Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Stanford Prison Experiment

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film The Stanford Prison Experiment at the APA (American Psychological Association) conference. The screening of the film was followed by a Q&A session with the led researcher and distinguished psychologist Dr. Philip Zimbardo. The film was adapted from Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. I first learned about the Stanford prison experiment during my undergraduate studies in psychology. The ethical implications of this landmark study are still discussed in undergraduate and graduate psychology classes. It was interesting to now revisit the study as a researcher who has designed and carried out various research studies.

The Stanford prison experiment, a study conducted in 1971, examined the psychological effects of prison life. The male college students who volunteered to be part of the study were randomly assigned to be either prison guards or prisoners. The study was originally planned to run for a two-week period, but it was ended after six days because of what the situation was doing to the participants. Within the first couple of days the guards exhibited sadistic tendencies and the prisons showed signs of extreme stress. Watching the film was distressing (as it should be), as the study itself was controversial and the results quite shocking. It was interesting however, to hear Dr. Zimbardo discuss how the Stanford prison study inspired his notable research on shyness and his recent work the Heroic Imagination Project.

The official Stanford Prison Experiment website:

Ta-Nehisi Coates on Writing

Celebrated writer and editor of blog The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, provides advice to writers. Coates writes about social, cultural, and political issues for The Atlantic, The New York Times, and has published several books. In this short yet powerful video, Coates describes writing as an “act of courage.” He explains: “I always consider the entire process about failure, and I think that’s the reason why more people don’t write.” Coates reminds new writers that ultimately writing is about perseverance.


Watch the video here:

A Memo To States: This Is How You Create A Teacher Shortage

Image Teacher Shortage

When I (Clare) was at AERA in the spring many of my American colleagues were despairing about the dramatic drop in applications to teacher education programs. The article below by Rebecca Klein helps demystify why teaching has becoming a less attractive career choice.

A handy recipe for a teacher shortage like the one in Kansas.

Rebecca KleinEducation Editor, The Huffington Post

It’s back-to-school time in Kansas, and kids are starting to trickle back into school hallways. But when these students arrive at their classrooms, they may not find a teacher standing at the front.

Kansas is suffering from a well-documented teacher shortage. Last year, more than 2,320 educators in the state retired, compared to 1,260 in the 2011-2012 school year, according to data from the Kansas State Department of Educaton. At the same time, 654 teachers decided to leave the state last year, compared to just 399 in 2011-2012. Over 270 open teaching and non-teaching school staff positions were listed on the Kansas Education Employment Board’s website as of Thursday afternoon.

Kansas has previously seen teacher shortages in areas like special education, as well as math and science. But this year, even typically popular jobs, such as teaching social studies classes or elementary school students, are proving hard to fill, KEEB coordinator Julie Wilson told The Huffington Post.

Those familiar with the situation say it is not surprising. A number of factors have recently converged to create a teacher shortage in the Sunflower State. Some of these factors are the result of actions taken by the state government and legislature. Over the past few years, Kansas has cut back on the job protections that give teachers due process rights, created a new school funding system that a district court panel ruled unconstitutional and cut taxes so severely that some districts lacked the revenue to stay open last school year.

“I find it increasingly difficult to convince young people that education is a profession worth considering, and I have some veterans who think about leaving,” Tim Hallacy, superintendent of Silver Lake Schools, told HuffPost last month. “In the next three years I think we’ll have maybe the worst teacher shortage in the country — I think most of that is self-inflicted.”

For other states looking to wind up in the same situation, here’s a surefire recipe for a teacher shortage:

The How To Create A Teacher Shortage Recipe 


1 cup of rhetoric against teachers

2 pounds of bills and programs that attempt to de-professionalize teaching (specifically, a proposed bill that would make it easier to jail teachers for teaching materials deemed offensive and a new program that lifts teacher licensure requirements in certain districts)

3 tablespoons of a lack of due process rights for teachers

½ cup of finely diced repeated budget cuts amid a state revenue crisis

1 stalk of a new school funding system that is currently being challenged in state court

2 grinds of growing child poverty throughout the state

3 tablespoons of low teacher pay

1/3 cup of large numbers of teacher retirements

Practicing Situated Practice through Storytelling

As mentioned before, I (Cathy) am a committed supporter of  implementing a pedagogoy of mulitliteracies (New London Group, 1996) in the classroom.  There are many components to multiliteracies, but for this post I will highlight my use of  only one  component- situated practice.    The situated practice component suggests that pedagogy must consider “the affective and sociocultural needs and identities of all learners” (NLG, 1996, p. 85).  By the inclusion of  students’ “lifeworlds” or home-life and culture, a classroom environment is created where students feel secure and will take risks (NLG, 1996, p. 65).

