OTL 101… Blog Three: Puzzling????


For the last few months I have had the opportunity to walk beside and support students in a course called HLTH 4551 – Directed Studies Practicum in Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders. In this course, students further their understanding of the relational application of theory and practice in the treatment and prevention of problematic substance use and mental health disorders during their experiential learning journeys in their practicum setting.

  • What are the intended learning outcomes of the course? Do the learning outcomes reflect high-level cognitive skills or low-level skills (pay attention to the verbs)?

Learning Outcomes/Objectives of HLTH 4551

By successfully working through the learning activities in this course, the student will be able to:

  • Develop foundational and/or basic competency in applicable technical and behavioural skills as defined in the competency profile for Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce.
  • Develop practical understanding of a variety of interventions used in the prevention and treatment of substance use and mental health disorders in Canada.
  • Recognize codes and guidelines for ethical and professional practice by members of Canada’s Substance Abuse Workforce.
  • Develop and apply skills in the synthesis and delivery of evidence-based knowledge to persons/families/colleagues and communities affected by substance use and mental health disorders.
  • Demonstrate effective time management and organizational skills in the practice environment.
  • Gain first-hand experience in the challenges, struggles, successes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours of persons attempting a behaviour change.
  • Develop an appreciation of the challenges faced by persons attempting to overcome substance use and mental health disorders.
  • Appreciate the role of other health professions in the provision of care and the importance of interprofessional collaboration.
  • How is student learning assessed in the course (essays, quizzes, journals, machine-gradable tests, portfolios)?

To successfully complete this course, the student must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course and 50% or higher on the mandatory final project. This is done through essays, an oral presentation, a final written project and a mid term and final evaluation process with their placement preceptor and their faculty instructor.

  • In what ways are the intended learning outcomes and the assessments aligned or not?

This is a puzzling question; one might query both alignment and non-alignment. Learning outcomes and assessments will be relative to the student’s narrative of learning and their use of community echo (Dr. Peter Leslie, personal communication, February 28, 2019), the multiple partners that participate in the community of co-inquiry with the student, who, together co-construct and co-create meaningful learning. If one connects with their multiple partners in their community of co-inquiry and one invites community echo then feedback as assessment has its own narrative with self and others.

  • Identify 2-3 items or assessments that are worded in such a way that they limit students to a unistructural or multistructural response at best and re-write them so that they require a relational response at worst and include the results in your post.

Pieces of this course include both unistructural and multistructural responses, however, my hope is that I am relationally co-constructing the overlapping of a community of co-inquiry relative to each student’s diverse narrative of learning so that the student witnesses and experiences new and meaningful narratives of relational learning in their respective setting. Through our exchanges with others we co-create something new. This is an invitation to the student to be part of the co-creation of their learning experience in this course.



OTL 101… Blog Two: Down the Rabbit Hole…

  • What do you know now that you did not know prior to starting the course?

I have much to learn…. Curiouser and curiouser…

  • What questions would you like to explore on the topic of cognitive presence?

So……there is a BIG difference between social construction and social constructiVISM.  Constructivism is very much a cognitive approach. The notion is that our “private, internal” minds are “influenced” by what happens in the social world. For the constructIONIST, there is no need to go internal…..we are interested in interactive processes (S. McNamee, personal communication, March 3, 2019). Community of Inquiry (COI) and cognitive presence are new terms to me in the context of online learning, as I have little experience with online teaching. It appears that both COI and cognitive presence are framed in individualist, cognitive discourse. COI has created curious questions for me. In the learning provided there was no discussion of cultural presence, human diversity, historical context or environmental pieces of the COI puzzle. And…what diverse communities has COI traveled in?

More Curiosity and Critical Thought…

Curiosity is the impetus for my learning, my practice, and my being “a certain relentlessness to break up our familiarities and to regard otherwise the same things” (Foucault, 1996, p. 305). A lack of curiosity engenders an uninspired way of knowing. The old adage “curiosity killed the cat” resonates in my mind. What ever happened to that cat?

What excites me about critical thought is, currently in my imperfect practice, I have a strong emphasis on the appreciation of critical thinking and reflective practice, which I believe is integral to all areas of learning and practice. I encounter surprises, unknowns, uncertainty, unpredictability, strengths, challenges, beauty, joy, sorrow, and pain. Critical thinking invites me to recognize that things are not always what they seem on the surface (Payne, 2005). Thinking critically is an exploration process that invites me to deconstruct and rediscover things, situations, and/or events that I encounter. This creates a means for me to consider, re-consider, analyze, process, make meaning, and co-create possibilities relationally with people, communities, things, situations, and/or events etc…. Critical thinking links knowledge, meaning, and theory to my imperfect knowing and practice and provides me with the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct my learning and practice through a process of unlearning and relearning. But…. How does one teach critical thought and therefore, measure critical thought and analysis?

