All posts by Isabeau Iqbal

Ice-breaker for facilitation skills workshop

Team Building & Leadership w LawNY...Rochester, NY. Canandaigua, NY (16)

Last week, Lucas Wright and I co-facilitated a session titled “Facilitating Teaching: Approaches and Skills”.

For our ice-breaker, we led a speed-friending* activity in which participants had 45 seconds each to respond to the questions below before they switched partners and answered the next question with a new partner. The questions we developed all pertain to the theme of facilitation. (We used only 5 questions because of time limitations).

  1. What are 2-3 ways you help learners get to know each other?  
  2. What are 1-2 things you currently do in your teaching that you think draw on “facilitation skills”. Which ones come most easily to you?
  3. Do you have any words you’re careful with when you teach? Say more…(if you don’t have any particular words you’re careful about, talk about that)
  4. Do you like moving fast or slow when teaching? Say more about your pace as an instructor.
  5. These words are often heard in the context of teaching and learning: “I want my classroom to be a safe space for learning”. What is your reaction to these words?
  6. As a learner, what do you like most about the use of discussion as a teaching approach? What do you like least?
  7. What are some techniques you use to memorize your learners’ names?
  8. How, if at all, do you use silence, pauses, and/or or reflection in your teaching? (pick one or more. If you don’t use any of these approaches, consider how–as a learner–you use silence, pauses and reflection to further your learning).

 

The full workshop plan, including all our resources, can be found here.  Everything is in the open so you are welcome to use this.

*Called “speed-friending” only because I have a reaction to the words “speed-dating”. But, on thinking about this more “speed-friending” isn’t much more palatable!

Photo credit: Mike Cardus (cc-by-2.0) https:  //flic.kr/p/8FmMaN

Using stick figure narratives in educational development

This blog describes how we can use stick figure narratives in our educational development (ED) work.

My thoughts on this were inspired by a workshop facilitated by Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane who presented at Symposium 2018.  Dr. Motherwell McFarlane uses stick-figure narratives in her role as an instructor and counsellor to explore resiliency.

One of the premises of her work is that everyone can draw stick figures; consequently, it is not something that needs to be taught. Brain researchers, she explained, show that we instantly know when we are seeing stick figures and it is as if “a stick figure visual language app” comes with our brain. “Why not use it?!” she asked us playfully.

Dr. Jessica Motherwell McFarlane led us through several experiential exercises at the Symposium. In this post, I’ll describe these and consider how I could use these in ED.

Materials Needed

Each attendee received:

  • 3 coloured markers, including one gel pen for writing on black paper
  • Coloured donut-shaped reinforcement stickers (the kind used for loose leaf paper holes). Also called “loopy” stickers in the workshop. (10 or more)
  • 5×8 blank index card (1)
  • 5×8 black card stock (1)

Activity 1: “Something unexpected happened…”

Within a few minutes of sitting down, we were asked to “show an image” or “make an image” depicting something funny and unexpected that had happened in our teaching.  We were given a short time (I think it was 2 minutes) and one rule: We had to use at least one loopy sticker in our image–and we could use as many loopy stickers as we wished. We then got into trios and shared our stories and drawings.

I do not remember what I drew; nor what my story was. What I recall is feeling stressed at having to draw right away, having to come up with something “funny”, and the requirement to do so within such a short time limit. I had gone to the workshop because I anticipated it would make me feel uncomfortable–right I was!

When debriefing this activity, Dr. Motherwell McFarlane emphasized the importance of getting participants to draw almost immediately and of giving people only a short time to do so. She also intentionally avoids using the words “draw an image” because the word “draw” can generate a feeling of anxiety in people.

Application to educational development: The activity could easily become “tell the story of something funny or happy or unexpected that happened in your ED work”. This, and the two activities below, could be part of a session promoting reflective practice in ED.

Activity 2: “Emotional X-Rays…”

This was my favourite!

The instructions went something like:

“You are going to create two images using stick figures and at least one loopy sticker. Use the white index card to show a situation in your educational development work (she used teaching), as it might be perceived by the people around you. Use the black card to show the same situation, as experienced internally by you.”

We had approximately 3 minutes to create both images and then shared the stories in trios or pairs.

Below are the two images I generated:

Image 1 (the “outside” view) Explained: My Fall has been very, very, very busy. I’ve had so many projects and have been applying my sharpest organizational skills and efficiency to complete these. The figure in this image is me flexing my ED muscles to keep various projects moving.

What I am projecting to the outside

Image 2 (the “inside” experience) Explained: This fall has been one of the most difficult periods in my life as I have been providing intense support to my daughter in her recovery of anorexia (I am sharing this with her permission). I have been drained and sad much of the time.

What is happening inside me

Activity 3: “Then and now…celebrating change”

This activity invites the image-maker to show and celebrate an aspect of one’s professional evolution.

The instructions went something like:

  • Think about your role as a __________ (you could use ‘educational developer’; Dr. Motherwell McFarlane used ‘educator’; I considered my role as an adult educator).  In the small, middle box, write the number of years that you have had that role (for me, 24 years as an adult educator).
  • Think about a change in you over that period of time.
  • In the top section, make an image that shows a way you used to do things/how things used to be…
  • In the bottom section, make an image that shows what things are like now…

A few people were then invited to share* their Then and Now narratives using the document camera at the front of the room.

*Tip: Dr. Motherwell McFarlane has her own travelling (iPEVO HD USB) document camera and advised that it is helpful to assign one person to be collecting images and positioning them properly so that you, the facilitator, can focus on the storyteller and not on futzing with the image/direction/camera.

*****

This session was my favourite at the Symposium. If you decide to use stick figures or have thoughts on how you might use them, please send me an email or write a comment — I’d love to hear from you!

I’d like to give a BIG thanks to Dr. Motherwell McFarlane who so kindly read through a draft of this post, added details that I had accidentally omitted, and provided other helpful feedback.

3 Quick and Easy Energizers

Pingpong-Ball auf dem Tischtennisschläger balancieren

In a course I recently taught, I used and/or learned a few energizers. Since I love having these types of activities in my ‘back pocket’, I wanted to share them with you:

Ping Pong Ball

Good for a large group energizer.

Divide the group into 3 and have each sub-group stand or be in a separate area of the room.  Position yourself where everyone can see you and assign one group “Ping”, the other group “Pong” and the third group “Ball”. Let the group know that, as you point to a particular group (area of the room), you want the members to shout out “their” group name. As the conductor, you then point to different groups and can have fun creating combinations of the three words (ping, pong, and ball), i.e., “ping, ping, ball, pong” etc.

Stand In The Circle If…

Good as an energizer or icebreaker for 6 people or more.

Everyone stands in a circle. Let people know that the activity consists of taking turns uttering an inclusions statement out loud and stepping into the circle if that statement applies. For example, one person might start by saying “Step in the circle if you prefer going to the beach over going for a hike on a sunny day”; those who feel this is true of them step into the circle. Then they step back out. The next person might say “Step into the circle if you plan to have a glass of wine this weekend” etc. People normally come up with fun statements and this activity always generates laughter.

The Rain Game…

This works well in a group of 25 or more people and is a powerful auditory experience.  I know of people who have led this in a large (100+) class,but haven’t tried that myself.

This game signifies a rainstorm starting softly and getting louder until it is pouring, with lightning and thunder. The storm quiets down again.

  1. First, you silently rub your fingers together, and the participants do the same.
  2. Then you rub your two hands together, making a very soft sound, and the participants follow.
  3. Next, you clap your hands very softly while the participants follow (it should still be quiet-ish).
  4. Then snap your fingers. (in each of the steps below, the participants follow what you are doing)
  5. Now go back to clapping and clap a little louder than you were snapping.
  6. Then a little louder.
  7. Then clap loudly.
  8. Then stomp your feet and clap, making a lot of noise.
  9.  Now do it in reverse until it is silent again.

The instructions above were taken from here.

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Do you have some fun energizers and/or icebreakers to share? If so, let me know!

Photo credit: Pingpong-Ball auf dem Tischtennisschläger balancieren by Marco Verch. Creative Commons CC-BY-2. https : //flic.kr/p/ME1RxM

Helping students incorporate instructor feedback

Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal (Sadler, 2010).

In articles I read about student peer feedback, Sadler’s work is repeatedly referenced–hence my interest in reading this paper. Below are some of my notes from “Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal” by Dr. Royce Sadler.

Sadler argues that “regardless of levels of motivation to learn, students cannot convert feedback statements into actions for improvement without sufficient working knowledge of some fundamental concepts.” (p.537)

  • “For students to be able to apply feedback, they need to understand the meaning of the feedback statements.” p.535
  • Ideally, feedback helps students engage in divergent thinking (ie, not memorization, not one narrow response)
  • The literature on feedback has often declared that feedback aids learning (i.e., it can accelerate learning)

Those who have studied how students respond to instructor-provided feedback, acknowledge that, in order to improve communication, we need to:

  • Raise students’ understanding of assessment criteria
  • Recognize that the medium of communication matters (certain comments/ideas/etc are more likely to be communicated in writing, others more likely to be communicated orally. See p.537)

Challenges associated with feedback:

  • Feedforward and feedback are essentially about telling and disclosure and typically consist of 1-way messages from instructor to student.
  • Students have trouble assimilating feedback from instructors into an existing knowledge base.
  • “Complementary attention should therefore be directed to what students make of the feedback, rather than just its composition. Seen from the learner’s perspective, this represents an emphasis on visibility (to the student) rather than disclosure (by the teacher)” ” (p.539) [I really like that quote]

Interpretive challenges faced by students

Students face at least three interpretive challenges when trying to capitalise on feedback. In order to be able to make critical connections between feedback and their work, students need to have knowledge/understanding of three relevant appraisal terms and concepts. Sadler urges that “these assessment concepts must be understood not as abstractions but as core concepts that are internalised, operationalised and applied to concrete productions” (p.548).

The core concepts are:

  1. Task Compliance.  Did the student comply with the basic specifications of the assignment? A simplistic example would be: if the instructor asked for an essay, did the student produce an essay (vs, let’s say, a podcast).  I’m oversimplifying here.
  2. Quality.  Sadler defines quality as “The degree to which a work comes together as a whole to achieve its intended purpose” (p.544). Determinations of quality require judgements of many different things and also require diverse forms of judgment. As such, we need to create planned opportunities for students to practice with feedback.
  3. Criteria. A criterion is a “property or characteristic that is useful in the context of quality and quality determinations” (p.544). Students need help grasping the role and nuances of the criteria used in the assessment. Part of the challenge here is that some criterion have sharp boundaries and others don’t.

Even once the students understand these concepts, learners still face the challenge of assimilating the teacher’s feedback into an existing knowledge base so that it can be drawn on in the future (and this task draws on tacit knowledge, as well as an understanding of the concepts). “As with all learning, newly acquired knowledge needs to be consolidated before it decays if it is to have any positive influence on future works” (p.540).

A helpful summary from the section“A way forward”

Sadler writes:

“There are four basic tasks for peer appraisal, and they can be expressed as questions in the following order.

Does a particular response qualify as an attempt to address the issue specified in the task description? This is a category question, not a quality issue, and can be decided only after analysing the work as a whole.

The next question is: How well does the work achieve the purpose intended? This gets to the heart of the determination of quality.

Third: What are the grounds for the judgement reached, using whatever criteria are appropriate to substantiating the valuation?…

The fourth and final question is: How could the work be substantially improved? This requires advice in terms of the work as a whole, and on specific deficiencies or weaknesses.” p.547

 

Reference: Sadler, D. R. (2010). Beyond feedback: Developing student capability in complex appraisal. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 535-550.

Photo from Pexels

Don’t end with Q&A when giving a presentation

Audience

I recently had the pleasure of presenting on the topic of peer review of teaching at the “Valuing Teaching” series organized by Simon Fraser University.

As I planned for that presentation, I recalled a tip I read in Steal the Show by author Michael Port. In that book, Port suggests that one should not close a presentation with the question and answer period (Q&A). He cautions that putting the Q&A at the end can result in loss of control for the speaker. Specifically, someone may take things in a direction you did not intend the presentation to go, the main point of your session might get lost on the audience, and/or people may sneak off.  In a nutshell: you lose your opportunity for a  strong close.

Port recommends that the Q&A period be inserted before the end of the presentation. This allows you (the opportunity) to finish strong!  [For some funny–but familiar–examples of how ‘not to end’, read Chris Anderson’s, Curator for Ted Talks, short article here].

For some good tips on ‘ending your presentation with style’, see this blog post by Jesmine Moon. Moon includes examples of each:

  • inspire your audience with a quote
  • end with a compelling image
  • leave with a question
  • encourage action
  • reiterate your message

Have a favourite? Let me know in the comments!

Photo credit: https: //flic.kr/p/rqBEup (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic)