Month: February 2016

Reflecting on the provincial diploma program

The provincial instructor diploma program opened my mind and has given me a new vision in the academic world. Since starting the course in September 2015 I gained a vast amount of knowledge which helped me and my students succeed. This diploma program has given me many valuable tools to use in the classroom and has helped me grow as an individual.

Before starting this program I did many things in the classroom that I wasn’t aware of. I would show up to class and teach with a particular style and not understand the logistics of my approach. After reading about the different learning theories and philosopher’s takes on education, I gained a new vision which helped clarify my uncertainties.

Prior to taking this course I struggled with writing and reflecting on my own thoughts. Over the last few months I have completed several journals, blog posts, discussion forms, and self-assessments. These assignments forced me to internally dig deep and search for my own beliefs and opinions. Having this connection with myself allowed me to write with ease and clarity.

Now that I have these “tools” in my back pocket, I believe I’m prepared to take on whatever dilemmas arise. Although we only touched base of many of these topics, the course has given me the confidence to search for my own answers, conduct my own investigations, and produce my own style of teaching.

All in all the program has helped me create a new chapter in my life. A chapter that I didn’t believe was possible to have. A chapter that I’m proud to say will affect how my future chapters will be written. I conclude education and continuous learning is the key to success. “The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the wiliness to learn is a choice.”- Brian Herbert

Mental Help!

In chapter fourteen of the skillful teacher, Brookfield (2006) said that “the purpose of teaching is to help students learn, then the focus of your efforts clearly needs to be on the understanding how students are experiencing their learning and on responding appropriately to this information.” Based on this perspective Brookfield believes that we should direct our energy towards the students rather than focusing on our own problems. E.g.; frustration, disappointment, or self-loathing. Internal dwelling does not benefit anyone. In the students best interest we need to refocus our thoughts and explore ways to support our mental health. There are three ways to accomplish this.

#1 Develop a Working Philosophy of Teaching

Although many of us don’t believe we need to create a teaching philosophy, the reality is that we act as philosophers each and every day. When teaching we apply our own set of values, beliefs, insights and convictions about teaching which shapes what we think and do. When we are aware of these thoughts it provides us structure and a vision with everyone that surrounds us.

#2 Forming a Supportive Network

Everyone needs support from time to time. Having peers to bounce your thoughts and ideas off is a great way to remove the weight of your shoulders. Knowing that someone else feels the same way as you do, is experiencing similar situations, or is dealing with an equivalent dilemma, shows that you are not the only one facing these problems. Having a good supportive group helps ease any mental stress created.

#3 Remember the Fifteen Maxims of Skillful Teaching

  • Expect ambiguity
  • Perfection is an illusion
  • Ground your teaching in how your students are learning
  • Be wary of standardized models and approaches
  • Regularly reflect on your own learning
  • Take your instincts seriously
  • Create Diversity
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks
  • Remember that learning is emotional
  • Acknowledge you personality
  • Don’t evaluate yourself only by students satisfaction
  • Remember the importance of both support and challenge
  • Recognize and accept you power
  • View yourself as a helper of learning
  • Don’t trust what you’ve just read.

Lifelong learning is a choice

In order for us to grow we must learn new things. Without learning our minds become dull and unaware of our surrounding. As professionals we must look outside shells and find ways to expand our knowledge and skills.

Throughout my career I searched for ways to make myself smarter and more valuable. When I received my instrumentation Red Seal in 2005 I spent an additional three years working in the field as a technician. In 2008 I decided it was time to challenge myself again and take a job as an instrumentation designer at an Engineering firm downtown Calgary, Alberta. This position was a big challenge as many of the needed skills were beyond my educational qualifications. But it forced me to learn something new which helped my future success.

In 2009 I decided to start an instrumentation and electrical business with three partners. The skills I learned as a technician and designer helped prepare me to run a company.  The skills I obtained while owning a company for four years made me even more knowledgeable as it granted me a management position at an automation company in 2013. Without the hard work and dedication of running a business I wouldn’t have created this opportunity.

In 2014 I accepted an instrumentation instructor position in Doha, Qatar. This job would not have been on the radar if I didn’t steer myself in the right direction throughout my career. Living a life where I continuously want to learn helped me become a stronger individual.  With this attitude I’m curious where life will take me. Until then I will continue challenging myself and maintain a lifelong learning attitude.

A Way To Assess


Student evaluation is the most important factor when bringing success in the classroom. It’s used to monitor the student’s progress and understanding of the course. Having the right evaluation tool will keep them on track as it continuously provides feedback. Using the wrong type of assessment tool is not only useless, but it’s also a waste of time for both parties.

My current workplace uses two forms of evaluations when assessing students. The first is called a KBT (Knowledge Base Test), which is a formal assessment where the students have to answer a variety of multiple choice, true and false, and short answer questions. The second is a practical where the students have to physically demonstrate completing a task. Both of these tools are competency based assessments where the students must prove they understand 100% of the content. If they do, they are considered competent which means they have successfully completed the task.

It’s important to review assessments on a regular basis to ensure all questions appropriately match the course content. In my department we have an annual validation meeting, where we review each assessment, and collectively agree/disagree on any changes. Once the changes are made we revise the assessment, review it one more time, then publish it for public use. Having this validation committee allows everyone to provide their input. When assessments are put through this process a stronger program is created.

If we find problems in our assessments and have solutions to fix them, it’s critical that we contact our program developer to makes these changes. Standing in the shadows and hiding in our offices will not benefit anyone.  In order to positivity impact our students lives, we must stand up and make a difference.

Filtering The Way We Communicate

In chapter six of the skillful teacher, Brookfield (2006) indicated the importance of using a mixture of teaching and communication approaches with our students. He said that lectures should advocate at least three different approaches or modalities. We can accomplish this by introducing a variety of visual aids, guest speakers, web broadcasts etc.

Teaching technical programs to ESL students in the Middle East requires flexibility, patience and creativity in the classroom. Many of my student have a hard time staying focused during a (required) four hour lesson. First of all they culturally have a difficult time keeping still and away from their phones, secondly listening to me lecture for that amount of time mentally mind boggling. The “fix” to this problem is to use different communication approaches during the lesson.

A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of days reviewing all the components that makes up an instrument air system. In order to achieve this, I broke down each component separately and came up with different ways for my students to learn. E.g.; Filters are a component of an instrument air systems. To maximize their learning I started off with a lecture to ensure they understood basic filter fundamentals. Next they watched a YouTube clip where they learned about filter installation. Then I took them to a workshop where we dismantled a filter together. By coming up with these different approaches I was able to speed up their learning, make the class more interesting, and maintain their interest level.


Be Ethical!!

Professional ethics is defined as the personal and corporate rules that govern behavior within the context of a particular profession. Being an instructor, colleague, mentor and friend to many people within the college, it’s important for me to portray professionalism. Each and every day I structure myself to stay positive, energetic, compassionate, honest and reliable. Although this becomes difficult at times, I try to stay focused on my goals and fight through each battle with integrity.

Why is this important? People in my life want to feel respected. So I believe it’s important for me to respect everyone that crosses my path. Even if we don’t see eye to eye. Creating a welcoming and positive atmosphere builds trust and happiness, which I believe are important traits to have while maintaining my personal and professional life.

At times we all deal with difficult ethical situations, where we try our best to fix the problem but realize it’s out of “boundaries” to do so. No matter the problem we cannot control the outcome. Recently I was removed from a curriculum development project because my project manager didn’t like my personality. I found this to be a very harsh “slap in the face”, considering I did more work beyond my original scope. Everyone in my department said that his statement was not an ethical thing to tell someone. Even if there was truth behind it. (There wasn’t) I’m a nice guy J

I had a few options to handle this situation. Option one. Prove my point and tell everyone that the project is disorganized and mismanaged. Option two. Confront the project manager and tell him things I cannot discuss on this blog. And Option three. Keep cool and move on knowing that my colleagues have my back and understand the truth. I decided to choose option # 3 as it shows my profession and self in control when dealing difficult ethical situations. Sometimes we must walk away from these dilemmas, regroup our thoughts, and refocus our energy on bigger and better things. That’s how I handled my dilemma.

Knowledge + Assessment =Success

In chapter twelve of the skillful teacher, Brookfield (2006) writes a section called the-level of required learning is inappropriate. Brookfield says that “It’s easy for teachers to misinterpret students’ levels of learning readiness, particularly if there has been no attempt to use some kind of classroom assessment tool to find out what and how students are learning.” I agree with this quote. As an instructor I must understand my students’ level of knowledge before proceeding to the next step. My students must have a clear understanding of the rules, instructions, outcomes and content in order for me to move on. So how do accomplish this?

Thomas R. Guskey a Professor at the University of Kentucky explains this well in his article- How classroom assessments improve learning. Guskey said, “When teachers’ classroom assessments become an integral part of the instructional process and a central ingredient in their efforts to help students learn, the benefits of assessment for both students and teachers will be boundless”. So what does this mean? It means that we must utilize the benefits of assessments and design our lessons around them. Assessments are used to guide improvements in student learning and provide feedback to the instructor. These must be continuously done throughout the course to maximize its purpose.

This semester I’m teaching a course called process operation 201. The course consists of five units which focus on equipment and procedures in the oil and gas industry. At the beginning of the semester I completed a pre-assessment to determine the knowledge of my students. This helped me determine what they do and do not understand. This was a verbal assessment to see if they understood common industry terms like heat exchanger, sampling, P&ID’s etc. After analyzing the data I was able to come up with a good starting point.

Within the first few weeks of teaching, I realized that the prewritten assessments that were created have a much higher English level than what my students have. My ESL students have a difficult time understanding many basic English words, so having an assessment that caters to an advocate English speaker makes it difficult for me and my students. To fix this problem I had to options. Option one which is to recreate the assessment which consists of a validation committee (This could take weeks), and option two is to teach them new English words that are on the assessment. I decided to pick option number two, to save time.

This is a prime example where assessments are wrongfully used. Assessments should give me validity of my students’ knowledge and skills, rather than creating extra stress and confusion. It should help them succeed in the classroom and give me a better sense of their abilities. This form of assessment is difficult to use when monitoring my students throughout the semester. In order for me to gather appropriate data, I go beyond the formal assessments and conduct frequent verbal assessments to ensure they are on track. This provides me useful info when guiding them in right direction.

My college understands that this form of assessing is a problem. Lucky enough they are at the beginning phase of recreating a new curriculum.  The program was originally developed for students with higher English skills. This has been a problem for years, so I’m happy a change is coming down the pipes. Until then……I will try my best to help each student thrive!!

To Tea or Not To Tea!!

In 2014 I moved to Doha, Qatar to gain additional skills in my profession. Being an instrumentation technician/designer for 16 years I figured it was time to “spark up” the career and become an instructor. This was a difficult decision considering I didn’t like attending school or public speaking. But I figured it was time to stand-up and fight my fears.

Within a few months of “fumbling around”, I attended a few courses. E.g.; Instructional Skills Workshop, Technical and Further Education, Develop a Curriculum etc. These courses helped me build confidence as both an instructor and student. The more experience and training I received the better I improved.

After I completed my first year of teaching, I decided it was time to advance my own skills in education. So I enrolled myself into the Provincial Instructor’s Diploma Program (PIDP) at Vancouver Community College. This was a huge step for me to take as it wasn’t my “cup of tea”. I was excited and scared at the same time. So far it has truly been an amazing experience. I learned many new strategies, theories, skills, and tools that helped me gain success in the classroom.

I’m not sure where I will go, or what I will do in the future.  My plan is to complete my contract here at CNA-Q and wait for the next opportunity to arise. This could be another contract with the college or somewhere else, doing something different. But I do know that I will continue improving my hard and soft skills, by challenging myself to learn something new every day.

Team Teaching

Brookfield (2006) empathizes that students and instructors have different learning needs, racial traditions, personality types, talents and experiences. These differences can create barriers when establishing bonds with each other. To overcome this issue we can introduce “Team Teaching”.

“Team teaching” is basically using two of more instructors to deliver the content. This method can be done as a group, or individually where instructors are assigned specific roles. Having this extra support in the classroom, will increase the chances of students-instructor bonding. It easier to create this connection, as there’s a wider range of character in the classroom.

As teachers we bring different skills and handicaps to the table. Some instructors prefer answering questions and giving instructions, where others like lecturing and student interaction. Having a solid team brings diversity in the classroom. Each member can apply their strongest skills to maximizing student-Instructor relationships.

Team teaching requires all members to be involved with planning, conducting, and evaluating activities. This will take extra time and energy compared to “solo” teaching, as these decisions have to be approved by colleagues rather than by oneself. It’s also not the most cost effective method especially when several instructors are involved. But students enjoy the energy created by “Team Teaching”. It allows them to work with other instructors, and experience a wide range of skills.

Do you think team teaching would benefit your classroom?


Brookfield, S. D. (2006) The Skillful Teacher. On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA