The Endless Journey


I could have never predicted that I would be in my mid-forties graduating with a master’s degree in Adult Education.  It has been a fantastic journey but the educational voyage never ends.  Goals have been set and many destinations achieved, but I believe there is never an end point.   When I entered the adult education program, I had few expectations; I just wanted to learn to be an educator.  After twenty years in the same career, I was pulled into academics.  I knew how to work in my profession, but not how to teach the profession.  The time spent in the adult education program has been a transformation in my way of thinking, learning and working. 

I was pleasantly surprised in my first course ADLT 601 when I was asked to examine how I learn.  Writing a folktale learned as an adult, examining learning theories, applying the theories to our own learning and exploring the lenses we use to learn was fascinating.  All educators should participate  learning inventories to investigate personal philosophies and  styles  that contribute to the journey.  In our third paper for the class, I applied some of the learning theories to teaching dental hygiene instrumentation.  My teaching methods for instrumentation improved through writing about the process.  #3    In ADLT 602, items learned from Caffarella, were put to use.  I had never written program objectives.  This class allowed us to examine all the stakeholders associated with a course, perform a needs assessment and plan an entire program.  Virginia Commonwealth Universit 602  ADLT 603 was an introduction to Vella whom I continued to use throughout the program.  philosophy  This course developed my presentation skills as I investigated other methods in engaging students and delivering content.  The 604 course was a journey into the past.  We read several novels and engaged in lively discussions exploring the learning context and perspective of the characters.  The best part of the course was an interview with Red (my mom) which offered insight into my development through reflection of her life.  Michelle MeetRed.interviewfinal pggI learned in this course that adult development is CDUMP=complex, dynamic, unpredictable, mysterious and political!   The prospect of taking consulting skills was honestly a course I entered with dread but I grew personally and professionally that semester.  Block and Schien offered understanding in negotiation and consulting.   ConsultingContract Listening skills and reading body language became important tools in my toolbox that I strive to perfect everyday.   I learned to be patient and observant, not to be hasty and judgmental.  That course rolled well into 612 and altered my role as a team member working in groups.  Twelve Angry Men Paper the Infrareds I struggled to find my voice, but found my listening ears and evaluated my own strengths and weaknesses.   My golden nugget, was realizing to examine my own biases and view situations from the perspective of others. 

The technology track in my program exposed me to a world of unknowns.  It was a rollercoaster of new, exciting, scary and challenging events.  The world of communication is growing smaller and technology is changing faster than one can learn the tools.  It required some head banging against the wall until I realized pedagogical practices are the same despite the mode of content delivery.   Technology does not equal learning.  Tools can’t be used for the flash effect but must match the goals and objectives of the learning.  The “aha” moment was reflecting on my personal learning network.  Development of a PLN

The capstone experience was a culmination of learning in the program.  Working with nine individuals on an intense project posed many challenges, but the group exceeded all expectations.  Everything learned in the program was utilized during this project. I was pleasantly surprised how well our group worked together to facilitate our own learning and offer insight to our clients.  Our coordination of schedules, tasks, personalities and accomplishments was amazing.    I have learned that communication, listening and collaboration are challenges in every organization and working group. 

I’m more scholarly from the experience and thankful to those who have contributed to my learning.  I have grown from the contribution of my peers and remain open to new ideas.  My children respond to my pursuit of new knowledge and innovative ideas, by seeking to increase their own network of learning.  I made a digital story of my journey to share with professors in the program.  Due to the personal nature of the video, I sent it using File Drop within the school.

Learning Instructional Design

The design process for ADLT 642 was a rewarding experience.  It was a slow progression of two steps forward, one step back and I learned to be patient with the process.  I have always been given existing courses to teach but actually developing a project from scratch was time consuming and challenging.  I followed Vella’s seven step  process for learning tasks.

Who: The program is aimed all full and part-time faculty in the Division of Dental Hygiene.  The goal is to develop a more cohesive working group.  The challenge is move the conversation of faculty responsibility in student learning from water cooler chatter to a productive online space.  This space can benefit all members and serve to calibrate our efforts.

Why: We have to meet our accreditation standards for continual education in teaching methodologies for faculty.  The bigger why is to improve our teaching skills and my challenge is to ensure the interaction with the content will enhance our teaching.

When: This program will continue year round for faculty.  I believe the ability to access material from home and on their time will result in better retention of content.  

Where:  A blackboard site was used because all faculty have access and are familiar with navigation. 

What: the content (KSA):  Areas addressed were generated from faculty requests and include feedback, assessment, critical thinking, teaching practices, scholarship and clinical skill development.   The content will be flexible and continually updated.   Participants will receive the knowledge, reflect on it and implement new skills in clinical practice.  This will be assessed through reflections on the course blog, faculty reviews and observation in the clinic.  It will be difficult to assess attitude changes, but I hope we will observe a change.  

What for: The program goal is to enhance student-faculty interactions and improve clinical teaching.  Each course module has objectives specific for that content.  EX: For the Feedback module;  1. Describe the purpose of giving feedback from the student’s perspective and the instructor’s perspective. 2. Identify elements of giving effective feedback.  3.  Apply new feedback strategies into your clinical teaching practice. 4. Discuss and evaluate new feedback strategies. 

How: The tasks for obtaining these objectives are readings, videos and reflective writing.  Formative assessment is achieved with short quizzes for each module.  A summative assessment will occur in the blog posts, observation of faculty clinical behaviors and student feedback. 


Although I have used Blackboard for the last few years, I found it laboring at times to get content to post correctly.  It’s important to be flexible when using technology; I get very frustrated at times.  I’m guilty of trying to use a new tool because it looks cool but it may not align with the purpose of the content. I have to remember technology does not equal learning .   It has been difficult to find ways online for the participants to interact with the content.  I worry that they won’t find the content engaging.  In a class you can see participant reactions immediately, with this course it will take some time to assess the value and benefit.  I’m excited to try something new.  The key to lifelong learning is being acceptable to new, innovative methods and being receptive to ideas that challenge our existing way of thinking. The best way I have found is by expanding your personal learning network, collaborate with peers, speak with content experts and be open to feedback and change.  Some twitter accounts I follow have offered great resources,!/WeTeachWeLearn  and!/onlinecourse I had no experience in instructional design and enjoyed learning from others in the class.  I still consider myself a late adopter with online technology and education, but it’s all relative.  The technology track in the adult education program has challenged and enhanced my teaching and learning.

1 step forward-2 steps back

QM Assessment

QM Online Faculty Forum-McGregor

As I forge ahead with my designing my course, I take a few steps backwards. I was so caught up in how to address the assessment phase of the course, I lost track of my objectives. I’m struggling having an assessment that sufficiently evaluates that learning has taken place. It should match the time invested for each module. The modules in the course are meant to be short snippets that participants can accomplish in about an hour, yet bring new ideas of practice into their clinical teaching. This should bring a sense of community among the part-time faculty whom rarely see each other as a group. I stepped away to look at the course holistically. I remembered a course that used the Quality Matters Rubric to assess online course development. I found this helpful to look at all aspects of my course.



As I begin to create a course or module from scratch, I feel overwhelmed.  Despite the courses I’ve taken and my increased knowledge of learning in an online format, there is still a sense of bewilderment.  I have not changed an entire course layout or the design.  As I started, focusing is difficult and I easily stray down rabbit holes.  I began with the question, what is it that I want to accomplish.  The answer: deliver content to improve clinical teaching for part-time faculty, satisfy the  accreditation requirements that faculty receive continuing education in teaching methodologies, use an online format,  engage the faculty in the process, and have some fun. 

I began with having casual conversations with those who would be participants in the course.  I gained some insight but it was limited.  During a class discussion I realized a needs assessment would be helpful so I sent a survey to the part-time faculty.    Only about half the faculty responded even after a reminder was sent.  The results indicate 60% prefer a f2f offering, while 40% want an online format.  The survey included a ranking of areas of interest for content.  The top at 100% were giving student feedback and critical thinking, tied for second was assessment skills and best practices for teaching and learning.   I believe these are important content area that will benefit faculty.  To start I will try to focus on feedback and teaching practices.  I began with a course map to look at my ideas for content.  This has helped me focus what the online site would offer and course content by examining visually.

Linear learning

I have surfed the net many times and never thought about the navigation of the sites visited.  As a user, I had to put on my designer hat and think about the navigation of a site.  Since the technology courses in my graduate program, I have put much more thought into the organization of my Blackboard sites.  I have tried to condense folders and use less tabs so users can find the needed material quickly.  Allowing the learner to choose the order of navigating the site and takes design to a new level for me.  It’s not surprising that older children are more tasks oriented as stated in Sue Fenleys article    

We teach students to complete tasks in a timely manner and wean them from their inquisitive nature.  That must contribute to the linear learning preference of many adults as we become set in our patterns of leaning.  I have not experience changing the entire layout of a course.


The more I learn and read about instructional design and pedagogy; I wonder if I will ever achieve ideal skills to engage students.  It’s our responsibility as educators to be scholarly in our teaching.  This is more than being a content expert and includes the constant pursuit of improvement in teaching methods.  Instructional design has been an ambiguous concept for me; I teach existing courses and have always followed the original course layout.  Occasionally I add activities, but I have never started with a clean slate and worked backwards from course objectives, to instructional strategies and delivery to assessment and evaluation.   The circular and continual process has been a great model for understanding the ongoing iterations needed for a course.  I believe it takes a level of confidence for a new educator to change a course.  The concepts we have been discussing in class continue to challenge my pre-existing ideas.   There is more thought on how to deliver content and how the assessment best aligns with course goals.  Using feedback from peers and students along with personal reflection are necessary for true evaluation.  It requires removing my own biases, being open to criticism and willing to make a change.  It’s very personal when it’s your course.    I imagine instructional designers must balance the egos of content experts, designers and stakeholders to provide a product that meets the needs of all stakeholders.

Who is the orginization?

A big problem with the case between ALN and Third eye was communication.  I can see this as a barrier to moving forward with good instructional design that meets the need of all parties involved.  In work I often see assumptions made regarding the desire and goals of others.  As a contact expert in one area, it may be difficult to identify gaps in disseminating information. 

As I read the Chapter on Designing with the Organization in Mind, I had to contemplate what is meant by the organization.  Consideration must be given to the profession of dental hygiene, the associations that guide and regulate practice in the private sector, the accrediting bodies that oversee the school, the University policies and my departments within the school but the students are who the design is intended to impact. My time in the adult education program has improved my skills in understanding course goals and objectives, but these are often focused on the books recommendations and not why the student needs this information or skill. There is pressure to make sure the student has been taught X, Y and Z and in the haste to regurgitate the necessary material, the relevance and context of the material is often overlooked.  More focus needs to be placed on how the student will use this knowledge and what activities and evaluations best support the learning. We (my teaching environment) spend a lot of our instruction time on nice to know and it would be more productive to focus on need to know and give them resources to the nice to know items.   Communication with students and the other organizations that effect the practice of the profession could lessen the gaps that occur in the instructional design. The more I read about instructional design, I feel a need to embrace the concepts and techniques used and put an end to backwards course planning.  I’m given existing courses and often update content but don’t spend time on the design of the course.

Gaps in design

Instructional design is not intuitive.  All my courses are developed from existing courses.  This case has made me realize the, “gaps” as Robinson puts it, that occur with my learning objectives and that I don’t address in designing curriculum.   The need to spend more time on the assessment process and gather more input related to course objects was highlighted in our readings.  Although I’m considered a SME in a course, I often spend time reviewing the course to increase my own confidence.  I often get caught up in the delivery of the course, concentrating more on engaging the students than effectively addressing student learning objectives.   I have done informal surveys of a course to help improve it for the next offering, but I realize I’m missing the big picture.  My questions tend to focus more on delivery than student needs and outcomes.  This discussion has been a wake-up call on the necessity to focus on the student learning.

The discussion about testing objectives vs. course objectives vs. textbooks objectives is very real.  Our students must pass rigorous state exams to receive licensure and pass course requirements to graduate but more importantly they need to leave with practical knowledge that enables them to be successful in practice.  This practical knowledge equates to student engagement and good learning objectives.   Faculty must define and prioritize the need to know items against the nice to know items.  The struggle of these two times results in unrealistic, conflicted student learning objectives.   My objectives are usually developed from textbooks.  I rarely deviate from these objectives even if I feel those objectives don’t align with student needs.  It’s important that the instructional design process include goals of the students, instructors, the school, the profession and possibly societal needs.  The buzz in my academic world is critical thinking and life-long learning.  I wonder if these can be achieved when large gaps exist in the learning strategies.  I have never used any type of model in developing a course but I can see the advantage of using such a process.  The evaluation phase and continual redevelopment can result in a good course design. 

Examing instructional design and opening up dialogue to everyone invlovd i the process will benift the learners.


I continue to be amazed every week with the evolving technology.  I’m watching YouTube videos on tools that seem new and innovative to me, but the date of the posts are one, two and three years old.   I enjoyed the  Wesch video and continue to ponder the rapid changes in how we communicate and his references to it’s effects on relationships, family, business, governement and education.  We are linked together as never before, but is all the  social media adding quality or simply quantity to our network.  Is YouTube really a celebration of communication or are we self -centered, egotistical beings who all want our moment of fame???

YouTube has extreme entertainment value but I have begun to add to my PLN with libraries of  videos for use in my communities of Adult Education and Dental Education.