Wednesday, July 20, 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)


  1. Kevin this is a good overview of the type of learning process you undertake in the carpentry course. What is it about the course which students enjoy? The hands on practical skills or the way all the different elements are interwoven? Or something else? When you show the students techniques using Powerpoint how is this designed - text, images, including video, diagrams? I am interested to find out more.

    You have explained Kolb's learning cycle from a theoretical stance - how would one of your lessons fit this model? For example, do you start with the demonstration of a skill - then get the students to reflect on what they have seen through engaging in an activity of some kind...It would be good if you could explain this process using the cycle to illustrate how this might occur for the students.

  2. A typical lesson would often start by finding out what the students already know about the subject, finding out their prior knowledge. As we often have more mature students with previous work experiences some of this can be well used as peer tutoring and gives the tutor a clear point to expand from.
    A typical lesson should show the students good product knowledge, You tube is a good place to show manufacture of product, and a power point featuring both text and picture and finish with the health and safety of the unit.
    After marking test papers they are handed back to the students for them to up grade to 100%. This forms a valuable time for discussion and reflection and normally leads on to the next unit quite well.

  3. It is great to hear that you build on students' existing knowledge from their work experiences - what a wonderful opportunity as well for students to share ideas and expertise. Ok so if using the Kolb experiential learning cycle, I can see how your example fits some of the cycle 1. concrete experience - the youtube video is used to demonstrate manufacture of a product;
    2. reflective observation - how do you help students with this stage in the cycle? Do you give the students prompts about what to look for in the video, or do they get a chance to discuss what they have seen with each other?
    3. Abstract conceptualisation - it looks like this is where the powerpoint presentation helps, and any notes you may have given them.
    4. active experimentation - where the students practice or apply what they have learned. It is not clear how this is done. You mention test papers - is this what helps in this phase?

  4. Reflective Observation is often used by the way when we, as tutors, do a practical demonstration for example, using a large table saw safely. We would often use a three stage process as follows;
    Stage 1-with a group (of no more than 10 students) describe then demonstrate how to work the machine safely and efficiently. Followed by questions and answers.
    Stage 2- With a tutor standing alongside the student gets the opportunity to correctly use the machine.
    Stage 3- If deemed competent we would then let the student use the machine unattended although keeping a watchful eye.
    This process follows Klobs learning cycle with Reflective Observation (watching) followed by Abstract Conceptualization (thinking) then Active experimentation (doing).

  5. During the reflective observation phase how do you stimulate reflection in the students when they are observing the demonstration? are they asked to observe from the perspective of using the machine safely, for example?