Connectivism and Networked Learning

  • Identify an emergent, idea, product that has developed through the GCP Network.

An emergent idea that has developed through the GCP network is the impact of my teaching decisions/approach, often unconsciously influenced by my assumptions/beliefs/values (however well-intended),  on learners’ sense of identity and learning process. Frequent exploratory discussions with diverse opinions has expanded my reflections around my responsibility as an ethical instructor.

  • How does this related to your understanding of Connectivist learning based on your readings?

I view the GCP network as an anchor in my learning process, where I feel safe to explore, to make connections, and to shift my baseline, in order to continuously adopt and accommodate new ideas into my practice. The pre-readings and blog space are starting points for me to establish connections on my own; the classroom sessions are where I revise my connections based on others’ insights. These are valuable opportunities for me to reflect and to either deepen or alter my knowledge landscape to better inform my decisions in engaging with my students.

  • Consider broadly your understanding of how networked learning impacts your learning in the GCP.

Networked learning resonates well with me – it empowers me to take ownership of my learning process, humbles me in my unknowing without creating fear or sense of inadequacy, encourages me to continually take risks and experiment with new ideas in a supportive environment.

Teaching Practicum Reflections – Lymphoid Tissues and Lymphocytes

Third time’s a charm – I felt noticeably less anxious standing in front of the classroom.

The objectives were – By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the origin, subsequent development, and role of the two major classes of lymphocytes
  2. Differentiate between primary and secondary lymphoid tissues
  3. Relate the structures of secondary lymphoid tissues to their function
  4. Summarize the recirculation of lymphocytes and its relationship to the sequence of events involved in antigen capture and presentation, lymphocyte activation, and the initiation of an adaptive immune response

In order to assess students’ prior knowledge, I asked them to identify features that differ between innate and adaptive immunity before we dived into the bridge between the two systems. It seems that jotting their responses on the board and asking them to elaborate on their responses for the benefit of their fellow classmates resonated well with the group. I lectured briefly on the lymphocytes, inviting contribution from the class throughout. The majority of the class was focused on discussion around the secondary lymphoid tissue structures, focusing on their vasculature and cellular composition, and their relationships to tissue/organ function. I helped to provide more structure by assigning a scribe and a presenter to each group, so that students were more likely to feel accountable to stay on task during the time allotted. The participation seemed more lively as their comfort to engage in activities grew over the three lectures. One thing that I would do differently is to have the students hand in their notes taken during the discussion, so that they could be made available to the rest of the class and become part of their study material!

I wish the students had fun and felt that they learned during class, not only from myself but from one another! I’ll have to find out how I did on the program’s instructor evaluation after the term comes to an end.

Teaching Practicum Reflections – Antigen-Antibody Reactions

Quite the interesting process in revising my second lesson based on formative feedback obtained from the previous class – I continually adopted the learner’s lens and was consciously shifting into their perspective. Effortful yet incredibly rewarding. I included an agenda slide to provide a broad roadmap for the lesson. I altered the discussion questions in my participatory learning activity to leverage different expertise from the students. I was impatient and almost giddy to see how the students respond to this more tailored lesson. Even more so, because my mentor was observing and I’d be getting extra feedback on my teaching!

The learning objectives were – by the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the relationship between the three-dimensional structure of antibodies, antigen-binding specificity and the resulting antigen-antibody reactions
  2. Explain concepts of affinity and of avidity, as well as their influence on antigen-antibody reactions
  3. Discuss how antigen-antibody reactions may be exploited in the generation of biologic therapeutics
  4. Compare and contrast polyclonal and monoclonal antibody production methods.

I began the lesson by acknowledging and reviewing their thoughtful feedback and stated my intention to actively improve my teaching through incorporation of their feedbacks. As we were building on the previous lecture, I included a quick review of last lecture’s content with simple recall questions to activate their prior knowledge. Brief lecture intermixed with small group discussion to deepen their conceptualization of the various factors influencing antigen-antibody interactions. Specific instructions around group composition for the final activity (themed around therapeutic biologics) allowed the students to take advantage of one another’s expertise. The class concluded with a large group debrief around the comparative benefits and drawbacks of two antibody production methods.

I was really pleased with how the lesson went – I felt anchored and more confident in my role as an instructor. The biggest improvement, compared to the last class, was the overall productiveness of student discussion. In circulating amongst the groups, observing their interactions, clarifying their misunderstanding, and challenging their thought process with additional prompting questions, the students seemed more engaged with the material and even facilitated one another’s learning in discussions. One thing that I want to be more mindfully aware as an instructor going forward is to always have a plan B approach when the learners have less prior knowledge than expected (I was rather shocked and disappointed that no one could identify the two major protein secondary structure in a fourth year class..!)

