Category Archives: journals

‘Shadiowing’ through Critical Reflection

I (Cathy) am currently working my way through a book on critical reflection.  ‘Working’ is the operative word, as this book, What Our Stories Teach Us, is set up as a guide to take us ( the teacher, professor, etc.) through an active critical analysis of our lives as educators using storying and  critical incidence.  The author, Linda Shadiow, loves to share stories herself.  Below is one of her favourites.  Apparently she has told it often and she uses it in her  book to illustrate how our stories can impact our lives.

A graduate student is attending a lecture being given by one of her intellectual heroes, the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire. She takes notes furiously, trying to capture as many of his words as possible. Seeing that she is keenly interested in what Freire had to say, his translator asks if she would like to meet him. Of course! She is introduced and he begins by inquiring about her work. Then he graciously agrees to respond to a set of questions she and her colleagues hoped they would get the chance to ask him. She is impressed beyond belief, but time prevents her from asking one last, difficult question. They meet accidentally once more at the event and he wonders if she asked all her questions? No, there is one more. “Given your work, we want to know ‘where is the hope’?” Without hesitating he moves toward her, takes her face in his hands, looks into her eyes, and replies, “You tell them, ‘you are the hope, because theory needs to be reinvented, not replicated … it is a guide. We make history as we move through it and that is the hope.”

(Taken from )

The graduate student is, of course, Shadiow.  She explains in her book that her experience with Freire never left her.  It energized and motivated her.  She had to “give back “.  She invites us as both reader and participant to rediscover our incidences of profound learning and let them move us.


Resolutions, Reforms, and Incremental Change in Education

Clive BeckNew Year’s resolutions are notoriously poorly kept. At our local gym, the regulars joke about the “resolutioners,” who sign up for a year but barely make it to the end of January. Sadly, a lot of proposed educational “reforms” are like that.

Clare, Lin Goodwin, and I (Clive) are working on a chapter on teacher education reform for the next Handbook of Research on Teacher Education. In reviewing the literature, we came across a wonderful article by Mary Kennedy called “Against Boldness” (Journal of Teacher Education, 61 (1-2), 16-20). In it, she makes a plea to avoid taking a “bold” approach to teacher education reform. The article has important implications not only for teacher education but for teaching in general and even everyday life (as in trying to keep fit). Kennedy remarks:

[B]old ideas are part of our problem, for by definition they are unrealistic, out of range, over the top. Ultimately, bold ideas fail because they don’t take real circumstances into account or because they expect too much from people. Eventually, each of us runs out of gas, gets tired and disheartened. (p. 17)

In my view Kennedy isn’t a pessimist or anti-idealist: she thinks substantial improvement is possible and should be pursued. But she believes we must pursue it by (a) acknowledging and building on present achievements and (b) proceeding incrementally (like the tortoise that finally won the race). She says:

What we need in education are ideas that develop slowly and that build on what we already have, not ideas that develop excitedly or that deviate markedly from current practice…. [B]old ideas…hinder our progress toward real improvements by distracting educators and making it more difficult to concentrate…. Every helpful idea requires teachers to make adjustments. Every time we help teachers, they have to stop thinking about how to wrap their students’ minds around a concept and instead turn their attention toward accommodating the new innovation…. [T]here is no doubt that we need to find ways to improve teaching and teacher education. But [instead of pursuing bold ideas, we should be] studying our practices closely and deliberately, deepening our understanding of the circumstances in which we work, and finding small and sustainable ways to improve. (p. 19)

As the JTE editors rightly point out, Kennedy’s position is itself bold! Indeed, it is radical in today’s climate. But it is productively bold, offering an alternative to the myriad high-sounding, contradictory, and often damaging measures, frequently promoted for political reasons rather than out of genuine concern for improvement. Let’s be systematic and effective in our renewal work, not “bold.” How’s that for a New Year’s resolution!

Predatory Journals Part 2

On January 4th I (Clare) did a post about predatory journals. My good friend Tim Fletcher (professor at Brock University) sent me a useful link. Brock has put together a list of guidelines for evaluating journals and gives a link to Beall’s list of predatory journals.   Here is the link:

Our New Book! Growing as a Teacher: Goals and Pathways of Ongoing Teacher Learning

Growing as a Teacher book cover

Clare and I (Clive) are glad to announce the release of our new book Growing as a Teacher, published by Sense.

It’s based on the first 8 years of our longitudinal study of 42 teachers, teaching mainly in Ontario but also New York and New Jersey.
Our central finding was that teachers learn a great deal informally, especially through classroom experience. This is in line with Donald Schon’s (1983) notion of “reflection in practice”: teachers learn through “experimental research, then and there, in the classroom” (p. 66). Similarly, Chris Day (1999) speaks of “the largely private, unaided learning from experience through which most teachers learn to survive, become competent, and develop” (p. 2).
Over their first 8 years, our teachers learned about: program planning, assessment, individualization, teaching for relevance, classroom organization, community building, work-life balance, and many other topics. In varying degrees, they developed a comprehensive, integrated vision of effective teaching, going well beyond their initial understanding.
In the book we discuss key implications of these findings:

  • Teachers should see themselves as major “experts” on teaching, with abundant opportunities to inquire into teaching over the years. They should be willing to make decisions in the classroom and take a firm stance in adapting system initiatives.
  • ITE instructors should promote this strong conception of teacher learning and expertise, and see themselves largely as “laying a foundation…preparing novices to learn in and from their practice” (Feiman-Nemser, 2001, p. 1016).
  • PD facilitators should dialogue with teachers and build on their emerging vision and approach, rather than imposing system mandates in top-down fashion.
  • Principals should support teachers in their learning, providing frequent opportunities for them to watch each other teach and share their developing insights.

Teachers can benefit greatly from external input, but not if it’s imposed “top-down” without reference to their views and experiences.
We have greatly enjoyed listening to the teachers in our study and will continue to do so into the future. We hope their voices and experiences will be helpful to teachers, teacher candidates, ITE instructors, and all those responsible for school policies and ongoing teacher learning.



Writing a Review Takes TIME

I (Cathy) discovered, having just submitted my first academic book review, that the process takes TIME.   The T in my acronym represents allowing for lots of time to move through the process. The I represents investigating the journal for which I am submitting.  The M is for mining the book under review. The E is for editing- of course- what would writing be without editing?  I developed my TIME acronym through both the experience of writing the review and doing some homework on review writing.  One of the suggestions I came across, which was a valuable piece of advice, was to allow one month to write the review:  two weeks to read the book; one week to write the review; and one week to edit the work.  This turned out to be true.  There was no hurrying the process.  I also spent time reading many other reviews from the same journal for which I was submitting.  This was the investigation part.  I compared five reviews for style, content and length.  One was much more academic in style than the others.  All were not hesitant to praise the work.  This was reassuring, as I liked the book a lot.  The mining part was the surprise.  As I read the book, I listed the things I liked about it and possible flaws, only to discover that when I got to the end, it was not enough information.  I had to read it again and work harder at comparing the chapters for content consistency, look for related themes and any patterns the editors may have requested.  I also spent a lot more time scrutinizing the forward and conclusion and discovered some great quotes I had missed the first time.  This was similar to reading a book in order to teach it.  Impressions are not enough.  I needed more meat.   And finally came the editing.  After several iterations, I thought it was ready for someone else to see.  I gave it to five people to read. Every one of them found corrections and made suggestions. Some I used, while others were stylistic suggestions that I let pass.  All were insightful.  The best part though, was the response.  When one of my friendly editors replied, “You really made me want to read this book!”  then I knew the review hit its mark.  Like I said, I liked the book.  Oh, and by the way, the book is called Literacy teacher educators: Preparing teachers for a changing world.  I recommend it!     BTW  The journal I submitted to is called Research in Teacher Education.  Excellent resource!  Check it out…

Women in Leadership Positions in Higher Education

In our study of literacy/English teacher educators we asked participants about their career path. They did a timeline (personal and professional) of turning points. A number have held administrative positions in the university but many found the workload crushing. So I (Clare) was very interested in the recent study, Lost leaders – Women in the Global Academy, which studied females in administrative positions in higher education.
It showed that “[g]ender equality legislation, socio-economic and de-traditionalisation factors have all played a part in this welcome trend [increase in female students in higher education], yet so far they appear to have had relatively little impact on opportunities for women to reach senior management and academic leadership positions in the sector.”  Why are women under-represented in senior leadership positions in universities? In the study they found that “[m]any women … discussed the benefits of gaining power and influence in organisations to effect change. However, leadership was frequently constructed as loss – loss of status and self esteem in the case of unsuccessful applications, but loss of independence, autonomy, research time and well-being when applications were successful.”
I believe there is a real loss not only to women themselves when they choose to not pursue leadership positions but also to institutions when women are under-represented at the decision-making table. I have held a number of senior administrative positions and I can relate to feelings of loss but I also felt there were much higher expectations for me than for my male counter-parts. As a result the position became untenable.  I felt it was a loss to me definitely. Was it a loss to the institution?  Hhhhmmm….. Clare

Research in Teacher Education Journal

Clare is on the International Advisory Board for the Research in Teacher Education Journal.  This lovely journal which focuses on teacher education with a range of topics of interest to international readers.  The latest issue is available with papers ranging on topics from foreign language instruction in rural Columbia to lifelong learning in UK primary schools. They are more than happy to take any fledgling PhD students who might be looking for their first opportunity to be published.

Check our their website