flesh out others. Organizing my thoughts into sections with clear themes & sub-themes would definitely improve it, wouldn't it?? Good observation!  

The more I think about this process, however, the more I think audience is critical. I'd need to know who I was writing for in order to revise it properly. If I were applying for a job back in the ABE math classroom, I would include examples, assessments, & key events to illustrate how I work in that environment. But if I were applying for a curriculum development opportunity, perhaps helping a group of faculty to incorporate more varied online practices, I would certainly choose different examples & events to communicate my philosophy. And I'd choose different ones again if that same curriculum gig were to be delivered to a group of community developers in Kenya. 

I'm reminded of a workbook or guide I read some time ago (no idea of the reference at this late date), about how to develop an academic portfolio. The guide recommended first putting together a "portmanteau" portfolio: a collection of certificates, letters of recommendation, assessments you'd created, results of your teaching evaluations, notes from students, you name it. Then, when you are required to apply for a job or otherwise describe your teaching skill, you pick & choose items from your portmanteau to fit the bill. I wonder, for those of us with a hodge-podge of education-related experience, if such an approach might help when putting together a TPS... separate sections to fit different educational work & roles, from which you can pick & choose when you have a specific teaching job or audience in mind. What do you think? 

Regardless of audience, you've given me an excellent overview of the level of detail, organization, and style that might be expected in a formal TPS. Thanks again for all the work you put into this (for all of us!)


hi Leonne,

Like Sylvia, I was nodding the whole time I read your TPS draft. I couldn't agree more with your recommendations for how to work with ABE learners.  I think this draft could be worked into an 'orientation to teaching ABE level Math' & could be offered to anybody who's been hired for this kind of work. Heck, I think it should be mandatory for anybody who has never taught ABE math before!

I don't think it quite captures your philosophy though. I'm thinking about when I was hired last year to teach a section of ABE Math for UFV. Working off by myself in Hope, I wasn't sure about the UFV culture or the way ABE math had been taught there in the past. I was starting out with the directions I could find in the various assessment materials (marking guides, Chapter tests etc.) which seemed (to me) to be a bit strict for ABE students.

You were an immeasurable help to me! You explained (patiently & sometimes more than once) how YOU interpreted the assessment directions, "bent the rules" or even ignored them when the situation required it. Based on my interactions with you, I'd say a big part of your underlying philosophy was COMPASSION for the students & their struggles. You obviously liked the math & understood its importance & its potential for your students but it was clear to me that compassion for your students underlined everything you did. 

You were very compassionate to me, too, as a newbie in the UFV system! :)

Anyway... I hope that's not too personal ... I'm glad for an opportunity to thank you once again for your past help.