Monthly Archives: August 2014

Muay Thai is education: How martial arts impact learning

This past weekend my (yiola’s) family was involved in a Muay Thai Expo.  Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) is a martial art that originates from Thailand  and is now taught all over the world.

My partner is a Master of Muay Thai and has schools here in Ontario: and  This past weekend we held a Muay Thai expo in Toronto. People from across Ontario, Quebec and Mexico attended. Here are some images from the weekend:

a local instructor gives a talk on Being a student: An approach to learning muay thai
A local instructor, Kru Nick Bautista, gives a talk on: Being a student: An approach to learning Muay Thai


Master Suchart taking a group through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai
Master Suchart taking a group of students through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai


World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence
World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence

As I observed the teaching and learning that took place this weekend I was reminded how valuable this type of education is to a society.  From all walks of life, students come to learn a tradition, a martial art, and a way of life.  The outcomes are far reaching and extend to many areas of life including: heightened self-confidence, increased physical fitness and technical skills, and improved health. Through these developments individuals are able to participate in their communities in more creative and productive ways.

I watched on in amazement as each instructor brought to the Expo their expertise and passion for learning.  The instructors’ ability to demonstrate martial art while also teaching elements of the martial art was inspiring to me as an educator. The tone,  language, sequence of instruction, and balance between physical practice and presentation were effective and kept students/participants engaged for 5 hours of learning each day. Students learned a great deal about Muay Thai and I suspect that they walked away from the experience  more confident, stronger, and educated in the art of Muay Thai. Moreso, I know that many students of martial art are able to take their learning and apply it to their lives in general.  Teaching and learning martial arts (and most sport for that matter) extends beyond the art/sport itself into the realm of human experience: morality, ethics, and everyday life.

In teaching sport as a particular kind of human practice, however,  it is the physical educationist’s responsibility to see that the ethical principles upon which it is based are properly understood and that the manner in which a sport is conducted is in accord with its rules and in keeping with the best traditions of its practice. The physical educationist can guarantee nothing, but as an influential guardian of an ethically based practice he can do a good deal to uphold its highest ideals, its most cherished traditions. As in all forms of learning much depends on the attitudes and judgments that are brought to bear upon what is done and whether what is taught and encouraged, is regarded as worthwhile in the context of life. Like morality, sport is a species of evaluation, a kind of appraisal of human conduct. 

Taken from:  Arnold, P.J. (1984).  Sport, Moral Education and the Development of Character. Journal of Philosophy of Education 18(2). 275-281.

Children, teens, adults have much to gain from learning a martial art. Well beyond how to punch, elbow, knee and kick Muay Thai teaching and learning has the capacity to influence and foster character development in many ways.

Why did you give me a happy face when I only got 2 answers correct?

As many of you are gearing up for the start of school, I (Clare) want to share one of the Happy Facemost inspiring talks on education I have heard. Rita Pierson is a high school teacher whose talk on motivating students was amazing. Her views are so in sync with many of our blogs that I wanted to share it with you. Like me, she believes that teaching is a relational act. In the face of standardized tests and prescriptive curriculum, she keeps her focus on the students. Her story of giving a student who only scored 2/20 a happy face on his test will bring a smile to every teacher. When the high school student wondered why he got a happy face when he only got 2 answers correct, her answer will surprise you. Her talk is only 6 minutes long but it is worth. I think teachers will find it inspiring. And every teacher educator should show this video to his/her student teachers because this is what true teaching is all about. Here is the link to the Ted Talk:

Travel is an Education

When I (Cathy) was a grade school teacher, there were times when parents took their children out of school for a family trip. Often, a parent would ask if they could borrow a math or language text book to bring along so the child could “keep up”. I begged them not to. “Please,” I would say, “have them keep a journal. Draw what they see. Describe the people they meet. Take pictures and keep a record of them. Videotape a special event. Make a scrap book. Record the weather. Calculate the distance you travel every day. Follow the map. Plan an excursion.” In other words, I would ask the parent to use the trip as a resource.  I would also suggest the child prepare to share some of their experiences with the class when they retuned, so we could all learn from the


I was alarmed to think they would imprison their child in a hotel room or trailer to keep up with what we were doing in the classroom sometimes hundreds of miles away. There was so much to see and learn from the incredible world around them!child videotaping

Now, the affordances available for a child to investigate, record and share a trip are so much more interesting! A colleague of mine asked a grade one student of hers, who was going to the Olympics, to Skype the class every Tuesday morning from wherever she was and share her experiences. Her class loved it. They felt like they were there with her. After the Skype meeting the class would research the people and places she talked about. That one student’s trip became a class project.

