Responses to iFacilitate Week 2 Discussion Questions

Describe your best teacher and your worst teacher ever.

For me, the “best” teachers are living examples of what they preach. They model the behaviors that they want students to follow. They share with students the ideas that excite and interest them and, in this way, invite students along on their learning journeys. Forrest Gump, in his runs across the country, and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi are examples. From this perspective, “best teacher” is in the eye of the beholder, making learning a student-centered activity.

What types of behavior and interaction with students teachers are most memorable?

The ones that I find myself emulating. Often I’m not aware I’m emulating certain people until many years later. The realization is often startling. I’ve learned from “school” teachers, but I’ve also learned from peers, friends, family, students, strangers, animals, plants, and I’m sure many others that I can’t recall at the moment. I guess one  way to answer this question is to say that I am the sum of all who have influenced me.

Based upon your observations of their behavior and interaction with students, make a list of four DOs and four DON’Ts

DOs:
1. Have faith in students’ ability to learn.
2. Respect them as fellow learners rather than “students.”
3. Give them the opportunity to value learning as a lifelong DIY project.
4. Share with them the understanding that failure is an inevitable and invaluable step toward learning that really matters — and that “learning that really matters” is never easy and often becomes more elusive the more you learn.

How can you apply your list to help you facilitate online learning?

To design my courses (content and activities) and guide my interactions to reflect these ideas.

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2 Responses to Responses to iFacilitate Week 2 Discussion Questions

  1. Greg Walker says:

    Aloha Jim,

    You bring up an important point that failure is an inevitable and invaluable step toward learning. The most important lessons in life for me always came from failure. Failure for me is a huge STOP sign that tells me to stop and reflect. Failure promotes humility and helps me to be aware of repeating mistakes. It’s ok to to make mistakes. I learn not repeat them.

    However, the way our school system is structured, through constant judging, labeling and grading, students learn that is NOT OK to make mistakes. Fear sets in and students become afraid to talk and participate since they are constantly being judged and graded by what they perceive as “authoritative ruler” of the class.
    In an environment like this how can you SHOW your students that it is OK to make mistakes and failure can be a very successful way to learn? How can we have students experience failure as an opportunity and not just a threat?
    Thanks,
    Greg

    • JimS says:

      Greg: In an environment like this how can you SHOW your students that it is OK to make mistakes and failure can be a very successful way to learn? How can we have students experience failure as an opportunity and not just a threat?

      Good questions, Greg. One way is to emphasize the learning process rather than outcomes and to view the process as cyclical and recursive rather than linear. In other words, we treat students as the Knicks’ coach D’Antoni treats Jeremy Lin. He’s a work in progress, with a lot of potential but also a lot of weaknesses. In practices and games, we work on developing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. We don’t bench him immediately after a mistake or even a poor game. We point out the problems but keep him on the court and in the starting lineup.

      As teachers we have to learn how to shape behavior in a process that treats mistakes as a natural part of learning. I’m a writing teacher, and the one advice I find myself using often is to tell students to continue experimenting with complex and creative sentence structures even though they’re screwing them up sometimes. To reinforce my advice, I flag but don’t penalize them for errors caused by risk taking. In fact, I reward them for having the courage and imagination to reach beyond their present level. However, this advice is for students who are fairly competent with basic sentence patterns and mechanics. For those still struggling with basics, my focus is on gradually eliminating problems, beginning with the most critical. Again, I don’t penalize them for mistakes as long as they’re making progress
      .
      Shaping requires an evaluative system that rewards approximate performance in the beginning and gradually raises the standards to achieve the desired performance. If we penalize students in the early phases, we create fear and discourage learning.

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