AVID – An Academic Powerhouse

AVID – An Academic Powerhouse

Curriculum Designer Caroline Slee-Poulos is back with a guest blog on the topic of AVID – An Academic Powerhouse.

When you get right down to the nitty-gritty of things, Socrates was right. No, I don’t mean our Owl, Socrates, the Learning Without Scars logo. I do mean the ancient Greek philosopher who was generally regarded as a figure to ridicule during his own time. His methods of questioning and building argument are referred to as the “Socratic Method” to this day.

If you think about it, teachers are treated the same way: they are heroes to villains, archetypes more than individuals. This blog post isn’t about that, however. It’s about a program that has been quietly at work for 43 years: AVID.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It is taught as an elective in public schools, and was developed by Mary Catherine Swanson in 1980. 

The program was a response to a bussing program taking place in San Diego, California. With the arrival of students who were economically and otherwise disadvantaged, there was a belief that these students could NEVER be college ready. Today, AVID is a program that focuses upon both career and college readiness. The greatest value, in my opinion, is the emphasis it places on questions. An AVID student is required to do a tutorial (usually twice each week) in which the student must bring in a question about one of their content-area classes. This process asks students to go through their process of learning, understanding, and problem-solving to pinpoint where they are stuck. In response to this question, students (including peer tutors) work together to help the student answer their question. They do this by…asking MORE questions!

The results of this method are wonderful: students are able to refine and solve their own questions, as well as building collaborative skills, communication skills, and critical thinking skills.

As we look at the struggles faced in the job market today, we often here that new hires are lacking the critical thinking skills required to succeed on the job. In one of our classes, we highlight open-ended questions as a key tool for engaging with customers.

AVID classes address both of these issues, starting in elementary school. Some schools are working to bring these methods into every content-area class, as opposed to just an elective. Although AVID was created as a response to an opportunity gap, its benefits are applicable to all students, and in more places than just the K-12 public school classroom.

As a teacher and curriculum designer, I look at AVID as being on a spectrum with other courses and educational opportunities, including our own here. It is never too late for a student to gain a new skill. We always continue to learn, as long as we live.

Today, I encourage and challenge you to bring questioning into your academic vocabulary. It will change the way you think about problems.

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In the Spotlight!

In the Spotlight!

A quick update from our Curriculum Designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, about our day in the spotlight!

Today is the day that Learning Without Scars is the Spotlight Provider. IACET selects a provider of Continuing Education to be featured on their website and social media, and today is that day for our company.

You can learn more about IACET and see our moment in the spotlight by visiting the IACET website.

We are also featured on their social media today, on their Twitter page, and their Facebook page as well.

We are proud of the work we do, and so proud to be in partnership with each and every one of you!

When Does Learning Stop?

When Does Learning Stop?

Tonight, our Curriculum Designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos asks the question many of you may be asking: When Does Learning Stop?

I’m not trying to be obnoxious when I say this: learning stops once you are dead.

As long as we are alive, we are learning and progressing. Even if the process of learning is not what you might think of as “overt” – i.e. in a classroom, from books, in front of a teacher – you are still learning as you go.

That learning can be lighthearted, or formal. If you think you are not learning, I would ask you if you have ever helped a child or grandchild work on a level of a video game. If you have, I can guarantee you that you were learning in that moment!

Humor aside, there is a vast wealth of research about the benefits of lifelong learning. Outside of the obvious professional benefits, learning is good for your health.

The Harvard Business Review has reported on this. As an English teacher I, of course, love the fact that they note that reading lowers blood pressure. They also cite neurologists who observe that learning (cognitive activity) can delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. Learning does not change the disease, nor cure it, but a delay in symptoms offers a better quality of life to those with the diagnosis.

For many of us, we think of the formal education we have received in our earlier years as the model of learning. As you can see from my video game example above, learning goes beyond that classroom.

