Category Archives: academics

Catherine Snow talk

If you are in the Toronto area this talk might be of interest to you.  You can RSVP using this URL: RSVP (acceptances only): http://www.tinyurl.com/mccarthylecture

Image Catherine Snow talk

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…

View original post 845 more words

Good luck these first few weeks!

A number of my friends and colleagues experienced the scenarios depicted below.  Luckily, I  (Cathy) never did.  The transitions were smooth for us as parents and for our children.  As teachers, however, my husband and I would get anxious, whether teaching K or undergraduates: what will our students be like?; am I ready?; how will I get my classroom set up?; I don’t understand this new policy…  Parents I spoke to (that were not teachers) were surprised by this.  They assumed we had it ‘down pat’ and never even thought about it.  They didn’t understand that every year was a brand new set of challenges and joys and it would take a few weeks to get things settled in.

I wish all the teachers out there, elementary, secondary, and higher education a great start to their year.  May it be as smooth and fruitful!

All the best,

Cathy

off-to-school

Defining Literacy

One of my (Cathy’s)  favourite first tasks for my new teacher candidates is to have them define the term  literacy on paper- written or drawn- no right or wrong.  I tuck this away for them and then give it back on the last day of our literacy course so they can it to compare their (hopefully somewhat)  altered definition.  For some the definition changes a lot and for some not so much.  The differences represent the teacher candidates  prior knowledge of literacy and literacy practices; their ability  to make adjustments; their open mindedness; and their ability to accept change.  Reshaping ones definition of literacy is a process and its actually quite demanding.

Every year I look for new academic, scholarly, or institutional definitions of literacy, or as I prefer to  refer to it- literacies- to share with my TC’s as their definitions shift and grow.  This year I will include the definition below.  It is from the Ontario government’s document Focus on Literacy (2013):

LITERACY – Kindergarten to Grade 12 Literacy is … the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, speak, view, represent, discuss and think critically about ideas. Literacy enables us to share information and to interact with others. Literacy is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.

Literacy involves the capacity to:

• access, manage, create and evaluate information

• think imaginatively and analytically

• communicate thoughts and ideas effectively

• apply metacognitive knowledge and skills

• develop a sense of self-efficacy and an interest in life-long learning

The development of literacy is a complex process that involves building on prior knowledge, culture and experiences in order to instill new knowledge and deepen understanding.

I especially like the last line.  I hope my TC’s do to.

http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesLIT/PayingAttentiontoLiteracy.pdf

 

 

A Successful Book Launch: Check out these Amazing Texts

It started as a little book launch that (I) Clare was organizing for our new book. It grew to IMG_1739include 4 “hot off the press” books. All of which I must read! The book launch was unique because it included authors from different departments and programs. And it was great fun!.

Building Bridges: Rethinking Literacy Teacher Education in a Digital Era by Clare Kosnik, Simone White, Clive Beck, Bethan Marshall, A. Lin Goodwin, and Jean Murray (I know this book well – tee hee!)

IMG_1742Taking Shape: Activities to Help Develop Geometric and Spatial Thinking by Joan Moss, Bev Caswell, Zack Hawes, Cathy Bruce, and Tara Flynn

 

 

Teaching Literature to Adolescents by Richard Beach, Deborah Appleman, Bob Fecho, and Rob SimonIMG_1741

IMG_1753The Pedagogy of Standardized Testing: The Radical Impacts of Educational Standardization in the US and Canada by Arlo Kemp

 

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You Can’t Win Them All

Teaching can be very satisfying, but it isn’t easy. I (Clive) just received my course Clive Beckevaluation for last term and was reminded that “you can’t win them all.” I thought the course was my best ever, and most students rated it as “excellent.” But some just said it was “very good” (hmmm – why was that?) and one gave it a “good” or “moderate” on every item (what’s their problem?!).

 

One of the most important principles in teaching, I think, is that you can’t win them all. Some people don’t like it because it implies you aren’t going to try hard enough: it lets you off the hook. But on the one hand, it helps you be realistic and maintain your morale as a teacher; and on the other, it reminds you that everybody’s different. Different people want different things from a course and have different views on how to teach. Yes we should try to meet every student’s needs in a course, but no we shouldn’t be surprised or become dispirited when some students are not ecstatic about our teaching approach.

Gold StarBut come to think of it, if I found some good videos and varied the class format more, maybe I would get excellent from everyone…. Just joking!

 

A Constructivist Approach Requires Being Courageous

When we hear the term “courage” we often think of someone dashing into a burning building to save a child or an unarmed individual wrestling to the ground someone with a gun. Yes these are courageous acts but I (Clare) want to talk about an unsung group who I feel have the fortitude and tenacity to be courageous.

In our study of literacy teacher educators which we have written about on this blog we Image Courageous LTEshared some of our findings showing many examples of truly exemplary teaching. We are currently working on a paper about 6 literacy teacher educators who use a constructivist approach to their literacy courses. In this era where education is highly politicized with mandated national curriculum and oversight by external bodies it takes “guts” to adopt an approach that includes: knowledge is constructed by learners; knowledge is experience based; learning is social; all aspects of a person are connected; and learning communities should be inclusive and equitable.

Ahsan and Smith (2016) who advocate a social constructivist approach have identified practices that support learning based on the social constructivist theory

  • Social interaction and dialogue
  • Environment deeply rooted in culture
  • More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) helping students
  • Scaffolding
  • Progressing through the zone of proximal development (ZPD)
  • Constructive and timely feedback
  • Collaboration among students (p. 134)

Constructivism does not mean that you discard traditional forms of teaching (lectures, assignments, and readings) but it requires the teacher educator to have an inquiry-orientation; not just model good teaching but unpack it with their student teachers often revealing their own vulnerabilities; willingly to admit that they learn from their student teachers; have courses that are organic because they respond to student teachers’ needs; and build a social and intellectual community — often blurring the traditional lines between professor and student teacher. Yes their courses can be somewhat messy because they create space for discussion which often veers off from the plan but they are addressing student teachers’ needs.

To teach in this way takes courage because they are teaching in a way that they most likely did not experience as a student. A constructivist framework which is both a philosophy and a pedagogy may be a more useful approach to reform than the endless lists of expectations. These literacy teacher educators trusted themselves and their student teachers. The next step is for governments to trust teacher educators. And we need to applaud their courage to think outside the box and truly focus on their student teachers.

Photo Journal of my Experience @ AERA

Here are some snapshots and highlights of my experience at AERA this year. If I (yiola) could name the experience I would call it:  Goosebumps and Inspirations… it was just that good.

  1.  I attended a Round Table session (this is where presenters gather at a “round table” and share their research). The Round table is a great opportunity to not only share your work but hear from others in a less formal manner.  This round table was hosted by the  Writing and Literacies special interest group (SIG) and the focus of the round table was critical literacy.  Dr. Barbara Comber from the University of South Australia presented on critical literacy pedagogy in the early years. Her work and my work are closely aligned.

2.I attended a presidential talk that was a tribute to the life and work of Dr. Phil Jackson. The focus of the talk was on the question of education.  I really like what this panel did: each panel member selected a passage from a text written by Dr. Jackson and talked about its significance to them. A paragraph was read from The Practice of Teaching and the idea of transformative teaching… such an important and central idea in progressive education. A piece was read from Handbook of Research on Curriculum: Conceptions of Curriculum and the the idea that school is systematically harming children… and how can we work against that?  Linda Darling-Hammond read a passage from his famous book Life in Classrooms and spoke of the “multi-dimensionality and simultaneously nature of teaching” and the essential relationships associated with teaching. And, one panel member shared from Dr. Jackson’s last book published in 2012, What is Education and spoke of education as pure and simple; something we must rededicate ourselves too over time.

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3. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the presidential lecture  for Division K hosted by Dr. Lin Goodwin, Teachers College Columbia University.  A remarkable speaker who not only inspires with her words but truly challenged me to think about what quality teacher education requires. What I like most about Dr. Goodwin is her genuine nature. A distinguished academic and also a beautiful human being. Here are some pictures from her talk including slides from her presentation.

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4. Yet another interesting Presidential session with Wayne Au, Marilyn Cochran-Smith, Kevin Kumashiro (and others) that explored policy and standards in Teacher Education. Laden with some controversial findings for the testing systems for new teachers and teacher education programs, the presentations were provocative and interesting:

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5. The last session I would like to share is one where we presented at the Constructivist SIG. A lovely group of people from across North America, we exchanged ideas of what it means to teach in constructivist ways. Our team leader Dr. Clare Kosnik presented work from the Literacy Teacher Education research and presented on a group of literacy teacher educators who had strong constructivist pedagogies.

Finally, AERA is held at such interesting places. One has to take some time to enjoy the beauty of the district and take in some of the sights.

Preparing for AERA

I (yiola) along with the research team and many other colleagues are preparing for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference that will be held in Washington DC this year. The conference begins on Thursday April 7th until Tuesday April 12th.

An enormous conference that attracts thousands of educational researchers from around the world and across disciplines and methodologies in the area of education. Each year the conference has a theme. This year the theme is Public scholarship to educate diverse democracies.  Here is a link to the site and more information about the conference:

http://www.aera.net/EventsMeetings/AnnualMeeting/2016AnnualMeetingTheme/tabid/15861/Default.aspx

The team and our close colleagues will be presenting at AERA.  We will be sure to post pictures and updates from the various sessions we attend. We hope to see you there. If you are not attending this year be sure to check out out blog for highlights next week.

 

Finns aren’t what they used to be

 

I (Clare) came across this interesting article on Finland by Sean Couglan from the BBC. . But unlike most other articles it is a “counter point” to the Finnish miracle. Thought you might find it interesting. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32302374·

No international education conference is complete without a reference to Finland._82320693_helsinkibbc

Ever since it appeared at the top of international league tables more than a decade ago, it has been endlessly hailed as how to run an education system.

