Effect of Self-Assessment

I almost finished the coursework for the Professional Instructor Diploma (PID) program. I started this program in 1997 just after my first son was born and right before I began teaching full-time at a College.

The PID program and I have grown-up together.  The first classes were interactive but still primarily classroom-based and without the self-reflection, autonomy and flexibility you see in the program today. Hattie (2017) identified what teaching and learning practices actually have an effect on students achieving educational outcomes and found self-assessment to rank amongst the top five.  The importance of autonomy, self-reflection and self-assessment has been the most important thing I’ve learned in the program. I am incorporating this knowledge into everything I do including advocating for its use in instructor evaluation.

Image retrieved from https://doodsrataceds113.wordpress.com/notes/self-assessment-definition-pros-and-cons/

Image retrieved from https://doodsrataceds113.wordpress.com/notes/self-assessment-definition-pros-and-cons/

In my capstone project I will likely work with these highly ranked practices of self-assessment.

Hattie, J. (2017). Hattie ranking: 195 influences and effect sizes related to student achievement. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/

Professional Ethics in College Professors

College professors are not immune to unprofessional behavior. Stories of teachers who degrade and belittle students, come to work with alcohol on their breath, and provide inaccurate information have been reported by students to government ministries who ensure College hiring procedures are in compliance (Posadzki, 2012). Colleges have responded that their instructors meet the basic requirements of a college instructor.

Is personal hygiene just for kids?! Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/explore/personal-hygiene/?lp=true

Is personal hygiene just for kids?! Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/explore/personal-hygiene/?lp=true

Colleges and Institutes Canada is is the national, voluntary membership organization representing publicly supported colleges, institutes, cegeps and polytechnics in Canada and internationally. Although it does not have a professional code of ethics for college instructors it does provide relevant research. Given that instructors who have met the basic requirements of the government are still conducting themselves unprofessionally. continuous professional development throughout the entire careers seems prudent.

 In her study of the development of teaching practice in college faculty (found on the CICAN resources section), Boelryk (2014) found that workplace learning is the result of interactions between workplace affordances and individual engagement.  Engaging in the offerings of a teaching and learning centre, if your College has one, or in independent professional development based on the feedback of your peers and students is part of this life course of a professional college instructor.

Boelryk, A. Professional learning and post-secondary teaching:  Investigating faculty’s lived experiences of development in teaching practice. PhD Thesis Simon Fraser University. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from https://www.collegesinstitutes.ca/file/professional-learning-and-post-secondary-teaching-investigating-facultys-lived-experiences-of-development-in-teaching-practice/

Colleges and Institutes Canada. What We Do.  Retrieved July 20, 2017 from https://www.collegesinstitutes.ca/what-we-do/about/

Posadzki, A. (September 3, 2012). Students complain of unprofessional teachers at career colleges: documents the Canadian Press. Global News. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from http://globalnews.ca/news/282216/students-complain-of-unprofessional-teachers-at-career-colleges-documents/

Conversional Obsession or Conversional Fear - Considerations for Teaching and Learning Centre Staff

As Brookfield (2015) points out, everyone has the right to resist learning something that we another is urging on them (p. 238).  Teaching and learning centre staff can profit from Brookfield's concept of conversional obsession, whereby we become so attached to the knowledge and skills we want share that we forget the educators we serve have their own knowledge, skills, and values.  We can discuss this resistance openly with instructors and perhaps learn much ourselves in the process about why they are resisting.

My own experience with raising difficult topics with instructors, whether it be in regards to racism, gender orientation or inclusion, for examples, is that the space, be it the lunch or meeting room, begins to feel charged, the territory uncharted and dangerous. However I agree with Barnett (2010), if the dialogue is executed with humility and kindness, it need not be negative.  Brookfield himself argues against places of learning always being safe and takes his place with Barnett saying places of learning should always be places of civility "ensuring no one is abused, intimidated, or humiliated” (cited in Brookfield, 2015, p. 251).

