No “One Size Fits All” for learning

This is a valuable TED talk (Vancouver 2015) by Lara Boyd, Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Motor Learning.  Although her main expertise is in stroke and motor learning, I felt this TED talk can speak for learning in general.  Great news is that neuroplasticity in the brain is not limited by age and even at rest the brain is highly active.  What I found most intriguing is that everyone’s brain changes in different ways as we learn.  There is “no one size fits all”.  This is important to remember as instructors that we vary our teaching strategies to accommodate the wide variety of different ways that students learn.


Motivational Techniques

I chose the “Power of Storytelling” as a great article substantiating why it is so important to tell stories to engage students.  As indicated in the article, storytelling is a great way to start a class to facilitate a greater student focus, student-teacher connection and perhaps promote students to tell their own stories.  I believe these points will improve my instruction as, although I do some storytelling, I have not told my stories at the beginning of class which may help set the tone for the topic of the day.  This article also reminds me to encourage students to tell their own stories.

Buffo. S.  (2015, January). Power of Storytelling.  Faculty Focus. Retrieved from



Creating a Positive Learning Environment

I selected a report by “The Teaching Professor” which outlines ten aspects of effective classroom management, as I am interested in how to formulate ground rules on the first day of class.  One useful tip included establishing a classroom ethics contract which includes such aspects as respect to the instructor while speaking, attendance policies, adherence to assignment deadlines, and policies on turning off cell phones during class.  I believe this type of contract would improve my instruction, as ground rules would be set, and I can easily refer to the signed contract if any of the students disrespect the rules.

Weimer, M. (no date) 10 Effective Management Techniques Every Faculty Member Should Know. The Teaching Professor.  Retrieved from


Trends in Field of Stroke Rehabilitation – Constraint Induced Movement Therapy

Constraint Induced Movement Therapy

One of the recent trends in stroke rehabilitation is constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT).  The treatment involves constraining the non-affected arm in the patient who has had a stroke, forcing use of the affected arm during functional activities (Fleet, Che, MacKay-Lyons, Mackenzie & Page, 2014).  Such functional activities might include shaping of the hand to fold a towel or raise a cup or fork.  The patient must meet certain criteria before embarking on a program which is that they must have at least “10 degrees of active wrist extension and 10 degrees extension of thumb and at least two fingers”(Fleet et al, 2014).  The most famous study was the EXCITE trial  which consisted of “6 hours a day over 10 consecutive weekdays with a restraint (usually a mitt) over the unaffected arm for 90% of waking hours”(Wolf, Winstein, Miller & Taube, 2006).

Despite some positive results in the studies, such as increased function in the affected arm in the patients that met the criteria, this has apparently not translated into practice.  Fleet et al. (2014) explain that barriers to therapist’s using this method included lack of resources, not following the traditional guidelines or lack of knowledge about the therapy or how to implement it.  For example, in the survey by Fleet et al. (2014) 92% were aware of CIMT but only 42% used it.  88% of the therapists surveyed could not name the minimal criteria of arm movement required to participate in the study.

See Trends and Roles Reflections post on this topic as to how to increase knowledge on constraint induced therapy in the classroom.

Note:  Since the EXCITE study, a modified-constraint induced therapy has been trialed which I will not be covering here (see:

Fleet, A., Che, M., MacKay-Lyons, M., MacKenzie, D., Page, S. et al.  2014 Jan 30.  Examining the Use of Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy in Canadian Neurological Occupational and Physical Therapy.  Physiotherapy Canada.  doi: 10.3138/ptc.2012-61.  Retrieved from:

Wolf, S., Winstein, C., Miller J., Taube, E. (2006). Effect of constraint-induced movement therapy on upper extremity function 3 to 9 months after stroke: the EXCITE randomized clinical trial.  JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.296.17.2095.  Retrieved from:

Instructional Process/Strategies

Attention Span

I chose an article on attention span as a resource as I teach a 6 hour class and keeping students attentive for that long is definitely a challenge.  I require strategies to keep students engaged, when to give breaks, when to deliver more critical information and how often to switch modes of delivery.   This resource will improve my instruction as it provides insight into timing of delivery such as when NOT to deliver critical information.   The article highlights strategies I have not trialed before such as varying tone/level of voice and changing delivery of topic every 15 minutes (Briggs,2014).


Briggs, S. (2014 June) The Science of Attention: How to Capture and Hold the Attention of Easily Distracted Students.  Retrieved from:


Trends in Adult Learning

Reflections on the Flipped Classroom

When I first heard the term “flipped classroom” I thought it meant that each student taught a section of the class guided by the instructor.  In my first year of teaching, I assigned each student to teach one concept (very short 2 – 3 minutes) to the class.  I told them that by teaching a concept they will have a much better understanding of the topic.  Overall, some students provided great examples with their definitions, though several just read verbatim from their notes. This was part of their participation mark.

Now I understand that the definition of a flipped classroom is when an instructor videotapes lectures, which the students watch at home on their own time and at their own pace (Goodwin & Miller, 2013).  The instructor then forms small groups and the students discuss the lectures and the instructor circulates the room to guide discussion.  The hope is that the student will actually remember the material and then be able to get a better mark via participation.

I was curious about the research on the flipped classroom and the pros and cons using this approach.  In the recent article in the Faculty Focus entitled “Flipped Classroom Highlights Benefits and Challenges” by Bart (2015), the results appear to be positive from both the instructor (70%)and student (64%) perspective and in some classes students are getting higher grades.  The cons appear to be the amount of preparation time for the instructor, lack of motivation on the part of the student and some students still prefer the instructor to be in charge (Bart 2015).  It also depends on what topic is being delivered.  For example, I am very fortunate that the class that I teach has a large practical component.  Once the basic skills are learned, then different scenarios can be played out in the form of case studies where students can learn from each other.  In this case, I circulate around and stimulate discussion and highlight that there is a different approach to each patient they may be working with.

 Bryan, G & Miller, K. 2013 March. Research Says/Evidence from Flipped Classrooms Still Coming In.  Retrieved from:
Bart, A. 2015 August. Flipped Classroom Survey Highlights Benefits and Challenges. Retrieved from:


Why I chose Synaptic Junction as my blog title

I chose this particular blog title, first of all because I am fascinated by neurology and secondly I wanted something that would also work for the topic of adult learning.  A synaptic junction is essentially made up of two neurons (a cell that transmits nerve impulses) and a space in between.  The two nerves “talk” to each other via chemical or electrical signals in order to carry out our bodily functions (e.g. eating, seeing, breathing, moving…).   We make new neuronal connections every time we learn something new whether it is cognitive or physical.

Retrieved from:

Like neurons, as adult instructors and learners we need to connect with others in order to expand our knowledge as educators.


Bilimoria, P. (2015) Boston Children’s Hospital. Image retrieved from: