Sabbatical: My Doing-By-Learning Bucket List

Week after next I begin a mini-sabbatical…almost 7 weeks of time to focus on projects that I want to focus on. I have a giant bucket list of projects I want to work on that I haven’t had time to do in the hustle and bustle of my faculty/dean/mom/spouse/dog-walker/cat box-cleaner life. I see this time as a great gift from my university, and I am grateful for it.

Many of you have asked what I will be doing, and I’ve had a hard time, in the moment of your question, articulating everything on that list in a coherent way. I also am trying to pose this time less as “what I will do” and more like “what I will learn” (as in: doing-by-learning. Natch!).  So how’s this for an idea? Let me write it all down and share it with the world:


1) In October, I will be joining a grant-funded team from DePaul University’s School for New Learning in facilitating learning sessions for faculty and staff at Tangaza College (in Nairobi, Kenya) about adult, competency-based learning programs and Prior Learning Assessment.  I’ll also be helping develop a PLA course … a chunk of my sabbatical time will be working on these projects.

2) I ‘ll be writing an article about the ways that indirect assessment and direct assessment collide and how that collision might support deep, meaningful student learning (hint: reflection).

3) I’ll be updating and pitching my literature review of assessment in academic libraries.

4) I have an idea that I can create some drafts of rubrics to support the process of peer-review in my university’s accreditation region. We’ll see …

5) A colleague and I are soon to launch a “multi-faceted open educational project dedicated to making a life-changing education available to any serious adult learner who would like to participate.” Think that sounds ambitious? It is … and now more than ever, a learning-based model for education is critical. Personally (I can’t speak for my colleague), I am getting sick and tired of the conversations about disrupting higher education and higher education innovations that seem to have forgotten LEARNING (Randy Bass says it all way better than I – read it here).  My colleague and I only partially joke that our uber-goal of this project is world peace (hey – there’s nothing wrong with being an optimist). We also think that a person’s ongoing ability to learn is their biggest, most important asset — substantially more important than their retirement investments, house, car, diplomas adorning their walls, or resume of past experience — and that if we all can learn how to develop and manage our learning assets and help others do the same, we’ll be better off.  So – I’ll be dedicating a chunk of my sabbatical time to moving this project forward. (Stay tuned – you’ll hear about it here.)

6) Heutagogy. It’s cool. Scratch that. It’s AWESOME!!! And if you’re an adult who is a learner (and, well, why wouldn’t you be?), it should change your life. I’m totally compelled to write a something-or-other about how so. (Indeed, this relates to the “multi-faceted open educational project dedicated to making a life-changing education” discussed previously … these projects are all pretty interrelated.) If you can’t wait for what I have to say about it (and why would you?), you can read these excellent overviews:

Blaschke, , L. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

Hase, S, and Kenyon, C (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIT.


  • I am going to try to use all the free online resources out there to re-develop my Spanish-speaking skills. 30 minutes a day … we’ll see how it goes.
  • I am going to do a lot of yoga; thus, I am going to learn how to practice yoga (versus how to fit it into a busy schedule, which is what I usually am focused on).
  • I will be learning how to run at Foot Traffic University – my friend and I enrolled for their training for the Holiday Half Marathon. (If you know me well, you know that this is hilarious…HILARIOUS! But I might as well try even though I doubt that right now I could run a block even if a bear were chasing me.  And I like to hang out with my friend a lot and we don’t get to do it very often, so this is one way we can. And maybe I will learn that I can run a block if a bear were chasing me … for a free pair of cool socks, which is what FTU gives us, I am going to try!)
  • I am going to learn how to  play ukulele  … eventually …  like this guy (but maybe not by September 6th):


  • I hope to paint the bathroom (if I actually do paint the bathroom, then I will learn how to remove wallpaper and fix some major holes in the wall).
  • I’d like to learn how to make a good Prezi.
  • I’d like to remodel this here blog. It needs a new look and feel … feedback welcome!
  • If the right homeless mutt makes herself present to us, I will likely work on integrating her into our lives.


Sabbatical technically means a rest from work.  HA!


Vacations To Learn By

Around these parts, Summer term is coming to a close (next week!) and Fall term is about a month away. While my work doesn’t end when the term ends (in fact, it usually gets a bit busier), it seems like a good time to take some time off and time away from the office. It’s a time of the year that seems like a threshold.

Main Entry: thresh·old
Pronunciation: \ˈthresh-ˌhōld, ˈthre-ˌshōld\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English thresshold, from Old English threscwald; akin to Old Norse threskjǫldr threshold, Old English threscan to thresh
Date: before 12th century

1 : the plank, stone, or piece of timber that lies under a door : sill
2 a : gate, door b (1) : end, boundary; specifically : the end of a runway (2) : the place or point of entering or beginning : outset <on the threshold of a new age>
3 a : the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced <has a high threshold for pain> b : a level, point, or value above which something is true or will take place and below which it is not or will not

That’s it: the end of a runway, and the place or point of beginning. Thus, a good place to pause and take a break!

At the end of last summer, we spent the threshold at the beach.

Mac and Mom's Beach Walk

At the end of this summer, we will spend the threshold celebrating my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary and my husband will be riding his bike uphill, 100 miles, around a lake. (Fun!?!?) Mac, the Toddler of the House, has informed us that he is not only taking his Elmo suitcase and his own bike, but also his lawnmower. He likes to travel light, apparently.

The Bike

The Elmo Suitcase

The Mower

While I am one who actually hates packing suitcases and leaving the dog and cats and house in the care of others, I also like to plan vacations, and it should come as no surprise that mine involve learning to do something new.  So, here are my Top 3 (Dream) Learning Vacations for this Summer/Fall threshold, none of which I will go on, but each of which will inspire me to keep learning somehow.

1) Learn to Build a Table From Scratch. Here’s the class description – don’t you want to come along?

How would you like to take a weekend away in Vermont, build an authentically local wood table from scratch with 15 other people, and then finish off the weekend enjoying a bountiful dinner on it prepared by local chefs?

2) Learn to cook Mexican cuisine – specifically HERE, and then I could make these chiles en nogada. (I need to brush up on my Spanish, first.)

3) Learn to bake bread at King Arthur Flour. My friend Doug took this class and posted pictures and updates about his adventures to his Facebook page and everyday I said, “I want to do that, too.” Perhaps I can teach myself to make this Braided Lemon Bread.

Braided Lemon Bread from King Arthur Flour

So these are my Top 3 (Dream) Learning Vacations for Summer/Fall Threshold 2010.

What are yours?

Installment #11: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning


Sleep is really, really, really important.

Our brains need rest. They need time to deal with new information; to manage our knowledge; and to assimilate and make sense of our new experiences.

For Mac, his brain AND his body need rest. Even though he is getting older, if he doesn’t get a good nap and a good night’s rest, he cannot make good decisions and he is emotional and irrational. Frankly, when he’s lacking sleep, he’s not a lot of fun to be around, nor, more importantly, is he able to learn new things.


If there is one major lesson I have learned about learning from Mac, it’s that we all need good sleep (even us adult learners). If you’re missing out on sleep, you might want to read more about “sleep debt.”

And then, for goodness sake, go take a nap!

Installment #7: What My Toddler Has Taught Me About Adult Learning

Sometimes we just need help.

Adult learners balance precariously on very thin beams. Our attentions are divided among our professional obligations, our kids, our parents, our bills, our pets, our partners, our lawns that need mowing and our laundry that needs washing. And oh, did I mention that essay to write, that study group to attend, that book to read, that research to do? Yeah – all that LEARNING that needs to happen?

Oh, and what about sleep?

And darnnit — as hard as it is to admit — sometimes we need help! As Mac has told me very clearly these days, when he is in the midst of striving for independence and perfection (hmmm – sound familiar?), help is the last thing he wants from me. He wants to do it (whatever “it” is) himself; he wants to be a super-hero; get it all done and done well; and get credit for it all.  He wants to be self-sufficient and strong, just like we do.

I'm glad dad is here to hang on to!

But indeed, sometimes we just need help. So when you need it, ask for it!

  • Ask your partner to make dinner a few nights a week.
  • Ask a co-worker to let you sit and read quietly on your lunch break 3 days a week.
  • Ask your boss for a day off.
  • Ask your instructor for help interpreting an assignment.
  • Ask a trusted study partner to proofread your paper for you.
  • Ask your kids to clean the bathroom (and thank them gloriously when they do).
  • Ask a librarian to help you with a literature search.
  • ASK!


#1 – Learning Can Happen When We Challenge our Perspectives

#2 – Learning is Developmental

#3 – We Learn by Direct Experience

#4 – We Learn by Observing Others, Even If Others Are Not Experts

#5 – The Importance Of Books In Learning

#6 – Selecting the Right Learning Tools

Eat The Chocolate

It’s that time of the year — there are 3 weeks left before the end of the term and the official end of this school year, commencement is right around the corner (yay!), folks are feeling frenzied trying to get their assignments in and figuring out their next steps, and a sense of summer has hit us hard here in Portland.

Alas, we’re not quite there yet …

To cope with all of this real or perceived stress, let me offer the following video clip. You probably feel a lot like Lucy these days (I know I do). But I think she has the right idea — one way or another, work through that which is coming at you fast and furiously.