Are all two leggeds the same, are we truly like two peas in a pod? How does one create a safe, relational learning environment of dialogical discourse, co-inquiry, and appreciation conversational space that supports being-in and being-with critical thought and reflection online together? My hope is that relational dialogical discourse will embody curiosity and generate inquisitive intrigue in the deconstruction and co-creation of different ways of being-with the ideas of others. I hope we have the courage to be curious together. McNamee (2007) suggests that we bracket the metaphors of re-search, therapy, and teaching as a means to form:

Collaborative conversation… a relational approach… requires that we abandon the idea that knowledge or information can be conveyed from one mind to another and, instead, I will describe knowledge as constructed in our conjoint activities with others – in what people do together. (p. 314)

This infers that when re-search, therapy or teaching is practiced from a collaborative standpoint, intra-actional moments in conversation embody “visceral ways in which we move others, and are moved by them” (McNamee, 2007, p. 317).

Currently, this is a place of unknowing, as the courses I am teaching are yet to begin… so I continue my adventure of fascination down the rabbit hole…


Foucault, M. (1996) [1980]. The masked philosopher. In Sylvère Lotringer (Ed.), Foucault Live: Collective Interviews, 1961-1984. (2nd ed.). (Lysa Hochroth and John Johnston, Trans.). (302-307). New York, NY: Semiotext(e).

McNamee, S. (2007). Relational practices in education: Teaching as conversation. In Anderson, H. & Gehert, D. (Eds.) Collaborative Therapy: Relationships and Conversations that Make a Difference. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis.

Payne, M. (2005). Modern social work theory (3rd ed.). Chicago: Lyceum



OTL 101… Blog One: The Beginning of a New Adventure…

A Glimpse of Mystory…

I start this blog from a place of curiosity, unknowing, and uncertainty, as I have never created a blog before. My name is Kathie McKinnon, I have recently been invited to become a faculty member with TRU Open Learning both in the Nursing Department and the Human Service Program. To date, I have led a multi-storied life in my professional practice as a narrative therapist, social worker,  re-searcher (to ‘re-search’ is to search and search again for alternatives and possibilities in re-search, therapeutic space, and in a learning environment), and sessional instructor with TRU Faculty of Education and Social Work in the School of Social Work and Human Service. I have a partner; I am a mother of two incredible daughters, and a Bubbie to two beautiful grand daughters who are my soul food.

Where I LOVE to Be…

I have many favorite vacation spots in the world, but these days I spend all of my vacation time in Montreal. Montreal is my homeland; this is where my daughters, their partners, and my beautiful grand daughters live. I have a cozy loft in an old warehouse built in 1873 that I call home. My two grand daughters, Sadie and Margot have transformed my life like never before. Being-with and being-in the world with them has co-created a heighten relational dimension of love, meaning making, and togetherness – this is why Montreal is my favorite spot to be on the planet.

Latest Reading…

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents a Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (Jill Twiss and EG Keller, 2018) is a current favorite of mine and my 8 month old grand daughter, Margot. We read this book many times together on my last visit to Montreal in January 2019. This book is a politic satire about Vice President Mike Pence’s pet bunny Marlon Bundo. Marlon is the lonely bunny of the Vice President of the United States. Marlon falls in love with another boy bunny. Marlon is told that boy bunnies cannot marry boy bunnies because being different is a bad thing to be. All their other animal friends say that being different is a not bad thing and vote the stinkbug who makes up these untruths and rules out of office. Everyone lives happy ever after.

Curious Questions???

As a narrative therapist, social worker, re-searcher, and instructor who practices from a relational stance, I position my professional and personal being-with others using a social constructionist approach. Social constructionism invites creativity and collaboration in constructing alternatives and expanding possibilities, requiring collaboration in different ways (Gergen, 2009b), inviting relational participation. From a social constructionist stance, the world comes to be for us through relationships. This happens through participation with others and our relation to the collective meaning making we create together. Social construction is a means to relationally situate a learning environment as ‘we’ – not ‘I’ – and to construct meaning making and co-create possibilities as located relationally in both action and practice. As a constructionist, the tenor of any learning environment is curious, creative, collaborative, and conversational – a composition of co-inquiry.

In the past nine years, I  have taught face-to-face while only teaching online for the past five months. My intentions have been to encourage safe space for dialogical discourse and to embrace conversational co-inquiry. Engagement in curious and at times courageous conversation have improved my own understanding as an instructor in the leaning-in, being-in, and being-with others in the process of  mutual meaning making.

 Just like Alice cried, when she was stretching very tall toward the ceiling before she unlocked the door with the golden key to her relationally rich adventures in Wonderland, I too have become “curiouser and curiouser” (Carroll, 2006, p. 8) about where this new online learning journey may take me. I am full of curious questions at this point…. How will I unlearn my old ways and learn new technological ways of being-with others in a virtual learning environment? Where will these adventures in online reality take me? How do I invite patience and a sense of comfort with my unknowing and uncertainty about the use of technology? Curiosity? 


Carroll, L. (2006). Alice’s adventures in wonderland and through the looking       glass. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

Gergen, K. (2009b). Relational being beyond self and community. New York,     NY: Oxford Community Press.

Sir John Tenniel, (1865), Alice stretched tall.