Late Night Thoughts From The Hippocampus

Martin Instructor Burnaby, British Columbia Posted   Latest  
Discussion
Education
Rumbles And Grumbles In Trades

You'll likely need to grab a java and sit for this late night rambling.....

In recent years much has been said and discussed in depth, in regards to the need to reform the educational model to better serve the modern learner. It appears to true that learning of more complex topics related to advanced technologies clearly forms more challenges for both learners and instructors today than ever before. However, I wonder if the educational system is quite as "broken" as some may believe and boldly "shout from the hill tops". Is the "sky really falling"?

Those of us who have worked in the automotive field and subsequently completed formal training in the educational arena, were most certainly exposed to a barrage of several age-old names, concepts and theories about how individuals learn.

Much discussion has led to examination of the likes of Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy and more, questioning the completeness, accuracy and validity of application of such works in modern society. Certainly, such concepts, theories and taxonomies have formed the basic foundation for learning for so long that they have been the accepted practices to follow. I wonder how the mindset of these "wizards" of the mind, might change to align with current times.

I question whether blindly following such concepts is valid anymore. While the type of learners can certainly be "pigeon-holed" to fit into the categories as identified by these past Masters of learning, I am not alone in my understanding that revamping most every aspect of learning is perhaps not a real and complete solution to the problem. In an effort to fit some unusual learning "styles", of the modern learner, is a required or completely re-working education truly a necessary objective?

After all, many have mastered the craft of automotive service, diagnosis and repair, plus developed classroom management and adeptly facilitate program delivery. Proof is in program graduates who demonstrate tangible skills as a result of active participation in training and enjoy successful careers working in the field. I venture to say that those of us who do "push the envelope" within the boundaries defined by the learning institutions and accreditation agencies, have already been exploring avenues that promote success through enhancement, or augmentation of the "status quo" mandated methods.

While adapting to various learning styles has proven useful, it has also been observed that learners will adapt to the mode of delivery in short order, regardless of whether it is a method outside of the learner's normal "comfort zone".

In these "media rich" times, there is so much learning material almost freely and widely available, that it is likely mind-boggling to be "tethered" to text books as learning resources, especially given that accuracy, publication refresh rate and costs all put utilization of such works at a disadvantage in this modern day.

With more variations of delivery media available than ever before, I truly wonder how the Benjamin Blooms of the world would view learning in the modern world beyond the industrial revolution of yore that spawned the need for reading, w'riting and a'rithmetic (the three "r"s, so to speak).

Some of the issues that we face, is over or poor use of media that can actually be very useful. Microsoft PowerPoint® for example, has earned the reputation for "PowerPoint Paralysis" or "Death by PowerPoint", while it is not the medium that is at fault as much as the extent and type of use. It appears to me that what most often occurs, is that it appears that those creating slide shows, whether it be PowerPoint of some other similar delivery format, take various works such as texts and articles and move them into the slide show format. Now, sitting at a desk trying to remain alert while a teacher or instructor recites verbiage from a text book or a text book copied into slide show format, is an extreme struggle for most if not all of us, beyond a few minutes of ability to focus.

There is little worse than being required to follow along through a presentation that comprises the exact same information and images as contained within the covers of the required program texts. So, why do this at all? Is it because many students simply do not read, read well or suffer from poor comprehension skills?

Is it to ensure that the information that is covered on a test that has been embedded into the slide show, which is often present as bolded or italicized text in the chapters of the paper text? While learning is fundamentally viewed as an ability to recall what has been presented and observed, recall without the ability to associate and align information to application through activities, frequently falls short.

While given a text, most students should be able to score an eighty percent score on a related test, that is not the purpose for learning. The whole concept of learning in the automotive realm and trades in general, is to master a craft through understanding how physics apply to a variety of applications, whether they be system-related or procedural.

So, to ensure relevancy it is necessary for the student to be exposed to various concepts and theories and challenge them through completion of a series of carefully planned and executed competency-based learning activities.

Personally, while not a big fan of slide shows based on texts and associated images, there is a requirement to utilize this type of media in the classroom. Perhaps it is a classroom "CYA" for the learning institution to identify that concepts "x, y and z" were formally presented in the classroom, covered in the program text and thus, the potential for learning was established.

My own personal use of slide show material is to either capture images or create a drawing or two that are relevant to the learning and not reproduced from works from which texts and accompanying slide shows are produced.

One challenge facing educators is standards, of which there are many. Changing how learning is accomplished if so desired, would in my opinion require re-working current standards and evaluation methods, to allow freedom for development and implementation of new instructional methodologies. The focus on instruction should be to equip the learner with knowledge and skills that are useful in the workplace and conducive to success.

Successful achievement in tests and examinations should be a byproduct of a successful learning experience, rather than achieving a passing score on the test, simply because the learner was exposed to content specific to the test.

Those of us who have daily encounters with the modern student have come to learn that sitting in class enduring a lecture (I talk, you listen), is not a means of education by any measure. The days of old when I sat in a school classroom in full school uniform, alert with pencil and paper to capture notes has long since passed, although I do still actively capture useful notes in similar fashion very effectively. Students must be engaged learners, actively participating in class discussions, challenging concepts and theories that are presented.

The modern learner seems to separate and value into what must be recalled and what can be quickly located by what I call "GoogleTubing®". It is fair to say that while my own brain has amassed a huge amount of information relative to working in the automotive field for the past fifty years, that the need to recall specific pieces of information as we once used to, has greatly diminished. In short, there is no longer reason to recall a lot of information, can be rapidly located using modern technology search methods. So, in part a shift in what is necessary to recall and what can be located through efficient search techniques, changes at least one aspect of information gathering and recall requirements.

After all, who honestly cares that the generation one Chevrolet small block engine firing order is …, when that information is now readily available at the touch of a keypad or mouse? In retrospect, it certainly appears that there are more useful ways to use our brain for more important information than recalling specifications. This is especially so in these times where information can be updated almost instantly and recalling errant or obsolete information could result in liability.

So, in modern times, we as teachers and instructors need to be more in tune with assisting our students in developing proficiency in information gathering skills. While most every class is very much occupied by those who, the moment that breaks start, "GoogleTube®" what is often what we consider the silliest videos for amusement, I frequently observe that information gathering skills related to work place searches are far more lacking without formal training. There is in my opinion, a "mythbelief" that our students are "IT" savvy, when in fact they have rather poor computing skills outside of their ability to "GoogleTube®" what amounts to rubbish ranging from porn to Darwin type videos.

I have observed this over many years and the results are consistent. Without guidance through formal instruction to learn effective search methods, student proficiency in utilizing application-based information search techniques, absolutely cannot be assumed. While students arrive in the program that I instruct, feeling confident in their abilities, when they graduate, they freely express how much they have learned relative to being able to gather, locate and apply information far more effectively from the resources that they use in their daily roles as automotive technicians.

In my opinion, to summarize what is wrong with the delivery media openly abhorred by some, is that it is not necessarily any given medium that does the learners a disservice, but rather how well or poorly it is utilized. There are times when certain learning activities may seem tiresome or lack purpose to the learner, yet have associated objectives that are beyond the vision of the learner. One such example is in some of the student work guides that we use in class, there are some good informational pages interspersed with exercises.

Some exercises are simply research-based where the student must log in to the service information and locate specific documents and transcribe various responses to questions or fill in blanks using the relevant information. Other times, the same approach is necessary in order to establish expected results from testing systems and components in the workshop.

While on the surface the process can seem tedious when students are often more visual learners in somewhat of a rush to get their hands on to the tools and test equipment, research for the purpose of gathering useful information associated with the learning activity has become very necessary in these times of complex technology beyond the days of recalling the firing order of commonly used engines.

Evaluation. This topic alone is huge and is often limited to the type of program and prescribed evaluation model employed. As instructors delivering programs that must meet national standards, there is a requirement to follow the "rules of engagement", so to speak. That dictates evaluation methods and assigned percentages to align with the formality of the education model.

Despite restrictions imposed by learning content, delivery and evaluation methods, the creative instructor can find freedom to enhance learning and evaluation for a better student experience and possibility of improved achievement.

No matter what learning and evaluation is utilized, unless the instructor is of positive mindset and able to empower learning, the chances are that the results, whether we call them "outcomes" or "learning objectives", will fall short of the desired goals.

Whatever means of education is chosen, unless all parties are enthusiastic, motivated and engaged, failure or mediocrity can be expected. So, it is important from the outset of any course or program that the learner understands that the responsibility to learn is theirs alone and both passing and failing are realistic possibilities. The following quote is very much a realistic view that I hold and express to my students, regarding their right and the power contained within a failure to achieve a desired objective. Regrouping with a new view and mindset can be a very powerful learning experience and failure is not a disgrace, but an opportunity to review and improve.

A Forbes quote of the day, "Failure should be celebrated for its lessons as much as success is celebrated for the prestige" Loria Oliver, Entrepreneur.

When I first entered the instructional realm beyond workplace mentoring and supervision to complete the BC provincial instructor diploma circa 1998, one of the prescribed program texts was Concepts and Choices For Teaching - Meeting the Challenges in Higher Education. At 150 pages in length, it served as an introduction and guide for our classroom learning activities and referred to many of the world-famous educational prophets of all time.

Timpson, W. M., & Bendel-Simso, P. (1996). Concepts and Choices for Teaching: Meeting the Challenges in Higher Education. Madison, WI: Magna Publications, Inc.

Today, searching for the title results in the same title with the same primary author William Timpson and a different co-author, Sue Doe. I wonder how twenty two years on since my edition of this age old publication was published, it has changed, with the text now expanded to 368 pages. atwoodpublishing​.​com/books/192​.​htm So, it seems that while traditional teaching methods have not changed a lot over time, save for the introduction of more digital media, that it would be prudent to keep abreast of developments in learning and teaching. Simply "ambling" along doing the same old thing, while our learners are exposed to and influenced by rather different demographic factors, it will require some change or adaptation to see changes towards improved skills development and overall learning. Does the educational system really warrant a complete overhaul or some judicious tweaking? That is the question! In other words, what is no longer purposeful or necessary and needs to be replaced for an improved learning experience and what needs some revision to adapt to better utilize and capitalize on modern learning media and technology? Food for thought.

Martin …

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Michael Mobile Technician
Clinton, Utah
Michael
 

Hi Martin, In my opinion, the most important component to learning automotive repair is apprenticeship. Having a master there to mentor one on one is crucial to learning. An automotive instructor simply does not have the time to give each student the individual attention needed for clear learning. The Master needs to be in line with industry standards. The Student / Apprentice needs to be

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
 

Hi Michael. Great observations. I agree that mentoring is very much a necessary learning component that is unfortunately often avoided, ignored or overlooked as a part of the mastery process in North America. In my realm of training GM apprentices, whether mentoring is possible, is often dependent upon the size of the dealership, shop hierarchy and work distribution. This relates to

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Michael Mobile Technician
Clinton, Utah
Michael
 

Hi Martin, Until last week I worked as a trainer for a large tool company. As part of my responsibilities I trained technicians how to repair tires according to TIA and RMA standards. Every time I taught this in a school the instructors were beside themselves as they realized that they taught repair like "Bubba" taught them. Rough the surface, apply cement, stitch on the patch. Then you dunk the

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
 

Excellent thoughts and observations Michael. We do use some of the TIA and RMA standards and resources in training. We do also utilize GM online training course resources including Lubrication, Inspection and Maintenance 1, 2 & 3 and Tire Service & Maintenance 1 & 2 as prerequisite/review learning. You are quite correct in that it takes correction of pre-learned bad habits and poor

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Michael Mobile Technician
Clinton, Utah
Michael
 

Thanks Martin, It sounds like you in the "Great White North" are ahead of the curve in training techs. What I don't understand is that even with certification being a requirement in Canada, the pay rates are very similar and in many cases lower than that of the USA. I would expect that one who has to "prove" their ability should be compensated better. What would be the reasons for this. Many in

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
 

Hi Michael. I don't know so much about being ahead. While my counterparts who lead the same programs in USA do so with some differences in standards, I know just how hard some of those individuals work to achieve the best possible outcomes for their students, even if ASE is the only nationally recognized testing standard beyond the dealership required GM certifications. Within Canada in

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Andrew Technician
Commack, New York
Andrew
 

Hey Martin, I’m new to teaching work - in May I co-presented two four hour classes we spent two months developing. The stipulation was to deliver a presentation and write a book for the students, everything else was up to us. We weren’t bound by any rules from any institution of any kind so it was completely up to our discretion how to operate, and there were a wide variety of formats, teaching

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Martin Instructor
Burnaby, British Columbia
Martin
 

Hi Andrew. As you have discovered and are experiencing, deciding what the intended learning objectives are and then selecting appropriate information, tools and activities to achieve the desired learning within a specific time line, can be quite a challenge. When you sent me some material to review some time ago, I believe that my initial comments were that it was "all encompassing" and "very

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William Diagnostician
Ashland, Virginia
William
 

I think the biggest hindrance to training techs already in the field is the lack of daytime training with pay. No one wants to come after work or on Saturdays, and if they do come after hours, about 3 hours are all they are good for. After that you have lost the attention span and engagement. Many classes I have taught have a large number of students who are there "because the boss said I have

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