Professional Development Plan

When I have completed my PIDP I am going to be honest…I will take a short hiatus from intensive professional development activities! I have already planned my activities for 2019 and am hoping to attend two conferences on legal changes within Labour Relations and Employment Law through Lancaster House and Queen’s University. If I am successful in gaining a full-time faculty position for Fall 2018, I am hoping to rework two of my courses during my professional development time to incorporate more practical, applied learning principles and activities, as well as integrate an indigenous approach. I would like to create a second level Labour Relations course as well as incorporate building student skill sets in having difficult conversations because I believe that learners graduating in Human Resources require this skill to be successful in the field.

In the long term, I am hoping over the next five years to gain support in potentially writing a couple of chapters in a textbook or part of a course pack. I have been a little frustrated with the some of the materials in my courses and how negatively framed they seem to be. It is challenging to reframe the vision for your course content when the textbook labels it as “the most contentious and conflict ridden area of human resources”. I find Labour Relations and Employment Law to be an amazing, problem-solving field where the environment that you work is almost entirely founded on the relationships you build and the approach you use.  The difference in the two definitions can significantly impact the learner’s view on the profession and the approaches used.

I want to maintain contact within the college community for instructional skills and am fortunate that Camosun has lunch & learn gatherings and communities of practice that regularly get together. When I have become more seasoned within the college community, I may try to become a facilitator for the Instructional Skills Workshop (part of the PIDP). This course was my introduction to the PIDP program and was what got me interested in furthering my education and instructional development.


Chapter 6- Lecturing Creatively – The Skillful Teacher by Stephen Brookfield

I loved the introduction to this chapter of Brookfield’s book as I wholeheartedly agree! My favourite style of class is a combo of lecture/discussion/activity. My lectures are not traditional lectures. I ask questions throughout. I ask for input, experiences and thoughts on examples that I provide. I rarely stop moving when I “lecture” and I free-style as much as I possibly can while still covering the materials that are linked to outcomes. I love his comment that “…a lecture is enormously variable…its only unifying characteristic is that it involves sustained periods of teacher talk…some of which are highly student centred”. My lectures might resemble what he refers to as “an extemporaneous improvisation”. The five reasons that Brookfield provides for lecturing substantiates my reasons for modified lectures:

  1. To inform on the general content of the course
  2. To provide greater explanation, with specific examples, course content that may be difficult for learners to conceptualize
  3. To provide learners with a variety of perspectives and views on the content
  4. To model behaviours and approaches you find important and encourage students to adopt
  5. To develop learners’ curiosity in a topic

Brookfield outlines three characteristics of helpful lectures, which include using a variety of different methods and forms of communication (including introducing silence), being highly organized in the materials, and modelling the approaches we want our students to adopt.

One of the ideas I really liked in this chapter is the introduction of buzz groups into lectures. Buzz groups ask students to answer questions or make judgements regarding different parts of the lecture.  The example questions he provided are:

– What’s the most contentious statement you’ve heard so far in the lecture today?

– What’s the most unsupported assertion?

– What assumptions do you see underlying the arguments made so far?

– Give me an example of one of the theories provided today?


I think I have introduced a modified version of this by posing questions throughout my lectures but will definitely try this method out with the questions and ideas he has outlined.

Lastly, I think that of all the things that has helped me with my lectures, by giving me a little touch of “Eau to Unicorn”, is maintaining humour throughout the year. Humour has been injected throughout my courses as a constant; something that my students have come to rely upon and expect and that makes my job thoroughly enjoyable both for preparation and delivery. I aim to one day pull off the creative feat that Mathew Weathers, a math professor, managed to do for his class, off one day…



Brookfield, S. D. (2015). Skillful Teacher. Hoboken: Wiley.

Weathers, M. (2018, May 17). Creative Way for Lecture. Retrieved May 17, 2015, from

Chapter 17 Responding to Students’ Resistance to Learning

I chose this chapter because resistance in education intrigues me. Students pay for their education (or someone is), so when they resist learning it initially confuses me. You are choosing to be here so why are you resisting? It pushes me into the place I am comforted by the most…problem solving.  I love that Brookfield breaks down how to respond to this resistance into what is basically a problem solving technique.

  1. Try to figure out the reason they are resisting
  2. Do some digging. What’s the history of the course, has anything changed, what is the course’s reputation from other students?
  3. Is their resistance justified?
  4. Find out about your students backgrounds and adapt your methods
  5. Involve former resistors and model the activities you expect them to perform
  6. Involve students in course or activity planning where possible
  7. Use a variety of teaching methods
  8. Assess their learning throughout the course – no surprises for where the resisters are at
  9. Ensure your intentions are understood
  10. Provide examples, cases, and practical applications for the things they are learning
  11. Set them up for success and create situations where they will be
  12. Acknowledging that resistance exists and is normal
  13. Try to limit the negative effects of resistance so it doesn’t impact others who want to learn

I have definitely been confronted with resistance and have used some of his techniques to work it through with students. The technique I have found most helpful is giving them concrete examples of when the information they are learning has actually been used in real life.  As with anything, if learners see no applicability or purpose for learning the information then the motivation to learn will likely be low if present at all.

I saw this TED Talk by Joe Ruhl on inspiring students through teaching given , an award winning teacher. Although he teaches kids ages fourteen to eighteen, I think his “5 C’s” are applicable to college students and have been listed in different forms throughout our PIDP courses. He posits that teaching techniques and relationships with your students are the two most important things. He follows this with the idea that choice, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity are the necessary ingredients to inspire.

I think these tie very well to assisting students through resistance.  Imagine being given choices, involved in both the planning and execution of content, communicated with open and honestly, asked for your perspective and analysis, and provided with creative delivery and tools to learn the materials.  How much more likely are you to become invested in your learning than if you are simply prescribed the outcomes and told they are an important as part of your program?


Brookfield, S. D. (2015). Skillful Teacher. Hoboken: Wiley.

Ruhl, J. (2015, May 27). Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of the Future | Joe Ruhl | TEDxLafayette. Retrieved May 15, 2018, from


Chapter 8 – Teaching in Diverse Classrooms

In this chapter, Brookfield highlights the extent to which diversity has grown with international students, indigenous peoples, learning styles, personalities, gender identity and sexual orientation, different and unique abilities, and many other diverse populations.

He notes that gauging diversity formally in the classroom can be intimidating and feel punitive to some students instead of being a helpful source of information. He provides alternate ways to gauge diversity within the classroom and different responses teachers can provide when faced with challenges. He provides the benefits of team teaching, which I have never experienced, as well as mixing student groups, which I regularly incorporate into my classes. He also talks a lot about using different modalities, opening up teaching methods to different learning styles by mixing visual and oral methods of communication, and reminds us of the importance of both speech and silence. Lastly, he reminds us that we will never be able to appease or connect with every unique individual and their needs at every turn but we need to adapt, try new methods, and consistently evaluate our approaches to ensure we are reaching as many learners as possible.

I notice the benefits of mixing groups of students. Every other group assignment I assign the groups which provides students with the opportunity to choose their own group fifty percent of the time.  I have noticed that in my third year course students are more open to working with new people each time than in my other courses. I am not sure whether this is because they have become more adaptable or just accepted fate in group work.  My classes are amazingly diverse with approximately 50% of my class made up of international students. This year I have had students from 15 different countries.  I have had students who identify gender neutral (prefer “they” as their pronoun), have had 6 students with different classroom or examination accommodations, and have had 5 indigenous students from different bands on Vancouver island.  The insights and perspectives from all of my students has opened up new ways of looking at and solving problems, brought amazing discussions, and made my role as an instructor richer.  I learn as much, if not more, from them as they do from me.

Doug Melville gives a great Ted Talk about the paradigm of diversity and that we need to follow the following principles to improve our diversity IQ.

  • Be aware that diversity is taking over
  • Be yourself
  • Check your Bias
  • Check your DNA and find out your background
  • Eat out more- in culturally diverse restaurants.
  • Focus on women’s issues.
  • Glad – become aware of identity and sexual orientation.
  • Hidden Handicaps
  • Insights and Inspiration – gain from others and inspire others about diversity.

“Your diversity is your personal currency to help grow our world.”

Doug’s TED Talk is here:



Brookfield, S. D. (2015). Skillful Teacher. Hoboken: Wiley.

Melville, D. (2015, May 01). Improving your diversity IQ | Doug Melville | TEDxSyracuseUniversity. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from

Blog on Ch 1 Brookfield


“Teaching is a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction, and risk are endemic”. (Brookfield, p.1, 2015)

I wrote about this quote in my first reflective essay because it resonated with me. I love the mess of teaching. I love the unpredictability and natural flow that occurs. I always love a class that flowed naturally versus a scripted, defined, and overly constructed one…and I have facilitated both. A friend of mine recently told me that she believes that I thrive in absurdity. I thought this was very funny mostly because it is true. Although as an ambivert, I cannot be exposed to long periods of chaos without a period of solitude to recharge, I actually thrive, or rise to the challenge, when things go off course.

In Chapter One of “The Skillful Teacher”, Brookfield describes the highs and lows of teaching with all of the unpredictability, juggling, guessing, excitement and anxiety that goes with it. He equates teaching to white water rafting as it has periods of gentle calm followed by “frenetic turbulence”.


When our boats capsize, equating it to when we facilitate what turns out to be a terrible class, is when we question our ENTIRE purpose in life and our choice of profession.

This chapter eased my mind about the rollercoaster job I have chosen. It’s ok that I will likely never successfully connect to every students learning style in every class I teach. I am human. Yet, it is also good to know that when I beat myself up that others in the same field are doing exactly the same thing. On the days where I question my purpose I need to remember ALL of the days where I feel exhilarated, fulfilled, entertained, and challenged…and maybe come back and re-read this chapter.

I am proud of myself that I freely admit when I am wrong or unsure as it shows students that it’s ok to be human, to not know, to make mistakes and to search for solutions…that we are all continually learning. One of my favourite professors in university told me that the best teacher you have is also a student.

There are so many great quotes in the first chapter that it is hard to pick a favourite…but I will now sign-off as both the “struggling gladiator of ambiguity”, the student, and the expert so I can prepare for my next class.



Brookfield, S. D. (2015). Skillful Teacher. Hoboken: Wiley.

May 8, 2018

PIDP 3260 has begun!

My last class before I start my capstone project…excited and crazy tired all at the same time. A little bit about me…I am a Labour Relations Specialist at Camosun College. I have worked here for almost 5 years, and have been in Human Resources for 20+ years.  I started teaching as a term instructor as well and fell in love with teaching. I have been working on my PIDP for 2 years and am coming to the end. These next few months are going to be a push for me…working full-time, teaching part-time, school, capstone, and being a single mom to a fabulously special kid. I got this!!


 Creative Commons Licence

April 13, 2018

Internal Debate – rejigging a course

There is always an internal debate it seems when we are provided with direction that one of our courses needs to be revised. In my case I need to add an exam and remove one of the assignments.  My internal debate is that I LOVE MY ASSIGNMENTS. They are practical, hands-on, realistic, applied learning opportunities for students and (insert stamping of feet and tantrum)

tantrum I don’t want to remove any of them. So I have decided to reduce some content that is not foundational (detailed history) and use the assignment has to be removed to make “room” for the exam as an in-class activity.  I can’t remove a lot of content so unfortunately this will make two of the classes feel rather squished.