This image was retrieved July 20, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Safe_Place

This image was retrieved July 20, 2017 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Safe_Place

Its ironical that in my role as Coordinator of a Teaching and Learning centre I feel fearful about challenging the values, beliefs and attitudes of my peers but less afraid of supporting them to challenge students' perspectives. Does my conversional obsession with students turn into conversional fear with my peers?

William James, a 19th century philosopher and psychologist from the United States, said in an address to his nation's teachers that educators should always focus on the love of your participants and acknowledging their good intentions (Pajares and Schunk, 2002, p. 27). These are wise considerations for teaching and learning centre staff to remember.

Barnett, B. J. “Is ‘Safety’ Dangerous? A Critical Examination of the Classroom as Safe Space.” Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2010, 1 (1), 14-20.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Humphries, J. Ricketts, P. (February 3, 2015). Taking an international approach to education. University Affairs. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from http://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/taking-ethical-approach-internationalization/

Jakubowski, L.M. (January, 2001). Teaching uncomfortable topics: An action-oriented strategy for addressing racism and related forms of difference. Teaching Sociology, 29 (1), pp 62-79.

Pajares, F. & Schunk, D.H. “Self and self-belief in psychology and education: an historical perspective”. In J. Aronson (Ed.) (2002), Improving Academic Achievement: New York: Academic Press.

Addressing Racism in Education: Changing the stories we live by...

Thomas King (2003) says “(i)f we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives” (p. 153) and perhaps the lives of our students?  I feel kinship with Brookfield (2015) when he admits to common mistakes he makes with faculty who are colleagues and peers, like being preachy.  There is nothing friends dislike more then being talked down to. So why do I do this?  Brookfield claims its because the scary thing, bearing our own souls and telling stories of our own mistakes, is avoided while we tell ourselves that we are collaborators in fighting against what he calls white supremacy (p. 114).

I agree with Brookfield, that when withholding my own struggles I maintain my own position of gatekeeper and leader.  So what could this sharing of narrative look like?

Theresa Southam with Wab Kinew, September 23, 2016. Wab was keynote for the Indigenous Youth Education Symposium at Selkirk College.

Theresa Southam with Wab Kinew, September 23, 2016. Wab was keynote for the Indigenous Youth Education Symposium at Selkirk College.

Here’s a recent example.  I am currently the project coordinator for the first indigenous developed and delivered course at Selkirk College: Indigenous 100 – Regional Perspectives on Cultures and Languages is in the final stages by curriculum developers from the Ktunaxa, Nsyilxcen and Metis.  In my role as Coordinator, I have shared my mistakes with the educational developers, as well as acknowledged what Brookfield (2015) refers to as micro-aggressions. For example, in acknowledging what I thought were indigenous cultural norms, I suggested that assessments for the course be projects. One developer pointed out how projects often result in student research that further entrenches stereotypes about indigenous people. I acknowledged how I had used a pan indigenous worldview in making this suggestion and I apologized.

This is a small story. However, Brookfield (2015) contends that it is the sum total of educators’ micro-aggressions that keep white privilege and supremacy alive and well in our educational institutions. So I will keep telling my stories, admitting that escaping a racist ideology is as a difficult as climbing out of my own skin. 


Alexie, S., & Forney, E. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York: Little, Brown.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me (First edition.). New York: Spiegel & Grau.

King, T. (2003). The truth about stories: A native narrative. Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


High school teacher and college instructor, what's the difference?

In an article about how to move from teaching in K-12 to College Inside Higher Ed cites a commitment to recognizing the unique attributes of adult learning. Treating adult learners like adults is one of the four core assumptions of skillful teaching according to Brookfield (2015).

ThoughtCo. has an article Tips for a Teacher of Adults Students

  1. Treat Adults Students Like Adults, Not Kids
  2. Be Prepared to Move Fast
  3. Be Strictly Flexible
  4. Teach Creatively
  5. Encourage Personal Growth

Inside Higher Ed is a web-based news source that was founded in 2004 by three executives with expertise in higher education journalism and recruitment. They believed that higher education was evolving quickly and radically, and that the time was right for new models of providing information and career services for professionals in academe.

You can subscribe to Higher Ed News here.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.


A personal autobiography of education as a lens for teaching...

I have so many small traumas from my public education. The time the teacher threw chalk at me and hit me in the head or earlier when a teacher’s punishment was making me stand in the front corner of the room with my nose to the corner.  Both times the punishable behaviour was talking – same when I got the strap at six years old.  Should this be an indication that I was insensitive to my teachers and fellow students? Perhaps I was a naturally social student?  My teachers could have created chaotic, engrossing classrooms where collaboration and discussion were encouraged?  I don’t remember many of those in my education.

One of Brookfield’s (2015) four complementary lenses for checking the accuracy of our actions and assumptions as educators is our personal autobiography of learning.


Southam, T. (2017)

Southam, T. (2017)

Along with adopting a student’s point of view, learning from peers and referring to educational literature, Brookfield feels that uncovering one’s own beliefs about education is crucial to being a skilful teacher.  Pajares (1992) looked deeply into the nature of educators’ beliefs and concluded that they may be the single most important construct in educational research (p. 329).

Here are a few selected findings on teachers and their beliefs from Pajares (1992, p. 325):

  • the earlier a belief is incorporated the more difficult it is to alter;
  • beliefs are instrumental in defining tasks and selecting tools with which to interpret, plan, and make decisions regarding tasks;
  • and changing beliefs in adulthood is a relatively rare phenomenon, the most common conversion being from one authority to another or a gestalt shift.

I also have uplifting and encouraging memories from education. A grade six teacher took two classes from our suburban school in Canada to Mexico on a school bus, staying in school gymnasiums and homestays along the way.  A college teacher applied the entire first year chemistry course to a recent chemical explosion in Bhopal, India that had killed innocent people. A teacher told me I exceled in writing.

A more complete autobiography of critical incidents in my own education and how those might have shaped my attitudes, values and eventually belief systems about education will take some time.

Teacher’s constructing personal autobiographies of their own educational journeys might be a worthwhile activity for teaching and learning centres to support.  These autobiographical meaning making activities might lead to greater acceptance of more recent proposals for teaching and learning which have or have not resonated with teachers existing belief systems and of which they might be wholly unaware.


Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

Pajares, M.F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307. Retrieved from https://fgul.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.fgul.idm.oclc.org/docview/214115050?accountid=10868

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory

The Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI) is based on Kember's (1997) research where he found only four substantively different perspectives of teaching in higher education.  Pratt, Collins and Selinger  (2001) uncovered a fifth perspective and used these perspectives to create the TPI. Perspectives are different then teaching styles or methods. A perspective includes the beliefs and values that drive delivery of instruction.

Over two decades ago, Pratt, Collins and Selinger (2001) developed 45 items representing scales for each perspective:  transmission, apprenticeship, developmental, nurturing and social reform.  The scales test whether the participants' perspective is evident as actions, intentions, and/or beliefs.

Some suggested purposes of taking the TPI include: self-reflection on personal beliefs and values as they relate to teaching, anticipation of a teaching evaluation, preparation for observing and evaluating peer and confirmation that there is more then one right way to teach. The TPI is now provided free through a web-based delivery - including an analysis that is emailed to each participant.  Helpful videos demonstrating how to analyze the results are also provided.

When I took the TPI my three highest scores were in apprenticeship, developmental and nurturing.  A high score in social reform is unusual.  One of the most interesting part of the test is to examine differences between beliefs, intentions and actions. For example, in nurturing, my highest score, my beliefs and intentions are equally high but my actions are a little lower.  This could mean that I want to promote a climate of caring and trust but I have more work to do so that I am following through on my intentions.   In apprenticeship I had similar results so I must watch for good intentions, not as much action!  In the developmental category where learning is planned and conducted from the learner's point of view my intentions, beliefs and actions are equal.


Kember, D. (1997). A reconceptualisation of the research into university academics' conceptions of teaching. Learning and instruction, 7(3), 255-275.

Pratt, D. D., Collins, J. B., & Selinger, S. J. (2001, April). Development and use of the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). In annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle Washington.

Sharing Our Experiences While Teaching

This idea in Brookfield (2015) caught my interest: “teachers don’t know how to unlock their experiences and reflect on them in a way that provides problem-solving insights” (p. 11). I have been exploring what Brookfield calls our truths about teaching. Here’s an excerpt from my journal:

I feel authentic when I’m scared, anxious, and tongue-tied. These feelings mean I am considering other perspectives, I’m in the process of learning, and I’m not sure that others agree. Still I’m sure this is the best I have at the time and share anyway with good intent.

Brookfield (2015) says that our experience can be distorted, unexamined, constraining and self-fulfilling and so we must be self-reflective, critical, and open-minded when relying on our experience. I’m thinking about how scared I felt opening the Indigenous Education Symposium last week. I told some stories about a teacher and a presenter that were provocative and contentious because they speak to the muddy and chaotic process of decolonizing public education.  When I did a little research on faculty sharing personal experience the importance of student-faculty relationships for enabling learning was prevalent. Brookfield points to sharing experience as part of establishing credibility and authenticity (pp. 46-47).

Yorke and Brennan (2015) say a good story helps students understand a concept from another point of view (para 2). Their advice is to start with a story we often tell.  Before telling the story to your students they recommend practice as well as developing your purpose and clear relationship to the course material.  They also suggest directing students to social media where you have told this story. Now that’s scary! 

The advice that one’s own experience, perhaps through storytelling, can be as effective as scholarly or expert content makes sense.  After all, working on my PhD I am reviewing a lot of poor research, research that is not self-reflective, critical, or open-minded. I feel encouraged to keep sharing more of my own experience, especially as I get older and have more stories to tell.  Of course this will feel frightening in academia, where if the source isn’t published it can be questioned. But I have to remember that a lot of my experience is now based on research as well as confirmed or negated by life experience.

Grandpa the Storyteller, by Sculptor Victor Issa, from City of Loveland

Grandpa the Storyteller, by Sculptor Victor Issa, from City of Loveland

I will consider framing my future opening remarks in a story, perhaps stories I know about the keynotes, or stories of my own related to the event's themes. I’ll return to the instinctual proposals in my journal this week – if this scares me and makes me anxious then I’m probably self-reflecting and being open to others. However, when the moment arrives, I must quiet internal voices so that I’m with the audience.

Brookfield’s provocative idea that instructors underutilize their own experiences in teaching and learning requires more exploration.  Similar to sharing any published scholarly or expert work the practice of sharing experience requires self-reflection, openness to others, and critical thinking. Our insights, intuitions, and insights are part of our professional practice.

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom. John Wiley & Sons.

 Yorke, A. M. & Brennan, M.L. (October 30, 2015) Once upon a time:  Integrating stories into your teaching. Retrieved June 27, 2017 from http://scholarlyteacher.com/2015/10/30/once-upon-a-time-integrating-stories-into-your-teaching/


About the Professional Practice Course

I'm taking the Professional Instructor Diploma Program because learning and teaching are my passion. Over the next few weeks you'll see me posting here about Stephen Brookfield's classic book The Skillful Teacher (2015).  We once had Stephen Brookfield present virtually to Selkirk College where I work. Recording can be found here. It was great, but learning that Brookfield plays in a punk band the 99ers made it even better somehow. You read the book and you think this is a real human being, not some author in an ivory tower!

Strickler, J. (November 25, 2013). White-collar punk band defies every stereotype of the genre. Retrieved from: http://www.startribune.com/white-collar-punk-band-defies-every-stereotype-of-the-genre/233350031/