This past summer, I travelled through Greece with my husband. I was delighted to see so many children capturing the sites we visited on an tablets and smartphones. I wondered if they would share any of it with classmates. I would still encourage a parent to not use a text book on a trip. The real world is just too interesting and there are so many creative ways to explore it. It’s all learning.tablets

5 rookie researcher mistakes

As we get ready to start a new academic year, I (Clare) found this advice for new graduate students extremely helpful and accurate. Excellent suggestions relevant to all graduate students.

The Thesis Whisperer

One thing I have learned over the years I have been Whispering is, although the problems they face are similar, no two research students are alike. What works for one person may not work for another. For this reason I have developed a habit of ‘reverse advice’ lists, for example: “5 classic research presentation mistakes” “Are you getting in the way of your PhD?” , “5 ways to fail your PhD” and “5 ways to poster = fail”.

I like a reverse list because it highlights the problem more than the suggested solutions, leaving you free to choose your own.

This time of year I attend a lot of research student orientation sessions around RMIT, where I usually give my  ‘top five newbie mistakes’ talk. I tell students there’s no need to take notes because I have blogged it (yet another reason to keep up a blog by the way)…

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Using Digital Texts in a Grade One Classroom

On twitter today I (Lydia) came across an interesting blog post from grade one teacher Kathy Cassidy from Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, in which she describes how she incorporates digital texts into her shared reading program. I hope to share some of the activities reported on Ms. Cassidy’s classroom blog with the pre-service teachers in our literacy methods courses this fall.

The Triple Focus

I (Pooja) came across a new book I am interested in reading , so I thought I’d share it with our blog community. The new book by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge is entitled The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education (2014) and makes a case that education should focus on three things:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Empathy
  3. Understanding our relationship with the larger world


This focus on self, other, and world in the classroom is something I am particularly interested in as I feel it is increasingingly necessary in today’s classrooms. Daniel Goleman explains:

 These skill sets interact very naturally. We feel that this complete inner tool kit should be a part of every child’s learning as the world they are growing into becomes more distracted, relationships more besieged, and everything more interconnected and complex.


Below is an excerpt from the new book:

Empathy and Academic Success

The key to compassion is being predisposed to help — and that can be learned.

There is an active school movement in character education and teaching ethics. But I don’t think it’s enough to have children just learn about ethical virtuosity, because we need to embody our ethical beliefs by acting on them. This begins with empathy.

There are three main kinds of empathy, each involving distinct sets of brain circuits. The first is cognitive empathy: understanding how other people see the world and how they think about it, and understanding their perspectives and mental models. This lets us put what we have to say in ways the other person will best understand.

The second is emotional empathy, a brain-to-brain linkage that gives us an instant inner sense of how the other person feels — sensing their emotions from moment to moment. This allows “chemistry” in our connections with people.

Those two are very important of course; they’re key to getting along with other people, but they’re not necessarily sufficient for caring. The third is called, technically,empathic concern — which naturally leads to empathic action.Unlike the other two kinds of empathy, this variety is based in the ancient mammalian circuitry for caring and for parenting, and it nurtures those qualities.

Read more at:

Self-portraits and sparkling feet: Communication & representation in the early years

It seems my (yiola’s) blog posts run parallel to the foci in my life. This makes good sense as it seems the blog genre, whether an MAB or personal, pulls from the writer their interests, latest happenings and experiences. This past month I have had the privilege of  spending a great deal of time with my two young children; hence the sharing of teaching and learning and literacy in the early years in many of my posts.

My four year old has been busy communicating, sharing and representing. Through her drawings she expresses her feelings and is able to share stories and ideas.

In March she drew and spoke about our family:


Her most recent self portrait:


Note the addition of the ears and arms that are now present in every drawing she creates.

For me, these developments are huge; for ECE researchers and educators these drawings are nothing new:

And yet, I still marvel at my child’s ability to communicate and represent in such meaningful ways.  My daughter expressed the other day  “momma, my feet are sparkling”… I did not bother to explain that wasn’t the case, that instead, her “feet fell asleep” because really, is one expression more accurate than the other?

An interesting and short description of stages of art development:

What caught my attention from the article was the statement below:

Of course, what children seem to do naturally and what they are capable of doing are entirely different matters. It is likely that teachers will find that students within their classrooms are at varied points in their graphic development since some have had abundant prior experiences with art, whereas others, may have had limited creative opportunities. Thus, teachers should avoid the temptation to place children at a particular stage simply because of their age or grade level.

… and how true this is of exposure to all subject/school related matter.

As I read about child development and literacy I appreciate  the stages of development. As a teacher (and now parent) I have seen the stages unfold; however, as I read and observe the effects of providing opportunities for creative development and the use of multi literacies with young children I am more excited about the possibilities for language and literacy development  in areas such as: creative thinking, communication, problem solving and representation.

In keeping with ‘you teach who you are’, I cannot help but think about these areas of interest for my work.  As I prepare my courses for the coming year I am searching for readings and experiences for student teachers that will encourage discussion about creative thinking/problem solving and the implementation of various kinds of opportunities for pupil’s acquiring literacy both in and out of classrooms.


10,000 Hits and Counting

Today marks a milestone for our blog. We had our 10,000th hit! Wow! I (Clare) started Pooja Dharamshithis blLydia and Cliveog in January as a way to share our research and it has grown beyond my wildest dreams. For a little education blog we now have 126 followers and visitors from around the world. My research team – Cathy, Yiola, Lydia, Pooja, and Clive – have faithfully written such interesting posts that I have learned much from them and about them. Thanks team. Thank you to our guest bloggers – Monica, Shelley, and Gisela – for enriching our site. And a huge thank you to Arif who has helped with the technical parts of the website and for his guidance in creating a dynamic Cathy Miyatablog.

Yiola CleovoulouI would never have thought that blogging could be such a rewarding form of writing. I have learned much about this genre of writing and enjoyed searching for topics that I hoped would be of interest to others Thank you to all of our regular blog readers and followers whose regular visits motivated us to keep on going. We regularly get feedback from readers on our site. Thanks readers for your compliments and feedback. We read every comment and appreciate the time you take to write to us.

So a shout out to social media for making this blog an international adventure focused on literacy and literacy teacher education.IMG_7907[3]

Workshopping Literacy in East Germany

Last month,  I (Cathy) was invited to present a workshop on literacy and the arts in Gotha, Germany, for a group of educators.  At the beginning of the workshop, one of the teachers admitted, “I really don’t know what literacy means.” I wasn’t really surprised as interpretations of literacy are so varied. When a few others also admitted they were not sure, I invited them to find a matching-shoe partner and share with them what they thought literacy meant.

Once the discussion was opened up to the whole group, it was interesting to hear what they came up with.  They started off with the traditional reading and writing interpretation and we decided together these were forms of communication. From there, the definition really expanded. One participant suggested literacy included reality, while another suggested emotion. As we probed deeper the idea literacy was a view of the world was introduced. Eventually I asked them to look around the room at the fabulous paintings hanging on the walls. They were painted by local school children and they were emoting wonderful narratives. Yes, they decided, the paintings were also literacy. Throughout the rest of the workshop we explored ways to use storytelling and drama as literacy.

It was exciting to witness the development of a deeper understanding of an enormous concept like literacy. I like to think this encounter helped these teachers to see meaning-making in a new way. I wonder how it will affect their use of literacy in their classrooms.   On the chart we created together, it was also suggested literacy was fun.  It was.  Hope it is for their students too.

photophoto wall


Teacher inquiry: this just in from Piaget!

Yes, I (Clive) know I should get a life, but lately I’ve been reading Dewey, Vygotsky, and Piaget (there’s a constructivist connection).

Skimming through Piaget’s The Moral Judgment of the Child (R&KP, 1932) I came across this wonderful quote in the very last paragraph (p. 414).

“Educational experiment…is certainly more instructive for psychology than any amount of laboratory experiments…. But the type of experiment which such research would require can only be conducted by teachers or by the combined efforts of practical workers and educational psychologists. And it is not in our power to deduce the results to which this would lead.”

This captures so well what I was trying to say in my previous blog. Academics and teachers must inquire together, rather than taking pot-shots at each other.

It feels good to be backed up by the likes of Piaget.