Tuesday, 21 June 2011

My Flexible Learning Plan

Fred Cross 2011

My Plan
To take a unit standard and deliver it in a more flexible way that helps the students understand the content and learning outcomes by learning for themselves rather than being taught.
Develop learning styles by encouraging student to engage all of their cognitive learning skills with visual, aural, reading and kinesthetic (VARK) activities. Create learning activities using current technology with the use of computers, cellphones and student interaction. Create an environment of student activities, collaboration and peer tutoring through workshops.
My course is ‘The Basic Mechanical engineering and Trade Skills’ (BMETS) a level two Unit standards course. Students on the course are a combination of school leavers and mature adults; they are of various ethnic backgrounds and socio-economic backgrounds. Course criteria require NCEA level one but students are generally entre below this level.
Unit standards are text and illustrations requiring teacher intervention and reading that requires good literacy and cognitive skills by the students, the standard is written by academics in a language not conducive to a learner with less than level two NCEA and illustrations require a mechanical background to fathom. Content is period restricted and unless critiqued periodically can quickly become outdated. 
The use of computers to research the material has allowed more flexibility into the delivery of the standard by providing current information, graphics that are in 3D or animated to show how they work, links to video clips of actual scenarios from a range of sources and links to explanation of the course language.
The student is required to initiate their cognitive skills to digest and disseminate the information, using a computer to facilitate this activity is what they are comfortable with and with the world moving more towards E-learning through Ipads, Iphones and Online courses is the way of the future.
Concepts of flexible learning
Access & Equity
My right to achieve an education regardless of my circumstances.
My course is open entry allowing any person to apply, students are required to attend an information meeting where they are given a formative insight of the course requirement and commitment and an indication of the academic level required to achieve the course. Students who feel there academic level is not sufficient can undertake an assessment and be set up in a tutorial to assist with the course. All students undertake a literacy and numeracy on-line assessment to record their base level.
Diversity and Inclusivity
Recognise my uniqueness and stature.
Working with students of different cultures and ages it is important to gauge their level of knowledge, this is usually with discussion groups that explore prior knowledge. These discussion groups can often develop into cells of like minded students that support one another’s motivation and involvement (Implementing the Seven principles; Chickering and Ehrmann 1996). Older students are helped with technology while they in turn provide life experiences and mature outlook.
Engage the students on a journey that challenges their cognitive skills employing accessible methods. Provide a platform for delivery of expression and understanding.
Open Education and Sustainability
My Access to learning resources that I may learn, develop and share.
Engineering is about best practices and inventiveness and for engineering to move ahead we need to look at what we have and see if it can be improve, after all there is no sense reinventing the wheel, but as time has shown we have improved it and adapted it, all of which would not be possible if we hadn’t shared the first idea, imagine how stagnant we would have been if the wheel inventor had patented the idea, progress would have been a lot slower.
To have students research subject learning outcomes and discuss their findings encourages higher thinking based on this knowledge and how it can used, kiwi ingenuity comes from applying that which one has learnt and modifying to suit our needs. Brain storming (Alex Faickney Osborn 1953 Applied Imagination) is a form of open education where ideas are shared, discussed, discarded and eventually adopted to achieve the best result.
Sustainability for my program is about students understanding of the requirements of the course through formative interviews prior to commitment, having the foundation knowledge to be able to achieve the course by gauging literacy and numeracy levels, personal interviews and by having support mechanism in place to support students having difficulty, e.g. tutorials through the learning centre and student support centres.
Overview of Strategies
Introducing Unit Standards in a classroom environment has limitation on flexibility however flexibility can still be delivered by revamping the space we work in and the way in which we deliver a unit, (see Unit Standards: Activity Five - Flexible learning strategies) recognition of prior learning is flexibility in recognising a student’s attributes. The use of E-learning technology that students are comfortable with is flexibility in delivery of student centred learning. Student peer tutoring reinforces subject understanding and in turn represents flexibility in formative assessment.
Flexibility in our organisation is about placing an emphasis on student responsibility for their own learning, about delivering an education regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic background or location and about reducing the financial burden on students by bringing the course to the student and reducing the classroom teacher face to face contact. Achieving these outcomes will ensure sustainability of our programs.  
Adult Educational Theory
Adults are realised as being a more mature student and require a different learning approach (Malcolm Knowles (1990) The Modern Practice of Adult education, From Pedagogy to Andragogy) in which he identifies the following characteristics of adult learners;
  • Adults are autonomous and self-directed.
  • Adults have life experiences and knowledge.
  • Adults are goal-orientated and relevancy-oriented.
  • Adults are practical.
  • Adults need to be shown respect.
Engaging students in on-line research of course material and following up with class presentation enables self-directed learning, critical thinking and leads to peer tutoring. Developing team work and class discussions allows students to draw upon experiences and knowledge, authenticating subject material and giving value to their learning.
Out lining course requirement and student expectations at the start of the course allow students set goals, consider opportunities or achieve aspirations passing the course may offer. Their practicality requires engaging their learning with relevance and direction; they need to see the benefit of what they are learning.  
Above all we need to show the student respect and equality, respect their individuality and uniqueness, acknowledge their intellect and experiences and allow them to express themselves freely within the classroom.
Concepts of Flexible Learning: Cultural Sensitivity & Indigenous Learners
To excel as a leader within the community, fostering social and educational skills through mentoring and respect.
Open entry to my program allows students with an interest in engineering access to the course, providing a pathway into apprenticeship or higher learning. The flexible delivery of the program will inspire self direction through actively achieving learning outcomes, confidence through  knowledge and teamwork achieved on the course, growth through maturity and relationships forged and success through practical skill and academic achievements. 
Cultural Sensitivity & Indigenous Learners
Provide access and equal opportunity to success in an environment that is sensitively cultural to all things Maori.
Understanding what the course entails through interviews and course information will help with identifying if this is the correct course for them, ascertaining the students foundation learning identify if the student has the faculty for achieving this course and through the student and learning centres we can provide support mechanisms to help the student achieve.
Guiding students through the writing of procedure sheets helps create an understanding of the tasks they are about to perform and provides a valuable tool for future on the job assessments. Positive reinforcement and qualifying of their knowledge in the classroom helps with an individual’s self esteem and encourages continued participation.
Awareness of a student’s culture can aid towards their inclusion within the teaching environment.  
Flexible learning and student centred learning allows the student to take responsibility for their own learning, allowing them to learn at their own pace within a given time. The level of information required by the student is based on their own knowledge the use of instructional tools and technology allows the student to study in an environment of their choice.
Tutors are able to facilitate lessons on a ‘what the student needs to know’ basis, offering support and affirmation; this fosters self esteem and forges a learning relationship that will lead to sustainable learning.
‘Where to from here’ 
At this point of time my flexible learning plan is based around the classroom environment, the next step is to step outside, to deliver the program via E-learning where theory can be delivered through the likes of Moodle, Elluminate or Adobe Connect. Practical tasks can be completed in workplaces or home workshop. Evidence provided by video or images of participation delivered through blogs where the experience can be shared.
This style of learning is not new to students, they have been sharing experiences since downloading of pictures and videos has been available. All we are doing is tapping into their learning media.  
Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) Implementing the Seven principles.
Alex Faickney Osborn (1953) Applied Imagination.
Malcolm Knowles (1990) The Modern Practice of Adult education, From Pedagogy to Andragogy.

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