Category Archives: study of teachers

Thoughts on being a student of teaching

As I (Yiola) prepare for the upcoming AERA conference by finalizing and editing my papers I am drawn to a few key ideas on teacher development that I have come across in the literature.

The International Handbook of Teacher Education  volumes 1 and 2 (Loughran and Hamilton Eds., 2016) include a number of chapters on topics in teacher education. Our own team leaders Clare Kosnik and Clive Beck along with close colleague Lin Goodwin (Teachers College, Columbia University) share a chapter on Reform Efforts in Teacher Education. 

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The volumes are filled with interesting chapters.  What has caught my attention at this time is a chapter on teacher led professional development. Bullough and Smith write on Being a student of teaching: Practitioner research and study groups.  The chapter describes the idea of being a student of teaching (as a current practitioner) from two dimensions: the personal and the contextual. Exploring reflective practice (the personal dimension) and opportunities and support for teacher learning (the contextual dimension), the authors share insights from Dewey (1933) to Avalos (2004, 2011) and Livingston (2011).  The chapter also explores ways of being a student of teaching: through practitioner research and study groups and the varied ways one can learn. An in-depth and detailed review and analysis of teacher led professional development.

This work fits beautifully with my paper titled: Examining the Professional Life of an Elementary School Teacher: Literacy Education in the Making where I have taken one participant from our 13 year longitudinal study of 40 elementary schools teachers from Canada and the USA and shared her literacy teaching trajectory (mainly from the contextual dimension). I am looking forward to sharing this paper and work at the upcoming AERA conference in late April.

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.

Researching Teacher Education

Most recently we are reviewing the data from a study that explores graduates’  impressions of their teacher preparation from one teacher education program. The participants are graduates from 1999-2014 and we have well over 200 respondents. A survey was conducted that included qualitative responses. So far, the responses have been incredibly interesting. As we work through the data I gain more and more excitement for the possibilities of understanding teaching education and improving not only my personal practice as a teacher educator but also the potential for improving the structure and programming of teacher education.

As we review the current data I keep in mind the many findings and recommendations of past research.  For example, in 2009 Clive Beck and Clare Kosnik along with a strong team of graduate researchers published their findings from a qualitative study on classroom teachers’ understandings, perceptions, and explanations of their practice and teacher education experience. Their book, Priorities in Teacher Education: The 7 Key Elements of Pre-Service Preparation, is the first of several from what has become longitudinal study (13 years and counting) of teachers work and development.  In Priorities of Teacher Education Beck and Kosnik identify seven priority areas for teacher areas:

  • program planning
  • pupil assessment
  • classroom organization and community
  • inclusive education
  • subject content and pedagogy
  • professional identity
  • a vision for teaching

 

These priorities are coming up in several interesting ways in our current research and I look forward to analyzing and writing up the findings in the months ahead.  More so, I am excited to be thinking about research-based considerations for improving our teacher education program and my personal practice.

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.

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Brilliant Statement on Public Education by Canadian Teachers’ Organizations

 

The Presidents of 21 Canadian Teachers’ organizations – national, provincial, and territorial – have released a belief statement and call to action developed at their May 29-June 1, 2016 Meeting. The statement arose out of “overwhelming concerns about education reform, inclusive education, austerity budgets and teachers’ mental health and wellness.”

otf-brandmark-en-CA Receiving the statement courtesy of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, I (Clive) was truly blown away by it. It is brief, to the point, and timely, and ties in with so much of what researchers and practitioners around the world are concluding about teaching and schooling today.

The five-point Belief Statement is as follows:

  1. Austerity budgets undermine the strength of our public education system as students and their teachers lose out, and families are left out.
  2. Publicly funded public education must be fully funded to support student learning.
  3. A successful inclusive education model requires sufficient funding and teachers/educators to ensure student needs are addressed.
  4. Assessment of students is best left to the professional judgment of teachers.
  5. Fiscal deficits must not be solved at the expense of the public education system or on the backs of our children.

The Call to Action calls on governments across Canada to take immediate action to address the above concerns.http://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/news/presidents-of-canadian-teachers-organizations-release-belief-statement-and-call-to-action/

Some may argue that public funds are becoming scarcer today and everyone must cut back. However, assessment of students by teachers rather than by standardized tests (point 4) would save a lot of money and make schooling more effective: less time would be spent on test preparation. As for the adequate funding of public education, in the long run that pays for itself in terms of student success, economic productivity, societal well-being, and teacher retention and effectiveness.

A major reason for the past and present success of Canadian schooling – as seen in its solid PISA rankings – has been the relatively high status and funding of teaching in Canada. This has helped attract able people to the profession and keep them there. It is incredibly important not to erode this advantage. Let’s stand with the teachers’ organizations as they pursue this line of action.

 

Longitudinal Study of Teachers

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Clare, I (Clive) and our wonderful research team are gearing up for our annual visits and interviews with the 40 teachers in our SSHRC study. This is the 12th year of study and we have got to know the teachers well; we are really looking forward to seeing them again. (Actually, we recently received SSHRC funding to follow them for another 5 years, which is exciting.)

At the same time, Clare, Elizabeth Rosales (one of our team members) and I are working on an article on longitudinal study of teachers for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. This is a challenge, because people differ on what longitudinal research means. For example, some say it must involve studying the same “cohort” year after year (as in our project), while others include “cross-sectional” study of different teachers at different career stages.

In the article, we have decided to take a broad view of longitudinal study, including any research that has a time perspective. For one thing, studying the same teachers year after year is not always feasible: funding is often just for a restricted period, and teachers may move to other parts of the country (we have been lucky in that nearly all our participants have stayed put, either in the Greater Toronto Area or the New York/New Jersey area).

Where feasible a cohort study does have clear advantages. As we are finding, you can get to know the teachers and their context very well, and so understand the details of how they change and grow and why the changes occur. However, large-scale cross-sectional studies of teachers at different career stages – such as Huberman’s research in the 1980s and the 2001-2005 VITAE study in the UK – can also provide enormous insights.