In a recent storytelling workshop I delivered to ECE students (in a higher education setting), I was intrigued at how the significant situated practice became.   Prior to the class,  I asked the professor what cultures were represented, so I could reflect at least some of these cultures through my story selection.  The list was long, so I had to be selective.  I decided to tell a story from Jamaica, the US and one from India.  These represented not only a range of the participants’ cultures, but also a broad range of storytelling styles, which I thought might be useful for the students to see.   During the workshop I explained to the students that eventually being inclusive of all of the cultures and backgrounds represented in their classrooms  through the stories we tell (and books we read) was essential.  It was our responsibility to get to know our students and know what was important to them.  They agreed that this was important.  But I had a lot to learn about how important,  even when working with adults.

I knew how much the  participants  enjoyed and learned from the experience, as they were highly engaged during the workshop, but i was also treated to written feedback  as the  professor asked the students to post their critiques online.  The following comments caught my interest:

“The workshop really resonated with me… I learned about stance, gestures and facial expressions”

“I was amazed to see how storytelling could grab our attention”

“I am excited to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and try out these strategies with children”

My favourite was:

“I really enjoyed the ending of the workshop using the Urdu [story] “Ek thi Raja, ek thi Rani, doono margy khatm kahanni'” as Urdu is my mother tongue and I was able to understand this very famous [story].”

I did indeed end the workshop with a very short story in Urdu.  In case you do not understand Urdu, in this story there is a  king and a queen, they  die, so the story is over.   That’s it.  It is a traditional ending to a storytelling set.  I usually ask a participant to translate the story for the rest of the group.  Even though my Urdu is not the best, I can always tell who understood the story, because they are the only ones laughing.  Children  are usually delighted that I took the time and effort to be able to tell , regardless of how short,  a story from their culture.  But this small gesture never became more evident  to me than at the conclusion of this workshop.   I was approached by a woman wearing  a khimar (a long, cape-like veil that hangs down to just above the waist, but leaves the face clear).  The woman introduced herself and told me that she was most impressed that I told a story in Urdu.  She said she felt it made her Urdu speaking colleagues very happy.  She then asked me to do something I was not expecting.  “Would you”, she asked timidly, “consider sometimes ending your storytelling in Arabic?”  I smiled and immediately answered “of course, if you will teach me!”   She was delighted and proceed to teach me  the following traditional ending:

Touta touta.  Kelset el haa do tah.

This is now part of my repertoire.  I was never more convinced of how significant it is to honor the cultures of our students.   Young or older, it is their identity and they need us, their teachers, to validate this.  I will endeavor to enlarge my commitment to situated practice by sometimes speaking in Arabic for my students and hope my  students, whether ECE students, student teachers, or teacher educators will consider doing the same.

What Happened to Greg Louganis?

I (Clare) watched the most fascinating documentary Back On Board: Greg Louganis about the diving champion Greg Louganis. His story is tragic – he won 4 Olympic gold medals (1984 and 1988 Olympics) but once it was revealed that he was HIV+ sponsorships vanished. In 2011, four-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis is far from the public eye and struggling to pay his mortgage. Now, the openly gay, HIV+ world-class athlete returns to diving to mentor the USA Olympic hopefuGreg Louganis ls. Here is a little clip from the documentary:

The documentary is extremely well done – not sentimental, Louganis tells his story, and the viewer can draw his/her own conclusions. We have come a long way in accepting gay athletes but there is still so much work to be done. This documentary would be so useful to show to students both in terms of structure and in content. It is being rebroadcast on HBO a number of times this month and I think it is on Netflix. It is well worth watching (be sure to have a hanky or two available because Louganis is almost destitute, he loses his house, is selling his Olympic gold medals …. And he seems like the nicest fellow. Yes he was naïve but then he was very young).

A New Dr. Seuss Book

I am looking forward to reading the recently released Dr. Seuss book entitled What Pet Should I Get? His widow Audrey discovered the manuscript and illustrations a few years ago, however, it is believed that Seuss originally created the work between 1958 and 1962. A New York Times review describes the book as “short and Seuss-ish” and “filled with creatures both real and zany.”  Another book to share with the student teachers in the primary division.

Link to the review: