Nominations being accepted for the 2017 CASE Award of Excellence and Student Scholarships

student-group-tabletsThe Council on Approved Student Education has announce that it is now accepting nominations for the Award of Excellence to an Outstanding Educator, which is given in recognition of dedication to students and extraordinary contributions to reporter education. Recipients are nominated by an NCRA member.

CASE is also accepting applications for three student scholarships in the amount of $500, $1,000, and $1,500. Applicants must meet a number of requirements to be eligible, including attending a NCRA-certified court reporting program, write between 140 and 180 wpm, and submit a two-page essay on a pre-selected topic. Nominations and applications are being accepted through April 7.

Please contact a member of NCRA’s Education Team with any questions.

Realtime writing and realtime scoping in Jamaica

By Linda Bland

It isn’t unusual for me to receive a call from a court reporter asking how to upgrade his or her writing to offer realtime writing as a service or how to transition to captioning or CART providing. However, I was very pleased when I received a call from Ms. Tessa Lewin of the U.S. Embassy, asking me if I would be interested in discussing how the Court Reporting at Home Realtime Writing Professional Development Program might train 44 official reporters for the Supreme Court of Jamaica. I immediately responded, “Yes! Absolutely! I would love to develop just this kind of project.” Having previously trained realtime writing court reporters in Zambia and Sierra Leone, Africa, my mind began immediately thinking how this might be accomplished.

Justice Bryan Sykes and his committee had determined that their reporters could benefit from upgrading their skills for realtime writing and speed, as well as other areas. Just the idea of the project was exciting. A great deal of thought and planning had already been developed by Justice Sykes and his committee, comprised of reporters, justices, IT department personnel, etc. By the time I was contacted, the committee had already had established a series of goals. When we met via video conferencing, I made a few more recommendations.

The Chief Justice of the Jamaican Supreme Court was so committed to the project, she allotted time during the workday for all reporters to be able to practice. How generous was that? Each morning, one group of reporters/students would be allowed to practice while other reporters covered court, and each afternoon they reversed roles. Being paid to train — who could refuse that offer?

A few months later, we entered into an agreement, and on Jan. 5, 2015, the project began. I had agreed to seven goals:

  1. Assess the reporters’ current speed writing level
  2. Assess the reporters’ realtime writing proficiency
  3. Train the reporters in Eclipse Audio Synchronization
  4. Make necessary steno dictionary conversions, build dictionaries, and make modifications
  5. Train two official supreme court reporters as trainers in all aspects of training, with emphasis on developing speed tests (writing the tests, counting in word and syllabic count, dictating the tests and proctoring speed tests)
  6. Implementing speedbuilding via the CRAH student platform
  7. Train two official supreme court reporters/trainers to update academics and customize them for Jamaican legal terminology, including study materials and tests.

I have learned during my many years of training reporters, captioners, and CART providers that all projects have challenges, and this one was no different. It would never have gotten off the ground without the dedication of Ms. Tanya Chung-Daley and Ms. Deline Cunningham, RPR, the court reporters designated as the two individuals who would be trained to be trainers of all future reporters for the court.

Our almost daily meetings, which later evolved into weekly meetings over the Internet, became an exciting, enjoyable part of my day. These ladies, fortunately, are so talented, it mde training them tremendously easier. In addition to handling their daily duties covering court, they had to go home to develop and dictate tests, or modify academics for the Jamaican judiciary, and countless other assignments I heaped upon them. They were working extended hours daily and weekends for months and months. And when I asked for materials back by Friday, I received them on Tuesday or Wednesday instead. My job was to stay ahead of them, to ensure that the next step in the training process was already prepared to prevent anyone from having to wait on any component of the project.

Our first two goals were to determine the reporters’ current speed and accuracy in translation. Imagine how difficult it is to schedule tests for this many reporters who have daily, ongoing court assignments including transcripts. Many of these reporters did not work in the Supreme Court in Kingston, Jamaica, but rather were in the circuit courts in cities all around the country.

Any court administrator knows the difficulty in simply keeping all courts covered. However, covering all the courts and scheduling the reporters for testing purposes was quite a feat. We had to test on three different dates, utilizing three different tests for speed at three different speed levels, as well as for realtime. The tests were graded utilizing NCRA grading guidelines, “What Is an Error?” as well as with a view toward the number of large and small drops the reporters were experiencing, how many of the errors were written correctly in steno but not contained in their dictionary, punctuation, and so on.

We then had a basis from which to work. We knew the speed levels we needed to address and the degree of the reporters’ translation accuracy. Knowing that the reporters and justices would benefit from audio synchronization, our first step was to introduce that feature. However, just as with all of us, some of us know our CAT software better than others, and it appeared some of the reporters required a review of some of the basic Eclipse features before we could introduce audiosync. Therefore, although basic training on the software was not a component of our agreement, I knew it was imperative, so I decided to employ someone who could refresh and walk the reporters through the basics.

Who could train my Jamaican reporters/students? I contacted an old acquaintance who put me in touch with Dineen Squillante, who is a certified Eclipse trainer. After one conversation with Dineen, I knew she was perfect for this project. Dineen developed a checklist for what we felt every reporter needed to know for basic realtime setup and editing, steno dictionary preparation, and so on. Each reporter was asked to fill out the checklist, designating which areas they felt needed additional training. Upon receipt of that information, Dineen developed multiple webinars that she presented to the trainers and that were recorded and provided for the trainers’ use in training the remaining reporters.

After the trainers determined that all the reporters were proficient in the basic features, we turned to dictionary building, conversion, and modifications, working on numbers, punctuation, etc. Dineen said, “Working on this project was one of the most enjoyable assignments of my entire career.”

Developing a literary, jury charge, or testimony test involves a great deal more than one can imagine unless you have served on a committee for the NCRA. Thankfully, we have counting software now that counts by word count as well as syllabic count. However, these software programs are not always 100 percent accurate and often require “tweaking.” Because of that, I felt it was important to teach the trainers how to compose a test, count the words in both word count and syllabic count, and dictate it. There is truly an art to dictating correctly and accurately. It can be the difference between being able to pass a test or fail one. It takes a great deal of practice for most instructors, but fortunately, once again, the trainers adapted to dictation quite easily.

Tanya and Deline, as well as the wonderful IT staffer, Duane Carr, teased me often about learning to “speak Jamaican.” When I would think the test “did not make sense,” I would be educated on certain phrases and how “it is spoken in Jamaican.” And without Duane’s IT expertise, we would never have completed this project.

We placed dictation developed by Tanya and Deline on my company’s student platform for the Jamaican reporters to practice, in addition to providing them access to hundreds of hours of our dictation if they chose to practice that as well. Tanya and Deline reviewed and edited our academics to determine what modifications were required for Jamaican law. We modified those and placed those on the platform as well, allowing their tests to be automatically and immediately graded, designating the errors they made and what the correct answer should have been.

And finally, I wanted the trainers to know how to edit or scope realtime. I called upon Dineen once again to train my trainers in realtime editing. If you haven’t tried realtime editing with your scopist, you have to do this. It saves a tremendous amount of time, and it is so easy. Do not be afraid to learn a new feature of your CAT software.

An awards ceremony was held for the reporters after they learned the realtime theory and writing concepts, and Deline and Tanya demonstrated realtime editing/scoping for all those present. While one wrote, the other edited the transcript simultaneously. If you aren’t familiar with realtime editing/scoping, your scopist may be in a different room, a different city, or even a different state, editing while you are writing the assignment.

In February 2016, my work ended. The materials for the Jamaican Project had been provided for realtime writing theory, speed building, and academics. The trainers and reporters had been trained in basic Eclipse, audiosynch, and realtime scoping. However, as we know, the road to building sufficient speed and accuracy and developing one’s steno dictionary are ongoing projects, and I knew Deline and Tanya to be quite capable of handling anything required by the Jamaican Supreme Court.

Deline stated, “The experience as trainers was a challenging and demanding one; however, with encouragement and assistance from Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, we were able to triumph over all the hurdles.” Tanya added, “Yes, and we are truly grateful for this experience.”

So, “Mon,” I didn’t get a trip to Jamaica, but I made a lot of wonderful Jamaican friends along the way, and we spread realtime writing to yet another part of the world. I am so grateful Court Reporting and Captioning at Home was chosen for this project and grateful also for all the assistance through the State Department, U.S. Embassy, the Jamaican Supreme Court, their IT Department, and of course, all 44 of the Jamaican Official Court Reporters.

My advice to you: Don’t stagnate! Realtime is attainable for anyone who is willing to put forth the effort. Don’t think that you can’t change your style of writing or that you are “too old.” You don’t have to change your entire theory at all. However, in all likelihood, you probably need to add a few realtime writing concepts to your theory. Remember, we all modify our theory somewhat, don’t we? We think of new briefs, or find another way to write our numbers, or a new way to write a “family” of words or contractions. We find new groups of phrases that work well for us.

If you want it, realtime is there for you to master – even from the comfort of your home. It requires taking one realtime concept at a time and mastering it to prevent you from causing hesitation in your writing. Writing realtime well isn’t accomplished in a one-day seminar, or even a week or a month. It can take anywhere from 90 days to a year or longer, depending upon how much work you need to employ to update your theory, how much time you make to practice, and how disciplined you are to completing your training. Every realtime writing concept you incorporate into your writing improves the translation, reduces the amount of time it takes to edit a transcript, and provides you more time to practice. It’s a win-win situation. However, you must take the first step to begin your journey.

Linda Bland, RMR, CPE, is the owner of Court Reporting and Captioning at Home, SSD Enterprises, LLC, Fla. She can be reached at LindaB@courtreportingathome.com.

 

 

Practice: It’s a necessity, not an option

By Dr. Marnelle Alexis Stephens

Growing up in a family of musicians, I was filled with a passion for music at a young age. I started taking piano and theory lessons when I was eight with the hopes of being just like my dad, who is a gifted guitarist and pianist. That didn’t happen. I would love to say that I was being hailed as the next musical prodigy, but it was clear that I was not going to be joining the New York Philharmonic any time soon.

Fast forward 20 years (perhaps a smidgen more), and I am learning to play those ivory keys again with gusto. What sparked this renewed passion? Court reporting.

Since joining MacCormac College five years ago, I have had the privilege of being drawn into this wonderful world. As the first college in the nation to offer a degree in court reporting, MacCormac is blessed to have a remarkably talented faculty and staff who are teaching and mentoring the next generation of stenographic court reporters and captioners.

When I ask industry professionals to explain the mental process of court reporting, they often liken it to learning another language and training to be a concert pianist at the same time. So it is unsurprising that many successful students have musical backgrounds as well as an aptitude for learning languages. I am truly humbled when my associates share their individual journeys from student to certified reporter. It takes utter immersion and the dedication of a star athlete to reach the necessary levels of peak performance. Just as practice is the foundation for athletic success, likewise it is the case for success in court reporting.

Students who have traditionally done well at MacCormac are those that eat, sleep, and breathe steno. They understand that if they are to finish court reporting school in a timely manner, cramming will not cut it. This is a hard concept to sell to some students. For this reason, as educators, we ought to observe, listen, and welcome their thoughts. They provide opportunities for all of us to learn and grow, and we can both mentor and learn from one another.

According to one of MacCormac’s court reporting student Brianna Uhlman, it is important to have discipline when it comes to practicing on the steno machine: “I dedicate two to three hours outside of class to practice. If I begin to get sloppy because I’m tired, taking a break gives some relief.” Uhlman suggested that the practice time factor is personal to every individual. She also shared a useful tip: Sometimes when it becomes difficult to keep going, she finds that rewarding herself for practicing helps.

Practice is a necessity, not an option. It is clear that most program influencers understand this, as demonstrated by their top findings noted in survey outcomes. The National Court Reporters Association Instructional Best Practices Survey Executive Summary, published on March 20, 2015, stresses that practice and speedbuilding are essential components of a court reporting education and have a strong bearing on graduation rates.

A state speed champion, national speed medalist, and past president of NCRA, Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag suggests that a maximum of four hours of practice time a day should prove beneficial for students. She advises students to be consistent and dedicated, stating that “the more you practice to cement your theory principles and muscle memory, the quicker you’ll progress and the more accurate a professional you’ll be.”

On top of this, NCRA suggests that in order to see positive student outcomes, program instructors need to ensure that students have access to continuous support for speedbuilding and actively intervene if they suspect outside practice hours are not being observed.

I suspect that program educators’ deeper concern is getting faculty to rethink the entirety of curriculum development and teaching in the midst of the long-standing debate about the length and frequency of practice.

If you’ve participated in recent discussions about court reporting curriculum development, inevitably you have witnessed the deliberations. Many seasoned court reporters argue that it’s essential for students to “practice, practice, and practice some more.” On the contrary, recent reporters share Brianna Uhlman’s sentiment in stating, “It’s not necessarily the amount of practice time that makes a difference, but the quality of your practice time that counts.”

While there are many schools of thought concerning the methods and how much time reporters should spend practicing, what is abundantly clear is daily, disciplined practice sessions leads to student success.

Leaders should think critically about how to deliver the structure that provides the greatest opportunity for achievement and the best outcomes for students.

I firmly believe that the purpose of systematically thinking about practice is not to establish a one-size-fits-all model for practice but simply to determine situationally what works to help students to achieve at their individual level. In my perfect world, learning, rather than practice or seat time, will be the core measure of progress, and students will be able to demonstrate in dynamic environments what they’ve learned from outset through to proficiency.

What’s more, I’m in accord with Humphrey-Sonntag’s assertion: “Practice does not end when you graduate. Most professional reporters, captioners, and CART providers continue to hone their skills through regular practice and continuing education regimen throughout their careers.” I assert that practice beyond school should be viewed not as a static, one-time experience but as a life-long journey of building one’s knowledge and skills.

As I reflect on my life-long journey toward piano mastery, I realize the importance and necessity to practice regularly. It was during my tenure at MacCormac College that I decided to try again. Witnessing the hard work and dedication of court reporting students gave me the inspiration I needed to take practicing seriously. At times, when I’m dragging to get to my instrument, I often think about the time and effort court reporting students are putting into practice and that gets me motivated. I have found my music again. I have court reporting to thank for that.

Dr. Marnelle Alexis Stephens (known affectionately as ‘Grace’) is chancellor and former president of MacCormac College. She specializes in higher education administration, ministry leadership, strategic planning, and turn-around management. Stephens can be reached at malexis@maccormac.edu.

 

Recognize innovative business strategies with the JCR Awards

JCR Awards - TheJCR comThe JCR Awards are a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. Originally conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards seek nominations for several subcategories, such as best-in-class stories for: Marketing and customer service; Leadership, teambuilding, and mentoring; Use of technology; Community outreach; Service in a nonlegal setting; and Court Reporting & Captioning Week (2016) initiative. In addition, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Nominate a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager or a group, such as firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs. Self-nominations are accepted. More information about specific criteria for each of the categories is available on the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To enter, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31Read more about the JCR Awards.

See last year’s winners. 

JCR Awards nominations open through Oct. 31

Nominate yourself or a noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards. Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies you implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story. Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

NCRA launched redesigned online NCRA Sourcebook

A newly redesigned online NCRA Sourcebook is now available through the National Court Reporters Association’s website. As the newly redesigned membership search site integrates directly with each record,  members can update their information online and see those changes in effect immediately. In addition, members can also add photos to their records.

General Requirements and Minimum Standards updated

In March 2016, NCRA’s Board of Directors approved a number of changes to the General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS) required for NCRA-approved court reporting programs. The changes were the result of several factors including: the need to raise the effectiveness of the educational instruction offered by NCRA-approved court reporting programs; NCRA’s priority to meet its vision of the future of court reporting education; and the findings of an industry-wide study released in 2014 that determined a future need of 5,500 professionals to fill court reporting and captioning job vacancies over the next few years.

NCRA conducted a survey that compared court reporting programs that reported a high rate of graduates to programs that reported lower graduate rates to identify the best practices of the higher performing programs. The best practices identified in the NCRA Instructional Best Practices Survey Summary offer advice to court reporting schools on how to support a student’s success.

Changes to the GRMS that reflect the best practices will take effect on Sept. 1, 2016, and all NCRA-approved programs must be in compliance with the new GRMS by Dec. 31, 2017

As of Sept. 1, 2016, all new applications for NCRA approval must reflect a program’s compliance with the new GRMS.

If you have any questions, contact Cynthia Bruce Andrews, Director of Professional Development, at 703-584-9058 or candrews@ncra.org.

NCRA’s 2016 Convention & Expo: Something for everyone

Convention-JCRcom-BoxAdOnline registration for NCRA 2016 Convention & Expo happening at the Hilton Chicago, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 4-7, closes July 29, so hurry and register now to participate in the vast array of continuing education sessions, networking opportunities, certification preparation workshops for the Certified Realtime Reporter and the Realtime Systems Administrator, and, of course, all that’s new on the Expo floor.

Whether you are an official, freelancer, broadcast or CART captioner, legal videographer, educator, student, or legal services provider, this year’s schedule has something to help you be the architect of your future. Plus attendees who need CEUs can earn up to 2.45 of them with a full registration and optional workshops.

Among the educational session highlights are:

Freelancer business 101. Presenters: Lisa DiMonte, RMR, CMRS; Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS; Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR; and Dave Tackla, CLVS

Compassion fatigue and job stress. Presenter: April Kopp, LCSW, MFA

Your cloud-based office. Presenters: Nancy Bistany, RPR and Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC

The secret business of court reporting. Presenter: Debbie Bridges Duffy, RPR

Beyond the captions:  Captioner roundtable. Presenters: Merilee Johnson, RMR, CRR, CRC; Bill Graham; and Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR

90 apps in 90 minutes. Presenter: Sara Wood, CAE

Tax tips for court reporters. Presenter: Charlotte Ogorek

Best practices for realtime reporting. Presenters: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; Christine Phipps, RPR; and Sandy VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR

Anywhere, anytime:  Online testing. Presenter: Marybeth Everhart, RPR, CRI, CPE

Are you an independent contractor or an employee? Presenter: Chris Wojcicki

Video equipment configuration:  Real world equipment setups. Presenters: Richard Hayden, CLVS, and Jason Levin, CLVS

In addition, students, educators, and school administrators will enjoy a selection of sessions tailored specifically to their interests and needs.

Other highlights for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo include professional speaker and humorist John Wagner, who will address the topic of “Pride in the Profession” when he takes the stage as the keynote presenter during the Premier Session; the national Speed and Realtime Contests; the installation of NCRA’s 2016-2017 Officers and Board of Directors; and the presentation of the Distinguished Service Award, the highest award bestowed by NCRA. Networking opportunities will include receptions, the annual awards and NCRF Angels luncheons, and the President’s Party.

Remember, the deadline for online registration is July 29. For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/Convention.

TEACHING: The qualities of an exceptional instructor

By Aurora Joslyn

Teaching is hard work, and some teachers never grow to be anything better than mediocre. They do the bare minimum required and very little more. Exceptional educators, however, work tirelessly to create a challenging, nurturing environment for their students. Experience has taught me that great teaching seems to have less to do with our knowledge and skills than with our attitude toward our students, our subject, and our work. So what makes a teacher exceptional? Let’s examine the characteristics of an outstanding teacher.

Respect: A great teacher respects students and sets high expectations for all. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students. Effective teachers focus on shared decision-making and teamwork as well as on community building. A great teacher maintains professionalism in all areas — from personal appearance to organizational skills and preparedness for each day. Their communication skills are exemplary, whether they are speaking with an administrator, one of their students, or a colleague. The respect that the great teacher receives because of her professional manner is obvious to those around her.

Compassion. A great teacher must care. A great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic, and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows — the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.

Patience. Exceptional teachers know when to stand back and allow students the time and freedom to figure something out on their own. Because it means loosening control and letting the students lead, this can be one of the most difficult plateaus for a teacher to reach. Many take years to get there. Some never do.

Flexibility. A great teacher can shift gears and is flexible when a lesson isn’t working. This teacher assesses their teaching throughout the lessons and finds new ways to present material to make sure that every student understands the key concepts. Demonstrating the flexibility to experiment with new teaching methods is integral to providing students with a well-rounded education in the 21st century.

Inspiration. A great teacher has their own love of learning and inspires students with their passion for education and for the course material. They constantly renew themselves as professionals on their quest to provide students with the highest quality of education possible. This teacher has no fear of learning new teaching strategies or incorporating new technologies into lessons, and always seems to be the one who is willing to share what they’ve learned with colleagues.

While teaching is a gift that seems to come quite naturally for some, others have to work overtime to achieve great teacher status. With the right combination of respect, compassion, patience, flexibility, and inspiration, an exceptional teacher can make a lasting impact on a student’s education. And the payoff is enormous — for both the teacher and the students.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

Henry B. Adams.

Aurora Joslyn is an NCRA associate member from Hollywood, Fla.  This article was written as part of the requirements for NCRA’s Certified Reporting Instructor course.

 

TEACHING: Lighting the fire

By Josée Boisvert

As the approaches and methodologies applied to instruction and teaching have evolved over the centuries, so too have the challenges. Students today are very different than they were a century ago, or even 20 years ago. Cultural and socio-economic diversity, a rapidly evolving job market, and ever-changing technological advances continue to shape the teaching environment, its institutions, clients, and students.

As a parliamentary reporting teacher, this prompts me to reflect on the attributes I must possess as an instructor in order to adapt to the evolution of various societal aspects and to achieve my ultimate goal: delivering exceptional instruction to aspiring parliamentary reporters.

First and foremost, we expect our teachers to be knowledgeable in the subjects they are teaching and to have acquired the ability to properly plan and structure course delivery. I will therefore strive to be adequately prepared for every course by devising clear learning outcomes, such as speeds to be attained, which will be structured into parts, and supported by the appropriate delivery methods and a variety of resources. Assessment activities, such as assignments, realtime practice, and tests will also be planned to ensure that students are achieving their learning goals. By preparing a detailed syllabus for the course, stating the course outcomes, the resources to be used, and the required assignments, along with session plans and rubrics, I will be more likely to produce concrete learning results for my students as they progress towards their targeted speeds and conflict resolution.

In addition, these tools and strategies play an important role in communicating essential course information to students. A teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with her students is key. For example, by sharing the course syllabus with my students and discussing it with them, I will give them the opportunity to reflect on the learning outcomes, to preview the resources I plan to use, to prepare for assignments according to the course structure, and to understand how they will be assessed and what is expected of them. Providing them with immediate feedback, for example, after dictation practice and readback, will also help ensure that they stay on track at critical steps of the course.

Communication, however, is not a one-way activity. To become an exceptional instructor, I will need to listen to my students and tune into their world. Performing a class survey at the beginning of a session will help me assess the knowledge level of the students and determine possible gaps in theory application, gain insight into their areas of interest, or identify obstacles they might be facing individually, whether they are struggling with speed levels or with specific theory notions. Another effective way for me to gain valuable information and plan next steps will be to obtain their feedback regularly, with the help of tools such as the One-Minute Paper, where students are asked to list an important element they have learned in a class and what notions were lacking.

Of course, the logical consequence of establishing meaningful means of communicating with my students is the necessity to adapt my teaching methods to their needs, interests, goals, and expectations. Adaptability, for a teacher, means that I must strive to create learner-centered courses that will take into account students’ communication preferences to devise activities that will promote their participation in class, as well as in other learning activities, such as projects, tests, and field work. Giving students the opportunity to work in groups on reflective assignments will appeal to learners who are more at ease with social and verbal interaction, while setting aside time for practice and speed contests will motivate kinesthetic students.

I will also aim to offer them a choice of activities according to their individual or group learning styles, and provide them with authentic and relevant context that will foster their ability to retain information, to apply what they have learned in real-life situations, and to achieve higher-order thinking. For example, a field trip to the Senate Chamber will give my students a glimpse of the environment they will be working in. It will reinforce the importance of achieving a conflict-free method and will hopefully motivate them to persevere to acquire realtime and captioning skills.

Adapting to ever-evolving technology will also prove an asset in delivering instruction to students and promoting learning in a modern environment. Both in and outside the classroom, I will tap into the wealth of resources offered by the Web and online applications, whether to provide supplementary reading and practice material, research activities, quizzing and testing opportunities, or to take advantage of more effective means of communication, such as blogs, online discussion groups, or bulletin boards.

Last but not least, drawing from a variety of resources, tools, and activities will also help me create a more dynamic and engaging learning environment for my students. Undoubtedly, making efforts to engage students in their learning and to help them achieve their learning goals can yield rich dividends. As an instructor, I can engage students by incorporating variety in all aspects of teaching. I will plan a mix of instructor-led and instructor-facilitated activities, such as demonstrations and class discussions, or field work and group work that will give students an opportunity to learn according to their preferred styles. Inviting a guest speaker who works in a related field to attend class and read dictation will help challenge students and allow them to learn more about their future working environment. I will also offer them an assortment of textbook, Web, and media resources appropriate to the chosen topics and learning activities, and I will vary the tools used to assess their progress, by offering both cognitive and performance-based tests, such as papers and written exams or quizzes and speed tests. Finally, I believe that by creating a positive and respectful environment, while setting high expectations of students, I will be able to motivate them to persevere in attaining their goals.

Notwithstanding these far-reaching goals and best intentions, the quest to become an exceptional instructor must include a self-assessment strategy. Drawing from the results obtained by my students, their evaluation of the course, and the analysis of my peers, I will strive to adapt and improve my courses as I move forward in my teaching career, with the aspiration of lighting the fire of learning in the heart of every parliamentary reporting student.

Josée Boisvert can be reached at Josee.boisvert@sen.parl.gc.ca. This article was written as part of the requirements for NCRA’s CRI course.