Educational Philosophy Part 3b

On track to develop mastery of one self, what is your approach to education and learning?

Layer 8: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session

Continuing on from my previous blogs in this series: as I have indicated in my first blog, I have laid this section out in the following nine (9) parts.

Layer 8a: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 1

In preparing for an education & learning practice session, I develop a plan. In doing so, I commence five (5) tasks.
My first task in developing an education & learning practice session plan is to develop a succinct phrase of the title of the session:
  • The title of the session: What is the discipline topic of this education and learning practice session?
My second task in developing an education & learning practice session plan is to develop a succinct sentence stating the rationale of the session:
  • The rationale of the session:  What is the purpose of this education & learning practice session? What do I hope to achieve by the end of the education & learning session?
     TIP: Use future tense active words – such as will increase, will gain, will encounter – in developing the rationale of the session. These are to guide your development of practice during the preparation development stage of the session plan.
Examples of Rationale statements: 
1. This education & learning practice session will increase understanding  …..
2. Learners will gain a perspective on……….
3. Learners will encounter these concepts………..
          My third task in developing an education & learning practice session plan is to develop the aims of the session:
  • The aims of the session need to be holistic: What is the end goal of your education & learning practice session? What do you plan to do and achieve with the learners by the end of the education & learning practice session? It is very important when developing your aims to remain focussed on the primary aim of the education & learning practice session: to ensure the learners realise the agreed learning outcomes of this session. In order to assist in this process, it is suggested to use a goal-orientated guide such as SMART in developing your session plan: be specific; include measurable statements; ensure the final aim/goal is achievable; and relevant to the learner and the agreed session learning outcomes; and bound in time (Esposito 2015).
    TIP: Use active verbs words –such as practice, trial, discuss, search , research, gather, analyse, articulate, propose, develop, design, record, mix, produce or present – in developing your objectives to guide the learners during the education & learning practice session. The primary objective  of the education & learning practice session is to ensure the learners are engaged in learning as per the agreed learning outcomes of this session.
Examples of Aim statements: 
1. To offer experiential insights into ………
2. To expose the learners to the ……….
3. To have the learners engage in a………..
My fourth task in developing an education & learning practice session plan is to develop the objectives of the session:
  •  The objectives of the session need to be more specific than the aims, but still succinct sentences of intent: What are your smaller steps that will help you achieve the main aim of the session? These smaller steps should lead the learners to realise the agreed learning outcomes of this education & learning practice session. Each objective may have a number of learning outcomes. In order to assist in this process, it is suggested to use a goal-orientated guide such as SMART in developing your session plan (Esposito 2015).
TIP: Use active verbs words –such as practice, trial, discuss, search , research, gather, analyse, articulate, propose, develop, design, record, mix, produce or present – in developing your objectives to guide the learners during the education & learning practice session. The primary objective  of the education & learning practice session is to ensure the learners are engaged in learning as per the agreed learning outcomes of this session.
Examples of Objective statements: 
1. The learners identify ……….
2. The learners analyse  …………
3. The learners develop………..
4. The learners produce………..
5. The learners present ……..
My fifth task in developing an education & learning practice session plan is to develop the learning outcomes of the session:
  •  The learning outcomes of the session need to be more specific than the aims and objectives, but still succinct sentences of outcome: What are the learning outcomes for each specified objective of the session? These statements state the agreed learning outcomes of this education & learning practice session for both the learning facilitator and the learners. Each objective may have a number of learning outcomes. The learning outcomes must differentiate from each other in terms of an outcome, but may also overlap. In order to assist in this process, it is suggested to use a goal-orientated guide such as SMART in developing your session plan (Esposito 2015).
TIP: Use active verbs words – such as apply, identify, evaluate, formulate, implement, construct, critically analyse, articulate, communicate, develop, work with, create, maintain, plan, employ, demonstrate, develop, design, record, mix, research, propose and publish – in developing your learning outcomes to inform the learners’ from commencement of the education & learning practice session. The primary objective of the education & learning practice session is to ensure the learners are engaged in learning as per these agreed learning outcomes of this session.
Examples of Learning Outcome statements: 
1. The learners apply knowledge of ………
2. The learners evaluate the impact of ……..
3. The learners formulate and implement …….
4. The learners evaluate and maintain………
5. The learners plan…….
6. The learners employ (specific) concepts ……..
7. The learners demonstrate………..
8. The learners employ (specific) skills ………

