Teaching for the 21st Century – Connecting the Dots

Creativity and creation lead to student learning and outcomes. However current educational systems tend to impede these essential components to successful and fun learning.  Awareness of ways in which students meaningfully learn is not enough. Educators must apply strategies within/outside of the classroom in order to facilitate student learning that fosters the critical thinking skills needed to solve real world, complex issues.

Creating better learning systems starts with practice. Will it be enough if educational changes are not broadly made?  These readings helped to frame concepts and issues that we have been discussing in GEDI 2018 throughout the semester. As informed educators we must become activists for changing policies that are in favor of creativity and creation rather than memorization and dissemination. Without policy changes our minor, individual efforts are unlikely to be enough to make a structural difference. However, policies and social environments take a long time to change and successes at the individual and interpersonal (among peers) levels are equally important. Ultimately utilizing tools available to us in order to evolve as educators or coaches is a critical component for future success in order to combat the inevitable discouragement of failure.

Thus, I am excited although realistic with regard to the challenges and benefits to applying student-centered learning outcomes within future classrooms.

The style of authenticity

This article is interesting and inspiring. I think all new teachers perhaps feel lost when given their first course assignment or in discovering that class content did not initiate the learning process as planned. I do not have extensive knowledge or experience managing classrooms, though anticipate that in the future this role will be more prominent. And I found the author’s description of finding their voice as an educator a relief.

I say this because instead of focusing on all the ways in which teaching needs to be conducted in order to be effective – the message as I interpreted it was that trial and error are important and inevitable in developing your teaching methodology.  Additionally and importantly, this happens over time! You will not always be successful but instead it is beneficial to focus on staying true to your personality and style as a teacher and to include transparency (with regard to the ‘why are we doing this’ looks and voices of students) in all learning objectives to (ideally) enhance student ‘buy in’.

Teaching is a hugely important job and quite intimidating. There are so many variables of importance – from body language and the sound of one’s voice when conveying information in the classroom in addition to the actual course content – that it is refreshing to know that you do not have to have your style ‘figured out’ when you first begin. Rather this comes through experience and applying various tools and methods by student context. Teaching is a learning process.


Mindful Learning + Teaching

I found the readings and video for this week to be quite interesting. Particularly I love the concept of providing factual information to students in a way that suggests there is some allowance for differences in interpretation or differentiation based on context (as that is what we scientists are accustomed to (Langer, 2000)). In my experience, especially in dietetics, students have difficulty grasping theory or accepting that what we know within the field is not all ‘black and white.’ Mindful learning may be able to assist in expanding thought processes for those who do struggle in this way.

The ideas provided for inspiring mindful learning I think will be quite helpful to me in future class design. I like the idea of asking students to ‘notice’ a number of things about a topic, rather than prompting them with what should be known. To clarify, I do believe there are core ideas specific to fields that any professional within them should know. Just the process of realizing this is so much more fun if arrived through debate and thoughtfulness.

I much prefer research to teaching. However, the mindful learning concept has inspired me to think outside of the box in class and curriculum design. Teaching does not have to be dreadful and learning does not have to be cumbersome (specifically at the undergraduate level as learning historically has been more structured and dictated). I am interested to hear more examples of how mindful learning has been applied and evaluated in different classroom experiences.


Ellen J. Langer. Mindful Learning. Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 9, No. 6 (Dec., 2000), pp. 220-223.


Fun Learning Needed

The readings this week really resonated with me – for one main point made. Traditional, lecture-based, note-taking centered courses are boring. Yes, yes, yes.

After I finished my undergraduate degree, I thought I’d never go back to school. I was eternally board with sitting, listening, and pretending to take notes (that always ended up looking something like this).


Approaches to cultivating knowledge are inspiring and seem quite fun, from both a student and educator perspective. However, I feel that educators – myself included – have a long way to go before successfully utilizing these concepts in learning environments. All too often it seems that ‘active learning’ is applied to courses in the format of endless discussion among classes and groups, which can be just as exasperating  as note taking – at least in my opinion. Discussion is important for understanding diversity in ideas and problem solving techniques, of course, though has a place as lecture education does.

I say that needed are more examples and toolkits of such education models for educators that integrate technology, community, and problem solving techniques for application to real-world issues within all fields and specialties, spanning from design to nutrition science.


Networked Knowledge

The only reason I have a blog is to (and has been) to fulfill course requirements. I would say that the main reason for this non-preference has been a lack of understanding on what the purpose of using another avenue to disseminate professional thoughts and deliverables is. Isn’t that what journal articles are for?

The readings assigned this week were quite thought provoking, personally, regarding the utility of using non-academic avenues to reach a broader audience on your own terms. Beyond that, the usefulness of multi media tools to engage students and foster better writing habits, that are important for any career path, was another facet of blogging/networking/digital learning that I had not considered before now. I hope to learn more about using such methods in order to enhance my effectiveness as an educator.  Somewhat like what this professor has achieved (see this presentation ) through direct, meaningful feedback from students.

Ultimately I think the structure of university systems does not facilitate the application of these ideas well. Both in the student and professional context – again, students seem to be concerned with how they will be assessed, and meeting the minimum requirements in order to move on to the next obstacle. Also, in Academia the prospects for hiring and promotion are frequently discussed and of great import to many who seek faculty positions. How does blogging, for example, which takes away time from writing journal articles and conducting research contribute to the possibility of hiring and tenure?  While I can now understand the importance and perhaps the utility of defining a broader audience for my academic work and professional pursuits, I still feel that research productivity and peer-reviewed publications matter more — and time is short. What do you think?