There’s more than 50 shades of Grey

Relax, there will be no whips or leather belts in this post. However, this will be a post meant to whip myself and other future educators into shape!

I first thought of this title when considering ‘connecting the dots’ with respect to the problem based learning assignment and teaching ethics to engineers, in that often times, there is no clear cut answer as to what is wrong or right.

Then I started to think about institutions of learning, how there are liberal arts vs. technical colleges, both stand-alone and encapsulated within larger Universities, all with their own cultures and histories molded by the times.

Then I began thinking about how there are different teaching philosophies and techniques as well as different disciplines, individual students, varying lesson plans, geographic differences, and educators whose personalities are different. No technique is ‘correct’ for all cases or people.

Finally, I realized that in order to bring all of the lessons of this semester together under one unifying theme, the title of this blog was surprisingly appropriate. It isn’t black or white. It requires thought and when Seth Godin says he has 5 keys to reforming educational systems, then lists 5 keys, and then goes one to say he has 5 more, then wraps up with 2 more ‘myths’ for a grand total of 12, it goes to show you there many ways that the way we teach can be reformed to fit the students of today.

The main lessons that I’ve learned this semester that will be implemented immediately in my classrooms are:

  1. Incorporating technology in the classroom: as part of lesson delivery, assignments and feedback from student blogs, uploaded assignments, websites, and portfolios can be used to both deliver content and to get feedback on how much understanding the students get
  2. Syllabus : The importance of it as not just a mechanical document for how the class is run but more of a personality of the course and by extension of the professor
  3. Teaching Philosophy: the importance of revisiting this
  4. Engineering Ethics: Incorporating engineering ethics as a continued formal discussion as opposed to intermittent informal discussions
  5. Flipped classrooms: Having the students teach me what they know and what they have learned as a form of evaluation


  1. Thanks for you nice post. I am thinking how to incorporate what I’ve learnt from this class into my classroom too. I think the most important point is the “flipped classrooms” you mentioned. I would like to organize discussions on open questions and listen to what the students learn from it.

    1. I agree Haoran (and by extension Khaled). I like your summary of important concepts/approaches that came up in the course and the idea of the “flipped classroom” seems central. I’ve always heard that you learn most when you teach and I try to keep that in mind as I teach and try to engage my students in learning.

      Having students present to me and their classmates seems like a great way to both check their knowledge and have them reinforce it for themselves.

      1. You guys both hit the nail on the head. It’s all about self-assessment and not in that cop-out way that just saves me time, but in the way that allows them to self-evaluate while demonstrating to me that they understand the material…or that they don’t.

  2. I think we had very similar takeaways from the class, especially in regard to the syllabus. The class forced me to look at it in a new light, and created new respect for all of my instructors who have taken the time to create them.

  3. Welcome to the shades of grey that we face every day in the counseling field! Seeing things as black and white while teaching counseling classes can actually cause a lot of problems. I find it interesting that we have each taken away so much from this class about how grey is important but we’ve come from such different backgrounds. For engineering classes, black and white is often considered more normal than for us in counseling, but in each case, we have to work to help students gain comfort with grey here and there.

  4. I dig your summary of what you learned. Were I to compile such a list, it would be largely the same. However, I would worry about incorporating technology just for the sake of incorporating technology. I’m not implying that that’s your intention, but sometimes a non-technological learning environment can be extremely refreshing. Who really needs to spend more time pecking away in front of a computer everyday!!

  5. I too have been thinking throughout the semester what I can apply to my classes. As I have little control over the layouts of my classes now, it’s definitely sparked some interests within in me on types of classes I could possibly teach in the future. I like the flipped classroom that you mentioned. It goes away from the traditional assessments that we discussed in class towards a more contemporary approach.

    1. I am not sure what exactly the technical definition of a flipped classroom is, but I know that how I want to do it does several things that your field already does by definition:
      1) It gives students an opportunity to practice orating and presenting
      2) It allows students to demonstrate what they have learned (which may be the one and the same for your field)
      3) It allows the students to ponder the actual subject matter and prepare what they think it means
      4) It allows a more personalized assessment of each individual or group of indidivuals
      5) Lastly, and most importantly, it gives you a break from having to prepare a lesson plan or to teach that day! Just watch and learn 😀

  6. I’m with you on this – “No technique is ‘correct’ for all cases or people.”

    10 points to Gryffindor for a very creatively titled post, too.

    1. Thanks, if those stuffy conformists at Hornwants listened to Luna Lovegood sooner, then those Henry Porter movies would have been resolved much sooner!

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