Holistic Learning

No this is not a post about treating ailments with coconut oil and oil of oregano.

Holistic learning is the thought that in order to effectively learn we need to engage as many parts of the mind-body connection as possible at once.

There are three domains of learnings Affective, Cognitive, and Psychomotor.

This can be thought of as Feeling, Thinking, and Doing.

For all formal academia until most recently it has been thought that effective learning only happens when we isolate these three domains from one another and only focus on teaching one at a time, this concept is quickly becoming preposterous.

The modern classroom is one where the thinking feeling and doing portions of learning are combined in a synergistic approach. This means that the learner is motivated through feeling to learn, processes the new ideas with the cognitive portion and takes out actions using psychomotor effects in order to complete the circle.

Now while this is not always possible and it is a new field of research there is a growing body of evidence that suggests this is a much more effective and efficient method of teaching.

I will be looking into the holistic approach more and try to find some studies examine the holistic learning approach where each domain is taught and activated in a simultaneous manner versus an approach where each domain is taught or activated sequentially.


Active Learning

The topic of active learning is focused on getting the students’ minds engaged with the material. Unfortunately, it’s not about making the students active while learning, as in walking around and exercising while being lectured at…this would be a far easier task than what’s required.

Why would you want an active learning environment?

A few key reasons stand out:

  •  Increased knowledge retention, as well as association with critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • improved attitudes towards learning
  • increased classroom enthusiasm
  • Better association with previous knowledge increased synthesis of information based on associations new and past knowledge
  • Increased transfer between short and long term memory

So there are some great reasons why we should want to foster an active learning environment, but how do we do it?

There are three conditions which will help to develop an active learning environment for students:

  1. Creating a Classroom Community
  2. Optimal Level of Challenge
  3. Teaching Students Holistically

Creating a classroom community does just mean large group discussion which often only has a few participants talking. More so it means having a support network of peers that are engaged with one another processing thoughts and working out resolutions.

Find the optimal level of challenge can be difficult as if the work is too easy there is no value associated with it and if the work is too hard students will give up before they try, the book calls the just right spot the “zone of proximal development”.  In essence, this is when students are still challenged but believe they can do it.

Teaching holistically is best thought of as teaching with all facets of the body and mind connection since research has shown an increase in learning when more than one domain of learning is activated. This means integration with cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains to deliver learning at all levels.

While some of this might not always be possible we do the best we can with what we have 🙂


Meeting Expectations

When thoughts of education or academia come to mind there is often an expectation associated with these thoughts. Depending on the experiences of the person sometimes these are positive thoughts sometimes they are negative.

The important point is that as the instructor it’s critical that you can hit the mark when it comes to meeting the expectations of students and provide them with an environment that has value.

While this is easy to say in practice it can be quite difficult to meet the mark on this *pardon the pun

The classrooms we teach in are ever becoming more diverse with students of different ethnic, generational, and cultural backgrounds. It can be difficult to provide a classroom experience that is both challenging and value filled for all students.

In the book “Student Engagement Techniques” the “expectancy x value model” is discussed. The essentials of this model are that students will not be motivated to perform a task if it is seen as too difficult(expectancy) and they also will not perform it if they cannot see the value in performing the work. There is also problems if tasks are made trivial or if too high of a value is placed on them.

It gives some interesting perspective on how to evaluate and assess course work efficacy in engaging students in active learning.

Fostering an Integrated Learning Environment

There is a lot of talk about creating an environment of success in the education sector.

Upon reading and learning in this course I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for the instructors I work with and the institution we teach at. Although our program was developed decades ago we continually try to improve upon it.

This goes beyond just updating course material and keeping current with trends, my department as a whole tries to create a targeted approach where the students come first by supporting them in as many aspects as we can. I think this is really evident when we take a look at our student engagement and see how excited and apt students are to learn new topics and apply them.

I think the real secret though to our success is that we are more than a collection of people teaching we are a community that works together and tries synergistically approach problems as a community rather than as individuals.

Critical Thinking For The Everyday

Critical thinking is often a topic or word you hear thrown around when in schools, academia, or in institutions of higher levels of learning.

But the ideas behind critical thinking are not solely for academic work or those of us who do research. Most of us apply critical thinking every day and do not realize it.


In the simplest terms, the act of critical thinking is to engage your mind to process the information presented to you. This doesn’t mean you have to postulate over it or ponder the implication to the universe, it means simply you don’t blindly accept it and judge the information based on what you know about it and where it came from.

I recently was hosting a discussion group on critical thinking and there were some wonderful concepts passed around. Here are a few to mull over.

  • Self-thought to Critically Think is difficult and often a Western or European construct, many countries don’t want to teach their population these skills.
  • Critical thinking is used in everyday life for a multitude of decisions but is difficult to transfer to a classroom or job setting.
  • Often we must be exposed to many environments and experience many viewpoints to understand and appreciate information for what it is.
  • Critical thinking and Creative thinking are often linked in a synergistic cycle, and are not separate processes.
  • People often avoid critical thinking and opt to use the simplest solution, this leads to memorization of steps rather than understanding the process and using critical thinking to solve the problem.
  • Critical thinking may cause a person to be doubtful of unjustified claims, which can cause a re-evaluation of their assumptions and biases.
  • The cornerstone of critical thinking is the ability to process complex problems, questions, and solutions by systematically breaking them down into easy to understand and analyze pieces.
  • Critical thinking leads to “acceptance of personal responsibility for our own thinking”.
  • You can’t teach people to be critical unless you are critical yourself” and that “As a teacher, you have to have a critical spirit”.
  • Critical Thinking is a skill that takes time to develop and years to hone.
  • Students need to develop skills to critically think and apply what they have learned in school to their job.
  • Critical Thinking comes easy to no one, even the greatest thinkers struggle with Critical Thinking.

Hello World!

Those of you that have experience programming will appreciate the humour in my title 🙂

This is my first Blog and should prove to be an interesting experience since I am not the blogging or journaling type.

A few house cleaning items to get my first blog started

Link to the SIE Facebook page:

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Classmates Blogs: (In no particular order)


Taryn’s blog


Ryan McGreggor




Jessica’s Blog