Taking on a new OntarioExtend Challenge

woman holding two gray handheld tools

9x9x25 Week Zero

Oh OntarioExtend, you keep coming up with new possibilities for growth and openness! The 9x9x25 Challenge is 9 posts in 9 weeks with at least 25 lines of musings about teaching and learning. I did like to center my post on the topic of Accessibility and Accommodations for students with disabilities.

There are a lot of options in this area. I can write about the Canadian Human Rights Code, the differences between academic accommodations between highschool and college, Assistive Technology, Learning Strategies, what we mean by mitigation, why we don’t modify outcomes in college, perceived privacy issues with audio taping lectures, why having a note taker has the risk of bias, and why you should hug your Student Services staff once in a while or at least share a coffee break with them.

I am excited to get started! About eleven years ago, I had the best job of my life. I was the Learning Strategist/Assistive Technologist for Thames Campus of St. Clair College. I loved that job. Working directly with students with disabilities, particularly with students with learning disabilities, was a privilege.

We have an education system that does not fit every student and students with the potential to learn should not be shut out because they don’t fit some weird definition of the average student. As much as we are working to change the education system, we still rely on teaching through lectures, textbooks and tests – and if you are good at those things, you will do well. But if there is something that stands in the way, you can be limited in what you can pursue and I think that is wrong.

Let’s take apprenticeships, just for a minute. You can be the greatest mechanic but if you have an Auditory Learning Disability and have difficulty with spelling and sounding out words you don’t immediately recognize, you may learn to cope by reading for meaning when you encounter one of these unknown words or if you could hear the word, you would know what it means. We require you to take and pass many multiple choice tests where the number of words is too low to really make use of reading for meaning and rarely can you get the accommodation of using a text to speech reader. Does that make sense? I am not going to ask you to complete a 20 multiple choice test before I let you fix my car! But the education system we have may block excellent mechanics from pursuing their dreams!

I have lots to say about Accessibility and Accommodations for students with disabilities. I hope you will come back over the nine weeks of the challenge and see what I come up with!

Featured image: Photo by Jia Ye on Unsplash

WIIFM – Apprentice Exam Prep Workshop

As I mentioned in an early post, I don’t teach – at least not in the way you may think. I do not have a course that I teach to one group of students over a semester. In some ways, what I do is much harder in that I have workshops that I present to classes. I have to quickly establish both my authority to be at the front of the room and the benefit to the students of giving me their time and attention. One of these workshops is a Study Skills presentation given to Apprenticeships students who have completed all three levels of in-class training and have returned for their 30 hours of Exam Prep before they write their Certificate of Qualification Examination to be licensed in their trade.

In the past few weeks, I have given this workshop to Automotive Technician and Hairstyling apprentices and this week, I will be meeting with General Machinist and Tool and Die apprentices. While these workshops have some handouts and presentation slides that are common, some materials, activities, and handouts are tailored to the specific trade. For example, the workshop includes a practice exam with questions relevant to their trade.

I used this workshop to generate a What Is In It For Me list in response to the Teacher for Learning Extend Activity:

  • call to change focus from absorbing information to thinking strategically
  • confirm study approach/plan is appropriate
  • find out new or be reminded of studying, test taking and test anxiety techniques
  • receive Red Seal approved documents regarding exam prep as well as RC created handouts
  • practice test taking strategies with questions related to trade including opportunity to examine past test method and multiple choice questions strategies
  • opportunity to practice relaxation techniques
  • invitation to meet for individual test related concerns/access to specific contact person
  • Research confirmed benefit – in the first two years after we started presenting this workshop in exam prep week – more apprentices passed the QofC and more received higher marks.