Picking up a new instrument, or spending time to learn new music are both ways of learning. Picking up a new hobby or craft are ways of learning. Developing a new habit – whether that may be a daily writing practice or reading practice – is another form of learning. Turning off the map program on your cellular phone and exploring an area with a map (or nothing but your sense of direction!) is still another way of learning.

What I am trying to demonstrate here is that our classes, which have moved away from the traditional in-person classroom, are part of a larger picture for your life. Yes, by continuing your education you are increasing your marketability and expertise in your field.

You are also improving your health and quality of life.

Isn’t it time for you to experience all of these benefits?

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Becoming a Reader #LifelongLearning

Becoming a Reader #LifelongLearning

Curriculum Designer Caroline Slee-Poulos takes us into a subject near and dear to her – Becoming a Reader – for her post in our #LifelongLearning series.

It’s a New Year! We all know what that means, don’t we? At this time, we’ve all made resolutions. We are determined. We are committed. We are going to improve ourselves.

I mean, sure, most of the resolutions people make have something to do with weight loss or fitness, but you have to consider who is writing this post. I’m a curriculum designer AND an English teacher.

There’s funny thing about reading: if you’re a reader, there’s very little that is inaccessible to you from a learning standpoint.

But there’s always a catch: you have to have a budget for books!

The Kindle, the Kobo, and the iPad have taken away the space requirements of being a reader. Although, if you’re anything like me, you like the feel and smell of printed books… Still, who can afford a bigger house just to house their books? In all seriousness, if reading is a part of your self-improvement journey in 2023, I have some very good news for you: free books!

There’s one first step to take when you have a title you know you want to read: Google it. You would be surprised how many times there is a free PDF available to you online. Most of them have been uploaded by English and History teachers for different school projects.

If, however, you have decided to start reading as a pastime, a way to de-stress, or a way to be entertained, there’s an entire website of free books – with audio – available to everyone. I use this one in my classroom, and my students use this website to choose what they would like to read. The website is esl-bits.net. On that site, you can read everything from transcripts of speeches and articles to full novels from Steven King. It’s your choice.

If you have a competitive streak, I invite you to set up a free account on Goodreads. Every year, they have reading challenges in which you can set your goal for the year. You get to set your reading goal, you pace, and it tracks your progress for you. I find it very helpful.

If you want to continue learning, reading is your entry point. If you haven’t made a resolution yet, allow me to encourage you to make becoming a reader part of your self-improvement plans.

Let’s all commit to lifelong learning together.

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Make It Intentional

Make It Intentional

In this week’s blog on Lifelong Learning, our curriculum designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, advises us that we need to “Make It Intentional” when it comes to learning and to life.

Last week, our guest writer Steve Johnson advised our readers to “…make continuous learning intentional… ” This week, I would like to challenge you to bring intention into your family, your education, and your professional life.

What is intention, really? It’s certainly a word we hear when people accidentally hurt someone’s feelings: “I didn’t intend…” Of course, we also hear it in that old adage, “the road to Hell is paved with good intention.” In both of these cases, we are looking at intention as something passive, a thought or an idea. I would like to help you to make intention more of an action.

According to my favorite dictionary, Merriam Webster, intention is defined as “a determination to act in a certain way: resolve.” (Source)

If you bring intention into your everyday actions, you will see your life transformed.

To expand upon this a little bit… every class we create at Learning Without Scars is made with intention. Very deliberate intention. We analyze the needs of our students (professional and academic together); we create learning outcomes for each class; we gather feedback on sample class materials from Beta users; we adjust the materials based on your survey data. Our courses are adaptable to your short-term and longer-term goals and needs, just as you would experience in the traditional face-to-face classroom.

We intend for you to build a successful future with the tools you gain from your continuous learning.

The only missing ingredient is you! What is your intention?

It’s not the easiest question to answer. You have to look to the present, the immediate future, and the longer-term future. Where are you right now? Where do you see yourself in 1 year? In 5 years? In 20 years?

What personal goals and wants do you have for yourself? What will help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be? I am challenging you, TODAY, to sit down and take stock. Write it all out: today, 1 year, 5 years, 20. What do you need to do to reach those milestones? What actions do you RESOLVE to take in order to make it happen?

The advantage of continuing your education as an adult is that you can determine exactly what benefits you want to receive from your efforts and analyze what steps you are willing to take in order to reach your goals. When we are younger, life seems to start while we are just along for the ride.

In this phase of your education, you are the one driving that journey.

So, tell me, what are your intentions?

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Learning Inventories

Learning Inventories

This week, our Curriculum Designer, Caroline Slee-Poulos, continues our series on Lifelong Learning with her post on learning inventories.

When we speak of learning styles, most often we are referring to three primary categories: visual, auditory, kinesthetic. If you are a visual learner, you are thought to learn most effectively through images (or, you know, visual aids). For auditory learners – who, by the way, are technically aural or auditory-musical learners – it is thought that hearing information is the most beneficial delivery system. For kinesthetic learners, we consider the “learn by doing” method to be most effective, although incorporating movement in any way can be helpful.

Most of us don’t necessarily pay attention to learning and education in a “meta-” way: we don’t study how we learn.

The difficulty we face with learning styles is two-fold.

First of all, those three categories above aren’t actually all of the categories. The full list is seven learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social, solitary, verbal, and logical. Considering there are seven of them, it’s pretty strange that many learning inventories cover only those first three.

Second, these learning styles have been thrown out the window as an effective way of teaching. Although the “know thyself” wisdom of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi is always valuable – for the learners – an educator should not be seeking to sort students into neat little compartments. Or houses. This isn’t Hogwarts, after all…

With asynchronous education, we have to reach multiple styles and multiple forms. I think we can all agree that online learning isn’t necessarily geared towards movement, even though a standing desk (or, better yet, a treadmill desk!) can change that. Despite that, our classes do hit the visual, auditory, verbal, logical, and solitary notes.

Then again, since you have the flexibility to take a class at home, you may very well be surrounded by family. This wouldn’t be solitary at all.

The question is: do you know yourself? What would you say your own learning style is? This week, I would like to ask each of you to take a simple learning inventory quiz. Once you have your result, give it some thought. What surprises you in your results? What did you already know about how you learn? How can this information help you in your continuing education? Let us know in the comments!

The learning inventory can be found here.

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Bite-Sized Pieces

Bite-Sized Pieces

Curriculum designer Caroline Slee-Poulos joins us for this week’s instalment on Lifelong Learning: Bite-Sized Pieces.

I don’t know about all of you, but I do know that when I was growing up my mom always made sure to correct me when I tried to eat extra-large bites of food. I was often guilty of this when it came to twirling my pasta. Anyone else?

It isn’t just food that matters when it comes to bite-sized pieces: it’s learning, too. While there is some data on the human attention span to indicate that we can maintain focus, or concentration, is around 45 minutes. In fact, prevailing practices in education suggest that all students should take a “brain break” at that point in a lesson. Yes, this even applies to adult students. You can read about this here.

This is the “why” behind our class structures. Rather than a long learning segment, we stick with the shorter, bite-sized pieces. Our students spend approximately 15 to 20 minutes of learning before each quick check for understanding. This built-in brain break means each individual has a clear moment in the class to pause and do something else.

For the students who look back at their time in classrooms as an unpleasant memory, this offers a chance to reset what learning means.

Isn’t it time for you to invest in yourself with Learning?

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If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

Curriculum designer Caroline Slee-Poulos brings this week’s post on Lifelong Learning with “If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?”

If You Don’t Do It, Who Will?

I’m sure we have all heard the quote “If not you, who? If not now, when?” attributed to both Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Despite the hazy origins of the quote, it is relatable for most of us.

After all, if we don’t take ownership and get things done, then who will?

We take that ownership attitude throughout our businesses, right up until the moment a budget for training and employee development comes to the table.

We expect our employees to come in the door, armed with all of the knowledge they need to be successful in our businesses. We expect this when they come in with a freshly inked diploma, showing they’ve graduated from high school. When they don’t have the skills right off the get go, we bemoan the state of public education.

Here’s the thing: even if your brand-new hires came to you with the foundational knowledge they need in order to succeed and be an asset in your business, don’t you want them to continue to level-up?

We know that there is a skills gap for high school graduates. Due to budgets, some of the trade programs that were commonplace in high schools for years have been entirely closed down in some regions. Even if that were not the case, doesn’t your business need people who can use the new technology, whether it be on the shop floor or in the dealer business system, as it changes and updates over time?

Our businesses and our industry are not stagnant: they change and adopt new methods, systems, and technology. History has shown us that it can be tough to be an “early adopter” of technology. As a result, we can try to delay making necessary changes. Our customers need more from us. If we don’t provide the necessary training to keep up with what our customers expect and need, then how can we expect to retain those customers?

I propose that employee development – training and continuing education for your staff – is as critical to the success of your business as the work order process in your shop. It creates a team culture in your business, and shows your employees that you are just as concerned with the future as they are. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to see your employees receive the exact education you need them to. Don’t you think it is time to put the training of your employees into motion?

After all, if you don’t do it, who will?

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You Should Not Be Planning to Fail

You Should Not Be Planning to Fail

In this week’s blog on education, curriculum designer and writer Caroline Slee-Poulos walks us through all of the reasons you should not be planning to fail.

There is an old adage that tells us “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” When it comes to phrases like this, I believe that sometimes we hear them so often they can become meaningless. In business, we always create plans and projections. We have processes in our departments, and systems that keep things running smoothly.

When it comes to employee development, we have spent many years without a solid plan. I think it is simple to say that this leaves us without a way forward – a path – for your staff and for the future of the business. Employee turnover is an expensive proposition for any business, and this can leave us reluctant when it comes to our training budgets.

When you invest in the future of your business, you should also have a plan for investing in the development of your employees. Just as a course is planned out with each segment, from content through assessments, your employees need to have a plan to map out their future with your business.

It’s time to make a shift towards the future: don’t you want to be planning for success at every single level?

As Ron would tell you, the time is now.

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Lifelong Learners

Lifelong Learners

In this week’s blog on education, curriculum designer and writer Caroline Slee-Poulos shares the big picture of why we do what we do: lifelong learners.

In education, we like to express the most important goal of any classroom as creating lifelong learners. This takes shape in different ways at different ages. At the younger ages, it is obviously the standard reading, writing, and arithmetic. As adults, it becomes a bit more complex,

We have to ask about goals and the big picture when it comes to adults. As adults, we want to move forward: we want promotions; pay bumps; increases in job title.

I would posit that what we really seek is GROWTH.

Realistically, growth is what we all seek.

As employers, we want hires who know the business. We are noticing that students are not graduating school with the necessary skills for the business. Trade skills are in short supply and require more education than the standard K-12 that is available to students today. Funding at the high school level for the trades has been reduced to a point where students are graduating high school without the necessary skills for our industry.

Take our industry out of the equation.

What does it say about us that our graduates are not prepared for the world of technical work?

I think it says that we are in a situation of catching up. Academics are not quite at the point we need them to be when it comes to “work ready” employees. We can’t expect high school graduates to know everything they need to know when they graduate high school. The reality is, if you invest in your people, they will invest in you.

What we want to see at every level are people committed to learning. This doesn’t mean the stereotypes of the ivory tower. This means having people who consistently strive to better themselves, who push for higher levels of understanding and accomplishment.

At the end of the day, education is all about creating the foundation that leads to lifelong learning. Lifelong learners are known for consistently striving to better their performance and their results.

Aren’t lifelong learners what you want to see in your business?

As Ron would tell you, the time is now. When it comes to your commitment to learning, I would posit that the time is always.

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