Monthly Archives: April 2015

Educational Research: Small Scale or Large?

On Monday, Clare and I (Clive) had the privilege of attending an outstanding symposium at Brock University on self-Image Brock Symposiumstudy research on teacher education. It was organized by Tim Fletcher and Deirdre NiChroinin and funded by their respective institutions, Brock University and the University of Limerick. Highlighted speakers were Clare, Julian Kitchen, and Tom Russell. Apart from the local audience, the symposium was streamed live and will be archived for online access at : (Under Self Study Symposium — 01:46:06).

One issue that came up was the validity of self-study inquiry versus research with a larger sample size. It was noted that there is pressure (from tenure and promotion committees as well as policy developers) to conduct research larger in scope than the typical self-study project. Some suggest that to increase the “significance” of self-study research it may be necessary to combine a number of smaller projects.

From the audience, I made a comment that was lost electronically and Tim and Deirdre have asked me to repeat it here. My comment was as follows:

Small scale research by individuals or small groups often provides a depth of understanding not available through large scale research. We must not assume that bigger is better. While large sample research is suitable for certain purposes, often something is lost when we move to a larger sample and have to ask simpler, one-shot questions, where the meaning of the questions and answers is often unclear. The typical self-study project enables us to probe in considerable depth the nature, purpose, and effectiveness of various teaching practices.

Dewey, Schon and, more recently, Zeichner, Cochran-Smith, and Lytle have emphasized how much practitioners learn on the job; and Bryk et al. in their recent book Learning to Improve (Harvard Education Press, 2015) maintain that quantitative researchers must join forces with on-site practitioner-inquirers to build a complex, publically available framework of educational concepts, principles, and practices (somewhat akin to Wikipedia). Both types of research are needed. We must not privilege one over the other.

School Board Proposes Multi-language Immersion Program

The Toronto Catholic District School Board has plans to establish a multi-language specialty school. The proposed immersion program, being considered for north Scarborough as early as this fall, would offer instruction in French, Spanish, German, and Mandarin. Michael Del Grande, chair of the TCDSB noted “my view is we’re not preparing our students for the world stage, we barely do a passing job with French, and we’re a bilingual country! So we’re asking parents if they’d like to educate their children in the languages of some of the largest economies in the world.”  What do you think about this type of immersion program? Should other languages be included in the program?

Link to the Toronto Star article:

Sir Ken Robinson’s New Book!


It has been nearly a decade since Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk, How Schools Kills Creativity. (If you haven’t seen it, click here: Robinson along with Lou Aronica have recently published a book titled Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education. The text has received glowing reviews. I look forward to reading it in the very near future. Some of the reviews of the book (as listed on include:

  • “This book is a wake-up call to the emerging global human resources crisis. Increasing boredom, disengagement and dropouts among students have become chronic aspects of many school systems around the world. Creative Schools is a must-read for anyone who is interested in critique, vision, and theory of change for the new course of schooling.” —PASI SAHLBERG, author of Finnish Lessons 2.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland 
  • Creative Schools is one of those rare books that not only inspires and brings a new sense of possibility to the goal of transforming education, but also lays out an actionable strategy. Ken Robinson is leading a daring revolution to change how we understand schools, learning, and most importantly, the passion and talent of our students. This is a global game-changer and I’m in.”—BRENÉ BROWN, PH.D., author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly
  • “This is the book we have been waiting for from Sir Ken Robinson —laying out what is fundamentally wrong with our education systems, and correspondingly showing what and how it should and could be different. He makes creativity, and much more, come alive. Don’t start reading this book unless you have three hours before you, as you will have difficulty putting it down. Then, think about what you might do and re-read the book with others to start making the changes. Creative schools indeed! The timing is perfect.”—MICHAEL FULLAN, OC. Professor Emeritus, OISE/University of Toronto and author of The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact

Rules for Writing

There are many rules to writing and as quickly as new genres are entering the literary scene, so too are the rules changing.
Here is an interesting explanation of a rule of writing and its evolution:

I see two big issues at play: 1) the rules of writing 2) writing with genre and audience in mind

It seems to me (Yiola) the rules are changing and this is in large part because genres are so rapidly evolving and being introduced.

There is much to be said for the traditional forms and genres of literary expression. And, it is the traditional forms I believe we still teach in schools. And yet with digital literacy there are many new forms being implemented and introduced in classrooms too.

I (Yiola) see writing as an art. The crisper the writing the more vivid the message. The clearer the writing the more opportunity for complex ideas.

The big question is… how to best teach writing in the elementary classroom? I remember teaching writing in the Junior grades (4th, 5th, 6th grades) with the audience, purpose and genre in mind… Now however all 3 elements (audience, purpose and genre) have grown to include several (more) possibilities.

Jo Lampert: National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools Program

IMG_0339I (Clare) invited Jo Lampert from Queensland University of Technology to talk to our research group about IMG_0340the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools Program which she and Bruce Burnett direct. This is an amazing program which aims to prepare student teachers to work in high needs schools.

The Faculty of Education developed the National Exceptional Teachers for Disadvantaged Schools (NETDS) program in 2009 to address the significant social issue of educational disadvantage through a teacher education program that explicitly focused on the preparation of high-quality teacher graduates. NETDS ensures that the best suited pre-service teachers are equipped to teach and encouraged to select employment in low socio-economic status school settings.

Each year we identify our highest-quality pre-service teachers who participate in a specialised curriculum that better prepares them to teach within low socio-economic status schools. We’ve partnered with the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment and key low socio-economic status schools to help channel these exceptional pre-service teachers into sites where they can have the greatest impact.

Jo LampertWe learned:

  • Approximately 90% of NETDS graduates have secured employment with schools below the Australian mean Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage level of 1,000.
  • Many graduates secure full-time employment in low socio-economic status schools before they graduate.
  • School partners have grown from 3 in 2009 to approximately 50 in 2014.
  • We’ve developed distinctive workshops focusing on ‘real world’ issues related to disadvantage.

For more information go to their website:

No Reading on the School Bus!

Literacy advocates, beware.  This news story might break your heart.

Eight-year-old Sarah Auger, from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec,  was told she was no longer allowed to read books on the school bus.  The bus driver thinks it poses ” a safety risk to the other students”.

When the child’s father challenged the rule,  the school board conceded that “obviously” reading was not dangerous.  Yet, Mario Champagne, the general secretary and director of communications for the Hautes-Rivière school board, said, “The responsibility of a school bus driver is to transport students safely”.  And since the bus driver makes the rules- No Reading!



New Faculty Preconference: An Amazing Community

IMG_0304I (Clare) have just returned from AERA. One of the highlights of the conference for me was my work with new faculty. Division K (Teaching and Teacher Education) offers a preconference for new faculty and I was one of the organizers for it. Along with my fellow facilitators, Renee Clift, Rich Milner, Tom Dana, and Valerie Kinloch, we worked with 30 IMG_0289new faculty. On the first day of the preconference we began with the Facilitators sharing their stories – successes and challenges – which helped create an open environment. The participants then shared their stories. It was clear that all were committed to being the best faculty they could be, all had some successes the past year, and the transition to their new role has had some bumps. On the second day we broke into small groups where we addressed: mentoring (finding a mentor and/or academic community); tenure and promotion process; research and publishing; and balancing work and family life. We concluded with each person sharing a “take away” that is something they plan to work on over the next few months.

divknewfacI have been involved in the Division K Preconference for a number of years and this year was particularly special. The IMG_0297Facilitators had so much to share but they created space for the participants. We came together as a community and connections were made among all of us. This kind of support for new faculty is so important because as the literature reveals (e.g., Murray and Male’s work) that the transition from classroom teacher/graduate student to an academic position is not straightforward. There are issues of identity, workplace norms, pedagogy for higher education, academic community, pressure to publish, and …. I know that as a new faculty I would have appreciated having a mentor, a place to ask questions, and to know that what I was experiencing is “typical”.

It was great meeting these wonderfully talented new faculty who are the future of teacher education. I wish them all the best with their various endeavours. I feel that I have made 30 new friends!divknewfac2

A focus on digital literacy practices at AERA 2015


I  just returned from another American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference. While in Chicago, I attended several sessions focused around literacy education, teacher education, and critical pedagogy and noticed digital literacy practices were discussed in all sessions. Interestingly, in the studies discussed digital technology was used not only as a tool to teach but a tool to re-imagine the definition and uses of literacy practices. Interesting sessions I attended included:

*Digital Storytelling as Method and Narrative Assemblage (Korina Jocson, University of Massachusetts)

 *Digital Storytelling as Racial Justice: Digital Hopes for Deconstructing Whiteness in Teacher Education (Cheryl Matias, University of Colorado & Tanetha Grosland, Morgan State University)

*Digital Authoring: Negotiations of Identity, Agency, and Power Among Girls Resettles as Refugees from Thailand (Delila Omerbasic, University of Utah)

 *Digital Storytelling in Preservice Teacher Education: Diverse Understandings of Writing, Pedagogy, and Meaning Making (Sandra Schamroth Abrams, Saint John’s University)

Benjamin Herold from the Education Week blog noticed a similar trend at this year’s conference. On his blog he said, “Digital reading and early literacy were among the hot topics at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, held here last week.” He describes the findings of four studies which study digital reading and early literacy. He noticed a common thread which ran through many of these papers: “It’s important to look at how digital devices, apps, and e-books are actually being used in classrooms, and the most promising literacy practices with these new tools involve lots of human-to-human interaction.”

Read Herold’s blogpost here: