Posted by: susanfisher | August 9, 2010


The tide is coming in on the Bay of Fundy; it is a full moon so the tide was very low when I arrived home yesterday.  I am back where I started from three weeks ago, the view has not changed but my interpretation of the view and my environment has changed so much. I am the same person yet I am not the same person. I have witnessed the power of education. I have spoken about this to my students often over the past seven years, now I know personally, about the power of education.

My son just called me; he has been fishing in northern Quebec with his father. The area is so remote; there were not even telephones, let alone YouTube or any other forms of connectivity.  Colin and I had a discussion on “the cloud”, google docs, Prezzie, and fish. The excitement was evident in both of our voices as we related our experiences. He is excited that I can actually discuss his world, the merits of YouTube University and the “cloud”. I never thought that RRU would prove a bonding exercise with my teenager but it has opened us up a new commonality in vocabulary, long may it last!

On the plane on the way home, I could not sleep so I ventured into the textbooks for our next course. Low and behold, the discussion was on our learning assumptions and how that would translate into the technology medium and the choices that we would make based on our learning assumptions. I think I finally get it! I have been stumbling on the first and final paper to be submitted. Through the lens of literature and application of knowledge, I think I finally have an understanding of what is required.  I am excited about the next course, I am excited about everything!

I look forward to exploring all the cognitive theory which was quickly outlined to us in lectures.  I will read more on the cognitive processes to discover more. I look forward to keeping an open mind as I think about a research topic for next year. I suspect what I will finally choose will be totally different that what I think I would like to do now. I will be open to all of the possibilities that this year of study will bring. I will miss my cohort but I will know that they are with me online. I look forward to the continued dialogue and wonderful discussions.

Thank you RRU – it is going to be a great 2 years!

Posted by: susanfisher | August 4, 2010

Case Studies

Case Studies

What an exercise in confusion, time constraints and exhausted team members this case study has been.  From the outset the outline of the requirements appeared to be deliberately confusing. Judith and Bill have been known to do that!

I have done lots of Business Case Studies and I am familiar with the ambiguities that a case study can give. A business case study will give a scenario, a multitude of quantitative information and the problem is not stated. The student is to do the quantitative analysis, apply the theory that applies to the date and come up with recommendations, major and minor. A brief report is written with all of the analysis in the appendices. It is a summative task and will take into consideration all of the knowledge which has been learned up to that point. Most are written within an exam confines so further outside research is not possible, the student must work with the date that they have.

The educational case study is similar in that there is a case setting and there is a perspective. However, the problem, which initially appears clear, is not an all clear and the requirements are even more confusing. The exercise is in educational theory, not pandemic training but that is a struggle to have clarity.

Add to that confusion is the environmental factor of time constraints, There is in reality, only 3 days to do this case study. We are again working in a new team environment, this is perhaps our 4 or 5 team activity and I keep forgetting who is on my team. We are all very tired and information overload happened three days ago. There is little energy left. It sure feels like the end of term time.

What to learn from this to take back to my classroom? Perhaps a case activity is best undertaken within the classroom, so that the students understand what the activities should be and with what scaffolding. What research is requirement and how should this be undertaken. Who is responsible for which portion of the team work? The timing would be to do this early in the term and work through several mini cases before letting the students loose with a deliverable. The knowledge journey should be outlined for them as their critical thinking skills will not be at th graduate level and this is likely the first time they have undertaken this activity. Enough time should be allowed with the deliverables being broken down into manageable chunks.

The instructor must have a very clear goal of the learning journey that the students are undertaking and they should be available for consultation.  Personal coach and perhaps alcohol might also help with my fluidity! OR do I mean liquidity?

Posted by: susanfisher | August 2, 2010


As I made the journey off the RRU campus for the first time in a week, to Sidney Island, I became more and more exhausted with each stage of the journey. Travelling to Sidney Island is a combination of cars, boats and pickup trucks. By the time I finally made it to the guest cabin at my sister’s summer home, my mind was a vacuum and  I collapsed on my bed and I was asleep within moments. It was 21:15.

Today I have been reading, reflecting, writing and more reading. I have no schedule, no classes and I have assigned myself no deadlines. I am thinking about the week that has passed and I am allowing myself to delve into the subject areas which I wanted to find more insight.

I find myself engrossed in Stephen Brookfield’s book – Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. MacKeracher referred to this book in her chapter on assumption about learning and I wanted to read more on the idea of critical reflection. I was not even sure I really knew what it was.

I think I have discovered that I do critically reflect as a teacher. The book outlines four lens of reflection and I know understand a little more of what this means. What did help me in this book is that it outlined things that I was doing unconsciously and the need to consciously outline your expectations of yourself, your students, your learning, their learning. I know I am guilty of having wonderful conversations with myself and then wondering why no one has heard me or understood me.

It is one thing to critically reflect on your teaching; it is another to take action. I know that I did not understand the pedagogy of teaching and that there is much more knowledge out there – somewhere. It is entirely another to act on that reflection. And by acting on that reflection, there may be knowledge gained that comes in an unexpected area.

I acted on my critical reflection, I enrolled in RRU and I showed up.  I have learned about pedagogy this week, and so much else. I learned from the student’s point of view; I do not like confusion in my educational management system. I am an assimilative learner and I knew this coming in. The delivery mode of RRU pushed us into other learning styles. I did group work, having been given some tools first to work with. I found I actually like group work.   As I am critically reflecting now, it was good to move outside my comfort zone. I needed positive encouragement, tools to assist me, and team members to take the journey with.

I am regaining my energy, and I am no longer exhausted. My family has noticed that even thought I am tired; I am exhilarated with my experience. My posture is tall, my voice excited, my energy positive, and my sense of well being is communicated. I don’t think they know exactly what I am talking about but they are happy because I am.

Posted by: susanfisher | July 30, 2010



Successful teamwork for me has always been in a sports context, would I please pass the puck, the field hockey ball, the basketball. I thought I was a team player; I passed the ball and helped others score. Or I received the pass and lead the breakaway to score.  It was easy, it was fun.

In my professional life, teams were part of my very early professional life when I was an articling student. I was quiet and watched the others carefully before I joined into an activity. After I qualified, I moved into an executive position and was part of a high power executive team for 20 years. It was a very small team at the top so the team dynamics were simple. I have my territory, you have yours and we will all excel in our own kingdoms.

Even in a teaching career, with a faculty of over 500, there were few teams evident. Staff meetings were so raucous in our department, that the Chair only called two a year and only because she was forced to. At the last meeting in the spring, the meeting was very quick in duration with faculty standing up and shouting at each other or simply walking out.

So it was with fear and trepidation that I approached the teamwork portion of RRU. The first teamwork exercise was online, so that was a quiet lead in to RRU. People logged in, did their part and seemed to get along. When I was delayed in my part due to a family emergency, no one yelled at me; instead I got support; support from people I had never met.

Today I had three team meetings with my annotation team. I continue to be amazed at how well this team functioned. Everyone is professional, courtesy and prompt. Suggestions are kindly given and gratefully received. Praise abounds. Laughter breaks out. We analyze our birth order in Myers Briggs in context of the team dynamics. Team members’ actions run true to colour as to their birth order; the eldest has taken control of the presentation, the middle children are making sure everyone is happy and included, and the younger child uses all their social skills to get us to complete our task.

And it is fun. I could get used to team work like this. I like my team, I like my RRU cohort. I am so far out of my comfort zone, I can scarce believe that it is me. I am stretching my personal boundaries, it is uncomfortable but I am among friends.

Thank you team members of Team Delphi, you know who you are!

Posted by: susanfisher | July 27, 2010

End of Day 1 of residency

The end of Day 1 of residency. The lectures today were focused on research and the criteria for research.

Years ago I left the field of theoretical Physics. The subject was immense with the continual question of “why does the universe work this way” always on your mind. During the four years that I studied physics and mathematics, we were continually given tools on how to conduct scientific experiments. The experiments were done with a hypothesis in mind and the experiment either proved the hypothesis or did not. The methodology of the experiment and the subsequent lab report were dictated by the scientific community. One would understand the baseline and thus be able to assess the experiment.  The reports were in a common format which was understood by all and thus readable by the scientific community. At the end of the four years of study, my love of physics continued but I knew I could not continue in a theoretical world, I needed practicality and application.

Today was an introduction to the rules and methodology of research. Rather than being able to start right in on the answer to “why or why not”, we were told that research at the Master’s level would not be original research, it would most likely build on the research of others. The definition of research included the words, systematic, collecting, analyzing sounded suspiciously similar to the words which I had used long ago in the scientific world. The purpose of research increases our knowledge about our understanding of a phenomenon about which we are interested.  

Perhaps I will be able to use the scientific knowledge and methodology from so long ago to assist me in the learning experience which I am currently engaged on. Perhaps having all of your essays read like a lab report will assist me in writing research articles!

But where is the application of this research? I left the field of physics because I sought the application of the knowledge of what I was learning. Where will the research in learning and education lead me?

After a long walk to the ocean, I stood on the beach listening to the sounds of the ocean and watching two young boys play with their sand buckets. I wondered how they had learned to dump their buckers in the way which they were doing, and it came to me; the application of the knowledge will come in my teaching and my relations with my students. Already I have changed a design of a hybrid course for the fall, based on the reading that I had done in the pre-residency.  My excitement grows with the thought of new knowledge and the possible applications of it.

Posted by: susanfisher | July 21, 2010

Research Sampling


Research sampling “involves primary data collection requires that the study team develop and implement a sampling plan” (Bickman, Rog. Applied Social Research Methods. 2009) 

Financial Auditing has many similarities to research. In audit, the auditor is using a methodology to provide assurance that the financial statements present fairly, within a set of accounting principles, the financial position of a company. There is an assertion by management that the statements are fair, the auditor seeks to verify this. The auditor does not pose the question, as is done in a research project, but it does use methodology to provide the assurance. 

When conducting and audit, an auditor will first gain knowledge of the clients business, in a global, local and internal context. Risk analysis will include assessments of many types of risks. Some of these include: detection risk: risk that there will be material misstatements in the financials, and these misstatemements will be undetected by the auditor.); Information risk refers to the failure of financial statements to appropriately reflect the economic substance of business activities, (Smieliauskas. Auditing an International Approach. 2007) Sampling Risk: that the sample chosen is not representative of the population as a whole. 

Sampling in the auditing world can be both non statistical and statistical. The advantages of nonstatistical sampling are that the approach is less rigidly defined and allows the auditor to use subjective judgment. In the research world, this could be similar to the discussion on focus groups which permit flexibility in the research. 

Once the audit testing is completed, the audit evidence is examined to determine if it is sufficient to support the assertion of fairness. If the auditor determines that the evidence is insufficient, then the choices include more testing or a denial of the assertion of fairness. 

In research, the question will be either answered or more likely, further paths of research will open to exploration.

Posted by: susanfisher | July 16, 2010


I have now finished all of the readings and I am heading back into them for round 2. I struggle with some of the theories, trying to relate them to the adult learners that I have worked with. I think Community College has its own challenges. My area of interest is still with the Students with Disabilities and how what I am learning can help them with their struggles to learn.

My experience of learning is so different from the students that I teach. I started university when I was young and graduated when I was 20.  My degree was in Science. Then I moved into graduate studies and completed by Chartered Accountancy degree which was a total switch from my first degree. My learning experience in my second degree was very different from my first. The end goal  of passing the Uniform Final Exams was very clear and was related to my employment.

My students today deal with much more issues than I did. Their lives encompass families, cultures, work and discrimination.  The propensity for distractions is enormous and affects their learning. For students with disabilities, there are even more issues.

One of the distractions available to today’s students is technology. I teach in a laptop program and students use their laptops during class. It is very obvious who is using their laptop to surf the net during class, they are typing furiously, smiling and looking relaxed. Not so, the students who are working through a problem. Yet this technology can also be an aid to students and especially those students with disabilities.

So how to relate my learning experience with the learners of today and especially those students with disabilities? How to determine how technology affects these learners? How to use the technology to help these learners? How to start?

Posted by: susanfisher | July 16, 2010

Starting this course

I really had no idea what to expect from this program. I am very interested in the academic side of teaching, having focused on the practical side of teaching for the past 7 years and with no degree in education, only my area of expertise. I seek refreshment, rejuvenation and exploration. I am scared as it has been 30 years since I last did intensive post graduate studies and I wonder if my poor brain will handle it. I expect to be the oldest person there. But my mother graduated with her second degree at age 50 so why shouldn’t I?