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#128: What Fuels You as an Educator?

#128: What Fuels You as an Educator?

This content first appeared on APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education 

What motivates you to keep teaching? In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen discusses tools to assess your true drive and how to track the impact you’re having as an educator.

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Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents, who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun! Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen. And I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the podcast. Today, I want to talk about some motivation we have to show up for work, why we’re in this game of teaching in the first place. And that question on my mind is, “What fuels you?”

What is it that motivates you to keep teaching, to reach out to help other people? They’ve studied this out. And the research tells us that there are a lot of different orientations we have, to come to teaching. On a practical level, that’s really nice and kind of helpful to figure out about yourself.

If you’re interested in the direction that you’re going with teaching, the Teaching Perspectives Inventory is an awesome tool to assess what your main driver really is, and whether or not you’re actually doing it. The teaching perspectives inventory is one way to see your primary motivation and the comparison between reality and fantasy. So, check it out.

Some people will be the apprenticeship type, some will be the social change type, and there are several others. I’m not an expert in the TPI, but I do know that this was the first thing that opened my awareness to the fact that we are not all educators for the same reasons. Some people are educators for reasons that really light their fire. And it makes them happy and excited to just do what they do. And some people are not as excited about the job that they do but the fact that they get to be with people.

Sometimes people are much more excited about just being involved in that subject area. Like maybe you teach geology and you just love rocks, you just love the mountains and all the different rock formations and everything you can talk about with rocks. If you get to talk about it all day long when you’re teaching, that’s going to bring you that joy and excitement, right?

As a musician myself and a creative, I really love teaching music. I especially loved teaching live music classes, when I was a band teacher, or when I was leading some choir group. It would be so much fun to take something that was very rough, and help people put it together until it was just absolutely beautiful and totally expressive. To me, that was so much fun.

But it was nothing compared to seeing the people that I was working with transform as human beings. And there’s a phrase that I like to bring into my role as an educator. And strangely, it comes from Napoleon Bonaparte. And I didn’t ever know until I looked it up who initially said this phrase. But the phrase is, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” That is so interesting to me. So not only is an educator a leader, by being an online educator, you’re out there creating new things. Helping people into whatever field it is. Helping them learn and grow and transform, and you’re also just leading the future.

So, a leader is a dealer in hope. And that is something we all have that we can do as educators. And hope is absolutely essential to a happy life, or a high-quality life. Hope is that idea that there is something better in the future. We can get through the tough times, because they won’t always be tough. We can look forward and we can look to what will be that hasn’t come to pass yet.

The leader’s hope really comes from the belief that a goal is attainable. We can teach people something new; we can help them to learn, grow and transform. It gives you the strength to take yourself through the tough times. It also helps you to use your own personal creativity. And to think more about ideas that have you stuck, too. You wrestle with them and come up with new possibilities.

And hope also brings the ability to be resilient, which means to get through the tough times, to bounce back, to keep going. When we face uncertain times in our life like the world we’re living in now, we need more inspiration. We need more creativity. And we need more resilience to get through and keep going. And hope can bring us all of those things.

So as a leader, as an educator, we are dealers of hope. We bring hope, we talk about hope. And we provide a frame of reference so others can have hope too. Beyond that, what is it that really does motivate you to teach? What is it that brings you into the arena every single day, to do what you do? If we can pause and just capture that, the fuel behind what you do every day, then we can make sure you have it in your life every day. We can actually be intentional about doing the kinds of things that are going to put that in its proper place.

One of the things that fuels me is the people and the joy of connecting with other people, but also wrestling with things and creating something that is transformed. It could be that we’re wrestling with a problem, a program, or trying to develop a musical number we’re going to polish and perform. It could be anything like that. But that wrestle and the transformative experience, and then the product at the end. That is such a beautiful bright spot in my life. And I look for that all the time when I’m an educator doing my educator thing.

What is it that you look for? Take a moment to just jot down some ideas for yourself. And if you have a reflective journal, this is a great idea to write about today. What is it that you deal in? As an educator primarily, we deal in hope. But what else? What is it for you?

Think about the last week of your life as an educator, just the last seven days. If you’re teaching a class right now, what is it that happened during your day that brought you a ray of sunshine, or made you feel really excited or look forward to doing it again? Whatever that is, I would write that down in your reflective journal. This is going to be a clue of the big picture ideas you need to be pursuing so that you have more satisfaction in your role and more happiness in your job.

One of the things I love most about that, wrestling with problems, is collaborating with other people. And right now, in my current role, I do a lot of collaborating with other educators, with colleagues and peers and leaders of all levels. And we might end the day with a conversation where we’re talking about something that is a challenge we’re working on. I love focusing on some of the wins of the past week. So often, I’ll try to choose a conversation for the end of the day that will bring a spark or a light into that day and end the day really well.

That way, in my own role as an educator, no matter what challenges I’m facing during the day, I’m going to end the day in a way that really leaves me feeling great and having a sense of control over what I’m doing. After all, there is so little we can truly control in our world. And in our lives, we can control the attitude we have. And a great way to do that is to put people in your path that you know you can be positive with or who will celebrate with you, or who are willing to look at the hope and the bright side of things. So if you’re interested in that, that could be a way to end your day as well.

What else brings you a fuel for what you’re doing? What gets you through those hard times and helps you persevere, when things seem really, really difficult? It’s very easy to notice all that’s going wrong, we could list five things that are going wrong right now. But what’s going right for you?

If this is a bit of a struggle, and it’s difficult to know what lights your fire, I’d like to suggest one activity you could try every day for the next week. And pretty soon you’re going to be able to identify those things that do bring you a sense of satisfaction in your work. And then you’ll notice what really lights your fire, not just satisfaction, you’ll get to that next level of being really excited about what you do. This activity is to write three good things that are happening or did happen.

At the end of every day, schedule five minutes, just take a notepad and write down three good things. After you do that for a couple of days, turn them into three good things that you did. Things where you had an impact, where you contributed your strengths or your talents. Something where you had autonomy, or you benefited by collaborating with somebody else. Whatever it is, you want three distinctly different things every single day for one week.

And then at the end of the week, look back for patterns. What similarities do you see? Are there similar activities that were good in your opinion? Did these things bring you hope, satisfaction, happiness? Help you feel glad that you are doing the career field you’re in? Whatever you see in those patterns, you can then decide how to get more of that in your daily work. And that’s going to continue to light your fire.

As you think about what fuels you as an educator, and what really brings you excitement in your day and passion to your work, there are some things we can do to help light the fire of other people around us. This is especially important if we have friends, family members, peers and colleagues who are struggling to feel like the work they do makes a difference.

The first thing we can do to inspire hope in other people and light their fire is to show that we love and care for them. That could be we’re just listening, we’re just being there being present, just spending the time. Everyone needs to feel that they are important, and that others will listen to them and just care for them. So demonstrating the love and care we have for others can be a real bright spot that lights the fire.

Second, remember that everyone deserves happiness. And there are some simple things we can do to inspire happiness. While we may not be able to make anyone feel an emotion, we can definitely invite happiness through the things we do. Sometimes it’s through a thank you note, sometimes a phone call, there are a lot of things that can bring happiness. And if you think about what the person in your life might be most interested in, you can act on that and generate a little more happiness.

A third thing we can do is to help the other person figure out what lights their fire and motivates them most. And this could be a lot of talking about the past, what brought them excitement in the past, why they entered the teaching profession, what they have loved. Sometimes in courses they have taught in times when they’ve had a good experience professionally, or with students, happy memories they have during their career.

There are a lot of ways to get at that and really identify what someone’s passion is in their professional area. And if it’s really, really challenging for a person to get up to the space of finding that, we could also look at recreational interests and life areas, and find something that brings joy, excitement, passion, enthusiasm and happiness for that person. Simply having the conversation and exploring that with someone else can also demonstrate that love and care that was the beginning of this list. Anytime we spread that hope in others, and light the fire for them by identifying what they care most about, that will just bring more of the good that we’re trying to put out there in the world by being educators, teaching others and lifting them to the next level of whatever their career field is, or whatever their professional goal is or their personal development goal. So the more we help other people figure out what lights their fire, the more we’re generating a lot of that.

Alright, so think about what lights your fire. Notice it over the next week, and see if you can share and inspire others to do the same. And of course, I would love to hear from you and hear how you’ve made this a reality in your life and in your work. Go ahead and visit BethanieHansen.com/request, and you can share your comments there. And any tips and strategies you have in this particular area would be wonderful. We can share them with other educators in a future episode. Take care of yourself this coming week and enjoy your students. Now we’re wishing you all the best in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#113: How Reflective Practices Can Help Students Learn More Deeply

This content first appeared on APUEdge.Com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenAssociate Dean (Interim), School of Arts, Humanities and Education

There are many ways to help students retain information, but one of the most successful ways is through reflective practices. Learn how reflective practices can help students “think about their thinking” and include strategies like journaling, blogging, and other self-directed methods to think more deeply about what they’re learning in the online classroom.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen, your host, and I want to talk with you today about a simple tip to help your students learn more deeply. You may already be familiar with the needs of adult learners, and one of those needs is that they have some kind of ownership of their learning. They are somewhat self-directed. They also need to know what the application of their learning will be, how it’s going to connect to their career, their real life, the real world. This simple tip today is all about helping your students take charge and self-direct their learning to a greater degree.

Ways to Help Students Learn and Retain Information

When learning more deeply, there are a lot of different options available to us. One option is repetition. We can teach the same thing in a lot of different ways, and that is going to help the learner move it from short-term to long-term memory over time.

We can also do action learning, some kind of applied work outside of the online classroom. Students can get out and do something in the real world to help it stick, to be more permanent and more lasting. We can also scaffold the learning and repeat the content while we do it.

For example, in the first week of class, you might introduce a concept, come back in the second week of class, test, quiz and assess that first concept along with the week two concept and cumulatively build the information testing and assessment over the course of the class.

All of these are great options, and they might be strategies that you would like to try with your online students, and especially your adult learners, to help build some retention of the information and increase the likelihood of student success in their learning.

How Reflective Practice Helps Students Learn

But the tip I’m going to give you today is even more simple than all of those strategies, and it is the simple idea of using reflection. Reflective practice, journaling, blogging, self-assessment all of those things fall into that bucket of reflection.

There are some things students can do when they’re preparing for the assignment or the work, during the learning itself, and afterwards that will use reflection in ways to cement their learning and help them learn more deeply. This first tip that I’m sharing today about reflection is really intended to get your students to be more in charge and more autonomous about their own learning.

You don’t need as many crazy strategies or methods in your teaching, or at least not those that take so much of your time to create, if you’re using a lot more student reflection. And the reason for this is that as your students are using that reflective practice, they’re thinking about their thinking. They’re taking that step one step removed from the learning process, and they’re starting to analyze how they learned, how they incorporated the information, how they worked with it, depending on the type of reflection you’re going to use.

Encouraging Students to Journal

So, I’m going to just suggest a few different options to get your students journaling in your online course so they can learn more deeply and do this in a more simple way. Students who find a new concept to be especially difficult can benefit from a reflective practice before even starting the learning activities. There might be some questions to complete ahead of time to ask the student where they might have some connection to what they’re about to learn. You might, for example, ask what they already know about the subject matter, what they think they know, what they guess about it.

You could share a little bit of introductory material to get them curious, and also have them reflect on once they have this little bit of information what they now hope to learn about it, what they expect to know and where they might be most interested in gaining new knowledge.

Some kind of self-direction before the learning activities even begin gives your students the chance to reflect on what they’re about to do and take ownership right from the start. Now, during the learning activities, a student can have some kind of questions they’re going to reflect on, complete, write some narrative about, or even discuss with a peer partner in the discussion section of your online class.

And all of these questions along the way could be about how they’re learning, what they’re understanding, what they’re not, and any kind of reflections on the process they’re experiencing. I had some questions like this in a course I was teaching online in which I asked students about week four, maybe it was week three of an eight-week class how they were learning the content. I asked them what was going well, what they wanted to be more effective at in their learning and where they could use a little bit of support.

I was pleasantly surprised when students came back with all kinds of suggestions and ideas, and some even brought in examples from their own lives and their work to tie to the learning and asked questions to see if they were on the right track. Journaling midpoint and throughout the learning process can really bring those connections along in the process of the learning and help our students to see much more relevance, learning more deeply than they might otherwise do. And we have to admit that when our students are passive consumers just reading the content or just listening to the content or watching the content without doing any kind of activity, they’re much less likely to remember it.

It can go into short-term memory, but it takes a little bit of analysis or manipulating that information or applying it or reflecting on it, or even memorizing it if that’s necessary for it to go into long-term memory storage and later retrieval. So, a reflective practice can help with all of those things and help students take their learning into more long-term memory, where they’re more likely to remember it by the end of the class.

Journaling is a good practice you can use for reflection with students. If students have a journal and they’re writing in it each week about their learning, maybe they’re sharing what the new concepts are, what new applications they can see, what questions they have. I can recall this was used in an English class I took at the college level when I was already a teacher and I changed states for my credential to transfer over, I had to take a literature teaching course. It was basically how to teach literature in any subject area for secondary educators. And since my subject is music, I found that very interesting. We were going to talk about reading in music classes.

There was a journal attached that the professor used throughout our experience and we would write about the readings that we experienced or read in the class, questions, thoughts, applications, and then we would turn those in. At the end of each week, the instructor would give them back to us with kind of like a conversation. So, the instructor would answer questions or ask some in return, maybe write some statements to contribute to our understanding.

It was clearly very time consuming for that instructor to do, but incredibly helpful because it really gave each student the opportunity to reflect as we’re learning and even get some feedback on that reflective practice. So, there’s another thought that you could try in an online class.

Choosing a Method in the LMS

Now, no matter what learning management system you are using, online classes do all have places where you can use journaling, if you want to do it online. One method could be to set up the blog section of the online class, if that exists. I’ve also seen it done where discussion boards were created and groups were made so that each student had their own private group discussion board. That way the instructor and the student could engage back and forth and no other students could read it. So, if you’re concerned about privacy for your online students and the safety for them to really explore their thoughts, reflect on their learning and ask questions to you, that private group feature might be an excellent way to go.

One of the reasons journaling is especially good is that students can think through their opinions they might not otherwise share in a live discussion. Journaling can also help them think internally and really think about how things might unfold in their own life, and it’s not necessarily about everybody else. So, it can be very personalized and help the student also tie to some background knowledge, some things they already know, and try out new vocabulary that they aren’t yet comfortable using in the live discussion or the larger group discussion. So, this is something I’d highly encourage, to get your students to a deeper learning level, and also actually personalize the course quite a bit more.

There’s this idea that in a learning management system, you could do e-journaling. Of course, it’s a reflective practice like we’ve been talking about in this podcast so far, and it is a private entry between the student and the instructor. And it will take a little bit of careful design in your course to figure out how to create this private blog or this private discussion board. Because after all, we don’t want other students to see it, that defeats the whole purpose of a private space.

It is an asynchronous tool. So, just like the handmade or the written journal that I experienced in that college class, the private blog or private discussion board space, or whatever you choose to use for a student’s reflective practice, becomes a really great way to keep the thoughts in one space without having the whole community see it.

So, really the goal for the whole thing is that we’re just trying to give that student a space to really open up, think through their learning, reflect on their learning, make some applications and have the opportunity to connect that with the faculty member.

Adding Structure to the Reflective Practice

So, I would suggest giving some initial questions to your reflective practice for students. When you give them something to think about as they go through the work, go through the learning, or even after the learning is done and they’re doing this as an assessment, some questions can really help students get started thinking through their ideas.

One question could be what is something you’re learning that seems familiar to you, or you anticipate applying in your life or work? What is something that you noticed connects to other things you already know? What questions do you have about what you’re learning so far?

Remember that it’s meant to be reflective, so you don’t need a lot of questions here, but a few to get your students started could help them begin the practice, especially if they’re not already familiar with journaling or very comfortable with it. So, again, you can ask questions or you can have a prompt where it is sort of like a mini-assignment. The student reads the prompt where you ask them how to apply certain ideas from the lesson and they’re going to reflect on that afterwards.

You could give them a prompt asking them to review the concepts that they learned, find ways to connect the current learning to previous learning or last week’s learning, how it builds on itself. Or you could even ask students to write about how their new learning connects to the bigger theme that is being taught or learned in the course. All things that you include in a prompt or a series of questions can be personalized to the student, personalized to the course, the subject matter, or generalized, if you prefer to give students a lot of space.

Grading Considerations for Reflective Practices

Now, once you’ve given your students a good start in reflective practice before, during and after learning activities, how do you grade this? After all, students are going to do this when it’s evaluated and it’s less likely they will consistently do it if it’s not graded. So, one way you can do it is pass-fail based on their participation alone. If you choose to do that, it’s a non-threatening way to give credit and allow a lot of latitude for different types of reflection of varying lengths.

You could create a rubric for the reflective practice or journaling that might happen. And that rubric could be that it’s proficient or advanced, demonstrating solid ideas with detailed support and evidence or experiences or connections. You could have a second category that’s perhaps developing or approaching the standard. And you could have another one where this is missing completely. It’s not demonstrated at all.

And some of the things you might evaluate in student journaling would be the response connecting to the course materials, actually reflecting on learning and connecting to the learning, some coherence throughout their writing, and also application to life, work or other places.

The more you give clarity upfront, and also keep that conversation going with your students, the more they’re likely to benefit from this whole practice and know what to start with, what they’re really aiming for when they start writing. I believe in journaling. I’ve been a journal keeper my whole life and when I’ve seen this used in courses that I have taken as a student, it’s been incredibly beneficial. I notice that I’m thinking more deeply, and I’m also able to remember the experience years afterwards.

That course I mentioned earlier in this podcast was 20 years ago, for example, and I still remember a lot of those journal entries because they took some time to think about and there was a lot of conversation with the faculty member when I got that journal back. So, I want to invite you to consider how you might try reflective practice with your students, how it could naturally be weaved into the course you’re teaching and try it out, see if it works for you. And, of course, I would love to hear your feedback on what you’re trying and whether or not this is working.

Feel free to stop by my website, BethanieHansen.com. There’s a request form where you can add comments and just share your experience with reflective practice and using journaling in your online course with your students. Thanks for being a listener here at the Online Teaching Lounge. It’s great to have you with us and I really hope you’ll come back next week. We have a special guest coming up. It’s going to be a wonderful experience, so definitely check it out. I wish you all the best in your online teaching this coming week and throughout the season ahead.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit BethanieHansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#73: Starting a Reflective Practice Can Help You Grow as an Online Educator

#73: Starting a Reflective Practice Can Help You Grow as an Online Educator

Starting a Reflective Practice Can Help You Grow as an Online Educator

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Podcast with Dr. Bethanie L. HansenDepartment Chair, School of Arts, Humanities and Education

Dedicating time to reflect can help educators assess their teaching strategy and find ways to improve and become more effective. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares what reflective practice means, how to get started, and tips for making the most of reflective writing.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m Bethanie Hansen, and I’m very happy to talk with you today about reflective writing. That’s right, reflective writing is one practice that will improve your online teaching quickly.

When you reflect about what you’re doing and think about the habits you’re creating in your online teaching journey, you can then make small adjustments and improve things over time, to save yourself time. Reflective teaching means that you’re going to look at what you do when you’re teaching. Think about why you do it, and think about whether it works.

What is Reflective Practice?

This is an overall process of observing yourself, or self-observation. And, it’s also self-evaluation. When you’re evaluating your own teaching, you won’t be surprised if someone else comes along and evaluates you and sees something similar.

John Dewey said, “We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” That’s absolutely right. I keep a journal; I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 12 years old. That’s a lot of journaling! I’ve written about many experiences I’ve had, and I’ve also written about thoughts I had, and day-to-day experiences that are pretty mundane. And, I have gone through some of those journals from my earlier life, and I find fascinating things that I wrote. I also remember things afresh because I don’t remember them for real, but I remember them by reading about my experiences as I wrote them. This is been really insight-producing for me, but it’s also helpful as an educator.

Early in my career, when I was a public school music teacher, we were encouraged to write down some reflective thoughts at the end of our teaching day. I found that a helpful way to consider what was going well, as well as what I wanted to fix. I hope you will find this a positive practice to quickly improve your online teaching as well. Here are some things that reflective educators do.

Planning Ahead Makes Reflective Practice Possible

First, dedicate time to reflect. If you don’t plan ahead to set this time aside in your day, you won’t do it. There’s no common time for reflecting, except perhaps when one’s preparing to go to bed. You might have a reading habit, or a journaling habit, at that time, in which case you could add reflective journaling to that routine.

I prefer to do reflective writing about my professional life at the end of the workday, and not at the end of the day. Earlier in the evening is better, because it’s fresh, and I can think about what I did during my workday, and kind of close that part of my day. Dedicate time to reflect by selecting whether this will be a daily habit, a weekly habit, or a monthly habit. Or if you prefer, you might reflect after certain lessons that you’re giving that you’re especially concerned about or excited about.

Reflective Practice Can Help Us Be Intentional

Number two, reflect to make specific teaching decisions. As you reflect on your practice, you’ll be able to see things a little bit more objectively. Some of us are hard on ourselves. We judge our teaching very harshly. Others, we give ourselves a lot of latitude, and we like to acknowledge everything that’s going right.

As you’re reflecting on your teaching, notice where you find patterns. As you notice these patterns, for example, your own teaching is difficult in certain lessons that you’re giving, or you find certain assignments very boring or very difficult to grade, as you notice those kinds of patterns you can make new decisions about the way design your course and about the way you teach the course.

Reflection is very helpful to make specific teaching decisions that improve your teaching and also improve student learning.

Reflective Practice Improves Our Time Management

Number three, reflect about how to approach tasks and challenges. One of the things I do occasionally is note how I spent my time throughout the day.

I will write down how much of my time was spent grading work, how much of my time was spent reading e-mails, how much of my time was spent creating videos to put in my class, and all of those other tasks I do as an online professor. Have you ever done that?

Have you ever written down how you spend your day? When you do that, and you write down the time log, you can think about how to approach the tasks and challenges you face as an online educator and find new approaches.

In fact, as you reflect on the tasks that you do as an online educator, it might even occur to you to research those tasks and find out how other people approach them. The more you think about the way you approach your tasks and challenges, the more you can plug holes in time. Such as where time just slips away from you, or feels kind of wasted. You can pull that in, tighten it up, and make your teaching even more effective.

Reflective Practice Helps Us Consider Our Strategies

Fourth, reflect to consider strategies and andragogy. As you are teaching your course from week to week, or month to month, as you reflect on your teaching, you can consider whether you’re using strategies the way you had hoped and if they went the way you hoped they would. You can also consider what adult learners truly need in the online classroom.

Good principles of andragogy, or andragogy theory, includes ideas like adults having choice in their learning process, adults being able to bring their life experiences into their learning, and many other good principles.

As you think about the principles of andragogy or theory of andragogy and reflect on whether you’re using them in your teaching, or in the design of your course, you might consider new approaches for the future.

Reflective Practice Helps Us Analyze How We Teach

And lastly, number five, reflect to analyze your teaching. Many of the things that I would do to analyze my teaching in a live class would be to notice how I was talking to my students, how I was pacing the lesson, how it was structuring the content, whether we needed a different kind of warm-up activity or closure activity, and that was easy to do, when it was about real time.

When you’re doing it in an asynchronous course, analyzing your teaching in that setting can be a little different. You might need to read through some of the things you’ve written in the class and some of the answers you’ve given your students, or forum replies you’ve posted.

As you look over these things, then you can take out a notebook or a Word document on your computer, and you can type some thoughts about your teaching in those different parts of the classroom.

One of the questions I would respond to when analyzing my teaching was: How did the approach I used land with my students?

  • How did students appear to respond to the approach I used in this particular week?
  • How did students format their assignments for the goals that I put forth for that assignment? Did it land?
  • Does it look like students understood the content enough to answer those questions, or do I need to take some other approach?

Whenever I write about my teaching, it takes some time to think it through. To notice what is really happening in the classroom and how I’m feeling about my teaching. And the more I do it, the better I am as an educator.

How to Make Reflective Practice Work for You

Now that I’ve talked with you a little bit about what reflective teachers do, let’s consider how we do it. This would be the logistical “nuts and bolts” of journaling.

You might use a coaching journal or a teaching journal of sorts, and you can answer these three questions when you think about your teaching.

  • How did I think like an educator?
  • How did I act like an educator?
  • How did I exercise curiosity with my students and a beginner’s mind like an educator? Like a lifelong learner?

You might use a journal if you like the hardcopy version. I personally do, and I’ve read some research out there about how writing by hand has a much bigger impact than just typing or just dictating. But if you don’t like to write by hand, it’s definitely still worth your time to use one of those other methods.

You might consider getting a spiral notebook. These are cheap. You can find them at just about any store that sells pens and paper. You might consider using Post-it notes, scraps of paper, a three-ring binder with some paper in there, or you could use an actual bound journal, where you’re going to write regularly.

If you’re going to use electronic methods, you might use Microsoft Word, Penzu or another journaling software, a Rocket Book or another kind of e-notebook, pen to computer, or you can dictate to an electronic notepad, such as on your iPad, your iPhone, or your Samsung device.

Technical Reflection

If you’re going to make a technical reflection as you’re journaling or reflecting on your online teaching, consider reflecting about your general instruction and management behaviors that you use, based on educational theory and research. Those things you learned as you are preparing to become an educator.

You can also reflect on the various best practices of online teaching and consider how they might or might not be working for you. And then in the quality of your reflection, think about how you can get into some depth there, and think about really what is and is not working.

A management behavior you might reflect about would be whether or not your netiquette policy is helpful or if you need a netiquette policy. What kind of things you notice about the way students respond in forum discussions? And, how have you tried to help them show up even more academically there?

Reflection In-Action and On-Action

If you’re going to do a reflection in-action and on-action, that would be reflecting while you’re in the online classroom and doing the teaching. Or afterwards, when you’re reflecting about the actions you’ve already performed.

This would be you reflecting on your own personal teaching performance. And you might base your decisions on your own situation. There are certainly some circumstances in which our online teaching may be less than stellar for various reasons; maybe we’re in an emergency situation. Maybe we have a crisis in our family, and we are just trying to get through the course and there might not be back up. So we do the best that we can, but whatever’s going on might be part of your reflection.

Deliberative Reflection

You might also consider a deliberative reflection, and this could be on a range of teaching concerns. You might reflect on how you’ve seen other online educators do things or whether you’d like to observe others.

You could also think about teaching methods, strategies, and management that you’d like to try and intentionally write about those. You can weigh different viewpoints or research findings you read about. You might even reflect on what you learn from this podcast right here.

Personalistic Reflection

And then of course, there’s the personalistic reflection, and this might be about your emotional response or your analysis of the entire teaching experience:

  • How are you experiencing being an online educator right now?
  • What’s tough for you?
  • What’s refreshing and new and wonderful for you?

That kind of personal insight that you look at from day to day or week to week can really help you see how far you’ve come. As you look over it near the end of the course, or end of the session or semester, you might see some growth in your confidence as well as the quality of your reflections.

You can of course do it weekly, daily, or monthly, whatever works for you. But I do also can suggest using at least some kind of beginning and end of the course reflection, so you can think about what’s coming up and also reflect on what has been.

Smaller Reflections Get You Started

And lastly, if you’re not really sure you’re interested in a reflection habit, start small and use a timer. Giving yourself five or 10 minutes to reflect, and focusing on just one thing at a time can help you keep it tightly controlled so it doesn’t end up taking more of your time than you’d like to spend.

Over time, reflection can help you grow as an educator. This is particularly important when you’re teaching online, and you might have fewer peers than you do in a live situation. I hope you’ll try starting a reflective practice about your online teaching this coming week, and I wish you all the best in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#72: A Quick Guide to Blended Learning for Online Educators

#72: A Quick Guide to Blended Learning for Online Educators

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Teachers and trainers can develop effective blended learning using this quick guide to course design. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares tips to help online educators set a clear goal for the course, write a course outline, detail both the online and live portions of the course, design collaboration and interactivity, plan communication, consider learning resources, and design assessments.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. I’m so glad you’re here, and I want to welcome our listeners from all around the world who enjoy this podcast. One of our listeners in India this past week sent a message asking for help with blended learning. Today’s episode is a quick guide to blended learning for all of you who may be facing this kind of pattern.

Blended learning means that some of your learning is taking place in the virtual classroom. This could be in a learning management system of some kind or by email, whatever method that you choose to deliver that online content. The other half or other segments of the learning are delivered face-to-face. This could be in a live classroom, say you’re going down to the local campus and meeting as a group. It could be a tele-class where there are groups distributed in different geographical areas all meeting by videoconference. Or, it could be individually through Zoom or some other kind of web conferencing. But that other half of the blended learning is taking place live.

Whatever your method of the live component of your learning, the online learning component can be challenging to design and set up—especially if you’re not sure how to design two different halves without duplicating your efforts. I have some experience with this.  I designed some hybrid courses several years ago for a local community college, and I also taught those courses. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned and also what are some good best practices.

Here are your seven steps to create blended learning courses. I’ll share all steps with you up front and then I’ll go through each one and give you some details to help you out.

  1. Set a clear goal for the course.
  2. Outline what you’ll accomplish. That includes what you will do online as well as what you will do face-to-face.
  3. In your outline, detail those online and live portions of the course.
  4. Design collaboration and interactivity.
  5. Create a communication plan.
  6. Cultivate resources.
  7. Design your assessments.

Tip 1: Set a Clear Goal for the Course

Let’s go with number one: set a clear goal for your course. When you’re designing a blended learning situation, or a hybrid course, you want to know what you’re going to teach the students during that course. Define the learning outcomes.

When you’re backward mapping, in true backward mapping, this part of the process will also include some idea of your assessments that will ultimately measure students’ learning at the end of the course. If you know how you’re going to measure that learning as you’re designing it from the beginning, this is a really cohesive approach to outlining content later on.

Think about whether students need to pass a major exam, provide a practical demonstration of their learning, write about their experience, or provide some other artifact to show mastery of what you will teach them. This big-picture goal helps you design the scope of the course, in general. For example, if I’m going to be teaching some kind of music appreciation course, I will decide what eras in history to include, what genres and styles, what nationalities of music I might bring in, which major composers, and which interesting selections that I might have. Generally speaking, this is going to be part of my thinking as I’m setting that goal. But those details won’t really be nailed down until later.

I’m also going to be thinking about what students will be able to do with that knowledge and what they will need to demonstrate at the end of the course with that knowledge. So, that first goal upfront is helping you to set boundaries around what you’re going to teach and also clarify what you’re going to teach.

Tip 2: Outline The Weekly Goals, Topics, and Content of your Course

Number two: outline the weekly goals, topics, and content of your course. This will help you break down each week into manageable chunks of content, learning activities, and formative assessments to guide students along.

Formative assessments are those smaller ways of assessing your students to know how they’re doing. Formative assessments can be small, like a discussion board in an online section of the course. They can be quizzes. They can be just discussions in the live part of your hybrid or blended course. Whatever you do for formative assessments, these should be ways for the instructor to check in along the way to know how students are doing in the class, and also ways for students to gauge their own mastery along the way.

They should be able to do formative assessments to adjust their approach, to study more, to go back and review or to somehow adjust their progress and make sure that they can pass that course by the end of the term together.

When you’re doing this outline of weekly goals, topics, and content, I suggest something like a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. On one column, you can list the different weeks of the course. This is basically a timeline. In the next column, you can list the topics, or the weekly goals, or both. Then in the next column, this would be the column to list the things you might consider doing in the online part of your class. What will need to be placed in the online classroom? What kinds of online content would you like to provide, and activities? And then, in the next column you can list what you would need to do during the live parts of the class.

And I suggest that during the live part, you’re going to have a lot of different information to share those first few weeks, and I’ll get to that in just a minute. So, outlining your weekly goals, topics, and content can take place very easily in some kind of a spreadsheet or database type of software.

Tip 3: In your Outline, Detail Those Online and Live Portions of the Course

On your outline, give the details of options for the online teaching and engagement, and the face-to-face time. You’ll want to break these down into significant activities in both places. There will be learning content and there will be some kind of interactivity, but it’s important not to duplicate your activities.

So if you have a discussion online, then you’re also going to meet live, that we can have the same kind of discussion. That’s what I mean when I say: don’t duplicate. You can have that discussion in the live space and then have some kind of a follow-up question-answer or message board. But having an additional online discussion when you’ve already had a live discussion is quite a bit for students to be doing.

Ask yourself, “Will both parts be online?” Asynchronous learning is the LMS component or the online component of the course. And that’s the part that students should be able to access any time during the week and engage in throughout the week on their own. The synchronous learning will be done live, and this could be done entirely through videoconferencing like Zoom or some other platform. It could be done face-to-face in the live classroom, all in one group, or maybe students are distributed in different geographic locations just coming together through a teleconference in groups. Regardless of the live format, you want to figure out whether this live format is online as well as the course, or if it is actually taking place physically?

If it’s going to be online as well, you might consider adding some additional guidance and details about how to engage in the live parts, and how to engage in the asynchronous parts. That will make your blended learning experience a lot more positive for students, because they’ll know what to expect. And they’ll have no trouble getting online and engaging in both parts of your class.

If you have a live section where students will be physically face-to-face with you, that can be explained or demonstrated and you won’t have to have as much guidance about the live portion in your online section. As you’re doing the outline and detailing what you’ll do online and what you’ll do face-to-face, use Bloom’s taxonomy to design depth and engaged learning that goes beyond fact-based recall and basic knowledge. Now this is especially important if you’re teaching a training, and not just an academic course.

If you’re doing some kind of training where people need to be able to reproduce the skills or have basic knowledge and skills with that training, it is very tempting just to have quizzes and things that measure whether the students heard you or understood the content. But that tells you nothing about whether the students are able to reproduce that, act on what they’re learning, or do something else with it.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a great tool to create depth in your online portion and also consider what you might do in the live portion to get to a place way beyond fact-based recall. Bloom’s taxonomy is developed to provide a common language for teachers to talk about learning and assessment. If you use Bloom’s taxonomy, that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can use. There’s also Costa’s levels and there are other ways to scaffold the different levels of learning that might happen in your course.

Bloom’s taxonomy basically includes six levels. It starts with basic knowledge, and that would be your fact-based recall, multiple-choice quizzing, question-answer about just the basic details.

And then, the next level is comprehension. This is where your students will demonstrate back to you that not only did they learn the facts about what they were learning in the class, but they comprehended. They have a greater depth of knowledge, and there’s some activity that has to be done with the learning to get to that point of comprehension demonstration.

The third level, is application what can students do with what they’re learning. As you think about application, this is where assessments come into play. If students are taught something and given some skills, and then they need to put it together to apply it, that can be demonstrated through some sort of assessment beyond quizzing.

The fourth level is analysis. Analysis is much more complex, and when you ask your students to do analysis with the content, some demonstration of what analysis is would be helpful. You can explain analysis and demonstrate analysis, and then ask your students to do the analysis.

The next level is synthesis. That’s bringing a lot of different things together.

And the final step in Bloom’s taxonomy, the top level, is evaluation. If you think about these different levels of learning activities or thinking that you might do in either your face-to-face or the online component of that blended course, it’s going to help you to also scaffold the activities from week one all the way through the end of the course. Say, for example, week one might begin with a lot of very basic-level knowledge and structural information, academic vocabulary, build up to the big ideas. Then later a few weeks into the course, you might have some comprehension and application of that knowledge.

As you’re moving through the course, ultimately students should be able to demonstrate some higher-order thinking. Analysis, synthesis, and evaluation by the end of that course, at whatever appropriate level you select for the content. As you think about Bloom’s taxonomy throughout the course, but also throughout your assessments, this will help you to know: Did students really learn what you needed them to learn and understand in the class?

Tip 4: Design Collaboration and Interactivity

The next level is, on the next step in designing your blended learning course is, to create reasons for students to collaborate, interact with each other and their instructor, and work with the knowledge. This connects very well to Bloom’s taxonomy we just covered, when you consider that higher-order thinking activities require time, contemplation, and application of the learning to develop. If students can collaborate in real time during the face-to-face setting, you can design group work. You can do jigsaw conversations. There are many strategies you can employ during the live section to get students talking to each other and working together.

You can also use group activities online. This is very easy to do using the groups feature in Bright Space or other LMSs. You can also use discussion boards. You can have them do group projects. They can even schedule time outside of their asynchronous learning to get together on their own, live, to do a group project.

Tip 5: Create a Communication Plan

Because you have all these moving parts with your online content, in your live face-to-face teaching, a communication plan is essential to help your students know what to do.

You might have an online question-answer location, or a message board. If you’re having the live face-to-face portion first, this is a great time to guide students to engage with the online portion. So in the face-to-face meeting, you can pull up the screen, and you can walk them through the online part of your class. And then, of course, giving them some sort of handout or downloadable outline of each week of the course and where and when they should engage with each part of the course can also help your students follow along.

In my experience teaching a hybrid class several years ago, I spent most of the time during the live class over the first two weeks simply guiding students to get online and find their way around the classroom. If you don’t have a long period of time, you might create a video of yourself going to the classroom, and the face-to-face content, and showing students how to get each one. And what each one will involve.

Tip 6: Cultivate Resources, Online Content, and Learning Materials

Number six: cultivate resources, online content, and learning materials. Just like any class, these might include your textbooks, your video lessons, interactive web-based tools, and other content.

Whatever you put online can be as basic as reading and watching the videos, if needed. But if you can get a little bit more sophisticated, that will be more engaging for students. Ideally, it should be interactive in the online portion and take full advantage of the options available through modern technology. If you are going to create a lot of videos for the online portion, I suggest segmenting these into shorter videos of, maybe, five minutes each. That will help your students stay engaged and get through them one at a time, when their time allows.

Tip 7: Design your Assessments

I suggested during step one, thinking about your assessments early on, as you are setting the course goals. Now, this final step is to actually flesh out and design your assessments. And that could take place online, it could take place live, face-to-face. But those assessments need very clear guidance and instructions.

And as you review them yourself, ensure that they do map to the course goals. Do they actually measure what you intended to teach and what you did teach? Do they help students demonstrate those higher levels in Bloom’s taxonomy of thinking at the application and the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation stages?

If all you need is knowledge and comprehension, that’s pretty simple to do and could be done through essays and exams or oral activities as well.

Launching Your Blended Course

As you launch your blended course, review these seven steps to ensure you haven’t missed anything. And of course, “test drive” the content that you have. Make sure everything in your online segment of the course is accessible and viewable by your students, and works properly.

I wish you all the best in your quest of creating blended learning, and again hello to our friends in India who sent us this question. Thank you, and have a great week teaching online!

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#69: 10 Leadership Principles to Refresh Your Teaching Career

#69: 10 Leadership Principles to Refresh Your Teaching Career

This content was first posted at APUEdge.Com

Teaching online can sometimes get stale or repetitive. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares 10 leadership principles that online educators can apply to their teaching strategies and professional development. Use these principles to revitalize your teaching career and help you connect with your students so you can bring your best self to the classroom.

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Hey, welcome back to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m so glad you’re here. We’re going to talk about how you can give your online teaching career a refresh. What does that mean? Well, we’re going to talk about 10 different areas to think about if you’re getting a little stale in your online career.

There is a well-known experience that many people have. You start teaching, it’s exciting at first, maybe even challenging, and you have a lot of things you’re going to be learning to try to help yourself really get in there and do a good job.

Over time, you develop your skills a little bit, you start to build relationships with colleagues and peers, you connect with the community. Hopefully you’re continuing to grow as an educator all this time and continuing to move forward. What you may have heard in the past is, “If you’re not growing, you’re moving backwards.” There’s just no way to stay in one spot in our professional development or as a person.

So this idea of being stale in our careers, what is that even about? That might have to do with not having things to look forward to, or when we get in a pattern of teaching the same courses all the time and we don’t have any new approaches to those things, or maybe we are always in the same spot. So every year we have a routine and we’d like something to refresh that for us or revitalize it.

So if you’ve been thinking about whether you should change jobs, change schools to teach at, or maybe whether teaching is really right for you at all, before you start asking those questions, let’s ask whether your career just needs a refresh. Is that possible?

Does Your Career Need a Refresh?

A refresh of your career is that maybe your role as an educator could start to expand in ways that it hasn’t before. We go into the classroom and we really own that shop. It’s kind of like we own a little business when we’re teaching a class, whether we’re live or online, we are in charge of that space. We get to set the rules within reason that comply with the institution we teach for, but, generally speaking, we manage the classroom in a way that works for us. And that’s like setting our own rules.

We get to teach in a way that works for us for the most part and we get to build relationships. No one else is standing between us and those people we’re teaching. We have student relationships. We can also see the results of our work by observing whether or not students are learning, and by changing some of the things we do and seeing what those results are. And if we have a process like this, we can even use students’ feedback to get a sense of how they’re loving our class or experiencing our class or not. And that can even trigger some growth.

So there are a lot of things we do already as educators, whether we’re teaching live or online, but particularly online, it can feel like we don’t know what other options are out there to help us grow. So today, these 10 areas I want you to think about will stretch you beyond just the role of educator and into the space of thinking about yourself as an educational leader.

That means that you’re not just a leader in that classroom or in that department, but you’re a leader in this field of education. And some of the competencies leaders use in a lot of other fields apply to you as well.

There’s a wonderful article Harvard Business School Publishing put out, Harvard Business Review, and it’s about what makes an effective leader. Today, we’re going to dive into this article a little bit, which was the report of a research in progress of 195 leaders in 15 countries in 30 different organizations.

Applying Business Leadership Principles to Teaching

We’re going to look at these 10 leadership areas as they apply to you as an online educator and see what kind of possibilities these might create for you. They might stir up some new ideas of things you’d like to try in your career or one thing you’d like to do a little differently. It might stretch your perspective beyond the current perspective that you have, and that’s a great thing, because anything you can do that’s going to change the status quo for you is going to give you some kind of new, refreshing experience in your career.

These top 10 things are grouped into five areas, but I’m going to just read all 10 of them for you here.

Ethical and Moral Standards

So the first one is ethical and moral standards, and that really covers the area of having strong ethics and safety. This can be part of your career area. It could be something you stretch outside of and share with other people. Maybe you are an advocate for certain student groups. There are a lot of subgroups within a student population that one could advocate for or could help. Maybe you want to start to move in a certain direction where you seek to mentor people in certain groups and ethically, safety, and morally in these three areas you might have some pretty clear ideas of what you’d like to do differently or where you’d like to grow. So think about strong ethics and safety and having your ethical moral standards.

Self-Organizing

The second area is called self-organizing. There are two sub-areas here that create the list of 10, providing goals and objectives with loose guidelines or direction, and clearly communicating expectations.

These two categories of self-organizing as a leader are critical. You want to be able to communicate expectations when you’re a leader. And when you’re a teacher, an educator, this is also super critical. The more you communicate your expectations to others, the more they’re going to be able to learn and do the assessments in an effective way. They’ll be able to move forward and also understand what you’re expecting and have a great experience with you. So one area you could grow in and think about in your leadership as an educator is how you communicate what you expect to other people, both your students and those people you might interact with in the education community.

That second one, providing goals and objectives with loose guidelines or direction, this is the perfect opportunity to be thinking about the kinds of assignments, forum discussions, and other tasks you have for your students in the online classroom.

There are goals and objectives in every class that we teach. That’s how we design courses, right? We have a course description and we decide, what should students know and be able to do when they leave that class? Those are your goals and objectives. When you have loose guidelines and direction, this could be something like giving students three options for their final project. You’ve clearly explained what they are, but they get to choose.

You could even explain that you want the project to include these things, but they can choose the format. There are a lot of ways to explore providing those goals and objectives and, yet, loose guidelines so that you can start to see products from students that are a lot more varied and interesting for you.

You can also bring out a lot more independence and growth from your students, which can bring you greater satisfaction and joy as an educator. So this area of self-organizing that you have as an educator is a type of leadership, and I encourage you to start exploring how you might do that a little differently and bring it out in your students as well.

Efficient Learning

The third area is called efficient learning, and this is simply the flexibility to change opinions. I know a lot of online educators who are fabulous at being lifelong learners. I also know some online educators who just want to accumulate knowledge and do have a belief that there’s one right answer to things.

Either way, you’re going to have your own belief and your own direction about what your opinions are. If you remain open and curious to your students, to the subject matter, and to continued learning as a person, you’re going to have places to go with that. You can seek out additional background courses that you’d like to take to refresh your own understanding and have something new to bring into your professional pursuits.

Or you could even learn new teaching methods. Perhaps in the online world you want to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s Accelerate or Innovate conference. They have two of those, and they both take different forms, but they happen in the Fall and in the Spring and can give you a lot more flexibility to change your opinions about some things and to try a lot more efficient learning for yourself, to professionally develop, and also to give you some ideas to turn that around into your teaching.

One of the reasons online educators and educators generally get stale in their careers is that we don’t have a lot of options. We don’t think we do at least. So the more we can get efficient learning professionally, the more we can change opinions, try new strategies, and keep things fresh.

Nurtures Growth

The fourth area that is a leadership competency is nurtures growth. And this means that the leader is committed to the ongoing training of their direct report or their follower or their student. If you were to just translate that directly into our field of online education, when we’re committed to the ongoing training of those who report to us or study from us, what we’re really saying is two things: One, we’re committed to the ongoing growth and learning of our students. We really want them to grow, be capable, and be able to speak the language of our subject matter.

And secondly, we are also invested in helping our students become students and eventually, practitioners. It really depends on the course and the subject level that we’re teaching, but generally when we see the people that we teach as those in whom we are invested and committed to, we are nurturing the growth of other human beings. And that is a new approach to be thinking about instead of just running a class, ushering in a new group of people that will then leave again. The more we think about nurturing them individually and in groups, the more we can see our teaching a little bit differently and come up with new ideas that can help us refresh what we’re doing.

Connection and Belonging

And the last area is the biggest area of leadership, this is connection and belonging. And as online educators, we need connection and belonging so much and so do our students. There are five subcategories in this connection and belonging leadership competency. They are:

  • communicates often and openly,
  • is open to new ideas and approaches,
  • creates a feeling of succeeding and failing together,
  • helping me grow into a next generation leader, and
  • provides safety for trial and error.

As you can imagine, these different areas all create a learning community, not just a learning community, but a community in which we are learning alongside our students. For example, we may be learning that our methods are less effective, that we need to try different ones. We might learn something from a student that gives us a new insight about how to approach our subject matter.

More than that, we’re not just the sage on the stage distilling information to these people who are our students. We succeed and fail together, and we also learn together. Even though I may be a subject matter expert in my area that I’m teaching, I’m still a learner in life generally and I’m going to be able to learn some things from my students, even if all it is, is that I’m learning new ways of thinking.

I’m really excited about being with my students generally and when I think about succeeding and failing together, I want to make sure I’m putting my efforts into that classroom, trying new things, giving them a little bit more help in the areas that students are starting to struggle in.

It’s easy to get focused on what’s going wrong instead of what’s going well. And this can be very frustrating and a source of getting stale in our online teaching and in our careers, generally. So some things that can help with connection and belonging are to brainstorm the ideas of how we can actually get connection professionally and grow our connections with our students more deeply, more fully, and in ways where we can see the result of our own efforts.

We also want to make sure that we’re communicating to our students what their efforts are getting them. Instead of just having them complete assignments and get grades, our feedback can give them an idea of how this could relate to their overall learning, their degree program, and their professional objectives and life.

As we’re thinking about our students as next-generation leaders and communicating openly and often with them, we’re going to be able to approach our classroom with fresh ideas every time.

Now, the more we think about ourselves as educational leaders, the more we step outside the classroom and into this bigger professional arena. Have you thought about presenting at a conference lately? Have you considered writing a paper about teaching your subject matter for other people?

If you’ve had some recent experiences with online teaching that you think others may benefit from, it’s definitely worth sharing these ideas at a conference or through a publication. Even if you think your ideas are common knowledge that everybody else knows, chances are your unique personality or perception of the situation is different. And you’re going to share something others can learn from. The very fact that it’s your expertise and your experience coming in makes it worth sharing.

Consider New Ways to Revitalize Your Teaching Career

I want to encourage you to think about these leadership competencies, the strong ethics and safety, self-organizing, efficient learning, nurturing growth, and connection and belonging that leaders bring for effective organizations. And, think about these as the staples of what can revitalize your teaching career and help you move forward, connecting with your students and trying new strategies to bring something fresh into your online classroom.

You can get through this tough time if you’re feeling stale or stuck, and if you need more ideas, please look through some past episodes of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. You can find methods for gradingways to connect with students, and also some ideas about professional growth and managing your personal life with your work life, some work-life balance in there. There are also specific methods for grading work efficiently and effectively and new creative strategies for discussion boards. I hope you’ll take a look and I wish you all the best moving forward and getting through this season of online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#73: Starting a Reflective Practice Can Help You Grow as an Online Educator

#50: Regular Reflection can Improve Productivity

Online educators can get so caught up in completing tasks and meeting deadlines that they often feel like they don’t have time for the big or important things. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks about the importance of reflection to assess one’s values and priorities. She also suggests an approach of reflecting on yesterday, evaluating how that time was spent, and then being intentional in how you are using your time in the present moment.

This content appeared first on APUEdge. 

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Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. I’m so glad you’re here today. We are headed toward the end of our first year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. With episode 50, we are anticipating about two more till we can call it a perfect year of 52 episodes. Thanks for being with us over the course of the past year.

We’ve covered a lot of topics on this podcast and hopefully something is always of value to you. There are specific pillars, or topics, that we cover on the Online Teaching Lounge:

  • Best practices in online education
  • How to reach your students better
  • Life as an online educator; and
  • Using multimedia tools.
  • Then there’s this fifth topic that keeps coming up, and that is your own growth and professional development as an online educator or an online professional.

Recently, I picked up a great book called “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman. It’s about finding your focus, mastering distraction, and getting the right things done. This episode is all about reflection. Although the book itself is about focusing in the future and making better use of your time, reflection is really about looking at the past, making meaning out of it, and taking something away that we can either do better, or cherish, or enjoy. In other words, there will be many things that we want to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing based on our reflection.

Have you ever thought, “Where did the day go?” Perhaps you got busy working, answering emails, doing a lot of things, making a phone call here and there and doing your various tasks. And all of the sudden, the day is over. Well, I certainly have. And Peter Bregman says that this actually has to do with the fact that we, as human beings, fall into habits. We start to do little behaviors that fill up the whole day. And pretty soon we’re unaware of those patterns.

From his book, I’m going to read just a little section that really inspired me today. He says:

Either we keep moving along a path that isn’t quite right, but we fail to knock ourselves off of it. Or we intentionally choose the right path, but keep getting knocked off of it. If we’re going to look back and feel good about what we’ve done over a year, a day, or even a moment, we need to break those patterns.

Today, we’re going to look back over the past year. We’re going to think about the previous day we’ve experienced. And we’re going to think about this present moment, right now. So buckle up and enjoy the journey that we’re going to take together today.

The Importance of Reflection

So let’s get started. Looking back in our reflection, what was the previous year about for you as an online educator and professional? What did you do over the course of that year to handle all of the things that came your way? What was your guiding focus or principle that led you to where you are right now, this moment, from one year ago today?

Identify What You Value

Everyone is guided by something. And most of us are very unaware of what we actually care about. We have things that we would call values that guide us. For example, you might value social connections, relationships, being with other people, talking to other people. If that’s one of your values, over the past year you notice that perhaps you didn’t have enough time to do that, or you weren’t able to do that because of things that stood in your way.

If your top value was actually moneymaking, you could look back and see were you able to stay employed? Did you make the money you wanted? Financial security is often a value in the top five that people do embrace for obvious reasons. We need to live. Not everyone has it as their top value. Often I find that it’s number four or number five in there for people who do really value that.

Then there’s time management. Do you value being productive and managing your time, or is that just some fluff about how to organize your life, but not really the substance of it? Think about what you value most, and over the past year, how aware did you become of your most important values?

In other words, what is your “why” behind what you’re doing? Did it come out to you? There were several distractions and interruptions to normal daily life that may have come up for you. And in those things, did you begin to see what actually mattered?

Many of us notice what we care about by looking at the negative side of it. Perhaps we’re noticing when we’re not able to spend enough time on that particular thing we care about, or when it’s being frustrated in some way.

For example, if we do value relationships most, we notice when we’re not able to connect with people. If we value solitude and thinking time most, we notice when we don’t get any of that either.

What Did You Bring?

As you look back over the past year, what became your personal theme? And what did you bring to your online teaching? Considering what you brought in the year that passed, you’re able to look ahead and think about what you’d like to bring in the future and what you would like to be your primary driver. What is it about online teaching that you really do love, even if you feel like you just can’t quite measure up in that area? Or you continually feel frustrated trying to reach a goal that you’re not quite able to hit?

When you settle down and think about what really matters to you, you may find that the reason you’re so frustrated is because you do care so much about a particular area. It’s not so much that you’re surrounded by lack and things that go poorly. It’s that you’re thinking, how could they go better, and how much more do you want to reach that particular goal?

When seen in this light, we can actually find our values much more clearly, and we can begin to live them in the coming year more clearly as well.

As we wrap up almost 52 episodes here of the Online Teaching Lounge, it’s a great time to be thinking about the year ahead. In the coming year, I value connection and relationships deeply as one of my top five values, and I’ll be bringing a lot of special guests to this podcast. You’ll be learning from others outside of me. I had one guest this past year, and we’re going to have several more that I think you’ll really enjoy.

I’m going to purposely bring my value of social connection into what I’m doing much more, and I hope you’ll enjoy that. So as you hit the year ahead, begin thinking about. What was the main theme of your past year and what would you like to take into the coming year?

How Did You Spend Yesterday?

The next step of your reflection is to think about the previous day. So if we just think about yesterday, whatever yesterday was. This podcast is typically published on Wednesdays. So if you’re listening to it near its publication date, possibly the previous day was a weekday for you.

What was yesterday all about for you? Were you teaching? Were you working online? What did you bring into that day that helped you to really feel fulfilled about your work? What is it in your personal value system or your driver as an online educator and online professional that you brought into your daily efforts?

When you look back at yesterday, did you get some of those right things done that you care most about? Was there something in your day thoughtfully included so that you ended your day with a high note, or was it just a big list of tasks to be done?

I talk to a lot of folks about their time management and how they spend their time, as online professionals and as online educators. Many times when we feel the most overwhelmed it’s because we lose track of the bigger picture we care most about, and we get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day tasks that are really pressing on us for time and completion.

If you look at yesterday and it was a big to-do list, never-ending, endless stream of emails and tasks to do, essays to be graded that are not finished yet, and a lot of really non-people connected tasks. If you see a lot of tasks and not a lot of connection, let’s think about tomorrow, what will that day be about? And how would you do it differently if you planned just one of what you might consider the “right things” to include in your day?

What kind of things would you include if you took the day on more intentionally? One person I know has the habit of listing the most one-important thing she wants to get done. And she does that thing first before opening her email or looking at any of the distractions.

In doing this, she’s able to live her why every single day. And she has actually become so productive that her eight hour Workday of tasks that used to bleed into nine, 10 or 11 hours of the day is actually taking her only five or six hours a day. That task focus left her completely.

And yes, she can still tend to the tasks that do need to be done as part of her role, but by living her why, completing that first most important thing, she’s able to have a productive day before the day even gets on. There’s no more getting lost in the minutia or distracted by a lot of things that need to be done all at once. And she just takes the time at the beginning of each day to think about what the one most important thing is that she needs to do.

Many people I’ve worked with in coaching have asked me how they can make more time for the big projects in their lives. Perhaps you have a big project, maybe there’s something you’re working on, it could be you’re designing a course or revising a course. Maybe you’re writing something professionally, or preparing to present at a conference. Or perhaps you have some other special project that matters to you and is important to you.

If you’re doing your to-do list all day, every day, chances are you’re never getting to that item. If you decide every single day is going to be about that one thing, and then you get to all the rest of your things, you’re going to find that you make incremental progress toward the most important things in your life regularly.

And you’re going to start feeling structure in your day. You’ll feel more satisfied, productive, and find that your work is measurable. You can see actual change and improvement. So as you reflect on yesterday, and what that day was all about, take away your patterns and habits and start one step towards just choosing one meaningful thing each day to complete first.

Living in the Present Moment

And then lastly, Peter Bregman talks about what this moment is about. It’s amazing how many of us are in the present moment, but thinking about something in the future. Perhaps we’re anxious about a meeting coming up, or a deadline that we have to complete a lot of work for. Maybe we have a lot of things to grade and they’re all due by Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Maybe there’s something in our personal lives coming up and we’re also anxious about that.

Or perhaps we’re thinking about the past. Maybe there was a situation with a student we were concerned about and wish had gone differently, and we’re worried about the past. Maybe we think about the past and we worry that we haven’t done enough for our family members, or for our own health.

Whatever it is we worry about from the past, or we get anxious about for the future, the present moment is none of that. The present moment is just right now. The future isn’t here yet. The past isn’t really here. And in this moment, if we let go of all those competing thoughts, we can focus on the here and now. And we can be much more clear in our thinking, and clear on what we care most about as well as what matters most to us.

In the present moment, some people have habits of slowing down, closing their eyes, breathing deeply, putting their hands on the sides of the chair, feeling that chair, thinking about what they’re experiencing right now in this moment. Putting feet on the floor, feeling the feet in the shoes fully, maybe wiggling their toes. And then taking a moment to just sense what is going on in this moment right now.

What sounds are being heard? What’s the temperature like in the room? How does everything seem in this present moment? And in doing that, a lot of things drift away from our mind, and we think much more clearly at times like that.

In each moment that we are working online, or teaching online, and in each moment that we’re living our lives, the more we can be present in that moment, the more we can let go of distractions and stay on the path that we really want to be on.

So, for example, back to those couple of reasons people go to work and things people think about. If you’re all about relationships and connection, and you slow down and get really present right now in this moment, you might suddenly be aware of people you’d like to connect to.

If you’re reflecting on teaching, you might be thinking about in this moment, a student or two who seems to need you right now. Maybe an idea comes to you about how you might reach out and connect to your students in a new way.

Or, if finance and wage earning is more important to you, you might think about right now how are your finances doing? If you just got paid and you are doing quite well, you have money in the bank, perhaps you feel pretty good. If you think about what you’re doing for employment, and you’re satisfied with the wage you’re earning, you might also feel very good.

And likewise, if you’re not satisfied with that, if you’re not pleased with your bottom line in the bank account, something might occur to you in the present moment that you’d like to try in the near future to change your income or move in a new direction, maybe take on another part-time role.

Whatever this present moment is all about for you, whatever your most important values are, drink it in. Really connect to that in the moment, let go of your anxiety and your worry, and you’ll find clarity where you can move forward right now.

In wrapping this up, we’ve just looked at reflecting in our online educator lives and roles, over the past year, over the past day, and in the present moment. And as we reflect, we are much more readily prepared to take steps forward where we’d like to go.

Whatever time of year this is for you, and whatever spot you’re in during a course or a semester, take the time to reflect. Decide if you’re pleased with your direction and how much of your values have been able to come out in what you’re doing. And after you’ve done that reflection consider what you would like to change in the year ahead to live your values much more fully.

If you’d like any suggestions on identifying your values and determining what your most important priorities are, there are some tools linked here in the podcast notes. So feel free to look at the transcript and try out some of those links, and that will help you move forward in that direction.

Again, we’re looking forward to the coming year in the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. We’ll be having a few special guests and some interesting and very helpful topics for you. I hope you’ll join us for year two of the Online Teaching Lounge podcast coming up in just a few weeks.

Thanks for being with me today to reflect and consider continuous learning as online educators and online professionals, and definitely check out Peter Bregman’s book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, And Get The Right Things Done.” Here’s to being the best you in your online teaching this coming week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

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