Owning the challenge: transforming 24

I teach this course, Learners and the Learning Process. The content potential is rich. The challenge is as always, how to approach it to best engage student interest. First year students predominantly at 8am. I’ve learned to do the course well and know how to keep it fairly engaging, even for that time of day. But still, I nag myself with the knowledge that my approach could be so much more. I continue to teeter on the edge of traditional. I use technology a lot but I don’t take advantage of the full pre-frontal cortex of technology if you know what I mean. There is so much more I could do to turn the learning over to the students.

Why would I want to do that? There’s a fundamentally simple answer to that question. My teaching models a kind of benign hierarchical power that in repetition, becomes lethal. These 21st century students need a 21st century teacher who knows important stuff, but facilitates their accessing the important stuff. Investigation, not transmission. I am still a transmitter of information and if I continue to do so, then my implicit message affirms the centrality and importance and dominance of that essentialist (?) mission. They will turn into a “me.” I don’t want them to do that. I want them to find and turn into a “them,” whatever it is that “them-as-teacher” is evolving to.

I want them to have measurably different responses to these two questions at the end of our investigation. This is what I thought teaching would be before we did the investigation. This is what I thought I’d be as a teacher before we did the investigation. This is what I’m thinking now about teaching and myself as a teacher having done the investigation. This is what I know, this is what I’m not sure of.

I’m going to find two links, the information from which I’ve seen over that past year, to serve as a kind of rudder for my thinking during this work. One is a link to problem based learning. The other is a link to “expeditionary learning,” a curriculum that I think went through the national diffusion process and is now certifiably “effective”: I know it is also investigatory and learner-centered.

Project Based Learning


CSI-An Example of Project Based Learning


Expeditionary Learning – experiential learning at its finest


Mihaly Csikszentmihali on Flow


This is very cool stuff. I hope to add to it with my group of students.

For the moment, here are some of my recent structuring ideas.

We will investigate each of the twelve criteria for brain-based learning (Cain and Cain) as task force groups. My trust is that as students delve into the meaning of their criteria, they will experience the interconnectedness of their criteria with many if not all of the remaining eleven. As of now, here are some thoughts.



agenda keeper and tail twister

scribe and communication specialist

creative effects specialist

Meeting Process…


opening (a quote from someone – Banks, Dewey, Duckworth, etc.)

agenda reviw

work time

report out

next steps: when, where, who/what

closing (another quote – same…)

Group Process Reminder – Tuckman, 1965







Overall Task Requirements

bonding/group strength assessments

clarification of task

goal setting








definitions and examples






the internet

those around us – UVM faculty, people in other places (iChat potential)

‘Nuff for now. It’s way too early in the morning. Even the cats are giving me weird looks. And Kyla, I did not wake up the baby! She did that on her own accord.

Published by

Charles Rathbone

Retired. Emeritus. Conducts a seminar on university teaching to doctoral students in the Rubenstein School of Natural Resources once a year. Board Member Vermont Interfaith Action, volunteer and advocate Burlington Bike Project, UDL consultant VSA Vermont, photographer, married, four children, five grandchildren, and one Golden Doodle. Embracing life, all of it. "Today is tomorrow's past."

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