Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Flexible Teaching Plan

     by Kevin Dunbar
 Our Vision - Through our innovation in education and the outstanding experiences our learners enjoy, we will be recognised as New Zealand’s leading polytechnic.

As a lecturer at Otago Polytechnic in keeping with our vision statement it is important we keep the lectures as varied and enjoyable as possible to keep the students engaged and interested so they do good learning and look forward to tomorrow’s lesson. This can be achieved through the use of flexible delivery where no two days are the same and students get ample opportunity to complete the programme to a high standard and in an enjoyable manner. Currently the carpentry programme has 55-60% of its course delivered in a flexible manner.

The five dimensions of flexible teaching by (Collis and Moonan 2004 ) is a highly regarded document and I shall go through the five dimensions to explore the possibility it encounters’.

Entry Requirements – The Certificate in Carpentry level 4calls for a minimum standard of four years secondary education with 8 level 2 credits in English and 8 level 1 credits in maths or the equivalent knowledge or experience is preferred.
Before I started at O P the poly introduced and open entry policy for all certificate courses. My programme manager negotiated an exception to the policy because experience had demonstrated that student entering this course with low qualifications could not cope with the self motivated learning that was required and industry could not under health and safety  except students for work experience when they are under 16 years of age. As most of our students are young and computers have already played a big part in their lives, I think they will enjoy learning best by a blended learning approach it seems to satisfy most recognised learning styles and this is consistent with previous positive student feedback received.

Instructional Approach and Resources –My job as a carpentry lecturer is to do well by giving all of the students the best opportunity to learn and succeed thus improving their skill base to make them more employable and give them skills for life. Through my blended learning approach where I lecture, show you tube, power point, demonstrations and the odd site visit this is aided by the applied theory and project based learning give the students with differing learning styles the opportunity to learn. Not all students are suited to carpentry so there internal motivation varies, with carpentry being unique culture, students that are practical and can think well on their feet and have good communication skills often do very well.

Content- A large part of our carpentry course material remains constant. With government introducing new regulations and product changes I need to keep up with what is going on in industry so what I am teaching is current. I like the way we teach the students theory on how to build a house from the ground up and keep it timely with the project based learning house under construction. The introduction of e-portfolios has been great as it gives the students a valuable time for reflection and also as the material is accessible at home it also gives them the opportunity to do some work from home.

Time- I like the way the course has three different start dates as this subsequently gives the students differing finish dates so they are not all looking for work at the same time. The course requires assessments to be completed within two weeks of delivery. If students fail to get this done time is available later but it may insure a penalty thus encouraging students to keep up with the programme.

Delivery and Logistics – While most of the learning is done here at O P the students enjoy their time at work experience as this gives them a taste of what it’s like working in the industry and also gives them a chance to impress a future employer. The blended learning I like to deliver has a balance of theory, applied theory, e learning, resource based learning and self directed learning.    

IMPLEMENTATION- Currently we have a unit that I teach called B 6.2 Floor Framing and Flooring It forms a major part in unit standard 24381. Its purpose states “People credited with this unit standard are able to describe the requirements for the construction of floor framing and describe the requirements for setting out and installing floor framing and flooring”
To date this unit has been largely chalk n talk with the appropriate assessment and the applied theory component attached for the students to gain the required knowledge.

My aim is to show that with the introduction of flexible learning the class time is reduced but the gaining knowledge of the topic is still achieved also students for whatever reason that miss the early opportunity can still pass the unit standard. This will be done by way of a power point presentation with text and some group discussion, increasing the e-portfolio requirement and completing a moodle assessment I have set up.

I am sure that this will appeal to most student’s needs and differing learning styles and provide the student with some valuable reference material to access at a later date where they can view there e-portfolio and reflect on what and how they done a particular unit.

SUMMARY-I feel that through a successful blended delivery a student has the opportunity to successfully complete the key questions in the moodle assessment, through what he/she has learned from the power point and discussion along with having photographic evidence of him/her busy setting out and laying a floor and associated work in a safe manner they have shown the skill and knowledge required to meet the unit standard. All of this has been achieved in a superior time frame and more efficiently and being far more user friendly for both student and lecturer alike. I am looking forward to delivering this unit to students soon and await their feedback with interest and am keen to share this resource with my fellow lectures.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Back to the Future iPad Style

Just recently Matt Thompson and myself have been involved in an exciting collaboration with some Graduate I T students where we set out to see if we could deliver a unit standard and set up a self assessment on moodle where through visual aural and written text students were able to do some self directed learning.

We picked a basic unit being unit standard “13000 Demonstrate Knowledge of Portable Power Tools Used on Construction Sites” and our iPad friendly version called “TOP TOOLS ‘has 14 key portable power tools.

Through the touch screen you get taken through safety videos of best use and changing blades etc, also key parts are identified of each individual tool and text to best describe tools application and maintenance. This has been excellently put together, by the I.T boys who seemed to enjoy this learning project. It is very user friendly and easy to navigate your way around.

Once you have finished the presentation you have the opportunity to go on and sit the unit standard through a moodle assessment with multiple choose and match up best use, questions that once submitted self answers and gives you a percentage score with 60% being pass mark. A positive to this is the way the questions appear in differing order and answers change positions, thus minimizing the chance of comparing answers and foiling those back row boys.

This is very exciting to be a part of especially being the first one of its kind around. As an example of flexible learning this will be great to try on our carpentry students in our next intake.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Being involved in a Carpentry department, which is already renowned as one of the top in the country, is very exiting. My job from here on in is to make sure, through education and good collaboration by way of working together with my fellow lecturers and sharing resources, we continue to keep up with our current reputation. A big part of this is ongoing support and professional development from the Otago Polytechnic, keeping in touch with our other partners such as BCITO, and keeping up with industry expectations. Most importantly this means not losing site of student-centred and flexible learning through respect, passion, innovation, challenge and excellence.  

Durie, Mason. (2003). Ngā kāhui pou launching Māori futures. Pp.200-2001.        Huia Publishers: New Zealand.
http://www.businessballs.com/kolblearningstyles.htm retrieved on:                           13/04/2011.
http://www.mlueck.org/philosophy.htm, retrieved on: 12/07/2011.

http://www.vark-learn.com/english, retrieved on: 17/09/2010.

Where to From Here

Being involved in a department that is very advanced in modern thinking and being leaders rather than followers I would like to take time to inform you about where  the carpentry department is heading by way of introducing even more technology as part of learning;
·        E portfolio- This is where our senior staff have introduced the students to record keeping by way of electronics through visual photos taken daily and weekly entries making up there personal portfolio both for evidence and future reference.
·        Clickers-These are wireless hand held units which results are known instantly by the facilitator. We are about to set up some question sheets with six multi choice answers.
·        Net-books –Recently purchased a class set in order to help carpentry be more independent with the ability to look up information as a group to get the latest rules and regulations as often students don’t need to retain all knowledge but just know where to find it.
·        Tool Safety - In conjunction with some I.T students we have set up some power tool safety, maintenance and correct use footage which is to be used in a format suitable for iPhones and iPads along with a computer version. This is very exciting as some of this we can load onto You Tube and it also shows how innovative we are.

Culturally Sensitive & Indigenous Learners

The Otago Polytechnic has a very good relationship with both local and international students. They are very good at tutor training with treaty workshops and making tutors aware of being culturally sensitive and catering to individual needs and learning styles.
This is underpinned by the Māori Strategic Framework by Mason Durie’s (2003) vision for Māori Education:
“To live as a Māori- In short being enabled to live as a Māori imposes some responsibilities among the education system to contribute towards the realisation of that goal.
To actively participate as a citizen of the world -There is a wide Māori expectation that education should open doors to technology, that economy, the arts and sciences, to understanding others and making a contribution to a greater good. This does not contradict the goal of being able to live as a Māori. It simply recognises that Māori children will live in a variety of situations and should be able to move from one to another with relative ease.
To enjoy good health and a high standard of living- Education should be able to make a major if not the major contribution to health and wellbeing and to a decent standard of living. Education achievements correlate directly with employment, income levels.....”(Durie, 2003).
I enjoyed Kate Timmens-Deans’ explanation on indigenous learners and her four main orientations that support the learner and there ability to learn;

Spiritual –Do I believe I can do this?
Physical- Do I have the resources to do this course?
Social/Family- Do I have the support of my family?
Cognition- Can I cope with the demands?

These are important factors that can assist all of our students learning. We should endeavour to find assistance to give everyone an equal opportunity to study and learn for their future benefit and make their time here at Otago Polytechnic a pleasant experience.
Carpentry and the construction industry has a very unique culture were it is largely involving creative people working together to build and re-build houses, factory’s, offices, towns and even cities. It is a very satisfying career which can take you where ever you want to go. For a project to be ready on time and on budget (which does happen occasionally) many people have had impute to make it happen and can dually be proud of there combined achievements.

Adult Education Theory

My aim as a carpentry lecturer is to do the best job I can in giving our students a good learning environment so they can have an enjoyable and productive learning experience.

This will be possible if I can develop as a lecturer and offer a blended and varied delivery of quality information. I will use the  aid of You Tube for some practical and manufacture detail, good effective power points and our main practical based learning by way of our project houses, so our student have the opportunity to learn both kinaesthetically and reader writer as set out in Neil Fleming’s (2001) VARK learning model.
After reading Michael Lueck’s teaching philosophy I feel he has a great foundation to emulate and his base for teaching goes like this;
“My Teaching Philosophy is based on five main pillars Respect, Passion, Innovation, Challenge and Excellence. All five pillars are seen as equal and mutual i.e.; from the students and the teachers perspectives. They are closely linked, and cannot be separated.
RESPECT- I strongly believe that providing a relaxed learning environment is the most effective way of teaching. When the instructor respects students and their opinions, it is very likely that students in return have respect for the instructor
PASSION- Passion is arguable the most important ingredient to every good teaching. This can be twofold; Passion for teaching and passion for the subject area.
INNOVATION-While I believe that it is vital to have a personal touch in every class and in-class lectures cannot be replaced by information technology I equally believe that the rapid development of I T offers an enormous chance for instructors to improve teaching.
CHALLANGE- Teaching at tertiary level should not only be the transfer of knowledge it should also encourage critical thinking and challenge students intellectually. From day one of every paper, I explicitly make sure that students know that they shell not see everything I say as a rule and the only solution.
EXCELLENCE- Teaching is more than providing a lecture. It involves lecturing, interacting, supervising, marking, guiding and to a degree counselling. I believe that a teacher in every class I learn as much as my students do. It is my aim to strive for improvements in teaching with every new semester (http://www.mlueck.org/philosophy.htm, retrieved on 12/07/2011).

Teaching Plan for Carpentry

My teaching plan in the Carpentry Department is to try to give every student who comes through the doors the very best opportunity to learn as many quality skills as they can for there future. Hopefully these skills are in the trade or good trade knowledge that will make them good husbands/wives/ fathers, mothers and generally good handy people to know.

I feel that students all enter our course with good intent but some realise that for whatever reason it is not for them. The ones that stay focused and enjoy the course really grow and enjoy the practical based learning project house along with making them far more employable as they graduate with a level four Certificate in Carpentry which is the theory complete for their whole apprenticeship.
Flexible learning already forms a significant part of our teaching, as an example when we teach the unit on wallboard it will involve a You Tube video of the manufacture of wallboard. This ten minute clip explains in depth what components make up gib-board and how they get different textures and bracing, water and fire resistance through changing the components. To visit the factory with twenty students in Christchurch would be near impossible, whereas this clip works as a great substitute.
Power point presentations also form part of the lesson to show things like cutting techniques and installation. All of this usually happens prior to the students getting to put it all in practise on their own project house.
This type of teaching seems to fit well with Kolb’s (1984) Experiential Learning Theory which states;
“Kolb’s learning theory sets out four distinct learning styles (or preferences), which are based on a four-stage learning cycle. (Which might also be interpreted as a training cycle)? In this respect Kolb’s model is particularly elegant, since it offers both a way to understand individual peoples learning styles, and also an explanation of a cycle of experiential learning that applies to us all” (1984).
Kolb includes this cycle of learning as a central principle in his experiential learning theory. This is typically expressed as the four-stage cycle of learning, in which immediate or concrete experiences provide a basis for observations and reflections. These observations and reflections are assimilated and distilled into abstract concepts producing new implications for action which can be actively tested, in turn creating new experiences.
Kolb says that ideally (and by inference not always) this process represents a learning cycle or spiral where the learner touches all the bases, i.e., a cycle of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. Immediate or concrete experiences lead to observations and reflections. These reflections are then assimilated (absorbed and translated) into abstract concepts with implications for action, which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the creation of new experiences.
Kolb’s model therefore works on two levels- a four stage cycle;
And a four-type definition of learning styles,(each representing the combination of two preferred styles, rather like a two-by two matrix of the four-stage cycle styles, as illustrated below), for which Kolb used the terms;
Diverging (CE/RO)
Assimilating (AC/RO)