Welcome to my Personal Learning Environment!


I am a dental hygienist in pursuit of a Master of Education degree with a focus in Teaching and Learning at Post University. This blog will document objects and writings from each course completed. As I progress through the program it is my intent to develop the personal qualities, habits and strategies of effective educators and to learn how to exploit the use of technology to support student learning and instruction. My goal is to become cultured and knowledgeable about current trends affecting education, the direction of education in the future, and how to be a proactive constituent in the reformation of our education system. Lastly, I hope to gain insight from my colleagues, learn from their experiences and build a network of like-minded individuals.

My Final Thoughts and Reflection of EDU 607: Assessing & Managing Learning

Prezi PreviewI have just finished creating a presentation as part of the final work in this class.  As always, I was asked to write a reflection about the class.  It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn while doing the final project.  After learning about assessment for learning it certainly makes perfect sense.  The learning is in the doing.  Sure, I learned a lot while I read the course materials; it helped me to gain knowledge on this topic.  The discussions with my colleagues helped me to make better sense of the information and to develop a deeper understanding.  Every time I completed an assignment I was driven to use my knowledge and understanding to reason and draw conclusions.  Now, in this final week having completed all the course work I recognize now that the final assessment did in fact promote higher-level thinking! I think the assessment was good – it focused on the key objectives and brought them all together for use in a single project.  The first part was a paper…then a presentation.  I thought I had learned a lot with simply writing the paper, but in fact I learned even more while creating the presentation because I prompted me to review my work.  And once, again…this final reflection.  More than ever I can recognize that I am indeed in a learner-centered environment, guided my my instructor.

Here is a link to the presentation I created for my final project.  http://prezi.com/-hzr2v1zb40y/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Final Thoughts in my Last Week of EDU 605: Differentiated Instruction

Snapshot of PREZI - Applied DIP for DHE

Here is a presentation I created as a differentiated instructional plan for dental hygiene education. Another eight weeks has passed and I find myself thinking about all of the things I’ve learned in this class. Certainly some of the strategies I’ve used in my work as a dental hygienist with regard to patient education were strategies of differentiation. Educating patients is not that different than educating students. Some things I have learned from experience have been confirmed in this class. For example, getting to know your learners is the first step to selecting an appropriate way to differentiate instruction. When I know the learner’s learning style preference, then I can implement strategies that support that style in a way that helps them to use the new information I present in a way that makes sense (Tomlinson, 2001).   After I get to know the learner, then I need to assess their prior knowledge. In the dental office setting, I may ask a patient to show me how they floss. From their demonstration I can then determine what they already know and I can begin my instruction from there. It does not make sense to just rattle on about a topic I know a lot about if the patient has no frame of reference or any knowledge related to the subject at hand. I think of differentiated instruction as a form of guided communication that supports the acquisition of knowledge and development of conceptual understanding. Every person/patient/student is different, therefore the way I teach cannot be based on the fallacy that everyone is the same and that everyone will learn like me. That is simply untrue.

View the presentation here: http://prezi.com/15adrkjeojyn/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share


Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Final Thoughts and Completed Mind Mapping Activity

There is an abundance of information available about differentiated instruction but I have come to conclude that the basis on which this type of instruction is situated is that all learners have varied experiences, abilities, interests, and culture. So it is not surprising that students in any class will have different levels of readiness to learn. One of the first things to do before any instruction is to try and simply get to know the students. Take time to observe them and talk to them; find out what interests them.  Teachers must be able to communicate effectively with their students and knowing the students personally will make this much easier. Tomlinson (2001) stated that it is the responsibility of the teacher to create a learning environment in which students will feel accepted, secure and respected. When students feel comfortable in this way, they may be more likely to ask questions or request help when they feel it is necessary.

It was interesting to learn about differentiated instruction for readiness, interest and learning style and how each of these can be used to differentiate the content, process and product of learning (Tomlinson, 2001). I feel more confident about addressing different cognitive levels of thinking relative to how students demonstrate their understanding.   Grey and Waggoner (2002), demonstrated how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy and Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory to strategize ways in which students can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. The table they presented in that article is a great tool. The 4MAT process of learning will also be very helpful for planning instruction (McCarthy, 2010).  Coming to the end of this class I feel equipped to begin differentiating instruction with purpose!

Here is my completed mind map for differentiated instruction.

DI - Mind Map


Grey, K. C., & Waggoner, J. E. (2002). Multiple intelligences meet bloom’s taxonomy. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 38(4), 184-187.

McCarthy, B. (2010, April 6). Delivering information: Step four of the 4MAT cycle. Retrieved September 23, 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNofKVgSDbM

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Analysis & Evaluation of “Student Tutors for Problem-Based Learning in Dental Hygiene: A Study of Tutor Actions”

I have chosen this article by Moore and Kain (2011) to analyze and evaluate because of the researcher’s focus on peer mentoring as a scaffolding technique in a problem-based learning (PBL) course.  Tomlinson (2001) cited both PBL and peer mentoring as strategies for differentiation because they both support learning from the student’s respective learning disposition and stimulates a sense of personal responsibility for learning.  The American Dental Education Association (2015) advocated for PBL as a learner-centered instructional strategy to support students’ development of critical thinking skills.  For these reasons I think the article is relevant to my current educational context.

The subjects of the study from Northern Arizona University (NAU) were six, senior year dental hygiene students in their second, one-semester long, PBL class and sophomore dental hygiene students enrolled in their first of two, one-semester long problem-based learning class.  The purpose of the study was to identify how students become tutors, what is done in preparation to become a tutor, what do tutors do in a tutoring session, and what do tutors learn from the experience?  Specifically, researchers wanted to investigate the actual behavior of tutors in tutoring sessions and why, versus the desired behavior of tutors as were the focus of many studies in the review of the literature. Guided by the theoretical frameworks of Vygotski and Piaget who valued social interaction in the learning process, researchers sought to scaffold instruction of problem-based learning with peer tutors.  The study utilized the Vygotski principles of enlisting more knowledgeable individuals for the task of tutoring so that student learning is challenged from their zone of proximal development (Moore & Kain, 2011). The study also utilized Fishbein’s Integrative Model of Behavior and applied it to tutor perceptions of what they should do and how they are to behave.

Fishbein's integrated model applied to a change in tutor behavior (Moore & Kain, 2011)

Researchers collected raw data in the form of interviews of administrators (dental hygiene program chair, PBL course designer, student tutor supervisor) the tutors, tutees and observations from audio and video recordings of tutoring sessions. Data analysis was accomplished using QDA Miner software.  I have not heard of that software before (there are many I am not familiar with) so I looked it up on the software’s website and it appears to be a good tool for analyzing a variety of data input. It was this software that helped researchers to identify specific patterns exhibited by tutors. The results of the study were organized according to variations in tutor actions with emphasis of the interventions as they related to content of the class (35%), process of PBL (62%) or of social nature (3%). The results also disclosed the tutor style as directive (31%), suggestive (52%), or empowering (17%) relative to their interventions. The researcher openly discussed her role as both the primary researcher and dental hygiene instructor at NAU. She stated, “Bias inevitably, though not intentionally, was introduced into the study…tactics were used to ensure validity, including the use of external reviewers and interviewers (Moore & Kain, 2011, p. 809).  In light of her candidness and the steps taken to ensure validity, I think the study is still valuable. Moore and Kain (2011) found “that tutors’ behaviors are influenced more by their beliefs than by tutor training and environmental factors” (p. 812).  This appears to align with the Fishbein’s Model introduced for tutor behavior. Researchers concluded that student tutors can be integrated effectively in the NAU dental hygiene program provided they have adequate training and are selected to be tutors based on their attitude and beliefs as they relate to PBL and tutoring (Moore & Kain, 2011).

I have only a few reservations about this article regarding validity.  First, the primary researcher stated that she was the interviewer for four of the six tutors, which may have affected their responses to the questions.  Second, I wonder who noted the observations from the audio and video recordings?  Still, I believe this study is a good reference for any educator interested in scaffolding with peer mentors.


Overview of critical thinking skills. (2015). In American Dental Education Association.  Retrieved October 10, 2015 from http://www.adea.org/adeacci/Resources/Critical-Thinking-Skills-Toolkit/Pages/Overview-of-Critical-Thinking-Skills.aspx

Moore, T., & Kain, D. L. (2011). Student tutors for problem-based learning in dental hygiene: A study of tutor actions. Journal of Dental Education, 75(6), 805-816. Retrieved from http://www.jdentaled.org/content/75/6/805.full.pdf+html

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Differentiating Instruction for Content, Process and Product

This week I had the opportunity to learn more about specific strategies for differentiation based on readiness, interests, and learning profile as it relates to content, process and product. There appears to be countless ways to differentiate instruction so that all learners’ needs are addressed. McCarthy (2014) stressed that not only is it important to plan ahead to differentiate instruction with regards to content, process and product, but also the need to address student response to the instruction as it relates to their readiness, interests and learning profiles. In past classes I have learned about student motivation and engagement as necessary components to make learning meaningful each student. The discussion in class this week resonated well with past concepts I have learned in other classes such as student-centered teaching and a reaffirmation that the “one-size-fits-all” approach is not an acceptable means of teaching. And once again, I can see great value in getting to know my students. When I understand what interests them, and how they prefer to learn it will make it easier to identify strategies to differentiate my instruction. Corley (2005) stated that student readiness is also important to consider, because student readiness can vary depending on the topic, their prior learning experiences and various other things going on in their life at the time. In this blog I have decided to explore specific strategies for differentiating instruction for content, process, and product as it relates to teaching dental hygiene.Jeff Charbonneau quote image

Tomlinson (2001) stated that varied instruction for content is a way to ensure that students can access the information provided and also that it is not too far beyond their current knowledge disposition. Before moving on to any new topic it seems prudent to offer students some type of formative assessment to determine their readiness. Formative assessment will provide insight as to where I need to place emphasis of instruction and to determine students who may need more or less support (McCarthy, 2014). After analyzing the results to identify the needs of my students, I could use the information to create a helpful graphic of important concepts and I could group students that are struggling with another student who understands that information for a think-pair-share activity or for the purpose of mentoring.

Determining a strategy of differentiating instruction for process seems a little easier to me. When I think about what type of activity could provide multiple perspectives for understanding new concepts I think role-playing would be particularly beneficial for dental hygiene students. For example if the learning objective was based on dental treatment for medically compromised patients, students could be grouped in pairs with one student acting as the clinician and the other as the patient. To address students’ interest the students could choose (from a pre-determined list) what medical condition they would role-play. In this scenario the clinician would ask relevant questions about the medical condition and how it may affect the patient’s mouth. This strategy for differentiating the process of learning serves to help students’ development of understanding key concepts and to find personal significance of the information for their own purpose (Corley, 2005).

The last major component of differentiating instruction is product. The product is evidence of students’ learning through application and synthesis of key concepts used to create a final project of some type (Corley, 2005). Similar to content and process, product can also be differentiated based on readiness, interest and learning profile. Products can be used as summative assessments and are generally long-term work-in-progress (Tomlinson, 2001). To continue with the example of learning about medically compromised patients and how their conditions relate to oral health students could create a product of their choice (a podcast, a video, a brochure, Power Point or Prezi presentation) to educate a friend or family member about the implications of their medical condition on the oral cavity and their overall health. The last component of that product could be a self-reflection of what questions to ask patients with the medical condition related to gathering a medical history, modifications relative to providing dental treatment and recommendations for the patient to achieve or maintain health. This project creates an opportunity for students to go beyond mere comprehension of concepts to actually extending their knowledge in a “real world” scenario as the final product of their learning. Allowing the students a choice of which medical condition to explore, differentiates the product for interest. Student selection of the product type differentiates learning based on learning style preference.

Providing students with choices to access information, how to make sense of information and how to demonstrate their learning is something to consider for every lesson, in every day of teaching.

To any dental hygiene educators – How do you assess your students for readiness, their interests and learning style preferences? What strategies have been successful for differentiating instruction in your setting?


Corley, M. A. (2005). Differentiated instruction. Focus on basics, 7(c), 13-16.

McCarthy, J. (2014). 15+ readiness resources for driving student success. Retrieved October 4, 2015 from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/differentiated-instruction-readiness-resources-john-mccarthy

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Bloom’s Taxonomy, 4MAT and the Demand for Critical Thinking Skill Development in Dental Hygiene Education

4MAT Image from http:::www.sumarialearning.com:public:images:cmsimages:images:4mat.jpg

This week in class the discussion was focused on learning profiles and how to differentiate instruction using the instructional tool and learning model, 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  There are four types of learners represented in this model with each type incorporating both left and right brain mode processes.  Learning is achieved when students engage in all stages of the model.  Students generally identify strongly with one or two of the stages, but will operate in all stages to varying degrees.  The first phase of the model is experience then conceptualizing, applying and finally creating.

A second learning model discussed this week was Bloom’s Taxonomy as a model for structuring learning objectives from less to more complex levels of thinking (Bloom, Englehart, Furst, Hill, & Krathwohl, 1956).  A Revised Bloom’s taxonomy presents a process of thinking using verbs, again from less to more complex thinking and are indicated as: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).  From earlier weeks of this class I have learned that differentiating instruction can be accomplished by varying the content, process or product of learning (Tomlinson, 2001).  The process, content and product of learning can be varied using 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  Applying the verbs associated with the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to manage the level of thinking required for both learning objectives and assessments as the product of learning (“Tips on Writing Good Learning Objectives,” 2015).

Revised Bloom's Taxonomy Image

Critical thinking is an essential skill for excellent clinical judgment in dental hygiene and any other health related occupation.  Beistle and Palmer (2014) defined critical thinking as, “an art of analyzing and evaluating thinking by self-dicipline, self-correction and self-monitoring within a framework to improve one’s thinking” (p. 395).  These thought processes are aligned with higher-level thinking described in the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (“Tips on Writing Good Learning Objectives,” 2015) and the final stages of learning in 4MAT (McCarthy, 2010).  Canasi, Amyot, and Tira (2014) concluded that concept mapping supports higher-level thinking consistent with Bloom’s Taxonomy and the development of critical thinking because it provides a format for students to make meaningful, personal connections with interrelated concepts.  Constructing well designed learning objectives, test questions, and activities incorporating the use of verbs associated with the stages of the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy is also an effective means for further developing critical thinking skills (Beistle & Palmer, 2014).

As a final note, these models were developed with students and teachers in mind. Students – you can develop weak areas of your learning profiles to become proficient all stages of 4MAT – this will make you a better learner!  Teachers – you can use these models to ensure you are differentiating instruction for all learning styles and challenging your students to apply their knowledge using higher-level thinking.


Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl, D. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Beistle, K. S., & Palmer, L. B. (2014). Exploration of critical thinking in dental hygiene education. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 88(6), 394-402.

Bloom, B., Englehart, M. Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toronto: Longmans, Green.

Canasi, D. M., Amyot, C., & Tira, D. (2014). Evaluating meaningful learning using concept mapping in dental hygiene education: A pilot study. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 88(1), 20-29.

McCarthy, B. (2010, January 27). Introduction to 4MAT by bernice mccarthy [Video file]. Retrieved September 23, 2015 from  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpqQ5wUXph4

Tips on writing good learning objectives. (2015). Retrieved September 27, 2015 from http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching-resources/course-planning/syllabi/writing-learning-objectives/

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Small Group Instruction: How is it Accomplished?


The blog assignment this week was to locate a video about a differentiated instructional strategy that is interesting to me. The strategy and video I selected is about preparing and managing small group instruction. I chose this strategy because it is familiar to me from the perspective of a student, but not as a teacher. I am a little bit of a social-butterfly so in the past I have always found group work to be fun and engaging. In a study of dental hygiene students, Mueller-Joseph and Nappo-Dattoma (2013), found that students who received instruction in a collaborative learning environment reported that they had a more positive disposition toward learning and had developed greater responsibility for their learning. In fact there are many ways small groups can differentiate learning such as, problem-solving, role playing, discussions, brainstorming and debate (Annamalai, Manivel, & Palanisamy, 2015). The video I selected suggested several important things I should consider when planning for small group work (Smartatmath, 2013). Here are the highlights of some things I learned.

  • Preparation is very important! I need to have a well-defined plan of meaningful activities for both the independent group(s) and the teacher group. Be very familiar with the goal and directions for group work.
  • Start with simply two groups, and then work up to more groups if necessary.
  • Establish effective classroom management (pattern and timing for student movement, appropriate noise levels, seating chart and/or room arrangement).
  • Provide ways for students to self-help when they become “stuck” so that they do not interrupt the teacher-assisted group.
  • Assess students prior to group work to identify the primary goal for the teacher-assisted group.
  • Create a means for accountability for individuals within each group.

I think I will plan to use a graphic or visual organizer to scaffold learning for students in groups without teacher assistance, this way they can help themselves when they get confused or lose direction (Tomlinson, 2001). According to Annamalai et al. (2015), most students perceived that group discussions “were interactive, friendly, innovative, [and] built interaction between teacher and student” (p. 19). It appears to me that group work is not only a great way support and differentiate learning, but is also enjoyable for students as well. It may be a little intimidating at first, but I think I will give this strategy a try. One component I would like to explore for further learning is the topic of classroom management. I believe once classroom management is established, maintaining it will be a little easier.

View the video about small instruction at the bottom of this post.


Annamalai, N., Manivel, R., & Palanisamy, R. (2015). Small group discussion: Students perspectives. International Journal Of Applied & Basic Medical Research, 5, 18-20. doi:10.4103/2229-516X.162257

Mueller-Joseph, L. J., & Nappo-Dattoma, L. (2013). Collaborative learning in pre-clinical dental hygiene education. Journal Of Dental Hygiene, 87(2), 64-72.

Smartatmath. (2013, January 3). Effective small group differentiated instruction [Video file]. Retrieved September 20, 2015 from https://youtu.be/AF3T2aZM3ko

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development