All posts by ckosnik

Year 13 of Our Longitudinal Study of Teachers

Clare and I (Clive) and our wonderful research team are now in year 13 of our longitudinal study of 40 teachers, 20 of whom began teaching in 2004 and 20 in 2007. Every year we interview them and, wherever possible, observe them in their classroomClive Becks. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) continues to provide funding for the project and will do so for at least another 2 years. We are now gearing up for the 2017 interviews beginning in late April.
Of the original 45 teachers, 3 have left the study and 2 have dropped out of teaching, a remarkable retention rate. As the years mount, interest in the study grows. Four of five proposals based on the study for the 2017 AERA Conference in San Antonio were accepted for presentation. We were also asked to write a chapter on Longitudinal Study of Teachers for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education, to appear this year. For their part, the teachers continue to show resilience despite the increasing challenges of teaching (which they tell us about), including: larger class sizes, reduced special education support, increased standardized testing of students, and top-down control of teachers’ practices.

Based on the study, perhaps the biggest problem we see in education today is this ill-conceived, top-down monitoring of students and teachers, which does very little good and a great deal of harm, and ignores the steadily developing expertise of teachers – which again our study reveals. We can only hope that governments and school systems soon begin to realize the harm they are doing. Meanwhile, we work to encourage teachers to look for the many opportunities for decision-making and professionalism that still remain in school classrooms.

A confession about working weekends

Working weekends. Is there a choice? Hmmm ….

The Research Whisperer

Image from Memegenerator: https://memegenerator.net/instance/40630318Image from Memegenerator: https://memegenerator.net/instance/40630318

I came back to academia after being in a professional role for over three years with a promise to myself: I will not work across weekends.

As I mentioned in a recent post, some people derided my promise. Many more laughed in disbelief, or were encouraging in their words but exuded an air of ‘that promise is doomed, doomed!’. Having been in a professional job where I found it extremely easy to maintain the boundaries between work and non-work time, I was very used to having weekends in my life. I assumed that transitioning (again) into an academic role while keeping weekends free would be relatively easy. It was the status quo for me at the time, after all.

Two and a half years after returning to academia, then, how is my promise of ‘not working on weekends’ going for me?

Terribly, I have to say.

And I acknowledge…

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We are back to blogging

Hi Literacy Teaching and Teacher Education Blog Followers

research team

We had a little hiatus from blogging. Clare was super busy with construction at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study; Pooja and Lydia both started new tenure-stream positions at Simon Fraser University and University of Alberta respectively; Cathy has been working on her thesis and teaching new courses;  and Clive and Yiola have been super busy. Lots has happened in our work and we will be updating you on our work ….

Team member: Lydia Menna

said-imageSaid (pictured to the right) will be joining our blogging team.

 

 

 

To those in Canada — Happy Family Day.

To those in the US – Happy President’s Day

To our friends around the world — looking forward to continuing our conversations.

 

Real Singaporean Lessons: Why do Singaporean Students perform so well in PISA?

In this latest post in the Leading Futures Series, edited by Alma Harris and Michelle Jones, Zongyi Deng and S. Gopinathan shine a spotlight on the success of Singapore’s school system and argue th…

Source: Real Singaporean Lessons: Why do Singaporean Students perform so well in PISA?

Teachers are thanking Melania Trump

I (Clare) saw this fascinating video on BBC regarding plagiarism – Donald Trump’s wife using Michelle Obama’s words. Here is the link to the video: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-36836599

Teachers and academics in the UK and the US have taken to Twitter to thank Donald Trump’s wife for providing the perfect material to teach their students what plagiarism is and why it is wrong.

Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican National Convention has notable similarities with a speech given by current first lady Michelle Obama in 2008.

Challenging the Use of Test Scores to Assess Teachers and Teacher Educators

Clare and I (Clive) have often argued against the use of “value-added measures” (VAMs) to assess teachers and teacher educators, measures that rely exclusively on standardized test scores. Others (e.g., David Berliner, Diane Ravitch) have taken a similar stand.

In the May 2016 issue of the Educational Researcher, opposition to VAMs receives dramatic support from Steven Klees of the University of Maryland. In a letter to ER, Klees welcomes a recent AERA Statement about how difficult it is to assess teachers using VAMs. However, he goes on to say that it’s not only difficult, it’s impossible! He notes that “dozens, perhaps hundreds, of variables” influence test scores, and hence misattributing cause is not only a “significant risk,” it is “rampant and inherent” in the use of VAMs. He concludes:

“The bottom line is that regardless of technical sophistication, the use of VAM is never ‘accurate, reliable, and valid’ and will never yield ‘rigorously supported inferences’” (p. 267).

In my view, even if we give some weight to test scores, it is imperative to supplement them with other considerations: e.g., the judgment of teachers and their colleagues about good teaching, opinions of students about their teachers’ effectiveness, theories about effective pedagogy. Effective teaching is so complex there can be no quick fix in assessing it.

It will be interesting to see how the education research and policy communities respond to Klees’s extraordinary claim, given that VAMs are the latest great hope for the reform of teaching and teacher education.

 

Draining The Semantic Swamp of “Personalized Learning”–A View from Silicon Valley (Part 1)

I (Clare) read this post by Larry Cuban. I have long been a fan of his work because he is so “sensible” and really seems to understand education.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

No surprise that a catch-phrase like “personalized learning,” using technology to upend traditional whole group  lessons, has birthed a gaggle of different meanings. Is it  updated “competency-based learning?” Or “differentiated learning” in new clothes or “individualized learning” redecorated?  (see here, here and here). Such proliferation of school reforms into slogans is as familiar as photos of sunsets. “Blended learning,” “project-based teaching,” and “21st Century skills” are a few recent bumper stickers–how about “flipped classrooms?”– that have generated many meanings as they get converted by policymakers, marketeers, researchers, wannabe reformers, and, yes, teachers into daily lessons.

For decades, I have seen such phrases become semantic swamps where educational progressives and conservatives argue for their version of the “true” meaning of the words. As a researcher trained in history, since the early 1980s, I have tracked policies as they get put into practice in schools and classrooms.  After all, the…

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Teachers Improve as They Gain Experience

I (Clare) read the Learning Policy Institute (led by Linda Darling-Hammond) report which  analyzed 30 studies on the effect of teaching experience on student achievement.

Below is a brief summary and links to the report:

Based on a review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years, the authors find that as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. The steepest gains occur in the first few years of teaching, and improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.

Other findings include:
• Experienced teachers have a positive impact on the performance of their peers.
• As teachers gain experience, their students are more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.
• Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.
• More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues, their students, and to the school as a whole.

The findings in this publication have important implications for policymakers seeking to improve learning and close achievement gaps, including underscoring the value of retaining experienced teachers and offering strategies to improve their effectiveness. The report and brief also raise equity concerns, since inexperienced teachers tend to be highly concentrated in underserved schools serving high-need students. Included are recommendations to address these inequities—a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Here is the report: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/our-work/publications-resources/does-teaching-experience-increase-teacher-effectiveness-review-research

Here is the brief: https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/our-work/publications-resources/brief-does-teaching-experience-increase-teacher-effectiveness-review-research/

Do teachers plateau early in their career or do they continue to grow and improve as they gain experience? It’s a critical question that has implications for local, state, and federal education leaders and policymakers. And it’s the subject of the latest report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research.

Based on their analysis of 30 recent, methodologically rigorous studies on the impact of teaching experience on student outcomes, authors Tara Kini and Anne Podolsky find that as teachers gain experience, they are more likely to positively impact student achievement and improve critical behaviors, including attendance. The steepest gains are in the first few years of teaching, but teachers gain in effectiveness throughout their careers, especially when they are in collegial work environments. Experienced teachers also have a positive impact on the performance of their peers.

“This report shows that what is widely accepted as true in the business world—that individuals improve their performance with experience—is also true in teaching,” says LPI Senior Policy Advisor Kini, who co-authored the report.

These findings come at an important time. Nationwide, we’re seeing a “greening” of the teacher workforce. But inexperienced teachers aren’t evenly distributed throughout schools. Black, Latino, American Indian, and Native-Alaskan students are three to four times more likely to attend schools with higher concentrations of first-year teachers than White students. New teachers are also more likely to be concentrated in high-poverty schools.

In addition to a detailed analysis of the research, the report includes recommendations to address these inequities—a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act—and offers program and investment strategies to attract, retain, and develop talented teachers who have opportunities to learn and grow throughout their careers.

Read the full report and the research brief, Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research, both of which are available on our website.

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About The Learning Policy Institute

The Learning Policy Institute conducts and communicates independent high-quality research to improve education. Working with policymakers, researchers, community groups, and others, we seek to advance evidence-based policies that support empowering and equitable learning for each and every child. For more information, please visit http://www.learningpolicyinstitute.org.

Connect with Us

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info@learningpolicyinstitute.org

 

Abbey: RIP

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My (Clare) little poochie, Abbey, passed away on the weekend. I 07 03 Marchhad never had a pet before so this was a whole new experience for me. For 16 years Abbey was a joy – fun, playful, exuberant, and full of beans. Before having a pet I “never quite got it” – the attachment people felt to their pets. Now I do. Abbey was part of the family. Every day when I came home from work he would be waiting in the window and just seeing that little face made me smile. When I would lie 07 05 Mayon the sofa watching TV or reading, of course he needed to

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I am so sad about his passing but I am so glad that we had him in our lives 03 01 04 001afor many years. If you have never had a pet think about getting one. They may be a lot of work but they 07 02 Februarydefinitely enrich your life.

A Constructivist Approach to Literature

On the weekend, Clare and I (Clive) saw a wonderful production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya Uncle Vanyaat the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. We were struck (once again) with how “dark” the play is; but it is so well written and was so well done that we really enjoyed it.

A central theme of the play is how boring life can be. And one thing that occurred to me is how important it is not to take plays (or any literature) too literally. In experiencing such a play – or discussing it with students – we don’t have to accept that life is utterly boring, or even think that Chekhov believed it was.

Rather, we can take this idea as a starting point and go on to consider ways to overcome boredom in our lives, to the extent possible. We can enjoy ourselves, both as we experience the beauty and cleverness of the literary work and try to resolve the problems it raises. We can use the work for our own purposes, rather than feeling tied to a literal interpretation. I think this is part of what is meant by a “constructivist” approach to learning, and it can make literature more enjoyable and useful to teachers and students alike.