Selena Chan - Tertiary Teaching Excellence Teaching Profile
Teaching profile from Selena Chan (Principal Academic Staff Member, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) - a Prime Minister’s Supreme Award winner 2007
Principal Academic Staff Member, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Selena is a dedicated scholar baker who has worked at CPIT since 1980. She is an outstanding professional teacher with a wide range of experience and talents including the ability to develop programmes of study that are heavily focussed on learning outcomes. Selena's skills in curriculum development were invaluable in creating on-line courses that had teacher, student, and cognitive presence in the Blackboard learning management system. An overriding element of Selena's approach is a determination to build both confidence and capability. Selena has also worked in partnership with industry to complete the reviews and development of the new In-Store/Franchise Qualification. She is a skilled assessor who employs a range of formative and summative assessment techniques. Introduction
I have been teaching for quite some time and many aspects of good teaching have become intuitive. These include the need to treat all students with respect, the continual work towards engaging students into self-directed learning and multiple reiterations of syllabi and teaching plans to reflect the changing needs of industry, student profiles, teaching delivery and teaching context.
The collation of a portfolio for the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award provided me with the opportunity to reflect more deeply about the foundation of my teaching practice. What follows is therefore an attempt at providing a description of how I match and mesh a teaching philosophy with my teaching context, which is in turn informed by the discipline of baking.
I have had the good fortune in my career of being able to hone myself in two exacting crafts. Baking is a good springboard into teaching, scholarship and research. In baking, many skills and attitudes pertinent to teaching and research are practiced on a daily basis. The most important is that one must continually work at producing a good product. A good product does not just come about because one follows the recipe verbatim and the production process and equipment settings blindly. To bring a product from mediocre to excellent requires an application of all the skills that a baker has in a synergistic manner. An excellent product has to be produced in large volume, consistently on each and every batch and on each and every production day. Therefore, both baking and teaching present ongoing daily challenges and the continual and ongoing work towards meeting these trials provide a great deal of satisfaction.
My students are an avenue for continual exploration. Many come to tertiary education with poor learning experiences from their secondary or primary schooling. Some are also returning to a formalised learning environment many years after their initial schooling. Fortunately, most of my students are keen to learn about baking; I use this shared interest as a lever to encourage students to return to learning. In learning about baking, they also learn about themselves, their strengths and their motivations. Therefore, each teaching session is a shared learning environment: the students learn baking and about themselves, and I learn more about teaching and about myself.
In learning and researching about how young people ‘become bakers', I have been able to continually improve my delivery of teaching as I better understand how the ‘whole baker' eventually emerges. I use the principles of ‘cognitive apprenticeship' (Collins, A., Brown, J.S. & Newman, S.E. (1989)) as a foundation to my teaching because learning a craft also includes the need to learn how to think, plan, behave and move like a craftsperson. This teaching philosophy permeates all my work, which includes teaching baking to apprentices and full-time students; online teaching and content development; mentoring computing and business tutors in converting face to face courses to on-line delivery. At present, my on-going research projects include how apprentices become bakers, mLearning and trends in baking.
Cognitive apprenticeship steps include modelling, scaffolding and reflection. In order for young people to ‘become' they need to be shown how principles work, why certain techniques are used in certain circumstances and why other ways of completing a process or task can also be used. As a teacher, it is important to model the ways in which we make judgement calls more visible to the learner. In teaching baking, I am continually trying out various ways to externalise my internal thought processes in a manner that is accessible to the learner. In essence, my team and I at the NZ Baking Training Centre are trying to help our students enter into a specialised community of practice. We need to unwrap our understanding of things that are taken for granted and regarded as ‘common sense', so that our students can attain some of this ‘sense' which is, to them, not ‘common'.
Building an attitude of continued improvement using skills at product evaluation
The ability to look at a product and ‘read it' encompasses many tactile skills that have to be married to one's mental database. With full time students who have as yet not worked in a bakery, product evaluation does not as yet hold an element of importance. I need to illustrate to them the emphasis bakers put on product consistency and quality and the role product evaluation plays in quality control.
To do this, I collect products from several students after their first practical sessions (usually rock buns or scones). I say to them that everyone has used the same recipe and method but all the products laid before them not only look different, but also would eat and taste different. This is because some students have not been as careful with weighing up, or taken enough care in handling their product or in baking their product at the correct temperature or for the correct amount of time.
We then work out which one was caused by poor weighing up or poor processing. At the start, the students find it all too much, but by the end of their first module, after four weeks of learning the basics of baking and evaluating each others products, the majority of students will happily self-evaluate their product and tell me how they have to improve. Building up this culture takes time. From this foundation, we form the stepping stones towards becoming an effective baker.
Example of using scones in the first practical session to help students critique their product and to work out how to improve their baking practice.
Although this second batch is better, there is still room for improvement. This is the beginning of student learning about product evaluation and improvement.
An example of student work during the first practical assessment, four weeks into the full time programme. Note that the need for consistency of shape and size is already established.
Scaffolds need to be built with learners in order for them to move on towards becoming selfdirected and reflective. It is especially important for learners, new to a trade, to be offered many opportunities for scaffolding their existing knowledge structures on to new concepts. Only then will they be able to make links between theoretical knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge to what actually takes place in the workplace.
With understanding and application comes reflection. Again, it is important to model this. In baking, I use sessions on product evaluation to show how a baker is able to draw inferences about what has not been correctly followed through with a process in order to improve the production process the next time around. It is not enough to just tell students how and why, but to actually show them how links are made between product external, internal or eating profiles and in turn to bring up pointers to what is not quite right with the product. This process of deduction must be shown via product samples, board work, the use of ‘self talk' and links illustrated using coloured pens, verbal cues and the marrying of tactile clues with ones mental database. Students then need to practise these skills themselves, first with guidance and then on their own. In doing so, they improve their own meta-cognition, but first the teacher must draw them into becoming conscious of how the process might take place inside their brains.
Added to the above, is the need to ignite passion for the trade in students. As in gathering yeast for use in artisan bread making, passion is infectious and can be caught. Once caught, it has to be carefully nurtured and the passion provided with incentives to expand, until the passion becomes so much part of one's life that one lives and breathes one's passion.
Learning to teach, as in learning to bake, is an ongoing process. One is never able to completely control a dough, only to try bring the best out of it by recognising the signs when the dough is mature and ready for scaling, moulding, final proof and baking. Learners can not be controlled either; they need time to mature and then be proved in the workplace before their skills are tested in the oven of commercial reality. A teacher's role is to provide the impetus for learning to occur, to help consolidate the foundation and then provide the guides or incentives or pathways to further learning. Every time I make bread, the dough teaches me more about bread making. The same holds true with my students. To teach is to continually learn.
Peer and Student Comments
"Selena's skills in curriculum development were invaluable in helping to create on-line courses which had teacher and cognitive presence in the Blackboard learning management system. Selena's assistance enabled several of the lecturers to explore the use of on-line interactive enquiry methods such as the use of discussion boards and Wikis, and to create an on-line learning community with the community technicians employed in remote rural schools such as Opononi, Ohakune and Gisborne."
Chris McCarthy (project leader, Comtech project) and Diane McCarthy (academic staff member)
"I now have two apprentices working for me. They have recently been taught by Selena during their block courses. They came back from polytech and were impressed with the amount of knowledge Selena had and how she passed it on to the class. They appreciated the questions she asked, so that they could think about why different things happened."
Michael Kloeg (ex-apprentice and now owner of Ten O'clock Cookie bakery café in Masterton)
"When I first started to attend classes for my course, I felt nervous because I had never done the course before. I was worried that I might not be able to understand or follow the teacher. But fortunately, Selena always starts the class slowly at the beginning, and asks at the end of the class whether we have any questions. She always provides us with prompt backup."
Yu Han HO, International student for Certificate in Baking (2006)
"Working alongside Selena for many years has meant we have benefited from the enthusiasm and passion she brings to the classroom. She is a good role model and her passion for the subject and for teaching and learning in general is an inspiration."
Karen Te Puke, Head of School & Evelyne Baumgartner and Mike Meaclem (academic staff members - baking)
"Selena makes everything easy to understand and provides easy ways to do the tasks we are given."
"Selena has done a wide variety of baking work & conveys it to students in a way that they can relate to."
"Selena shows us what to do in a very easy way to follow, checks to see if we're up to standard."
"I find her very good, I enjoyed myself because she is a good tutor."
"Approachable, never puts anyone down."
"Selena has such varied knowledge, she makes everything interesting."
Student comments from tutor evaluations - apprentice year two block course 2006