Meeting the Minds – Dr. Diehl-Jones

Dr. William Diehl-Jones is an associate professor of nursing with AU’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and sits on the research committee for the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba. Recently, he took time out of his busy schedule to do this interview for The Voice Magazine

Marie: What are some of your most memorable awards, positions, or acclamations?
I think my most memorable award was the Distinguished Teacher Award from the University of Waterloo. I have received four different teaching awards, but that one meant so much because it was totally student-driven. That was a validation, in a way, of my teaching; you receive the bricks often enough, but you don’t always receive the bouquets. It’s nice to get a bouquet once in a while.

Marie: Just by talking with you, you can tell you’d be the kind of teacher who would win awards.
I don’t know. (Laughs.) Depends on who you speak to. I tend to polarize students. They see me either as somebody they like as a teacher or somebody who is just a tough nut. I do enjoy the challenge of making learning fun, although.

I think my best acclamation is, well, I’ve got several university degrees, but my best?my best?acclamation is being a registered nurse.

Of course, the position I love is the one at Athabasca as an Associate Professor. I also enjoy my position as a research scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Manitoba. A balance between teaching and research is what I strive to achieve.

Marie: Please fill us in on the range of course you have taught or designed at Athabasca.
The three courses I taught at Athabasca are 518 (Health Assessment), 519 (Pathophysiology), and 521 (Pharmacology). All of these courses are offered in the Nurse Practitioner program at AU, which is the largest such program in Canada.

I’m designing two new courses that are launching in January. These are combined pathophysiology/pharmacology courses, designed to better integrate pathophysiology with clinical pharmacology. The course designations are NURS 516 and NURS 517, and I am just finishing up the study guide for NUSR 516.

Marie: As an instructor in online education, what are some of the challenges as well as some of the highlights of teaching online?
I think the primary challenge is to making a personal connection with students. I am more than the email address or a faceless presence on a computer screen, I still teach in person, which I enjoy, and I really that immediacy to on-line teaching.

It has been challenging to do this online, but it is still very possible. It just depends on how inventive you can be.

That’s the challenge, and I think the highlight is meeting students, many for the first time, at convocation. I’ve been to six different university convocations, and I think AU’s got the best one, hands down. They do it really well, and I get a chance to meet a lot of my nurse practitioner students there and to hear some of their stories as they walk across the stage.

Marie: How do you aim to stimulate student motivation in online learning environments?
I think one of the ways to do that online is to always ask the “so what?” question. If I am able to articulate the “so what?” piece, or explain “why you should care about this?”, then I think I have been able to stimulate and motivate. Especially in clinical courses, it is important for students to be able to see the relevance of the material.

Marie: What is your approach to providing feedback for students to help them with their learning objectives?

Well, I think it has to be structured and constructive. Not just “what did you do wrong?”, but “What did you do right?” as well as “How can you improve?”. There’s always room for improvement.

I’ll do that in written form, and on the phone. My favorite medium is through Adobe Connect sessions where we can speak face-to-face, dissect an exam or assignment, while reinforcing the learning points that they did internalize while analyzing what might have gone wrong.