Following an international opportunity to facilitate the CCEDP Course facilitating Adult Learning in Barbados last year, I was certainly looking forward to the opportunity to do the same in Grenada this year. Facilitating Adult Learning challenges the traditional delivery styles in the classroom and certainly turns the learning over to the learners. The course expects each learner to teach three micro-teaching sessions to a small group of peers who then have the opportunity to provide feedback, plus be willing to explore the issues teaching and learning face in the classroom. It can challenge the very essence and approach teachers take with adult learners.
My co-facilitators and I were scheduled to begin the course on January 6, 2014 with 27 learners (lecturers, lecturer assistants, and administrators). What we did not realize was that this was the first day back for many of our learners from the Christmas Break and some had just discovered that morning they were enrolled in the course. As a result, we were a little apprehensive on how we would be received. We had to be very careful on our approach since some of our learners at first did not want to be there. They had so much other items on their plates just as we do when commencing a new semester here. They could have closed their minds to the learning in the course and focused on what roles and responsibilities they had before them—but the good news is they did not. They “stepped up” and engaged.
As I stated to them, “We are here from NSCC to expand your teaching toolbox”. Teaching is a craft and must reflect the needs of the classroom in 2014. Please look at this as a learning opportunity to add to your toolbox.”
When visiting another culture I have learned it is critically important to see and try to understand the lay of the land and reassure those you are engaging that we are not here “to fix” anyone but to give them some new ideas to consider when teaching adult learners. In fact, we learn as much from them and their culture as they do from us. The other fact to consider is that we the facilitators are the only white people in the room facilitating to a class of black learners. Are there any preconceived views either way? Although I mention it here, I did not feel at any time throughout the experience that this was a factor or an issue. This speaks, quite frankly, to the way in which we were received. They deserve and need to feel respected. I felt that our facilitation team- Zoran Kondali, Claudine Lowry, Maria Desjardins and I-worked very well together in achieving this.
The people of Grenada are very gracious and proud of their heritage; their warm, welcoming presence made it much easier for us to have honest dialogue about the issues they face as they are developing their island nation as opposed to the issues we face in Canada. However, there are a lot of similarities: motivation of students, student attitudes, electronic devices in the classroom, absenteeism, poorly prepared students who do not have the appropriate academic backgrounds, and a lack of resources (much more serious than we face). Interestingly enough, mental health issues did not get mentioned, which probably speaks more to the fact that Canada’s medical community has made great strides in identifying and addressing mental health issues.
As might be expected, the learners for the most part practice the traditional methods of delivery in the classrooms and found it both interesting and challenging to turn the learning over to their students. By the third microteaching session they were delivering excellent microteaching sessions that were both engaging and interesting—and most importantly, learning centered.
The week was an amazing experience! We went there and taught a class to 26 Grenadians and one Jamaican. We left feeling that we had made 27 new friends. Based on the student feedback, I am confident that NSCC accomplished our goals. They felt both enriched and pleased with the course. That, to me, is what matters the most!
Principal, Pictou Campus
Nova Scotia Community College