Monthly Archives: January 2014

Congratulations Tim Fletcher

Tim Fletcher and Shawn BullockCongratulations to Dr. Tim Fletcher for being awarded the 2014 AIESEP (International Association for Physical Education in Higher Education) Young Scholar Award. Tim is the first Canadian to receive this award. Tim is doing cutting-edge research on health and physical education (including self-studies of his own practices as a teacher educator). Tim is an Assistant Professor at Brock University. Check out his faculty page for a partial list of his publications.
Tim has been part of both of our research projects (Clive’s longitudinal study of teachers and Clare’s study of literacy/English teacher educators). He is an outstanding young scholar who is so worthy of this award.
This attached picture is of Tim and Shawn Bullock, another outstanding young Canadian scholar with whom Tim has collaborated. Check out Shawn’s website for a list of some of his publications. Shawn’s work is making a real difference in how we understand teacher education.
Send us pictures from the award ceremony at the AIESEP World Congress being held in Auckland next month.

Critical Literacy vs Language Acquisition

Critical literacy and Language acquisition.  I (Yiola) have pondered these two concepts — what they mean, what they entail, and why they are important.  In much of the literature I have read, there appears to be distinct 2 camps:  those who study language acquisition that is, how we learn to read and write: how we develop phonemic awareness, and learn to decode, and develop syntax and those who study critical literacy: a newer approach to learning how to analyze and understand texts in a socially conscious way.  I have asked myself, are they in two distinct domains of Language discourse? They appear to be. Do you agree?  Yet, when I think about teaching literacy to children in the context of schooling and what readers and communicators need to know, then critical literacy is a form of language acquisition. Children must know how to read and analyze texts, and they must know how to read and analyze the world. Children acquire language through critical literacy. Critical literacy is then a significant part of language acquisition. In teacher education literacy courses, is the concept of critical literacy taught with the same importance and priority as the more traditional methods and means for language acquisition? Ultimately I’m wondering, what are the essential components of literacy curriculum for 21st century teacher education programs?

If You Build It: Documentary on Making Teaching Relevant

If you live anywhere in the Toronto region you might be interested in this documentary, IF YOU BUILD IT. The film  is a captivating look at a radically innovative approach to education. The film follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to help transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money, and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills—it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to reinvent their town and their own sense of what’s possible. IF YOU BUILD IT offers a compelling and hopeful vision for a new kind of classroom in which students learn the tools to design their futures. Here is the link to a clip from the movie:
The documentary is being shown in a number of cities in Canada. To find out where click on this link: and it is probably being shown in cities world-wide. Even if you cannot attend the documentary, watching a clip of the movie is fascinating.
Hot Docs is pleased to announce that February’s Doc Soup will present the Canadian premiere of IF YOU BUILD IT (D: Patrick Creadon, USA, 85 min.) An official selection of the 2013 Full Frame Documentary Festival, IF YOU BUILD IT will screen on Wednesday, February 5, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., and on Thursday, February 6, at 6:45 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor St. West).
Filmmaker Patrick Creadon will be in attendance to introduce the film and answer questions following the screenings. For more information please visit:
We look forward to seeing you at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Wednesday, February 5, and Thursday, February 6 for IF YOU BUILD IT!

 If you have any questions regarding your tickets or any questions or comments about Doc Soup, please email our box office bloorboxoffice@hotdoc, or call 416.637.5150.


Multicultural Education that Avoids Stereotyping

Stereotypes are the main basis of prejudice and discrimination; yet multicultural education often reinforces stereotypes. How to resolve this problem?
My (Clive) social foundations ITE class this year is a dream come true: bursting with talent; an extremely diverse group but with a strong sense of camaraderie; full of fun but serious about learning to teach well. On Monday we had the second of three classes on inclusive education, with a focus that day on multicultural education. It was a wonderful session. Every student participated, and many spoke openly about their own racial and ethnic background. For example:

  • Jim: Identifies as Black, born in Canada, of Caribbean ancestry, not tall enough to play basketball well, doesn’t like rap music.
  • Janni: Born in Canada; her parents are of South Asian ancestry but grew up in South Africa and talk often about their life in that country.
  • Sandi: Parents of Indian background, most of her schooling in Germany, often refers to herself as Tamil Canadian.
  • Ali: Identified by others as Black, ½ Somali, ¼ Italian, lived much of his early life in Saudi Arabia before his family moved to Canada, family is Muslin but he isn’t really religious.
  • Mike: Born in Canada but of ¾ Irish and ¼ Scots ancestry, classical musician, worried in school that when teachers saw his Irish name they would look down on him.

Given this ethnic complexity in today’s world, how can we take the common approach of talking about ethnic groups and resolving to respect the people who belong to them? In what sense do students have an ethnic identity? True, people differ a lot, but their differences rarely run along ethnic, racial, or religious lines. The differences within such categories are much greater than between them. A large proportion of a person’s identity comes from individual qualities, as advocates of differentiation and multiple intelligences have said for some time. Ethnicity is important and should be respected, but individuals have complex ethnicities and draw on each facet in distinctive ways.

As the discussion unfolded, we came to the conclusion that in school we should focus largely on: (a) historical and current cases of bias and discrimination and their enormous human cost; (b) the positives of being inclusive; (c) the limits to ethnic and racial labelling; (d) commonalities that cut across sub-groups; and (e) the importance of individual identity.

At a personal level, many students seemed relieved at the thought that they could develop their own identity and didn’t have to fit a standard ethnic identity. I think many school students would feel the same way, and adopting this approach in the classroom would strengthen community and individual self-esteem.


Women in Leadership Positions in Higher Education

In our study of literacy/English teacher educators we asked participants about their career path. They did a timeline (personal and professional) of turning points. A number have held administrative positions in the university but many found the workload crushing. So I (Clare) was very interested in the recent study, Lost leaders – Women in the Global Academy, which studied females in administrative positions in higher education.
It showed that “[g]ender equality legislation, socio-economic and de-traditionalisation factors have all played a part in this welcome trend [increase in female students in higher education], yet so far they appear to have had relatively little impact on opportunities for women to reach senior management and academic leadership positions in the sector.”  Why are women under-represented in senior leadership positions in universities? In the study they found that “[m]any women … discussed the benefits of gaining power and influence in organisations to effect change. However, leadership was frequently constructed as loss – loss of status and self esteem in the case of unsuccessful applications, but loss of independence, autonomy, research time and well-being when applications were successful.”
I believe there is a real loss not only to women themselves when they choose to not pursue leadership positions but also to institutions when women are under-represented at the decision-making table. I have held a number of senior administrative positions and I can relate to feelings of loss but I also felt there were much higher expectations for me than for my male counter-parts. As a result the position became untenable.  I felt it was a loss to me definitely. Was it a loss to the institution?  Hhhhmmm….. Clare

Truly Engaging Students and Meeting Their Needs: Reconciling Our Ideals with Their Realities


John LoughranAs our team continues its research and writing on teaching, I (Clive) have been re-reading John Loughran’s wonderful book What Expert Teachers Do (Routledge, 2010).
This week I came across a section that reports a common gap between teacher and student views of good teaching (pp. 210-11). For example:
Teacher view:
Students should have opportunities to be active and think about their learning experiences
Student view:
Learning is associated with gaining right answers, and thinking and personal understanding are just different and often frustrating ways of achieving required outcomes
Teacher view:
Linking experiences from both within and outside school greatly assists learning
Student view:
The final grade is the critical outcome and the basis by which progress is judged

Loughran’s colleague Jeff Northfield, on whose teaching experiences these findings were based, was able to bridge the gap to a degree, but only by “listening carefully to his students [and] capitalising on opportunities as they arose.”Cover of What Expert Teachers Do
This helped me see that in developing ideas about good teaching (and good teacher education) we must work closely with our students, listening to them as they describe the realities of their world. Together we must come up with a pedagogy they understand and accept, one that both meets their immediate needs and ensures deeper gains for the long-term. We need to reconcile broader ideals with hard realities.
I think this can be done; but we must actually do it. Part of what is involved is practicing with our students the constructivism and dialogical teaching we believe in, and that really does work.  Clive

AERA Division K New Faculty Preconference

Attention Division K New Faculty! Only a few spots remaining for the New Faculty Preconference.The deadline for applications is January 31, 2014!

The pre conference starts on Wednesday, April 2 at 4:00. We meet again on Thursday, April 3 from 9:00 – 12:00.  This Division K New Faculty Seminar is an exciting opportunity to dialogue, socialize, and share with other new faculty and the facilitators and is designed to:

•             Provide support for new teaching and teacher education faculty,

•             Engage Division members with each other and with the Division’s activities,

•             Examine various methodological approaches to research,

•             Create professional networks that will last a lifetime, and

•             Make important scholarly connections that create a community of new scholars.


The preconference organizers are established scholars who will discuss ways to thrive in your career. Our division is committed to supporting new faculty! There is a maximum of 25 participants.

To apply for the pre-conference submit a two-page letter of application that includes a description of: (a) applicant’s background; (b) the applicant’s current position and years of service; (c) research interested and methodological approaches to research; and (d) one or two problems of issues in transitioning from being a graduate student to the role of faculty member.

Send your application and questions to Clare Kosnik at

The Pre-conference Facilitators are:

Renée T. Clift, University of Arizona
Tom Dana, University of Florida
Valerie Kinloch, The Ohio State University
Clare Kosnik, University of Toronto/Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Rich Milner, University of Pittsburgh,


International Baccalaureate symbol

IB schooling in Mumbai

While in Mumbai, I (Pooja) had some candid conversations with my cousins (who now have school-aged children) about schooling. The International Baccalaureate (IB) has quickly become the new standard. My cousins spoke highly about the IB curriculum, noting that it encouraged students to view themselves as “global citizens.”  The curriculum, they commented, deviated away from that of traditional schooling in India. The skills were now focused on: critical thinking; intercultural awareness; independent learning; evaluating and constructing arguments; and independent learning.

The pressures to get their children into an International Baccalaureate (IB) program were high. My cousins already had aspirations of sending their young children to top-performing universities outside of India (mostly in the U.S., Canada, and U.K.).   A major concern I heard was that if they did not get into an IB program, how would they compete in this highly globalized world? I understood this to mean that in order to be competitive one had to be complete their formal education outside of India. This  was concerning  because competition aside, IB schools are extremely expensive, and so, not available to the vast majority of families in India. While very few are privileged to apply and possibly attend IB schools in India, most school children in India still attend public school. I am interested in learning more about the public school curriculum in Mumbai? How are public schools currently preparing their students to be  “global citizens?” or is this a notion that is still intangible for most? Pooja

Unsung: Behind the Glee: A MUST Watch Video

There is an amazing documentary, Unsung: Behind the Glee, which chronicles the journey of two rival Toronto high school glee clubs as they gear up for a musical showdown at the annual Show Choir Canada National Championship.Musical Notes

 This documentary is fascinating because
·      it has incredible music and dance;
·      shows the value of the arts in the lives of some adolescents;
·      and clearly demonstrates the commitment of teachers.
Yes it is a competition (and many of the students are elite singers/dancers) but it is an inside look at the work and enthusiasm of teachers and students alike. For some students their involvement in music and dance literally “saved” them. For some of the teachers, their music/dance groups are like their family (they scold, praise, encourage, laugh, cry). There are powerful stories of kids overcoming huge adversity through their involvement in these musical groups.
Clive and I watched it last night and I was moved to tears. It is only available until January 27th so give yourself an hour (stop preparing for class or marking or doing housework ….) and watch it.
For those of you not in the arts (like me) it was very informative. For those of you in the arts you will probably relate to the stories and unfolding events. Whether students are elite or just enjoy music and dance (for appreciation), the arts have a very important place in the curriculum and should be well funded. The arts are not a frill but are part of the basics of life.