Finland, which faces a general election this week, has been the poster child for education reform and overseas delegations have made pilgrimages to learn from its example.

In particular it has been used to argue that you can have high results without an overbearing system of testing and inspection.

It was the country where pupils did not have to start school until they were seven, enjoyed the longest holidays and then basked in the glow of global approval when they topped the tables in the international Pisa tests. _82320689_finnishstamp

But is the gloss coming off the image of Finland as an education superpower?

More like an Asian tiger

A study from Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, director of research at the Centre for Market Reform of Education, argues that Finland’s education standards are in decline.

He says it is a misunderstanding of Finland’s success to attribute it to a liberal culture without league tables or a formal curriculum and giving much autonomy to teachers.

Finland faces a general election this week

In a report published by the right-wing think tank the Centre for Policy Studies, Mr Sahlgren argues that Finland’s star performance in the 2000 Pisa tests was built on the legacy of an older, very traditional education system, which had been part of the country’s process of nation building.

But this wasn’t the image of Finland wanted by education experts, he says. Instead, when Finland was the top performer in Europe, it was used as a “counter-argument” to the success of east Asian school systems in Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

While they were seen as successful because of hard work and grindingly long hours, Finland was seen as the way to achieve success with a much more creative and less centralised approach.

Mr Sahlgren, based at the London School of Economics, says there was “never any real evidence” for such an impression.

“It was simplistic, looking at how Finland’s system looked today, without looking at its history.”

Finland’s school system became part of its building of a national identity

Rather than being the opposite of east Asian countries, he says in many ways Finland was like those emerging economies.

Compared with its Nordic neighbours, Finland was a “late developer”, much poorer and with lower levels of education in the early part of the 20th Century.

Finland’s approach of investing heavily in education and seeing rapid improvements was in many ways more like the pattern of Tiger economies in east Asia than the more sluggish progress in western Europe.

‘Fairy stories’

Mr Sahlgren’s research argues there is a reluctance to accept that Finland’s education system, under which many of its successful teachers had trained, had been very structured and centralised.

IFinland has been the European country that matched East Asian countries in education tests

He quotes a research group from the UK visiting schools in Finland in 1996, a few years before the Pisa tests brought the world’s attention to the country’s schools.

“We have moved from school to school and seen almost identical lessons, you could have swapped the teachers over and the children would never have noticed the difference,” said the researchers from the University of East Anglia, observing Finnish classrooms.

Another study challenges what it calls the “misconceptions and misrepresentations” about Finland’s success in the Pisa tests.

Tim Oates, director of assessment research for the Cambridge Assessment exam group, has published a study called “Finnish fairy stories”, in which he debunks what he claims are myths about the Finnish system.

‘Education tourism’

He says the waves of “education tourism” that followed the success in Pisa tests failed to look at how the system had improved.

Image captionHow much of Finland’s success was the legacy of an earlier, more traditional school system?

“They got off the plane and asked the Finns about the system in 2000 – not what it was like during the 1970s and 1980s, when standards were rising.”

He also warns of a tendency for people to use Finland’s school system as a way of confirming what they want to find.

The claim that Finland does not have an Ofsted-style inspection and national testing is an incomplete picture, says Mr Oates. He says there has been a strong system of accountability and inspection and gathering of data.

The difference from a system such as England, says Mr Oates, is how the information is used – for example in Finland exam results are not published in school league tables as they are in England.

Pisa tests 2012 top 10
Reading Maths
1. Shanghai 1. Shanghai
2. Hong Kong 2. Singapore
3. Singapore 3. Hong Kong
4. Japan 4. Taiwan
5. South Korea 5. South Korea
6. Finland 6. Macao
7. Ireland 7. Japan
8. Taiwan 8. Liechtenstein
9. Canada 9. Switzerland
10. Poland 10. Netherlands

It is also misleading to think there are not high-stakes exams or academic selection, he says, with entrance to some secondary schools being determined by test scores.

And Mr Oates argues it is “hopeless myopia” to see Finland’s system as a model of high levels of autonomy.

Finland is facing another set of controversial changes, away from traditional subject teaching. And Mr Sahlgren warns of a school system in decline. It is no longer in the top 10 for maths in Pisa tests, having been in second place in 2003 and 2006.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and the creator of the Pisa tests, rejects this analysis.

“In the 1960s, Finland was an average performer at best and that was when it had a very traditional education system,” says Mr Schleicher.

“Finland changed its system only in the late 1970s and 1980s and that’s when we saw the results rise. The most recent decline is quite modest,” he said.

Mr Oates says the problem has been that people have used Finland as a way of discussing their own national education debates, without really thinking about what made Finland different.

“People have been seriously misled by stories told by people who have looked at Finland through their own, restricted lens,” he says.