Layer 8b: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 2

My primary goal for the learning practice session is to align the learning objectives, the learning activities, and the learning assessment tasks (Light et al 2009, 82). The goal in developing a learning practice plan is to focus, with the goal of optimising the effective student learning experience of the particular learners during a learning practice session. For me to develop learning practice plans for a specific environment and learning group, I must understand the parameters of both of these variables as a starting point.
  •         What will the learning environment be?
  •         And perhaps most importantly, who are my learners?
Learning Space
How I conduct myself in the learning environment will in many ways be dictated by the actual space. Questions regarding the learning space to be considered prior to developing a learning practice plan include:
  • Is the learning space part of an organisation with other inhabitants?
  • Is there natural light?
  • Is it ventilated suitably, or air-conditioned or heated in certain climates?
  • Is it free from disturbance from other activities in the shared building?
  • How large or small is the space?
  • Is it an open space?
  • Is it a space with other resources such as tables, chairs, computers within it?
  • Is there a degree of portability or movability with those resourses, or are they fixed?
  • Is the space naturally conducive to active learning, or passive lecturing?
  • Is there an appropriate space for the learning facilitator to manage the learning experience?
Knowing the space allows me to consider what learning activities may be appropriate. Or may prompt me to source alternative learning space options. For example, I may be able to use alternative space within the same building, outside, or even at the local studio or park. Once I have confirmed the learning space options available to me, I am then free to consider the learners.

Layer 8c: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 3

The Learners/Learner pre-assessment/pre-delivery session
The word assessment is an interesting term in education and learning. Mention of the word quite often leads people to recall past experiences of being formally assessed in schools, quite often tarred with negative memories or emotions. In extreme cases I have observed people experience a complete shut down of their senses due to the extremity of their previous formal assessment experiences.
The other use of the term in education and learning is that of informal assessment of a learner: an assessment of the learner from your professional practice perspective – a needs analysis as such of who the learner is. An informal assessment of what the learner needs to ensure they are developing their content, information knowledge base and skills level, in order to maximise their development, their personal empowerment, in order for them to ultimately realise their full life potential.
Step 1: In the development of initial drafts of a generic learning practice plan, I specify the learning aims and objectives. These aims and objectives need succinctly describe the education and learning practitioner’s educational approach, the outcomes of the session, and holistically establish the expected interaction between the learner and the practitioner, predict the likely learning activities, and infer the likely learning assessment tasks. The learning aims and objectives should be the mission statement for the particular learning practice session. It is essential therefore, that the aims and objectives remain the highest priority, as these become the ground that the learning practitioner can bring the learners back to during moments of uncertainty. With so many variables which can potentially change during a learning practice session, it is imperative that the learning practitioner does not waiver from, or neglect the aims and objectives of the learning session.
Step 2: Prior to the learning practice session I want to be in a position to pre-assess the learning group. The extent of the information I ideally need to know prior to developing my learning practice plans is about the background of each of the learners. Having taught across many nations and cultures, the following represents a typical list of information I would be seeking prior to a learning experience session:
  • Nationality – what is there nationality, and can any introductory stereo types be gleaned from this about this learner?
  • Culture – what is their culture, their values and beliefs? Are there any learners from a particular culture that may require consideration in the planning of this particular education & learning session?
  • Native Language – what is the 1st language of this nationality, and can any introductory assumptions be made about this learner?
  • Age – what is their approximate age, their life experience, and their generation?
  • Life experience – based on their age, can we make any assumptions about this learner?
  • Gender – what is their gender and can any national, cultural or age assumptions be made about this learner?
  • Education – where are they educated? and to what level of reading, writing and mathematics?
  • Work Experience – are they currently skilled in terms of an industry role/occupation, and if so, what type of skill is it (white collar, blue collar, other)?
  • Previous experiences in learning – what have their previous learning experiences been? And are these predominantly positive or negative experiences?
  • Learner personality. To what degree will the learners be able to engage in any and all types of planned learning tasks, without concern for their lack of engagement due to fears or discomfort with risk-taking, being shy, or introverted?
  • Learner aptitude – what are the learner’s aptitude to learning? To what degree have the learners previously demonstrated that they are able to learn in a learning session situation similar to what they are about to engage in?
  • Learner strategies – are the learner’s likely to have developed strategies to apply in this learning session situation to successfully realise the learning outcomes?
  • Learning styles – what range of learning styles are they likely to have; both in terms of VAKD modalities, and also according to Gardner’s multiple intelligences? How differentiated will the learners’ styles be within this group?
  • Learners motivation for engaging in this learning experience. What is their motivation for learning in this instance of learning?
  • Content experience – What experience do they have in the planned education and learning context? What do they already know of the planned content? What have they studied or learnt before? How will the planned content of this education and learning session potentially build upon their existing knowledge? To what degree can this learner already demonstrate understanding of content knowledge, or competency of the applied content?
  • Declared learning, medical, mental health, intellectual or physical impairment conditions. Do any of the learners have any declared learning, medical, mental health, intellectual or physical impairment that need to be planned for? Do any of learner’s suffer from hearing or sight issues? Anxiety issues that could be prevent them from undertaking a particular type of task? Are there likely to be environmental concerns such as access? How will you plan to support learners with declared learning, medical, mental health, intellectual or physical impairment conditions?
  • Undeclared or unaware disabilities that could affect the learners’ ability to successfully realise the planned sessions’ learning outcomes? How will you plan to support learners whose undeclared learning, medical, mental health, intellectual or physical impairment conditions may arise during your education & learning session?
Some important clarifying questions for this final point could be: Is there a required prerequisite to this learning session content?; and if so, what level has the learner likely to have achieved in that content – theoretically and practically? Has the learner also likely to have since that pre-requisite learning event, been able to gain experience applying it in a real world context? In terms of the cohort of learners for this learning experience: can it be assumed that all of the learners will be on the same level of this assumed pre-requisite content? If not, I would need to plan for a mixed-levels education and learning session, being prepared for disparate levels across the cohort, and have pre-thought of a range of multi-level tasks with varying degrees of expectations of activities and tasks, to accommodate the potential range of learner levels, depending on the learners actual level – theoretical or practical – at this time.

Layer 8d: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 4

 If the information highlighted in any of these points is not accessible prior to developing my learning practice plans, then I need to develop what I classify as a generic education & learning practice session plan – an education & learning practice plan which allows me to ascertain such information from within the classroom environment when I first meet with the learners, and then as I grow to know over the ensuing sessions that follow.
Step 3: In the development of initial drafts of a generic education & learning practice plan, I take into consideration the learning session aims and objectives, and plan for a number of education & learning experience scenarios. In order to address the likely event of having a greatly differentiated learner group – a learner group with a wide range of learner types with various thinking orientations or intelligence – I am likely to be in a position where I need to make assumptions, and plan for a range of different scenarios.
Stages of Practice
In every education & learning practice session, there are specific stages of practice. The stages of practice aid the flow of the practice session overall, by dividing the education & learning practice session into logical divisions of introduction, development, conclusion, and closure.
However, these stages of the practice session are dependent upon the approach – theory and method – of the education & learning practice. Therefore I need to answer the following question:
  • What is the approach that I will adopt for the education & learning practice that will inform my practice?
I consider a range of learning theories and methods that could be appropriate for this particular education & learning session. As an integral part of this process, I consider the basis of the learning outcomes. Are the required learning outcomes – in nature – technical? functional? interactive? or situational? I make a decision as to what approach I will adopt for this particular education & learning practice, and am now in the position to plan the stages of practice in greater detail. The four (4) stages are:
  • Stage 1: the introduction stage to the learners and the learning session  – sets out how I am planning to situate this particular  learning session for this particular group of learners?; how I am planning to illuminate to this particular group of learners, the planned learning outcomes of this session?
  • Stage 2: the central stage of the learning session (also referred to as the core stage of learning session) – describes how the purpose of the learning session – content and/or process – will be delivered across a series of tasks and activities. Describes how the learning session is going to be developed so that the desired content and/or process will align with the pre-agreed learning practice aims and objectives;
  • Stage 3: the evaluation stage – describes how I am planning to have the learning session evaluated in terms of the content and/or processes. How will I draw the education & learning practice session to a logical conclusion so that the learners can effectively and efficiently evaluate what they have learnt?  What evaluation tools will I use – informal and/or formal?
  • Stage 4: the closure stage – describes how the session will be closed.
Sub-stages of Practice
Stage 2 the main stage then needs to be further detailed into a number of discrete education & learning sub-stages. Depending upon the chosen theory or approach, the sub-stages of the Stage 2 learning practice can include:
    • Stage 2a: establishing the context for the learning content and/or process in a situational example;
    • Stage 2b; presentation/instruction stage, teaching of new content and/or process;
    • Stage 2c: a heavily guided scaffolded learning practice stage;
    • Stage 2d: a moderately guided scaffolded learning practice stage
    • Stage 2e: a lightly guided scaffolded learning practice stage, and ;
    • Stage 2f: a performance practice stage.
    • Stage 2g: a debriefing stage, reflecting on, and evaluating the experience of the practice stage
    For greater description of these sub-stages, I refer you to my blog.

Layer 8e: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 5

Step 4: The next step in developing the draft education & learning practice plan is to consider what learning activities and tasks I intend to draw upon to support the learning objectives.These education & learning activities and tasks need to be congruent with the learners background and their expectations, as discussed above. These activities can be intellectual, physical or multi-modal activities. Each of these stages of education & learning practice should allow the education & learning facilitator to facilitate activities and tasks that engage and mobilise the learners, providing effective and efficient opportunities for the learner.
All activities need to be carefully planned and described in detail, predicted times for each activity to be allocated, and clear instructions for those activities and tasks written. These activities and tasks may encompass one or more of the communication modalities: speaking and listening; writing and reading. For example, an education & learning activity and task could be:
  • a lecture,
  • a workshop  – the workshop is likely to include (in no particular order):
    • an individual work component;
    • a pairwork component;
    • a group work component – perhaps small group, or perhaps whole group.
  • or an external task-based project.
The learning session facilitator needs to consider the core learner modalities engaged in during a learning task. Is it predominantly verbal, visual (image, graphic or data-based such as text), or kinaesthetic? Will the planned task fully engage a differentiated learner group? If not, how can the task to be modified?
The learning session facilitator needs to consider the planned interaction that may occur during these activities and tasks, between the facilitator and learner. Facilitator talk is not problematic, providing the time spent is actually realising a very specific objective of the education and learning session.
I consider the likely flow of communication will be at each and every stage of the education & learning practice session. Ultimately: how much time will the facilitator be talking (Ft); and how much time will the learner be engaged in either speaking and listening, or writing and reading (Lt). On every education and learning plan, I provide a narrow column down the right-hand side, where I note the focus of the learning task – either Ft or Lt – and how much time it involves. I am then in a position to add these figures up, informing me of how much facilitator talk (Ft) time there is planned; and how much learner talk (Lt) time there is planned. This is a very quick way to ascertain the probable balance of the proposed education and learning session, with the opportunity for change prior to the session if a likely imbalance is predicted.
Lastly, I need to consider what activity is planned to occur during this time.
  •  What will learner be doing? 
I need to detail how the learners are expected to work during each specified task.
Similarly, I also need to detail what I as the facilitator will be doing
  • What will I do during this time?
    • classroom management?
    • managing education & learning practice session flow?
    • learning checks?
    • how will my voice likely be? animated? calm?
    • my positioning to the learners?
    • my engagement with the learners?
    • to what degree or distance will I be facilitating the process?
FINAL NOTE: Session activities and tasks need to be aligned with the chosen education and learning theory or approach, and ultimately the aims and the objectives of the particular practice session.

Layer 8f: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 6

Step 5: The next step in developing the draft learning practice plan is to consider what learning assessment tasks are going to be introduced throughout the learning practice, in order to evaluate the learners’ learning. These can be either:
  • Informal ‘on the fly’ formative assessment tasks by the learning practitioner;
  • More structured formative assessment tasks, or possibly even;
  • Formal summative assessment tasks as required for a formal accredited course.
The challenge of formatively assessing the learners can be outlined by the following questions:
  • How will I monitor learner progress and needs across the education and learning practice session?
  • How will I record the data or evidence of learner’s realised learning?
  • At any point in time, how will I best assess the learners are learning?
  • What prompting questions could I use to assist the formative assessment process?
  • What clarifying questions could I use to assist the formative assessment process?
  • What probing questions could I use to assist the formative assessment process?
  • What concept checking questions could I use to assist the formative assessment process?
  • Essentially, how will I identify if the learners have actually learnt the objective of the task?
 Irrespective of the type of learning session, it is usual for the first type of learning assessment to make up the majority of in-class assessment. It is not unusual for a proactive education and learning practitioner to be assessing the learners – individually, in small groups, in larger groups, or as a whole group – constantly throughout the learning session. Such attention to the learners at any point in time is I believe a significant aspect of the role of a contemporary education and learning practitioner. With large classes, such attention can become quite consuming; and therefore a more structured assessment task may be considered timely to relieve the education and learning practitioner for a period of time, effectively affording them a break from their practice oversight. Such a more structured assessment task can also afford the learner an alternative modality of engagement to the activities they have been engaged in. These learning assessments can be intellectual, physical or multi-modal activities. Irrespective, all learning assessment activities need to be carefully planned, times to be allocated carefully considered, and clear instructions planned. Lastly, it needs to be noted that these learning assessment activities need to be congruent with the proceeding activities, as well as the learners background and their expectations, as discussed above.

Layer 8g: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 7

Step 6: As indicated earlier, with my primary goal for the education & learning practice session to align the learning objectives, learning activities and tasks, and the learning assessment tasks, as I develop the draft learning practice plan, I take the predicted learner experience into consideration. I need to consider how the members of this particular learning experience are likely to approach the pending learning session. Entwistle and Ramsden outline a deep and a surface level of approach “used by students in a wide variety of tasks in different disciplines and departments” (1983, 136).
Deep levels of approach are listed as:
  • Personal experience – “integrating the task with one self”
  • Relationships – “integrating the parts into a whole”, and
  • Meaning – “integrating the whole with its purpose”.
Surface levels of approach are listed as:
  • Unrelatedness – “defining the task as separate or its parts as discrete
  • Memorisation – “defining the task as a memory task”, and
  • Unreflectiveness – “defining the task in an external way” (Entwistle and Ramsden 1983, 137)
Depending on the agreed outcome of this particular education & learning experience, the learners need to be prepared for the style of learning experience they are about to engage in. If the content is required for a competency assessment at a vocational level, one may find a surface level expectation is inherent within the learner. This may be appropriate to the way you as the learning facilitator may intend to engage in, and deliver the content. However, if a surface level expectation is inherent within the learner, and the agreed outcome of this particular learning experience is that of an undergraduate degree module, perhaps the expectation of the education & learning facilitator and the learner will be misaligned – at odds with each other. This misalignment of learning expectations could be problematic within the learning experience, causing a range of possible outcomes such as: learner resistance; learner unwillingness to be involved, engage, or share in the learning experience; further learner attitudinal issues such as becoming introverted, or in contrast, being disruptive or aggressive; or either learner of learner facilitator frustration. It is therefore necessary to ensure that the learner expectation and the learner facilitator expectations are aligned; and if not, addressed at the earliest opportunity.

Layer 8h: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 8

Step 7: The last step in developing the draft education & learning practice session plan is to consider what resources, tools and technology I may need to organise in order to support the specified learning objectives, learning activities & tasks, and the assessment tasks of that practice session.
Some focus questions could include:
  • What needs to be considered and completed before the education & learning practice session commences?
  • What materials and resources will I need to have prepared prior to class (human, physical, IT)?
  • What digital tools and/or resources will I want to use in this practice session?
  • Will I need any technical support? If so state what, where and when.
  • Do I need to contact IT support prior to my education & learning practice session?
  • Do I need to schedule time to load computer programs or learning technologies prior to class? 

Layer 8i: My approach in preparing for a learning practice session Pt 9

The final stage in this process – once the education & learning practice session plan has been developed – is to consider the various formats such a plan may be required in. These are:
  1. Synopsis Education & Learning Practice Session plan: this summary paragraph will be used by the marketing department to actually advertise the education & learning practice session – to attract learners of the potential fit of this program for their specific needs
  2. Summary Education & Learning Practice Session plan: this brief summary document may include only a section of either the aims, objectives or learning outcomes; and probably the task headings of what is to be on the agenda of the education & learning practice session. It could be used to present to the learners at the start of the session to outline the skeletal program of the education & learning session. Good practice would be also to use at the close of the session to recap what has been covered over the course of the learning session;
  3. The Interpretive Education & Learning Practice Session plan: this document would include the rationale, the aims, the objectives, and the learning outcomes, but may or may not include an education & learning approach to be taken. This level of documentation could be used by facilitators who are going to deliver the program that can be afforded some individual freedom of the approach and the tasks;
  4. Prescriptive Education & Learning Practice Session plan: this document would include the rationale, the aims, the objectives, the learning outcomes, and the intended education & learning approach indicating the pedagogy or andragogy. This document can be used for facilitators who are required to deliver a course in a specific way. A tertiary level course with multiple tutorial groups could require this level of documentation. In this scenario there are likely multiple instructors across multiple classes of learners who the administrators believe would benefit from sharing a similar experience;
  5. Prescriptive Plus Education & Learning Practice Session plan: similar to the above, this document would also include the rationale, the aims, the objectives, the learning outcomes, and the intended education & learning approach indicating the pedagogy or andragogy. Perhaps a formal industry accreditation course with ongoing multiple tutorial groups could require this level of documentation. The facilitators are delivering a course with important outcomes, demanding a duplicatable session so that irrespective of which session a learner attends, the learners will share a similar learning experience to that of another person in another session;
  6. Full/Detailed Education & Learning Session Plan. This is the master, fully-scoped document that I as the practice session developer developed as part of my preparatory practice, detailing every aspect of the education & learning practice session, including the learner group, and contingency strategies to address possible changes in circumstances during the actual practice sessions; or
  7. Instructional Education & Learning Session Plan. This is another version of the full/detailed Education & Learning Session Plan, that may include specific criteria terminology outside of what one may expect in a usual Education & Learning Session Plan. The Instructional Education & Learning Session Plan may be provided to a practitioner-in-training in an organisation which requires specifically worded criteria to be met in order for that practitioner-in-training to meet minimum performance standards. Whilst the criteria terminology may be different to usual education & learning practice session, it certainly should only differ to a usual Education & Learning Session Plan in the way the essential elements are divided or described. It should in short, contain all of the usual Education & Learning Session Plan elements.
            This blog series is planned to continue with Educational Philosophy Part 3c.
References
Entwistle, Noel and Paul Ramsden. 1983. Understanding Student Learning. New York: Routledge Revivals.
Esposito, Emily 2015 The Essential Guide to Writing S.M.A.R.T Goals  Accessed 20th November 2015
Light, Greg, Susanna Calkins and Roy Cox. 2009. Learning and teaching in higher education: the reflective professional. London: Sage.
Onion image courtesy of: Onion Layers Accessed 28th March 2015
Page, David L. 2015a. Educational Philosophy Part 2 Accessed 15th June 2015
Page, David L. 2015b. Educational Philosophy Part 3a Accessed 15th June 2015
Page, David L. 2015c. Educational Philosophy Part 3c Accessed 15th June 2015
Page, David L. 2004. Educational Philosophy Part 1 Accessed 15th June 2015
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– ©David L Page 17/06/2015
– updated ©David L Page 20/11/2015
Copyright: No aspect of the content of this blog or blog site is to be reprinted or used within any practice without strict permission directly from David L Page.
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