Designing a Transformative Learning Community for Online Learning Excellence

Introduction

Screenshot of the Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit homepageApril is poised to be an exciting month for educators in the State of Oklahoma. Through support of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Council for Online Learning Excellence is coordinating the first Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit. This “blended” learning summit is aimed at helping educators share effective practices and knowledge about how to promote excellence in teaching and learning.

In this article, I “un-pack” the design considerations for planning a state-wide learning event such as the Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit. Often as educators, we have a set “community” for a defined period of time such as students who enroll in a course or colleagues in a department. This helps define who the members of the community are and the roles each will likely play.

Creating an engaging learning experience that engages people in a more informal and across conventional groups creates a rather unique an interesting challenge.

The Transformative Learning Connection

Transformative Learning is a primary philosophy shaping the design and launch of the Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit. The growth and complexities associated with online learning often creates a sense of questions and potential.

It is in between these two perspectives that Transformative Learning provides an ideal framework for creating an environment that helps educators realize the truly innovative potential their teaching and facilitation practices. The summit places each educator in the role of learner, contributor, teacher, and leader. This mix of roles shapes the goals that bring this community together.

Drivers

The Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit set out to provide high-quality professional development experiences to educators across the State of Oklahoma. This means addressing both geographic and logistics barriers (financial, time/schedules, topics of interest etc.) in ways that offer effective learning opportunities in a sustainable way.

People who participate in the summit will likely have very diverse sets of goals, needs, and interests. This creates unique challenges for learning designers because the environment must have high levels of flexibility, while also offering structure at needed points. It is also critical to provide diverse, yet clear entry points for people to interact within the learning environment.

Design SolutionScreenshot of Learning Innovations Summit ways to participate page

The Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit uses blended learning methods that incorporate three design elements: live online sessions, on-demand content, and in-person meet-ups.

The live online sessions are delivered completely online using a webinar platform (Adobe Connect). Facilitators are identified topic experts from around the state and are asked to share a presentation at a scheduled point in time. The goal driving this features is to open access to live learning opportunities while reducing travel time and expenses.

The On-Demand content elements are resources curated from leaders across the state with the purposing of providing access at anytime. These are posted on a website “hub” and are available throughout the summit. Additional resources are also added as the summit progresses.

The third component is the in-person “meet-ups.” While summit participants are located across Oklahoma (and beyond), there is still a desire for people to come together in-person to share ideas and build relationships. To meet this need, in-person meetings are scheduled at key locations around the state and specific times. This allows people to come together in-person while minimizing drive distances and time away from their jobs. The nature of the meet-ups are informal conversations and knowledge sharing.

Growing CommunitiesScreenshot of OK Learning Innovations Summit facebook page

Addressing design considerations and providing access opportunities are important; however, providing facilitation that allows the community to grow and develop is essential to the long term success of the summit learning environment. Weekly update emails will be provided to registered “participants” while a Facebook group is used to provide participant-driven connection and engagement.

The issue of sustainability is also an important consideration related to growing the summit learning communities. Ideally, the community begins to establish self-determined goals for itself and members take on the role of facilitating, contributing, and leading.

One goal I had when helping to design the community for the summit was to allow connections to be developed long after the summit “concludes.” In many ways, the summit becomes a focused time to develop connections and share ideas, while the community continues to grow. This allow educators to leverage their community at their future “moments of need.”

Concluding Thoughts

The Oklahoma Learning Innovations Summit is a unique and innovative way for educators around Oklahoma to connect and share their ideas and perspectives on how to help students succeed. It’s exciting to think of the collective knowledge and wisdom contained in such a community. The capacity and potential for the Oklahoma Learning Innovation Summit is a wonderful example of how Transformative Learning can extend and be applied to professional learning environments.

 

The Transformative Impact of Sustainability Pedagogy and Andragogy

Critical Transformative Learning goes beyond the personal toward community action, even societal transformation. Approaching sustainability education through transformative experience could have pragmatic impact on the learner, the community and the environment. (Singleton, 2015)

Education for Sustainability is “defined as a Transformative Learning process that equips students, teachers, and school systems with the new knowledge and ways of thinking we need to achieve economic prosperity and responsible citizenship while restoring the health of the living systems upon which our lives depend” (Mofid, 2016).

One example of Transformative Learning (TL) approaches in education to achieve sustainability is in management education, where Closs and Antonello (2011) propose that

[T]ransformative Learning theory, which stimulates critical reflection that favors autonomous thinking and liberates conditioned assumptions about the world, others and oneself, may contribute to management education development, encouraging more collaborative, responsible, and ethical ways to manage organizations. (p. 63)

Each of the above comments about TL for sustainability places the reader into a forward-looking perspective. Whether for the community or the environment or the organization, acting in certain ways as a result of experiencing a transformative education means something about the future for the students and graduates who have undergone a shift and/or expanded their personal perspectives about contributing as opposed to merely consuming.

It also means something for the societies and cultures into which the graduates of TL-committed institutions will enter.

It means the institutions are educating for a new future, not merely for a continuance of the past.

And it means new sources of hope for sustainability of culture, language, society, and environment.

University of Eldoret in Kenya, one of the institutions participating in the Transformative Learning International Collaborative (TLIC) based at UCO, reports that the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has said the old teaching paradigm — stand-and-deliver, rote-memorization, teacher-centered — simply does not serve the needs of 21st-century Kenyan society, which is faced with challenges addressed only with creative problem-solving generated by graduates trained beyond textbook case study approaches.

The president of Ashesi University in Ghana, Patrick Awuah, agrees, saying universities can no longer afford to, for example, graduate engineers only capable of following directions; engineering graduates must be equipped and compelled to ask, “What ought to be?” (P. Awuah, webinar, Feb. 8, 2017).

For colleges and universities in places like the state in South Africa where TLIC partner institution University of the Free State says unemployment ranges from 27% to 90%, how and what students learn at university must not be mere academic exercises — societies where these institutions are located are literally depending on graduates to have the skills and the motivation to solve grave challenges to the sustainability of the culture and environment.

A final example: Universidade Presbyteriana Mackenzie, TLIC partner institution in São Paulo, Brazil, reports that the municipal government expects universities to provide graduates who will find solutions to the challenges the São Paulo metropolitan area faces: pollution, infrastructure, intractable poverty, etc.

Figure showing "Place" in a large circle, with 4 circles inside (Transformative Experiences linked to 3 circles: Head, Heart, and Hands)The head-heart-hands model of sustainability education and its overlap with TL as developed by Sipos, Battisti, and Grimm (2008) and discussed by Singleton (2015) — with the figure to the left appearing in Singleton, Battisti, and Grimm — illustrate the transformative potential in educating for sustainability.

The blending of Transformative Learning and education for sustainability is a natural partnership because sustainability and Transformative Learning requires a change in perception, a change in values and active engagement. The model reflects that transformation is a multi-dimensional process and that changing sustainability values and environmental paradigms require more than a logical argument or an emotional appeal. Experience and reflection along with awareness and caring are needed to initiate a true transformational event. (Singleton, 2015)

The point is, it is transformative experience in learners that commits them to the motivation to contribute to the social good. Postsecondary institutions around the world understand the power and the potential in Transformative Learning and are looking to TL as a necessary component in bettering society, culture, and environment. TL can be the mechanism to “effectively address increasingly well-known sociocultural and ecological problems in ways that transform learners and empower them to make change based on a sense of civic responsibility and sustainability” (Burns, 2013, p. 166).

 

References

Burns, H. (2013). Meaningful sustainability learning: A study of sustainability pedagogy

in two university courses. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher

Education, 25(2), 166-175. Available: http://www.cideronline.org/confPresentations/files/resource-1435-2.pdf

Closs, L., & Antonello, C. S. (2011). Transformative learning: Integrating critical reflection into management education. Journal of Transformative Education, 9(2), 63-88.

Mofid, K. (2016, February 27). Education for sustainability [Blog post]. Available: http://www.gcgi.info/index.php/blog/775-sustainable-people-sustainable-communities-sustainable-world-discover-sustainable-education

Singleton, J. (2015, March). Head, heart, and hands model for transformative learning: Place as context for changing sustainability values. Journal of Sustainability Education, 9. Available: http://www.jsedimensions.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/PDF-Singleton-JSE-March-2015-Love-Issue.pdf

Sipos, Y., Battisti, B., & Grimm, K. (2008). Achieving transformative sustainability learning: Engaging head, hands and heart. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 9, 68-86.

College Enrollment Among Oklahoma Residents, ages 18-54

This graph shows college enrollment among Oklahomans aged 18-54 compared to the U.S., based on U.S. Census 2014 data. U.S. to OK data show: total enrollment, 14.6% U.S. vs 12.0% OK; for ages 18-24, 41.6% vs 34.4%; for ages 25-54, 4.9% vs 4.4%; Hispanic, 11.3% vs 7.7%; African-America, 14.6% vs 18.2%; Native American, 9.3% vs 8.1%; Asian/Pacific Islander, 25.2% vs 31.7%; White, 15.0% vs 11.95.

This graph shows college enrollment among Oklahomans aged 18-54 compared to the U.S., based on U.S. Census 2014 data. U.S. to OK data show: total enrollment, 14.6% U.S. vs 12.0% OK; for ages 18-24, 41.6% vs 34.4%; for ages 25-54, 4.9% vs 4.4%; Hispanic, 11.3% vs 7.7%; African-America, 14.6% vs 18.2%; Native American, 9.3% vs 8.1%; Asian/Pacific Islander, 25.2% vs 31.7%; White, 15.0% vs 11.95.

TL Conference 2017 Reflections

Written by Mark Maddy, Ed.D., Educational Sciences, Foundations and Research – 

The concept of transformation and Transformative Learning have been hallmarks of the educational practice at the University of Central Oklahoma for many years, creating an atmosphere that inspires creativity and diversity in instruction and assessment. I have had opportunities to incorporate some of those lessons learned from earlier conferences, professional developments on campus, and more. The 2017 Transformative Learning Conference was another example, and provided new opportunities for exposure to new ideas that I plan to integrate into my own learning and teaching.

Photo of Mark Maddy at a TL Conference 2017 roundtable discussionBeginning with the panel discussion and responses to audience questions, the conference provided a unified look at Transformative Learning through the diversity of its presenters and subjects. The session that I attended on reflection expanded some of my ideas of reflection to be more intentional as a progression from entry-level through capstone courses. The discussions of the myriad definitions of diversity and how to create transformative opportunities when our students are so diverse encouraged me, as a teacher of teachers, to share these ideas with the perspective teachers that come through my courses.

The keynote address on Friday continued my growth in the area of Transformative Learning by reminding me of old tools that can be used in new ways with her addition of an additional two “Rs” to SQR3. I had used similar study skills methods when I was a counselor working with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade children, yet I had taken for granted that university level students had learned better study skills and didn’t need as much guidance from me. Because I primarily work with junior and senior level students and had a “sink or swim” mentality regarding their preparation for my class, I hadn’t considered incorporating a study skill lesson. That’s not a good thing for someone who is working with future teachers. This reminder of the diversity of backgrounds regarding level of preparation and proficiency of study skills made me rethink some of the ways that I will be presenting information.

This was the fourth Transformative Learning Conference that I’ve attended, and each has provided new insights.

Photo of Mark, Kathryn, and Jeff in a triad at a TL Conference 2017 sessionThis was the fourth Transformative Learning Conference that I’ve attended, and each has provided new insights. I spoke with someone after the conference and tried to summarize what we were doing and what transformative learning is. The question that was asked of me was, “Isn’t that what education is supposed to be?” The question is a valid one, yet we all know how common it is for professors to stick with what is comfortable, and for many, that is straight lecture with little or no student interaction. We are all students in our classrooms because it is imperative that we improve and transform our learning in order to be more effective in teaching our students how to transform themselves. Our learning comes from listening: listening to the words our students say, as well as listening to the unspoken/unwritten messages that those students are sending us. We can only guide them toward transformation if we are willing to transform ourselves. We must continually tweak our instruction in order to create opportunities for students to learn new skills, such as how to gather and integrate new information that may lead to their transformation from a consumer of knowledge to a creator of learning opportunities.

Teaching and Books

Written by Cheryl Frech, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Chemistry – Photo of Dr. Cheryl Frech

I am a big fan of books. Because I commute to UCO from Norman, I constantly listen to audiobooks in the car. My bedside table is stacked with a book-in-progress and multiple to-read titles. I just completed an eight-year stint as the book and media reviews editor for the Journal of Chemical Education. And I am the organizer of a Fiction Club in Norman. I also find books essential for teaching and learning about teaching. Just as there are trends in the popular press, there are trends in books about education. But many of us will gravitate back to our favorite titles, ones that have spoken to us and guided us through the various stages of our teaching career.

What’s that you say? No time to read? Make some. Better yet, join a CETTL Book Discussion Group and meet with others who are reading the same book. Lively discussion is certain to ensue.

What’s that you say? No time to read? Make some. Better yet, join a CETTL Book Discussion Group and meet with others who are reading the same book. Lively discussion is certain to ensue.

Here are five book recommendations that have guided me over the years and into the present.

  1. Teaching Within the Rhythms of the Semester by Donna Killian Duffy, Josey-Bass, 1995. Once you have mastered the content of your courses, you begin to experience the time dimensions of teaching. There’s that excitement and energy at the start of the semester. There are the inevitable doldrums in the middle when you and your students feel bogged down. And then there is the final push to squeeze everything in before the final exam. This book breaks down the term and forces you to think about how to manage the rhythms of the semester. Technology has moved on since 1995, but the ideas still work to make you think about how your courses play out over time.
  2. Book cover: The Courage to Teach, by Parker PalmerThe Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer, Jossey-Bass, 1998. This book covers another dimension of teaching, one that we don’t often talk about. For lack of a better term, let’s call it the spirituality of teaching. In order to stand in front of a class and work to motivate students to learn, we, as educators, must reveal some of ourselves to the students. Simultaneously, students and faculty together are part of a larger community of learning. How can we navigate both our inner journey and reach out effectively in our classroom? This is an excellent book to talk through with others in a group, and there is a published Guide for Reflection and Renewal available.
  3. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – How We Can Learn to Full Our Potential by Carol S. Dweck, Random House, 2006. The premise of Mindset is simple. Most people have one of two approaches to life (mindsets). People with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence (or any other kind of ability) is static: either you have it or you don’t. People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence (and ability) can be developed through application and experience. Mindsets do not just impact academic performance, they are apparent in many, if not all, aspects of our lives. Quite a bit of this book is about academic achievement in students ranging from grade school to college, but there are chapters that consider mindsets in business and leadership, relationships, and the interactions between parents, teachers, children, and coaches. The final chapter, “Changing Mindsets”, provides valuable tools to use yourself, or to try with those students who come to your office for help in a course. This book was published in 2006 and some of the anecdotes are about people or events that occurred quite some time ago, but the message is clear and helpful. This is another book to read and share with those around you.
  4. Cover of Oakley, A Mind for Numbers bookA Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra) by Barbara Oakley, Penguin, 2014. Early in my teaching career, I thought my job was to elucidate chemistry for others. Over the years, as I’ve changed, and perhaps my students have changed, I have decided the most important thing that a student can learn in first-year chemistry is to learn how he or she learns best. Oakley uses clever diagrams, a variety of strategies, short chapters, and simple exercises to present solutions, or at least approaches to nearly every complaint you have ever heard from students including, “I studied for 10 hours and still failed your test”, “I do really well on the homework but I’m not a good test taker, and “I’m an introvert and don’t like to study with others”. If equations are mystifying and confusing, try using your creative side to write an equation poem, or imagine the information in a short play (Chapter 14). There is a chapter on test taking, and multiple short chapters on memory tricks. This book will help you help your students become better learners, and you may benefit as well.
  5. Teach Students How To Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation by Saundra Y. McGuire, Stylus 2015. “Metacognition” is the latest buzzword in education, but it’s a good one and timely. Many of the students we see in our classrooms need to learn how to learn and this book provides an excellent framework. McGuire presents chapters on metacognition, Bloom’s taxonomy, mindset (see above!), and motivation. There are chapters on what faculty can do, what students can do, and how to partner with your campus learning center. The book is filled with suggestions and strategies: you don’t have to attempt them all, but try one or two that fit your classroom and teaching style, step back, and observe the results.

 

Use IF-AT Cards…Make Tests Fun!

The 2016 UCO Collegium on College Teaching Practices showcased many different active learning strategies employed by UCO faculty. The below short essay describes the success, Maurice Haff, an Instructor in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, has found using the Immediate-Feedback Assessment Technique (IF-AT) cards. These cards are free to UCO faculty and available at the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning (CETTL).


Written by Maurice Haff, Instructor, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, College of Business – MHaff_UCO

When was the last time your students enjoyed taking a test? Have your students ever been apprehensive about “bombing” an exam? Can you list a few instances where taking a test taught your students anything about the subject matter? Does the specter of cheating haunt your classroom? Do your exams engage your students in meaningful ways? Are your students relaxed when they show up for test day? In short, do your exams help students learn?  I can confirm from my experience over four years of using the Immediate Feedback Assessment Test (IF-AT) method that IF-AT will address the forgoing issues.

Key Benefits:

  • allows students to continue answering a question until they discover the correct answer.
  • ensures that students’ last response is the correct one.
  • teaches while it assesses.
  • facilitates learning and improving students’ retention of the information being tested.
  • students love using the IF-AT — it makes assessments enjoyable for them!
  • instructor is able to determine how many answer attempts it took for students to discover the correct answer.
  • the instructor who uses the IF-AT is able to give partial credit to his/her students.

Psychological Principles. The IF-AT was developed by a psychology professor whose specialty is human learning and memory. The IF-AT is based on solid psychological principles:

  • Immediate feedback is beneficial for learning (and is superior to delayed feedback)
  • The best test/quiz/homework assignment, etc. doesn’t just assess; it also teaches
  • The last response given by students on a test item are the ones they learn (i.e. the students leave the test item believing they have chosen the correct answers)

Recommended Use Strategy

Assessment of student learning is an essential element in what we do as educators.  If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve on the methods you use.  Our top priority needs to be helping students learn.  I have found student engagement at every opportunity, including testing, can help do that.  My approach is to test often (e.g., 4 to 6 sessions) as follows:

  1. Explain the IF-AT method and how you will use it so that students understand.
  2. Provide study guides that help students comprehend and own the subject matter.
  3. Break each exam into three parts: Out-of-class questions, In-class individual, In-class group; score weighting highest for the In-class group exam (3 to 5 students per group).

The Out-of-class part helps the students understand what you believe to be most important. The In-class individual part is a short set of questions on the key aspects that helps you assess individual learning. The In-class group engages students in subject matter discussion on the questions presented requiring reaching consensus on each answer.  I have made the questions on the In-class group exams increasingly more challenging and found that the students respond well to the challenge, with scores maintained at a high level. Students laugh, talk, and challenge each other during my exams. They come into each session smiling…they usually leave that way!

Reference:

Epstein Educational Enterprises. (n.d.) What is the IF-AT? Accessed 03/22/2017 at http://www.epsteineducation.com/home/about.

Scaling Transformative Learning Using eLearning

The connections between transformative learning and elearning are rich and create an environment prime for innovation and learning excellence. eLearning is a broad term used to describe the use of technology to empower and support learning experiences.

eLearning strategies can provide unparalleled access to transformative learning experiences through the use of technology. While access and scale are important factors in today’s educational environments, the quality and value of learning experiences should be a primary driver for innovation. Even still, there are practical needs to scale transformative learning opportunities across organizations and elearning offers one mechanism to engage individuals and Girl writinglarge groups of people in transformative learning experiences.

In this article, I outline several high-level strategies educators can use to design transformative learning experiences while leveraging the delivery benefits of elearning to enhance scale and diversity of learning experiences.

Empowering Reflection and Self-Awareness

A cornerstone of transformative learning is reflection and self-awareness that is needed to develop a new self-actualization. This process goes beyond simple knowledge acquisition or skill training, but is instead defined by the change of one’s self-perspective or worldviews. eLearning provides a way of support this reflective process by providing a space for idea cultivation and self-connections. This may be as simple as using a digital note to record an idea or growing a digital portfolio over an extended period of time. These digital data points provide a collection of anchors for future learning.

Girl checking phone

Creating Connected Communities

One of the major contributions elearning offers the field of transformative learning is the ability to connect people with few limitations on geography or time. eLearning can empower connections within courses and programs; however, the greatest value for transformative learning is the ability to connect people in contextualized ways. This supports a community of practice approach where learners create a community focused on advancing collective learning.

 

 

 

 

Supporting Applied Learning Experiencespeople work on project

Related to connecting communities, transformative learning is inherently related to empowering applied learning experiences where learners actively engage in experiences that are embedded in “real-world” situations. eLearning provides a unique opportunity to provide scaffolds and support for helping learners relate what they are learning from a conceptual level, to pragmatic and applied situations. For example, elearning can provide information through the use of videos, online guides, and resources at the “moment of need” when a learner is using a new skill or knowledge. This encourages application and enhanced relevance for the learner.

 

Summarizing Thoughts

Technology is a defining component of today’s education and learning environments. While technology may be ubiquitous, this by default, does not empower meaningful and valuable learning experiences. As educators seek to grow transformative learning opportunities for students, we should consider elearning as a catalyst and scaffold that can help learners move beyond surface learning, to more deep and integrated learning experiences.

How Important are the Following Factors to Student Achievement?

Survey results among K-12 teachers as published in “Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers,” p. 15, 2016. Student engagement and motivation was the most important (82% of teachers rating it very important), followed by percentages rating as very important: teaching quality (69%), school climate (67%), school safety (61%), social and emotional learning (61%), parental support and engagement (59%), use of growth mindset with students (53%), school discipline policies (39%), and family background (27%).

Survey results among K-12 teachers as published in "Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers," p. 15, 2016. Student engagement and motivation was the most important (82% of teachers rating it very important), followed by percentages rating as very important: teaching quality (69%), school climate (67%), school safety (61%), social and emotional learning (61%), parental support and engagement (59%), use of growth mindset with students (53%), school discipline policies (39%), and family background (27%).

Engaging or Ignoring the Disorienting Dilemma: Entitlement to Opinion?

Recently released results of a survey of K-12 teachers indicate that by a wide margin the factor most often reported as “very important” for student achievement is “student engagement and motivation” (Education Week Research Center, 2016, p. 15).

While the question in the survey related to students’ academic achievement, would your response as a college faculty member be the same, “Very important,” if the question were worded, “How important are student engagement and motivation for subsequent student transformative learning?”

In other words, is engagement a prerequisite for transformation?

The very definition of Transformative Learning (TL) indicates engagement is necessary because critical reflection — or even just thinking at a non-critically reflective level about an encounter with a disorienting dilemma — means you have engaged with the alternate idea:

Generally, transformative learning occurs when a person encounters a perspective that is at odds with his or her current perspective. This discrepant perspective can be ignored, or it can lead to an examination of previously held beliefs, values, and assumptions. When the latter is the case, the potential for transformative learning exists, though it does not occur until the individual changes in noticeable ways. (Kroth & Cranton, 2014, p. 3)

As described above by Kroth and Cranton, one of the options after encountering the disorienting dilemma (“discrepant perspective” in the language they use) is to simply ignore it. In that case, there would be no engagement with the different viewpoint or value or belief.

It’s frequently possible to identify students who are taking the no-engagement route because they say something like, “Well, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” and leave the opportunity for reflection in the dust of non-engagement. Another expression indicating there won’t be any potential for transformation might be, “Okay, let’s just agree to disagree,” though this statement at least implies there has been an exchange that might in the future have one or both parties reflect on why there was a mutually agreed-upon decision about the disagreement.

It’s certainly not the case that all disagreements need to be thought of as requirements to transform one’s beliefs. But to simply leave any conversation without considering the difference between the other’s perspective and one’s own — in other words, not to engage with the alternate viewpoint expressed — definitely stops reflection in its tracks.

Patrick Stokes, philosophy professor at Deakin University in Australia, tries to prevent students from avoiding the loss of potential transformative opportunities when they are tempted to use the “entitled to your own opinion” strategy:

. . . I say something like this: “I’m sure you’ve heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. Well, as soon as you walk into this room, it’s no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for.”

A bit harsh? Perhaps, but philosophy teachers owe it to our students to teach them how to construct and defend an argument — and to recognize when a belief has become indefensible. (Stokes, 2012)

opinion graphic

By taking this stance, Stokes charges his students with the responsibility of engagement.

If students have the tools to recognize when a belief has become indefensible, then any beliefs they hold that fit that definition become disorienting dilemmas with the potential to trigger a transformative realization.

Stokes closes his article by recommending you ask people who say, “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” why they think that.

It’s a challenging question: If the statement is true, then entitlement to an opinion that cannot be supported by the facts means that opinions, even one’s own, are trivial because — clearly! — there are opinions that are factually indefensible. On the other hand, if opinions are not trivial, then the only opinions that constitute a true entitlement must be those supportable by facts and evidence.

Eliminating the “everyone’s entitled” cop-out forces students to examine their own opinions and the opinions of others.

And helping students develop the skill of evaluating opinions primes them for engagement with any number of disorienting dilemmas.

 

References

Kroth, M., & Cranton, P. (2014). Fostering transformative learning. International Issues in Adult Education, 14: Stories of Transformative Learning, 1-12. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Mindset in the Classroom: A National Study of K-12 Teachers. (2016). Benthesda, MD: Education Week Research Center. Available: http://www.edweek.org/media/ewrc_mindsetintheclassroom_sept2016.pdf

Stokes, P. (2012, October 4). No, you’re not entitled to your own opinion. The Conversation. Available: http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978

Marketing Professor Reflects on President Betz’ conversation on “What are we doing here?”

Author: Dr. Jeri Jones-

The UCO teacher center, the Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching and Learning (CETTL), holds a monthly informal discussion called the Socrates and Stein Café.  Modeling the early French Salons and Socrates, UCO faculty are invited to come and share thoughts over cookies and tea on a big question in the academy. Every month is a different question. Faculty participating in the 21st Century Pedagogy Institute are asked to write a post-session critical reflection about their experience. Jeri Jones (UCO Associate Professor of Marketing) selected a few themes from the November 16, 2016 session lead by President Don Betz to reflect upon as they relate to her life as a faculty member.

————————————————————————————————–

I found this seminar to be particularly interesting as I enter the latter part of my academic career.  It was interesting to hear President Betz speak about the difference in faculty perspectives from faculty at the beginning of their careers versus those at the end of their careers while pondering “what am I doing here?”  During this seminar I jotted down a few phrases that had particular relevance for me and what I learned or thought about them.  I would like to discuss a few of these for my reflection piece.

“Never make a student feel they are not important enough for 30 seconds”

This really was quite profound and I can think back on my career when there were times when I asked a student to come back at another time because it was not a good time for me.  Now I realize that I need to meet students at times that are good for them and it cannot always be about me.  When students wanted to meet me to discuss something I would start the conversation by telling them when I was available on campus instead of starting by asking them when it would be convenient for them to meet me.  Now I also give students my cell phone and let them call me whenever they need help.  I know many of these students are working on homework at night and that is when they probably need the help so I tell them to feel free to call me at night.  In all honesty—it doesn’t disrupt my work life balance to take a 30 second phone call from them or answer a text.

“You have to cultivate the kind of community you want to be in”    

This really hits home for me as a faculty member. I really cannot stand it when a faculty member only complains, as I shared a lot of this behavior in my own past. The culture of a place is a direct result of the kind of participation, respect and attention we give to each other.  Now,  I try to jump in and become involved with many things on campus and be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Criticism has always come easy for me but being part of the solution is something with which I struggle.  Now, I volunteer, I do a lot of training and workshops as it keeps me connected with faculty/staff and innovation and allows me to see not only the problems but work on solutions at the same time in a positive environment.  I try not to align myself with complainers but with people with positive attitudes.  I want to be in an innovative and positive environment where NOT attempting to try something is frowned upon rather than attempting something that failed.  This is a culture that needs to be supported and encouraged and I want to be in a place that does this.  Toward that end, it is my responsibility to help cultivate this environment.  Embarrassingly, this also made me reflect on times when I was not cultivating the kind of environment that I wanted to be in.  There were times when I was the rain storm and now I have to reflect back and wonder why I did that when there were probably other things I could have done better to bring about positive change.

“We have responsibility to continue on in the right spirit”

While we have a responsibility to cultivate our own environment, sometimes it is still not the right place for that person anymore.  This was quite impactful for me.  Sometimes we need to move on and change can be a good thing when you feel you no longer fit where you are.  Tenure is not a prison!

“The learner thrives in times of great change” 

I think this sums up my thirst for faculty development and my desire to participate in the UCO’s 21st Century Pedagogy Institute.  Change is difficult for me and I have found that immersing myself in faculty development activities reduces my stress.  First it makes me ready for the change.  I feel I am better equipped to deal with change when I have been trained to not only expect it– but embrace it.  Second I feel like I am staying current with the flow and not being left behind.  I hate when I attend something of relevance to me and I feel like everyone else knows what they are talking about except me.  I have learned I can change that by keeping myself informed.  It is also a great way to keep connected and not feel alone in a place of a thousand people.