The students will not receive grades on the activity but it provides them with the opportunity to apply concepts from the course in a realistic scenario. The assignment is to review a case study, assess the appropriate level of discipline, and then justify the level of discipline based on the factors that arbitrators consider. It is a fabulous exercise and one I refuse to remove completely. Exams are important and required but don’t provide the depth of application that the assignments provide because of the amount of content that must be covered on an exam.  I can’t sacrifice something I find substantive to their learning so a squishing-I-will-go!


April 10, 2018

I have been trying to adopt new and creative ways to assess students after content-heavy classes. I have used different methods from a very simplistic jeopardy game to case studies to think-pair-share to jigsaws but am always looking for new ideas.  I am not terrible with technology but would not call myself savvy so am cautiously intrigued by the terms “gamification” and “augmented reality” in terms of the classroom setting.

My fellow student, Pauline, created an amazing version of Jeopardy on Powerpoint that I think exemplifies gamification.  I think as instructors we are generally more comfortable incorporating game-like activities into our classes than we are with augmented or virtual reality so I wanted to branch out from just the use of games and do some research on Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR) in the classroom.

Mike Silagadze, CEO of higher education tech start-up Top Hat, in his article for Forbes Technology Council, says the next targets for virtual reality and augmented reality is higher education. He says that 700 million will be invested into AR/VR for education on everything from medical procedures to forklift operating.  He cautions that this jump might not bring with it the exciting boost everyone is expecting.  With the excitement comes a bit of a let-down as users are already experiencing much of this outside of education. He also cautions that this type of technology can trigger emotional responses and can be very disturbing in some applications which should cause instructors to question when they are best used and best avoided.  He reminds us that it cannot replace human interactions. The introduction of MOOCS reminded us of this when it became the “new” thing; online communities do not replace human interaction point for point… due to the very nature of human interaction that is impossible. He points out that post secondary institutions are struggling to provide affordable, valued education that is driven by student goals and the AR/VR doesn’t necessarily bring us closer to that. The full article is here.

On the flip side of this story is one where students are working together to create projects and tell stories with technology that we simply didn’t think was possible…unless you truly believed in the Jetsons back in the 1970’s. The variations in projects range from art to media to 3D models and it is only just starting. This article, by Eli Zimmerman out of EDTech Magazine, outlines the possibilities for students and their institutions. So perhaps thinking of it as another great tool to utilize in some classrooms instead of ever expecting it to “replace” is where we need to have our minds…lowered expectations with high hopes:)

April 8 & 9, 2018


I received feedback over the last couple of days on a course I taught and I loved how the feedback was presented! It asked students a variety of questions about my style, experience, exams and assessments, and accessibility of information.  It also provided an opportunity for written comments under guidance questions (what worked well and you would like to see more of this from Sonja and what would you like to see less of and why). The feedback was detailed enough so I can use it to adapt my course and the guiding questions helped focus students. I found a fellow PIDP student’s project on his blog and thought it was really helpful in outlining feedback strategies (way to go Keith!).

Feedback is a highly sensitive topic for both instructors and students. It can feel painfully personal (especially if there are comments about your clothes, hair, or weight which I have heard about) so increasing the focus can be helpful and provide for specific, objective feedback that we can use to guide us in our classes to drive growth.

feedback 3

April 5,6,& 7

Being both an educator and a Human Resources professional exposes to me to an amazing variety of interactions and experiences. I can be in front of a classroom of students from 15 different countries ranging in ages from 20-60 or I could be mediating a grievance settlement on an emotionally charged topic between two parties. At all times I need to be cognizant of my biases. We all have them…our environment, families, and experiences have made us rich with  information and biases. Whenever I feel strongly about something I question where the belief or opinion came from…what is it based on? Is it true? Or was it just true at one point in time during one or two previous experiences?

This topic has tied into many of the forum discussions we have had in my current 3250 class. In teaching student critical thinking skills we have to encourage students to analyze their own biases and in running debates or discussions we have to moderate both our own biases and those of our students. I found this cool TED Talk on biases and how we may or may not be aware of our biases…things that have seemingly shaped who we are…check it out: