Critical Literacy and Adult Learners

This website article provides a solid and thorough overview of critical literacy and its applications in adult learning.  I really appreciate the summaries of key principles, theorists, and applications.  Critical literacy has its roots in constructivist learning theory, one of the theories that we touched on in 3100 but has developed in ways that recognize the importance of diversity, learner agency and voice, as well as the border literacies and digital tools that learners utilize.

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Literacies Website

This site accompanies the book Literacies (2016) by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope.  Although it is directly linked to the chapters in this book, which is an introduction to contemporary literacy pedagogy, there are many interesting articles and resources.  If you are interested in current thinking about literacies and how conceptions of literacy learning are changing, it’s a worthwhile site to check out.


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I recently considered having one of my classes videotaped in order to get feedback and be able to observe myself in the classroom, so the website article “The benefits of adding video to teacher evaluation” caught my attention. A two year Harvard study found that benefits of videotaping teachers included more specific and actionable feedback as to what is going well and what could be improved.  As well, teachers could see what all of their students were doing in the classroom.  I think it would definitely be important to really look at levels of engagement, which is hard to do because one is usually juggling tasks when teaching.  Although it can be daunting to see oneself in action on film, I will definitely go through with this plan to be videotaped in the classroom.


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The website article “Ok Google Where Did I Put My Thinking Cap?” raises some attention grabbing questions for educators. For instance, does all the information at our fingertips make us smarter, and do Google searches in response to complex questions eliminate critical thinking on the part of students?  According to author Zhai Yun Tan, early research indicates that the effects of using search engines on our brains is inclusive and contested.  Nevertheless, educators are naturally concerned that creativity and concentration span are at risk.  For me, the most interesting piece of information here is that older adults who use search engines have brains that are two times more active than those who don’t. My take away from this article is that I would like to discuss more the side-effects of technology with students in my class.





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Motivational Techniques

This website article “The Resiliency of Adult Learners” immediately caught my attention, as many mature students whom I have taught have overcome considerable barriers to pursue their education.  The author John Rans comments on the complex lives of adult students who juggle many responsibilities and struggle with their sense of identity as a learner and student. He links theories from the humanities with his field of advising and talks about the importance of getting adult students to tell their stories as this can be empowering and sets up an interaction that is “more transactional and less developmental.” I would like to go further in incorporating learners’ stories in my classes as stories are a powerful connecting tool.


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Creating a Positive Learning Environment

I chose this online article entitled “The Road to Equity is Paved with Emotions” because I have experienced  both as a learner and an educator that strong emotions such as anger, grief, defensiveness etc. can come up when difficult topics such as racism, sexism, and many forms of injustice are discussed in a classroom. The author, Elena Aquilar, uses the term “emotional literacy” to describe a mindful way to experience emotions and sees emotions as a “source of energy” and says that they are part of a transformative learning experience.  This article will help me to remember that emotions can be an important part of learning, even when discussions are difficult.



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Characteristics of Adult Learners


I am interested in supporting diversity in my classroom, so this article “Adult Learning Across Cultures” caught my eye. Tulloch points out that non-Western adult learners should be considered and understood better, as they differ from their Western counterparts in many ways.  These include characteristics such as an understanding that knowledge is communal and that valuable learning happens outside the classroom.  Although it’s important to avoid sweeping generalizations, the overview of adult learners and the discussion of differences between Western and non-Western adult learners can improve my teaching as I will ask my students about what learning looks like in their cultural context and include a range of assignment choices that take into account these differences.

Adult learning across cultures

Heinrich, J. et al. (2010). The weirdest people in the world. Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 33, 61-135.


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Web Conference

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversations with my partner Ann Meitz, who teaches a subject in the sciences.  As humanities/social sciences instructor, I was able to get a fascinating glimpse into trends in a very different field.  Our conversation revealed both similar and divergent pedagogical concerns.  Ann first shared with me her thoughts about an article she had chosen to focus on entitled ” Inquiry-Based Approaches: What Do Students Think?” published in Faculty Focus.  She explained that this article is a review of a larger paper but that she was able to glean some valuable insights from it.  Before we even got into the discussion of the article she shared with me a trend in her field called STEM approach to teaching, which is an interdisciplinary approach, and the acronym stands for  ‘science, technology, engineering, and math.’ I was excited about this because my own approach in teaching composition, literature, and education always includes interdisciplinary approaches and content.  So, we had something in common from the start.

Ann outlined how the article considers three approaches to learning: case-based, problem-based, and discovery-based and how original research is inquiry-based.  When considering the difference between information framed inquiry and discovery framed inquiry, it seems that discovery and incorporating students’ impressions  ranks higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Ann outlined her own appreciation for inquiry-based learning as she explained that BC Provincial Curriculum is becoming more inquiry-based.  Interestingly, it seems that labs are now being framed in terms of guided inquiry, even though the terminology outlined in the article may not be used. What an interesting new world of science pedagogy was opened up for me–almost wish I could take a science course again.

The second article that Ann shared is entitled “Adaptive Testing Evolves to Assess Common-Core Skills” published in Education Week.  Overall, testing in the sciences is intended to assist students in mastery of the material; however, computer rubrics don’t work well with students at either end of the scale.  With the goals of formative assessment in mind, adaptive testing uses students’ test results to formulate their next level of testing.  This is a more individualized approach that is aimed at each student’s own advancing level of accomplishment. Ann explained that some of the other benefits of this approach are that both cheating and testing time are reduced.  Most significantly, though, student engagement is increased. I really like how Ann described this kind of testing as “assessment for learning, not assessing learning.” I agree that this kind of formative approach is more learner-centered.  In discussing both of the articles that Ann chose to focus on, I learned that educators in both sciences and humanities/social sciences are continually evaluating their approaches to teaching and that there is much to gain from interdisciplinary sharing of insights across fields.





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Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

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Shared Article #2–“Why Multiliteracies”

New Insights:  In a very condensed manner, “Why Multiliteracies” by Christie Robertson attempts to put together some important pieces of the learning for the 21st century puzzle–the New Economy and educational systems–in order to advance the saliency of Multiliteracies Theory.  Multiliteracies Theory has its roots in the shifting views of literacy and literacy learning that were proposed in the 70’s and 80’s by New Literacies scholars.  In their influential book Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures, editors Cope and Kalantzis (2000) shared some seminal views of literacy as social practice that is affected by increasing classroom diversity, advances in technology, and the economy.

Basically, as Robertson recaps, the Old Economy requires designers and assembly line workers while the New Economy requires a workforce that combines new skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and technological literacy.   She embeds Sir Ken Robinson’s video “Changing Education Paradigms” (link included above) in her article to underscore this old/new economy and the corollaries in education.

In a very neat and condensed manner, she shares a table that outlines the multiliteracies pedagogy in terms of Situated Practice, Overt Instruction, Critical Framing, and Transformed Practice.  Under each category she provides examples from specific subjects such as math, science, and English.  For example, a group of students could design a flower bed in a community garden and write a report on their design choices.  This learning exercise would involve communication, collaboration, critical thinking, etc.

Also, central to multiliteracies pedagogy is engagement with visual, audio, spatial, gestural, linguistic, and multimodal domains.  It’s not hard to imagine how the above project would enlist these domains.

Trends:  Moving away from solely print-based classroom literacy practices to include those from the above list is a growing trend in adult education.  The use of online resources of many kinds such as course websites included in face-to-face courses, Moocs, chatrooms, online research sources, etc are examples of multimodal learning tools and resources.  Visual literacies are included in classrooms in the form of smart boards, collage art, etc.  I have incorporated spatial literacies in the form of learning stations in classrooms and audio literacy in the form of bringing in elders who orally recount stories.  Meaning-making and expression of knowledge takes many forms in many cultures, and that realization is making its way into adult learning.






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