My mentor provided some great suggestions in including announcement and question slides to reduce my cognitive load, as one technique to increase my presence in the classroom and to reduce the number of “read-my-mind” questions! Also, she noticed students whispering to one another after I pose a question. Perhaps incorporating more think-pair-share activities to minimize not-so-silent silences and to provide a structure space for students’ learning process.

Overall, students’ feedbacks (SoTL – Formative Feedback From V.2) on this lesson were surprisingly positive (phew!). They were appreciative of the overall flow, frequent references to last lecture content, and the thought behind the design of last activity. Some of them thought the active learning components were the most useful aspects of this lesson for their learning! I think in being transparent and in sharing my learning process around how to teach more effectively, the students were more willing to support my learning in helping them learn. It’s a dynamic I really enjoy and a relationship I feel privileged to be a part of :)

Teaching Practicum Reflections – Immunoglobulins

It was like déjà vu being back in the basement of the UBC hospital – except that I was now on the other side of the classroom. This was my first of three immunopathology guest lectures at the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Medicine Program. There was a total of 30 students; 8 of which are from the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.

I designed the lesson and participatory learning activities with their varied immunology exposures in mind. The learning objectives were – By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  1. Describe the basic monomeric structure of an immunoglobulin
  2. Explain the mechanism that generates immunoglobulin diversity
  3. Relate the structure of immunoglobulin isotypes to their respective general functions and properties

I began the lecture with a small group activity, with aims to engage in peer-to-peer teaching and to establish a collective baseline knowledge around the basic monomeric structure of an immunoglobulin. I then lectured briefly about the mechanism of DNA rearrangements at the variable regions necessary to enable immunoglobulin diversity. The lesson finished with a jigsaw and peer-teaching on the 5 different immunoglobulin isotypes.

Overall, I think the lesson went relatively well – I had fun! The flow of material was structured and logical; it helped me feel grounded as I guided the students’ attention through each component of the lesson. The content complexity grew as the lesson progressed. Again, I think one of my strength is in leveraging technology as a tool for teaching. I consciously built in space for questions and reflections in my slide deck, with aims to create a more interactive environment for students to engage with the material. I think in acknowledging everyone’s contribution to the discussion, I helped establish a more inclusive environment for the students to participate. Also, I thought I used silences well in my lesson – pausing after asking each question and making eye contact with each student to invite them to respond. Though I find that I still have a tendency to ask “read-my-mind” questions – some of my unplanned, follow-up questions tend to be too broad and unspecific given the context, which seemed to have created confusion for learners with less background knowledge.

One thing I would change about the lesson is to restructure my learning activities to make them more productive. I had to cut the jigsaw learning activity short due to the lack of time. While jigsaw was chosen with care and rationale (e.g., creating inclusivity for learners with less background knowledge and opportunity for peer teaching for learners with more background knowledge), it was quite time consuming and logistically challenging in a relatively small classroom. Perhaps a simple small group discussion, accompanied with a worksheet, would achieve the same learning objective more effectively.


Judging from my formative feedback (SoTL – Formative Feedback From V.1), I was able to hold a productive learning environment and my efforts to engage them throughout class were well-received. However, what surprised me was their perception of the lesson’s depth. It became very apparent that there was a wide gap between their prior knowledge on immunology – some felt that the class was too simple while others struggled to follow the class. This particular piece of formative feedback illuminated for me a learner need for better structured learning activities – how to best balance challenge and accessibility to all learners? 

Reflections on Disciplinary Identity

In our last GCP session, we used a Venn diagram to visualize intersections of our personal, academic and disciplinary identities. I found it immensely challenging for me to tease out the complex layers of my identity – especially when my “academic student” identity is highlighted by my immediate environment. I also had an ugly realization of self-delusion-in-action while engaging in this activity – the items that I committed to paper were how I WANT to perceive myself instead of the completely honest and unedited picture of my identity.

In making the bold assumption that (at least some) people would behave similarly to me – in having the tendency to paint a pretty picture about who they are – I realize that we need to actively put ourselves on the other side of the table and see from others’ perspectives, however uncomfortable and furstrating, whenever we encounter an identity conflict (and the ethical dilemma associated with it) and do our best in collaboratively finding an approach that is acceptable to the identities in conflict. While I recognize we may not always have this luxury, I believe it is something we should be increasingly mindful of whenever we notice our reaction of resistance towards these identity conflicts.

What lingered with me after the session was the topic of tolerance paradox – it may have something to do with my science background and my recent rediscovery of Karl Popper. I think our discussion really brought out the need for open discourse and acknowledgment of emotions, especially when there is an identity conflict in our interactions. These are important and productive conversations to have, should we ever want to learn about the many potential ethical implications in confronting these identity conflicts (as Joseph’s example demonstrated). I cannot wait for our continued discussion on disciplinary identity!

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