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Archive for September, 2011


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Oh if only I’d saved ’em!

I’ve done the TPI before. The first was in Dan Pratt’s learning theory seminar during my MA. It was one of the last courses I completed and always look back at that time with a cringe: I was your archetypal “critical” (snarky, in other words) new post-graduate student. Dan, thankfully, seems to have forgiven me. I recall that the domain I expected to score highest in–social reform–was lower than a couple of others.

Fast forward almost ten years and I completed the TPI again. This time I was a post-doc supporting Gary Poole in managing the educational program of a CIHR Strategic Training Program on collaborative health research. Nothing stands out in my mind from that go at the TPI.

Last week’s score fairly floored me–though as I went through the questions I expected that I wouldn’t have many dominant or recessive perspectives. But no dominant and only one recessive perspective Had you given me the five perspectives I would have ranked mine (with the most important at the top) rather differently than the TPI says. here’s a wee table to contrast my results with my own assumptions:

Self-predicted Actual Score
Nurturing Nurturing


Social Reform Developmental


Apprenticeship Transmission


Developmental Social Reform


Transmission Apprenticeship


*Recessive perspective

I suppose getting Nurturing right is a good thing. What’s particularly striking to me is that Nurturing, Developmental and Transmission are so closely clustered together. Having ruminated on this for a few days I think I can (somewhat) articulate why my score are so…middling.

Purpose of education: I’ve taught in private post-secondary, non-profilt and community organizations. Since 1998 I’ve taught almost exclusively at universities, save a brief stint in workplace learning at the 2010 Olympics here in Vancouver (for which I developed the customer service training. Which is pretty cool thing to be able to say). When I started in community education I was solidly in the “learner driven” camp: adults should determine what they learn and when; my role was to support and facilitate this. Nurturing, in other words.

But I found that sometimes learners were sometimes inclined to sell themselves short. Their expectations of themselves were meagre; often their materials circumstances were too. So I rather quickly felt that part of my job was to nudge–sometimes push–people to work past their self-imposed limitations. In particular, working with persons with persistent mental illness or addiction and those who experience racism on a daily basis inspired the Social Reformer in me. Inspiration is needed to remake society; sometimes it comes extrinsically. I tried to–try to–be that inspiration at times.

I also encountered a fair number of learners at the private college (a vocational program for travel and tourism) were there based on HRDC funding: long-term unemployed or new Canadians. Some had language skills that were barriers: others living with PTSD. Paradoxically it was the folks facing the greatest challenges who more often wanted to work the hardest. Inspiring! But I left with a sense that imposing education on some people is a waste of everyone’s time and money. A minority of people though–1 or 2 per course, or about 10 a year, out of 200+ learners.

At the college and the Olympics I encountered a transfer of learning (Caffarella, 2004) gap between classroom sessions and real-world practice. Folks would leave a session smiling and confident that they “got it”, but the emails and phone calls would start coming in a few days: “Can you come by and show me this again? I thought I understood it but…” For the Olympics this was not great news: there’s no way a training team of 15 could provide that level of service to a workforce of 25,000+ people at Games time.

So I integrated an Apprenticeship model within a hierarchical structure. We spent a lot of time working with team leads in their workspaces. First we got them skilled up to the level needed to do the jobs of their team; next we skilled them to deliver the training–and follow-up–within their own teams. The structures for all of these sessions were:

Description to Demonstration to Role play to Simulation to Dry run to Go live
Some divisions compressed this a bit, depending on the skill and workforce. But it’s very much dependent on Apprenticeship to work.

Transmission? Well I would almost rate it a zero, but for two facts. First, we live in a world of things created in learning cultures dominated by transmission : lecture and test, or what Freire (1971) calls the “banking method” of education. And there are any number of professional bodies that need to manage licensure and continuing education enterprises, for which things like multiple choice testing is a huge labour and time saver.  But in my educational world, such approaches would be used for establishing a foundation knowledge, and for providing formative feedback to learners. I only use integrative assignments in my teaching.


Written by John P Egan

September 23rd, 2011 at 10:41 am

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September: sliding towards the mushy middle

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I’m excited the FCP has at last begun. I’ve had a number of scholarship ideas bouncing around in my head over the last couple of years and will be seizing the opportunity this program presents. More about that shortly.

I was impressed with many of my colleagues during session one. Lots of sharp, eloquent, passionate people. Early career folks; others looking to leave something of a legacy as they move towards the end of their careet at UBC. There were a lot of folks I wanted to chat with more individually.  Plenty of time for that I hope; ’tis early days.

In terms of my SoTL project, I’ve let go of the idea of doing an autoethnography of my ukulele lessons, which just started last week.  Instead my project will (ostensibly) fill a gap in the literature that I’ve been whinging about for years: just how effective is online learning?  More specifically I want to give former students in my “applications course” a chance to reflect on their course experience and its impact on their educational and professional lives subsequently (also known as “transfer of learning”). I’m confident the pedagogical approaches and tools we use in the course are effective somewhere. But to what extent and in what ways are they effective in this course–or not?

This would be an online survey and perhaps some follow-up interviews. In terms of methodology I’m rather confident of my skills to complete this project: I’ve conducted mixed methods (survey and interview) studies previously, and can rightly call myself an ethnographer (sociological rather than anthropological). I’m also well versed in adult learning theory and have a solid knowledge of more general learning theories. I have read Piaget (awesome) and Vygotsky (great conclusions; huge gap between findings and data described). And Houle and Freire and Knowles. And Pratt.  🙂

I hope to get the proposal in good shape by the end of October, get things moving with BREB in November and start recruiting for the study in January. And I’m really looking forward to getting to know others’ research ideas too!


Houle, C. O. (1996). The Design of Education (second edition). San Francisco: Jossey Bass Inc.

Freire, P. (1973). Education for critical consciousness. (1st American ed.). New York: Seabury Press.

Freire, P. (1997). Pedagogy of the heart. New York: Continuum Press.

Knowles, M.S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education. New York: Cambridge, The Adult Education Company.

Piaget, J. (2011). The Language and Thought of the Child. Seattle: Goldberg Digital Press (Amazon).

Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Language. Boston: MIT Press.

Written by John P Egan

September 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

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And so it begins

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I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with others!

Written by John P Egan

September 19th, 2011 at 6:44 pm

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