Category Archives: schooling

Nell Duke: 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research

In my (Clare) graduate literacy course last night we talked about Nell Duke’s excellent Library book shelvesarticle: 10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know About Research. This is a highly informative article because Duke systematically addresses key questions about research – often questions that are not posed because the instant the word “research” is attached to a statement it seems to have more weight. She begins the article: Research-based,” “research-proven,” “scientifically based”—in the reading world these days, it seems that the term research is being used everywhere. it is also being misused and misunderstood.

My graduate students found the article very accessible and enlightening. Many said they will look at “research claims” more closely. It is well worth the read. Here is a link to article which was published in Reading Teacher. 10_things_to_know_about_research_duke_trtr1002

Duke addresses the following questions.

  1. what research can do.
  2. what research is.
  3. what research is not.
  4. the difference between research-based and research-tested.
  5. Many kinds of research have valuable contributions to make to our understanding of literacy learning, development, and education.
  6. different kinds of research are good for different questions.
  7. high-quality research has a logic of inquiry.
  8. conclusions drawn from research are only as sound as the research itself.
  9. where and how research is published or presented requires particular attention.
  10. educational research proceeds through the slow accumulationof knowledge.



Defining happiness: A child’s take on life.

IMG_0968From the mouths of babes. Motivational speaker Jay Shetty has some wise words for you on how to make the world a better place. A teacher asked her students to write down what they want to be when they grow up. There were the usual responses – astronaut, singer …. And one boy wrote down happy. When the teacher talked to the child suggesting he misunderstood the assignment, he responded. “Miss, I think you misunderstand life.” WOW!!!!

According to Shetty, it starts by pressing pause on your own life and improving the way you IMG_2826communicate with others.  The video is short but it reminds us about what is important in life. Well worth the time. In the video below watch him explain why it’s time for you to take a moment to become more conscious and aware.

Can you spot a good teacher from their characteristics?


12644854_10156632304500121_7940976327917128279_nI (Clare) found this really interesting article in the Guardian newspaper about traits of effective teachers. Here is the link for the article:
I believe that the admission process is one of the most important steps in teacher education but the question that has vexed me for years is: What do you look for in an applicant? In previous posts we have talked about the admission process used in Finland which is very intense, focused, and pointed. They know what they are looking for! More to come in future blogs. And I highlighted in red a few key passages that resonated with me.

Professor Rob Klassen explores the latest research into what traits effective teachers have and how this could inform recruitment
What would you do in the following situation?
As students in your classroom begin a writing task, one of them, Kata, starts throwing paper around and distracting the others. You know from previous incidents that Kata often becomes frustrated when she does not understand how to complete activities; she often displays this by being disruptive.
Would you …
a) Ask her to leave the class?
b) Show her how to get started on the task?
c) Encourage her by telling her that she is capable of completing the task?
d) Ask a passing teacher to talk to her?

Your answer gives important clues about how you think and operate as a teacher (see below for answers). In future, similar questions could help researchers understand how prospective teachers might interact with students, and enable trainers to recruit people who are best suited to work in schools.

The debate over what makes a good teacher isn’t new – as far back as 500BC Confucius was portrayed as a model teacher. But despite this, there’s been little systematic research into how we can measure the personal characteristics that make a teacher effective – and how we can reliably select people for teacher training.
Part of the problem is that teaching is often portrayed as something that’s too magical and cryptic to decode. While there is something special about the idea of passing on knowledge, teaching is no more mystical than other professions. Research has shown that some teachers are routinely more successful than others – and science can predict who is likely to be the most effective.

A recent study by Dr Allison Atteberry from the University of Colorado followed more than 3,000 teachers over the first five years of their careers, measuring their effectiveness by looking at student outcomes. Atteberry found that even after statistically controlling for external factors such as school, family and student characteristics, teachers who were most effective tended to maintain this over time. Similarly, those in the bottom group for effectiveness stayed there, even when they moved schools.
Anecdotal experience backs this up: it’s not uncommon for someone to remember having a great – or not-so-great – teacher at school.

This indicates that multiple factors, which interact in complex ways, make some teachers consistently effective. Academic ability is one of them, hence the UK government’s introduction of tougher entry requirements for teacher training in 2013. But it’s not the only thing that matters; non-¬cognitive attributes – personal characteristics such as empathy and communication – are also essential.

A recent large-scale review of the factors associated with student achievement showed dramathat teacher-student relationships outweighed the contribution of teachers’ subject knowledge, teacher training, or home and school effects. In fact, John Hattie’s research in Australia shows that teacher characteristics, such as interpersonal skills, are more closely associated with student achievement than curriculum or teaching approach.

Our research in the UK and internationally – funded by the European Research Council – takes this further, examining how we can identify key teacher characteristics and assess them for entry into teacher training. There can be a lot of leeway in how personal characteristics are expressed, but we want all teachers to have qualities such as empathy, resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges. Our results show that these attributes are broadly the same across secondary and primary schools, although there are some variations between cultures. In Finland, for example, cooperative skills are particularly desirable because there’s a strong tradition of collaboration in schools, where teachers plan and work together.

Instead of using personality tests, we use scenario-based questions, known as situational judgment tests, to measure characteristics. These tests have more validity in predicting job performance than personality tests, which people can fake more easily. Studies in organisational psychology suggest that face-to-face interviews are also an unreliable way to gauge characteristics as interviewers are prone to hidden bias: even when we try to be open and fair, we’re inclined to select people who are a bit like us.

As teaching faces a manpower catastrophe, Holly Welham meets those failing to join the profession because of a ‘ludicrous’ math test

IMG_2508It is possible to improve some traits – such as communication or organisation – through professional development. But this may not be possible for all non¬-cognitive attributes – it’s harder to build skills such as empathy, for example. This is why it’s essential that we pay more attention to personal qualities when
recruiting prospective teachers.

That’s not to say that the goal of selecting prospective teachers is to pick candidates with only one type of personality or teaching style, but we do want to make sure the people educating our children, grandchildren, friends and family have some basic personal quality building blocks. This is already happening in fields as diverse as medicine and the military, for example.

We have already piloted situational judgment tests with universities in Cambridge, Newcastle and York, and are working with universities and education ministries in Australia, Finland, Hungary and Lithuania. After further validation of the tests, we are excited about introducing this new selection procedure nationally in some settings and an online version using video scenarios.

Back to the scenario at the beginning of this article. Although there’s no perfect response, if you chose “b” you might show adaptability in the classroom. Choose “c” and you probably have a growth mindset and believe that with effort children are capable of improving their attainment. Choosing “a” might show a lack of resilience when facing challenging situations, and “d” might show a lack of self-efficacy to engage all pupils in learning. Which quality do you have? Maybe you would be a great teacher.

Slowing Down to Learn: Mindful Pauses That Can Help Student Engagement

There has been so much attention to mindfulness in the last while. My (Clare) colleague, Chriss Bogert, VP at the Lab School, send me this great post about mindfulness in the class. Here is the link:

By MindShift  February 17, 2015

The excerpt below is from the book “Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom,” by Patricia A. Jennings. This section is from the chapter entitled “Orchestrating Classroom Dynamics.”

Mindful Wait Time

Image source:
Image source:

One way to promote engagement and learning is to consciously create pauses throughout the day. We can create a sense of spaciousness in our classroom by slowing down the pace of our speech and punctuating our lessons with silence. Introduced well, this practice can improve classroom discourse.

The speed at which we can process information varies from person to person (Droit-Volet, Meck, & Penney, 2007). Some people process auditory information very quickly, while others tend to have more visual or sensorimotor strengths. In any case, when we have more time to process information, the quality of our thinking and learning improves. Younger children require more time to process than do older children, and adults often forget this as they zoom through content as if they were speaking to other adults. No matter what their ages, when we give our students just a little more time to process information, they learn better.

When I introduce this idea to teachers, I often hear concerns that they will be wasting valuable time doing nothing. It’s important to recognize that during the pauses, you and your students are not “doing nothing.” Your students may be considering several alternatives; they may be mulling a picture over in their mind; they may be making associations, comparisons, and contrasts. They may be trying to drudge up the right word from their vocabulary. When we give them this time, their processing becomes richer, deeper, and more abstract. When you rush through a lesson, you may deliver content more quickly and efficiently, but your students may not absorb the content very well, if at all.

The added bonus of these pause punctuations is that they give us as teachers a few moments to practice mindfulness. When this becomes an intentional part of our lessons, we can take the time to notice our body in space, the whole classroom, each student, and the small details that surrounds us, in the present moment. We give ourselves a short break—a micro-vacation from the constant activity of a busy classroom.

We can use the time to tune in to ourselves and our students. We can ask ourselves, “How am I feeling right now? How are the students feeling? What’s happening right now? What do my students need? How can I explain this better?” By taking mindful pauses, we are modeling mindful behavior for our students and letting us all have some time to process the information we are exploring together.

Typically we pause after we ask a question and before we call on someone to answer. Most of the time, this pause is only about one second long. Students who process information quickly are at an advantage under these conditions. They tend to be the ones who always raise their hands immediately. While the speedy students are answering the question, the slower students are still trying to process the question, so they may not hear and comprehend the answer or be able to assimilate it into their existing knowledge. If the quick pace of the session continues, some students may feel left behind.

However, educational researchers have discovered that if the pause between the teacher’s question and the student’s answer lasts between three and five seconds, significant changes occur in student behavior (Rowe, 1987). Students are more likely to respond appropriately to the questions, answer the questions correctly, and offer longer and more complex answers. There are fewer “I don’t know” or non-answer responses. Over time, many more students show higher levels of engagement (Honea, 1982; Swift & Gooding, 1983) and achievement test scores and school retention levels increase (Tobin & Capie, 1982).

Wait time has a positive effect on teachers as well. With conscious use of wait time, teachers’ questioning strategies become more varied and flexible, and they ask follow-up questions that require more complex information processing and higher-order thinking (Casteel & Stahl, 1973; Rowe, 1972; Stahl, 1990; Tobin, 1987).

Robert Stahl (1990) identified eight categories of wait time. When we formally introduce wait time, these periods of silence are trans- formed from periods of awkwardness into valuable moments of silence. The first category is the type of wait time we’ve already discussed: the time between a teacher’s question and the student’s answer. The other seven are as follows:

Within-student’s-response pause time. This is a three-second or longer pause that occurs when a student pauses or hesitates during the process of delivering a response to a teacher’s question. Teachers tend to interrupt students when they are thinking through their answers and take time to pause. However, when given the time, students often follow these periods of silence by successfully completing their responses.

Post-student’s-response wait time. This is a pause after a student has finished a response and other students are considering adding comments or reactions. This gives the other students time to think about what was said and to decide if they have anything to add.

Student pause time. This is a pause after a student has initiated a question, statement, or comment but doesn’t complete the thought. It may seem strange to formalize this type of pause, but this situation arises more often than we might realize because the tendency is to ignore the question rather than allow for a pause. This happens to me a lot. I have a thought, idea, or question. I’m getting ready to tell someone, and my mind goes blank. I can’t remember what I was going to say. When this happens to one of our students, we can give ourselves and the student a little time to recover, rather than just letting it drop.

Teacher pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates to consider what is happening, appraise the situation, and consider the best course of action. A particularly beneficial time for a teacher to pause is when a student has asked a question and the answer requires a complex answer. Taking time to consider how to frame the answer can improve student learning.

Within-teacher-presentation pause time. This is a pause that the teacher intentionally initiates during lecture presentations or other extended periods of content output. The teacher intentionally stops the flow of information to give students three to five seconds of silence to absorb the information and to consolidate their thinking. This type of pause requires no response from the students; it’s simply processing time. Using silence this way, teachers can chunk their content into bite-sized pieces to help students absorb and process the information better.

Student task completion work time. This is pause time intended to allow students to complete an academic task that demands undivided attention. The length of the pause should be related to the time it takes to complete a task. The challenge involved in this type of pause is how to handle the variation in completion time among students. If students learn the value of pausing and some of them finish early, they can use the time to extend their thinking about the subject in some way.

Impact pause time. This is the use of pause time to create impact or drama. When we pause, we can create a mood of anticipation. A dramatic pause can generate feelings of suspense and expectation.

Wait time can be challenging. Many of us get so excited about sharing our own thoughts and ideas that we tend to interrupt students, leaving no space in the discussion for students to process information and respond thoughtfully. In the skill-building practices at the end of this chapter, you will learn more about how to apply wait time in your classroom.

Patricia A. Jennings is an associate professor at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.

Anxiety And Depression In The Classroom: What Educators Can Do To Assist Students

I (Clare) have been involved in a number of discussions re: children and anxiety. I thought I would share with you this upcoming event. For those in the Toronto area you might consider attending.Image_CECflier


Teachers Spend Own Money for Supplies

As a teacher I (Clare) was always on the look out for resources for my classroom and like many other teachers spent my own money to supplement when necessary. With education budgets getting even tighter I think that more and more teachers are dipping into their wallets to simply run their classrooms. Below is a graphic and an article that I thought you might find interesting (but discouraging). And since when did being a fund-raiser become part of a teacher’s job.









Bruce Hogue is always looking for ways to make teaching science more interesting.

But the money he uses for the boxes of Cheerios, Bran Flakes and Total needed for one his experiments usually comes out of his pocket.

“As a science teacher, I have an official budget, but that is usually gone by the beginning of the year,” says Hogue, who works in suburban Denver. “When I want to do a science lab, I usually pay for it all on my own.”

Hogue is one of the millions of teachers across the country who are shelling out their own hard-earned cash to pay for books, pens, pencils and other basic supplies that schools have provided in the past.

According to a new survey, teachers spent an average of $448 of their own money on instructional materials and school supplies for the 1998-99 school year.

The survey conducted last summer by the National School Supply and Equipment Association — a trade group representing the school supply industry — found that teachers pay for 77 percent of the school supplies needed in their classrooms. The rest comes from the school, parent-teacher groups and other school funds.

Spending to Learn

This doesn’t surprise teachers and their advocates.

“What other profession do you know where professionals have to use their own money to do their job properly?” says Janet Fass, spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers. “Do engineers, do accountants spend their own money? Why should teachers when they are far lower paid than other professionals?”

Teachers say they not only buy school supplies with their money, but many times they help out students who may not have cash for lunch or to get home.

In Philadelphia, where teachers are in intense contract negotiations with school administrators this week, one-fourth of teachers said they gave their own money to students for transportation, books and lunches, according to a survey conducted by the city’s teachers union. Furthermore, 47 percent said they lacked basic supplies such as paper, pens and pencils for their classrooms.

The contract proposal under consideration now would take away a $50 stipend that teachers get for school supplies, says Barbara Goodman, communications director for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

“We are talking about a school system that is not able to supply funding for what should be priorities — books, pens, paper,” says Goodman.

Suburbia Also Affected

And it is not just in urban neighborhoods that teachers often become charity workers.

Hogan, the suburban Denver science teacher, says he recently gave lunch money to one of his students whose disabled mother is in the process of applying to get her son in the school’s free lunch program.

“It’s the little stuff that falls through the cracks that we usually have to pick up,” said Hogue, who has been teaching science for 30 years.

But Hogue has found a creative way to solve his money problems.

He has turned to private funding for help. Groups like NASA, the U.S. Geological Society and private corporations like Lockheed-Martin have donated thousands for his classroom experiments.

Now, when other teachers panic, Hogue has good advice.

He takes out his list of where he gets his grant material and reminds them there are people willing to help out.


Testing and Assessment in Norway

I (Clare) read this article on testing. We have had many posts about assessment on this blog and thought this one might be more “food for thought.”

International Education News

In order to learn about what’s happened with testing and assessment in Norway in recent years, we had a conversation with Sverre Tveit. Tveit is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Education at the University of Oslo. He will join the University of Agder in southern Norway as University Lecturer in August. In addition to his comparative research related to assessment policy, Tveit has also worked on education and assessment issues at the municipal level (the equivalent of the district level in the US) and was a board member of the Norwegian School Student Union (which organized protests against the initial implementation of the national tests in 2005). He talked with us about how the national tests seem to have been integrated into the Norwegian education system but also pointed to the ways in which local and national politics reflect continuing debates over issues and tensions of testing, assessment…

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Support for Teachers from the Field of Medicine

At last someone has linked the problems of inappropriate use of testing in education with Doctorthose of the prestigious profession of medicine. Robert Wachter, Professor of Medicine at UCSF, has written a book titled The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age in which he argues that measurement has gotten out of hand. In a New York Times article “How Measurement Fails Us” (Sunday Review, Jan 17, 2016, p. 5) he states:

“Two of the most vital industries, health care and education, have become increasingly subjected to metrics and measurements. Of course, we need to hold professionals accountable. But the focus on numbers has gone too far.”

In the article Wachter notes that “burnout rates for doctors top 50 percent” and he says recent research has shown that “the electronic health record was a dominant culprit.” He then draws a parallel with teaching.

“Education is experiencing its own version of measurement fatigue. Educators complain that the focus on student test performance comes at the expense of learning.”

Wachter maintains that what is needed is “thoughtful and limited assessment.” “Measurement cannot go away, but it needs to be scaled back and allowed to mature. We need more targeted measures, ones that have been vetted to ensure that they really matter.” We also need to take account of the harm excessive measurement does. Again he compares the two professions: research has shown that

“In medicine, doctors no longer made eye contact with patients as they clicked away. In education, even parents who favored more testing around Common Core standards worried about the damaging influence of all the exams.”

With this welcome support, we in education need to consider how we can keep measurement within limits and focused on key matters, so it does not undermine our profession. When is measurement useful, and when does it do more harm than good?

Professional Learning in Top Performing Systems, part 2

I (Clare) thought you might find this blog interesting about high performing schools. Not sure I agree with all of it but food for thought

International Education News

PDinfographicv2The National Center on Education and the Economy’s (NCEE) Center on International Education Benchmarking has released two reports on professional learning environments in top performing systems: Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems and Developing Shanghai’s TeachersTo explore and share the findings of these reports, the NCEE held a conference last week featuring presentations and panel conversations with the leading voices in education from around the world. This conference was also streamed live and can be viewed online. Moderated by Marc Tucker, president and CEO of NCEE, speakers included Ben Jensen (author of Beyond PD) and Minxuan Zhang (author of Developing Shanghai’s Teachers).

Ben Jensen began his presentation with the questions, “What is at the core of high performing professional learning systems? What is the strategy to ensure effectiveness?”

Jensen argued that we need to move past the idea that there is a single answer…

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Parents versus Friends

In the Toronto Globe & Mail on January 15th I (Clive) read an interesting excerpt from a book by Leonard Sax called The Collapse of Parenting. According to Sax, young people are IMG_3128increasingly looking to friends for support rather than their parents; and the problem with that is whereas parents tend to stick by their children through thick and thin, many young people just drop their friends after a dispute or perceived minor infraction. As a result, children are becoming more vulnerable and anxious (a phenomenon others have noticed).

I think teachers should discuss this set of issues with their students as part of ongoing way of life education (and also introduce them to children’s books or young adult novels that deal with friendship, family life, etc.). Why do young people turn to friends rather than parents? Are they taking this too far? Do they realize the dangers (whatever they are)? Are friends less supportive than family? Support from friends often comes at a price (loyalty, obedience, etc.), but does family support also have a price? Should we go to friends for some things and parents for others? These are tricky questions, but I think exploring issues in a safe environment is always better than leaving young people to grapple with them on their own. And we will learn a lot through the discussions too!