I have learned a lot about appropriate leadership and facilitation with the readings and presentations we have had this semester. I particularly like the idea of situational leadership. It seems so much like common sense. Of course you would adapt your leadership style to the person you are leading. However, so often we get stuck in a pattern of working with others without considering what their skill level and maturity may be. I find I too often delegate when I should be more directive. I see this in working with my teaching assistants. I give them some basic information and expect them to go forth and apply it. Unfortunately they are not pharmacists and have a hard time translating the material in the manner I am looking for. But I can’t hold this against them considering I never laid out my expectations or gave them examples which match what I want. If I were more directive with them I would come closer to getting my desired result. With this model I have learned that delegation is appropriate given the right person and right material. I have learned to adapt my techniques of persuasion to the situation and the person but need to work on adapting my leadership style as well.
I have also found it interesting to learn about the unilateral control model compared to the mutual learning model. I definitely see the unilateral control model played out in our current administration. Indeed it has led to mistrust and a negative work environment. Without realizing what it was called, I primarily use the mutual learning model in my interactions with those I “oversee.” As a director I work to get input from others who are affected by my decisions. This does take time to talk through ideas, consider different perspectives, gather more information, and explain our reasoning. But, the time and effort invested turn out a better product and lead to a more pleasant workplace. I still find discussing “undiscussables” a challenge because of the emotions involved.
Working on our presentation was much more of a growth experience for us as a team. We spent some time socializing at a “working dinner” which helped me to understand each person better and feel more a part of the team. Overall I feel the presentation went pretty well. It was not exactly how I would’ve presented the material but I respect the particular strengths of my team members and their decisions on the content. I particularly enjoy the interactive exercises such as the game we played. Improvements I can see would be to use more variety of media to bring in examples from the movie. It was a little heavy on the Powerpoint. I like how the Triglycerides team included video clips to demonstrate particular concepts. I feel it would’ve been better if we’d done something similar. Frankly, I’m just glad I don’t have to talk about football anymore!
My group was a success on our first assignment! I don’t feel as though I contributed much considering I was working through some medical issues and medication side effects. However, everyone seems understanding and I hope to make up for it on future assignments. Our initial survey of how things are going was interesting. I am obviously the only one who still doesn’t feel as much a part of the group. I think this is based on the fact I wasn’t able to contribute a lot to the project and missed some classes and group meetings. As I get to know everyone I think I will feel more a part of the team.
The content we’ve discussed in class has reinforced the dysfunction I see at work. I have often felt as though we were “on a trip to Abilene” as we go through our decision-making processes. It seems that no one is willing to express what they are really thinking in the moment because they assume everyone else agrees. In reality no one wants to make that decision but was just agreeing because everyone else does! Unfortunately, this type of decision-making has led to changes in our curriculum and teaching methods. Now, when we try to express our alternate opinions they are usually dismissed. Because we seemed to agree in the first place it appears we are simply trying to abandon the ship when we hit a rough spot. In fact, we never wanted to get on the ship!
Learning about how the Challenger disaster was based on a series of overriding solid information to meet political deadlines was very disturbing. I remember sitting in class in elementary school to watch the first teacher go into space and being horrified when it burst into flames. I had never known the background of the warnings and recommendations of the scientist which recommended against launching that day. I had heard the term “groupthink” previously but didn’t have a clear example of it until now.
I’m really looking forward to taking the learning in groups and teams course. We have adopted the team-based learning approach in the pharmacy school curriculum and I think it will offer me some insights into how I can teach the students about being a better team member and help me to better understand group dynamics.
My experiences working in groups have been mixed. We did a lot of group work in pharmacy school including writing a group paper. I remember long hours of the 5 of us around a computer screen painstakingly verbalizing and editing while someone typed. One of my group members even offered if we each paid him $20 he would do it himself and guaranteed we’d get an A. Needless to say we didn’t take him up on it. We also did a lot of group presentations in pharmacy school which usually worked out well. I had really good team members who all put in the effort and turned out a good product. We also did a lot of group work in solving cases. We had to divide up the work for research which clearly showed weaknesses in some students. Personally I study better in groups so I always had a good group of friends that I spent a lot of time with studying and socializing.
As someone who can be more introverted and doesn’t trust easily, socializing is important for me to feel like a part of the group. I have to feel like I know each person on a personal level to be able to work with them and feel open to expressing myself. Otherwise, I feel like I can come across as somewhat demanding.
We’ll see how my group goes and what our development looks like over time. I am not looking forward to a group paper but hope everyone pulls their weight and makes it cohesive.
In tonight’s class the issue of whether higher student satisfaction indicates better learning was discussed. There are many studies in education which emphasize the assessment of student satisfaction as part of the overall support of a particular learning strategy. In part, this is because it easy to distribute and tabulate a basic satisfaction survey and much more challenging to assess true learning. However, I am not aware of research which associates student satisfaction with learning.
It seems to make sense to me that if someone is motivated to learn and is asked to assess his/her satisfaction with a learning experience that a higher satisfaction rating indicates he/she learned. If learning isn’t considered a priority for the student then he/she may still be satisfied without having learned in the process. It is difficult to distinguish these students in research studies. In personally working with students, I find those who are interested in learning become frustrated and vocal when they feel they are not learning. This does not account for those who don’t speak up who may either be satisfied having not learned something or are still learning because their baseline level of knowledge was lower in the beginning.
I strive to make students satisfied with the learning experience, which in my mind means they are both learning and happy about it. Although, in the end, I don’t care if they’re happy per se or if they like me overall, I would prefer that they are learning despite being unhappy or not liking me as a teacher. I think the generation of students I currently work with are used to being made “happy” and accommodated so that level of expectation may be more present than in past generations, even my own. I do know, however, that it makes it more enjoyable for me to teach when the students are happier. And I think that me being happier leads to an improved educational experience. So maybe it isn’t so much about the students happiness as it is the positivity of the classroom environment that leads to better learning. I thought it was an interesting discussion overall and made me think about whether or not my students are happy really makes a difference in the long run.
I found this activity very applicable to my current teaching setting. The “4 Is” can definitely be applied to what I do whether I’m presenting a 1-hour seminar or teaching a course over a 15-week semester. This semester I have unknowingly applied the “4 Is’ by completing a baseline assessment of my students’ hospital pharmacy experience and developing content to fill in the gaps. We are now reaching the implementation stage and students will finally integrate this material with a hospital rotation experience at the end of the semester. I’m very happy that I did the baseline assessment because I was quite surprised by the survey results and this has aided me in my expectations of their knowledge as students. The students have also found it helpful because the content I am presenting is at a level that meets their needs.
I realize now that I should’ve done something similar with a separate assignment which students are completing this semester. I made a lot of assumptions about the students’ ability to review a patient profile for drug-related problems. Because my expectations for the students was above their level of proficiency they did not perform well and have been very frustrated with the assignment. I did a group practice to prepare them for the activity but it wasn’t sufficient because they did not have enough of a foundation. If I had applied the “4 I’s” and had some type of induction activity prior to the application then I would’ve been able to include more “input” to prepare them for the implementation and integration phases. Instead I jumped from input to implementation without tailoring the input giving to them based on their experience. Because of this oversight I have had to backtrack and adjust my course content to fill in those gaps that were identified. I’m working with other faculty to ensure students are better prepared for this type of activity in the future but also feel that I need to add that induction stage so that I can adjust my content in preparing them for implementation.
I also appreciated that Dr. Carter used this activity in the design of the class so we could both experience this method as students and as an instructor.
As more of a visual learner it was difficult for me to gain a lot from the discussion of articles I had not read and couldn’t see. It did give me a perspective of how diverse the class is with both their experiences and their goals for applying the instructional strategies. I feel I did learn from the articles I had selected. I was surprised by the findings of both articles. I expected clickers to help with retention of material when used appropriately. There are definite limitations to the study and I’m considering conducting a study of my own which controls for some of these factors. I was also surprised by the finding that case-based test questions do not perform better than non-case-based questions. In pharmacy we spend a lot of time developing cases for class discussion and testing. Considering the time involved in this development I have to reconsider that time may be better spent in simply developing non-case-based questions with good distractors. I do appreciate that the journal articles presented will be posted to Blackboard so that I can review them on my own to find those which may apply to my area.
I consider all of the time I could’ve saved myself had I known all of the situational factors to consider when I first began teaching and coordinating courses. I definitely related to the discussion about considering such factors as the classroom itself as far as technological resources available, how the chairs are arranged, whether there is a class meeting in that room immediately before and after my course, etc. I had to laugh when we were discussing the consideration of time for grading. I recall my first course I coordinated where I designed multiple assignments that students could select from in order to earn points toward their grade. I had no idea how many students would select each assignment and hadn’t considered putting a limit on those which would be more grading-intensive. Imagine my horror when I had over 200 reflection papers to grade after just the first few weeks of the course. I had no idea how popular that particular assignment would be! Needless to say, I reduced the number of reflections students could choose in subsequent years and gained a teaching assistant to help in grading them. A big consideration for me as I develop brand new courses for our curriculum is preparation time. So often I design activities which are either overly complicated or faculty intensive. When I consider how much preparation time I realistically have (and the fact I need to sleep, take graduate courses, spend time with my husband, etc.), I often have to scale back on what I have planned. This may mean using something already prepared and readily accessible from the textbook, enlisting the help of other faculty in advance so that I am not the sole creator of the content, or tweaking something which has been used in the past and being okay with “good enough.” The factors we discussed tonight are those which are so often overlooked or taken for granted. I feel it’s important to put them out there for consideration prior to development of courses, training programs, etc.
I also have to make the case for the use of learning objectives. As someone who can be a little all over the place, I find objectives force me to focus on what I want students to get out of an assignment or activity. It has become a habit of mine, when I am developing an activity for a course, to review the course objectives in the syllabus, consider which objectives this activity should address and write specific objectives for the activity with my type of assessment in mind. Then, when it comes time for assessment, I review the objectives for the materials and make sure that the assessment is appropriate.
Consider an activity I did at the beginning of the semester on physical assessment related to the neurological system. Pharmacy students are not expected to be proficient in completing a neurological assessment but are expected to have a basic understanding of neurological findings, the potential influence of particular medications on neurological assessments, and the ability to identify the name of function of the cranial nerves. In completing the activity in the course I gave the students a handout (read/write), showed the students a video which demonstrated the physical assessment techniques (visual/auditory) and had the students perform selected assessments on each other (kinesthetic). However, the assessment will be at the basic recall level with a written exam. So, when writing my objectives I used verbs to reflect this type of assessment such as “identify” and “describe” rather than “perform” or “demonstrate.” If I was expecting a level of proficiency in performing the physical assessment my objectives would be written to reflect this. By giving the students directed objectives they have an understanding of my expectations. They know that they will not be expected to perform the assessments but are simply expected to identify and describe some basics related to the material. I find that by providing specific objectives decreases students’ frustration and reduces the number of questions and emails I receive from students about what will be covered on the exam, which lessens my frustration as well.
After discussing the various learning style theories and examples in class tonight I was considering whether I am “right-brained” or “left-brained.” My field is primarily left-brained considering the skills needed in analysis, organization, math, etc. which are required to be a pharmacist. However, I have chosen a particular niche as a pharmacy educator which requires more right-brained skills of creativity, flexibility, and the ability to see the “big picture.” So, I asked my husband whether he thought I was more left-brained or right-brained. His response was, “well, based on your profession I would have to say left-brained, but in dealing with you, I would say right-brained.” Thanks, hon. He’s an engineer, by the way.
So I did a little Google searching on left-brain vs. right-brain and techniques teachers use depending on which is a person’s strength. Right-brained teachers tend to use techniques such as stories, diagrams, games, demonstrations, and elicit action from students. Left-brained teachers like lecture, discussion, debate, reasoning, and talk. When I consider these characteristics of teaching style I find I use elements of both. I love to tell stories to my students about patients I’ve seen or experiences I’ve had which illustrate a particular point. The nature of the course I teach lends itself to lots of demonstrations since it’s an applied, laboratory course. However, I also incorporate discussion, problem-solving, and debate as a regular part of my classes. I considered a class I taught a couple of weeks ago. We started off the class by playing bingo, yes, I played bingo with pharmacy students. We then had an exercise where students were required to do a sort of scavenger hunt through a patient chart to orient them to chart organization. The other activity was a basic calculations worksheet which was turned in for a grade. This particular class combined elements of right-brained (bingo game, scavenger hunt) and left-brained (written exercise which was based on a reading students completed prior to class). I am not sure if this confirms that I am more right-brained or more left-brained or if I have just adapted my teaching methods to accommodate both types of learners in my classroom.
I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to design activities which meet multiple learning styles that are likely present in any given group. The redundancy present in designing activities which address multiple learning styles will result in deeper learning for all students. Most frequently when I am working with a particular topic I consider the VARK learning style inventory as this is the one with which I am most familiar. Because I teach in a classroom setting which is applied it is easy for me to apply the visual-auditory-read/write and kinesthetic styles. An example of how I have done this lies in next week’s activity. Students will be reading a chapter related to parenteral drug therapy to prepare for class next week. They will complete a quiz on what was read. The quiz will involve not only multiple choice questions but students will also be expected to label diagrams and explain some concepts using a short answer description. I will then reinforce what was read with a few slides with videos and diagrams which I will verbally review and post to the course site for those who want to print them or review them for later. We will then have hands on demonstrations, some independent activities and some guided by myself or a teaching assistant, where students get to practice what they have read, seen, and heard. This is a typical structure I use when possible so that all of these learning styles are addressed in the hope that each student’s needs are met and it has built in redundancy for all students. Of course, not all topics lend themselves to the application of every learning style but I do keep in mind ways to incorporate each of these when possible.
I think as a teacher it is part of my job to consider not just how I was taught and how I learn best but what is going to work best for my students.