In this course I recently completed a learning inquiry project. We were tasked to learn anything we had an interest in, and document the learning process. For this assignment, I chose tanning fish skin into leather. Odd subject? Perhaps, but in my perspective it was something that was/is valuable to me. I found that I was spending time and brain power justifying the decision to research the topic I chose. This justification was a result of experiencing people’s reaction to telling them about the project. This internal struggle brought to light how important it is for students to receive positive encouragement when learning anything new, because skepticism or negative comments about the student’s work, etc. can make a student doubt purpose, topic, relevance, their capabilities and so on. As an instructor, it is so important to a student’s learning process to provide positive feedback and encouragement so that they don’t doubt any motivations or be afraid to express ideas that don’t conform to the mainstream. A very important thing I am taking away from this project is to be mindful of how feedback can influence a learning path.
Secondly, it is very important to consider the scope of assignments, based on the timeframe that students have to complete them. This course is a two-week intensive block, similar to the three-week intensive course blocks I teach. It is important to be mindful of the time outside of class assignments take, and value and understand that students have things outside of school that are important in their lives (family birthdays, visits from close friends, etc.), and should not be made to work every hour they are not in class. During this course, I found myself constantly feeling guilty for doing other things in my life.
As instructors we frequently hear “excuses” about why students haven’t completed things on time. After a while, I think it is possible to become callus to hearing this, and forget that legitimate things really do come up – like rescuing stranded fishermen, and major plumbing issues – in my case. Not finishing the task I set out to accomplish for this assignment has intrinsic drawbacks. I felt disappointed, frustrated and overall defeated. If I were to receive additional “lecture” from an authority figure for not completing the task, I would probably withdraw further. This situation reminds me to be mindful of each individual and situation and take their reasoning and feelings into consideration.
Overall, I think that this assignment helped me to empathize with my students by being reminded what it’s like to be the learner. This has been my favorite assignment in the CAE program!