Category Archives: Teacher education

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. 

9789811003677

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.

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Literacy/English Teacher Educators — Goals for Their Courses

Along with my research team we have been studying literacy/English teacher educators. Through this work I became very fascinated with a notion of a pedagogy of literacy teacher education. In the second interview we asked  them to define the goals for their courses. We then categorized and tabulated the results. As the table below show not surprisingly building knowledge of literacy was their first goal.

Goals for course Number who identified this goal
Build knowledge of literacy 28
Build knowledge of pedagogical strategies 25
Student teachers adopt a professional role 18
Student teachers develop a critical stance 16
Build knowledge of government initiatives 13
Build knowledge of digital technology 11
Focus on student teacher growth 10

When the specific goals for their courses were analyzed using NVivo a more nuanced picture emerged. Their vision for literacy varied tremendously. Regarding literacy although learning about literacy and acquiring pedagogical strategies were common goals, interpretations of what student teachers need to know about literacy theory and teaching strategies varied.

Some like Melissa, Dominique, and Maya (pseudonyms used img_1030.jpgthroughout) focused on critical literacy while Amelia and Jessie had multiliteracies as the framework for their courses. Jane and Lance focused on children’s literature, while Sharon and Margie had the writing process as their priority. One LTE focused her course totally on phonics and phonological awareness.  Justin commented: “I see our work as being about the development of teachers as public intellectuals …  not simply to prepare beginning teachers for whatever the particular curricular or pedagogic demands of policy here now are but for a lifetime in teaching and this involves them being able to be both critical of initiatives that are thrust on them and creative in their approaches.”

It also became apparent the teacher educators’ broader goals for teacher education were quite different.  For example Justin believed that he should “prepare student teachers for a lifetime of teaching; prepare them to be public intellectuals; see schools as an emancipatory space. Caterina aims to have her student teachers “themselves as professionals not college students.” Emma has very specific goals: “understand current curriculum …  develop skills to plan and asses … be independent thinkers who are not just teaching for the schools we have.” Bob by contrast has broader goals “student teachers learn to focus on the students … to unpack their beliefs  [about schooling] … and to develop an identity as a professional.” While Martha Ann focuses on the individual’s development “develop a sense of self-efficacy … learn to take initiative … …. know children’s literature … empower students.” The lack of consistency in literacy methods courses (content and pedagogy) in teacher education is a concern because student teachers may graduate with markedly different understandings of literacy and may have been exposed to a particular set of literacy theories and pedagogies.

In my next blog post I will present the framework for a pedagogy of literacy teacher education.

Do we blame the process or the machine?

A Toronto school is banning the use of cellphones in the classroom & hallways amid strong protest from parents who believe that students are distracted & abusing their privilege.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/earl-grey-public-school-cell-phones-1.3992597

As I read this article, I was torn. On the one hand, I recognize that technology has the potential to enhance student learning (I do wonder how we are measuring this ‘enhancement’). I love the opportunities that access to technology and Web 2.0 tools can create in the classroom to engage students in different ways. On the other hand, I have witnessed students misuse their devices as an occasional teacher. The uninterrupted access to Wi-Fi in many school boards means that students are always connected and participating in digitally-mediated social interaction via instant messaging services (Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat etc.) while at school and in the classroom.

At the intermediate level, I get interrupted frequently while teaching because someone is taking a selfie. It is incredibly distracting. At the secondary level, students are less devious but naturally cannot resist the occasional distraction since information is literally at their fingertips. I always have to explain, “There’s a time and place for checking your social media. I do not tweet while teaching nor do I send my folks pictures of my outfit.”

Despite commitments to integrating technology in the classroom/curriculum at a school board-wide level, how it looks in action varies across schools, classes, & teachers. Some teachers treat digital technology (DT) as the carrot at the end of the stick (“Work well and you can use your devices for 5 minutes”) while others do a phenomenal job incorporating it into their day-to-day teaching. Moving forward, we need to monitor how pre-service teachers are being trained to use DT and how in-service teachers (who perhaps completed their teacher training when DT did not play a big role in learning) are reflecting on their attitudes toward DT and adjusting their practice. In my opinion, blaming devices & the internet for interrupting learning is a scapegoat for a bigger issue…the process. The process involves challenging beliefs, addressing misconceptions, designing policies, providing the how-to, educational transformation, and so much more! It is complex, controversial, bumpy, and requires constant refinement, but it is progress.

A quote from the Inherit the Wind movie (one of my favorite plays): Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there’s a man who sits behind a counter and says, “Alright, you can have a telephone, but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.”

Meditation instead of Detention

I (Cathy) was delighted to recently read about schools in the UK and the US that have replaced detention rooms with mediation rooms.  For Robert W. Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, this practice began through a partnership with the Holistic Life Foundation, (a local nonprofit organization) who set up a Holistic Me after school program.  The Holistic Me program was for children from pre-K through to the fifth grade. The children were taught practice mindfulness exercises and yoga as a means of managing their stress and anger.  The program had such effective results that children who were acting out in class were also trained in the various practices.  The results were so impressive, the detention room was eventually replaced by a meditation room complete with pillow, soft lights and gentle music.

girls-med

“It’s amazing,” says Kirk Philips, the Holistic Me coordinator at Robert W. Coleman. “You wouldn’t think that little kids would meditate in silence. And they do.” Philips also reports that overall discipline in the school has improved dramatically in the school. “There have been exactly zero suspensions last year and so far this year. Nearby Patterson Park High School, also began the mindfulness programs, and reported suspension rates dropped and attendance increased as well.

 

Although mindfulness practices like mediation and yoga have been around for thousands of years, it has only recently become the object of educational studies and research.  It will be interesting to see where the research leads us.

yoga

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-gpAFPlGOE

 

http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning?c=ufb1

 

 

Mobile Learning

Well, I (Cathy) changed mobile phone brands. I was an avid iphone user, but my son-in-law convinced me to switch  to an android.    I’m delighted to say the switch over  has been pretty smooth.  In truth, I see very little difference.  Both use apps.  Both are user friendly. Both take great pictures.  My messaging and contacts all remained the same. Mind you, I couldn’t answer my phone the first time it rang because I kept tapping the icon when I should have been sliding, and I didn’t set the alarm correctly the first time it used it and slept in.  But other than that, the learning curve has been quite minimal.  My favourite function of my new android  is the slide pattern security code.  So much easier than tapping numbers. Interestingly, I showed my new phone to an old friend the other day and she was horrified by the idea of not only switching phones, she wont give up her flip top. She said the new phones overwhelm her.  I’m relieved I have not been overwhelmed, in fact I am invigorated.  I’d like to try to use mobile phones more in my literacy class.  Yesterday,  I discovered our university does not have a class set of clickers for class feedback.  But on Google I discovered I can use an app called  Poll Everywhere for free with my class.

www.polleverywhere.com 

The video assures me any mobile phone will work, even flip phones!  Next week, its use your cell phone in class day.  Just hope I set the alarm correctly and don’t sleep in!

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

 

 

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.

Developing Visual Literacy Skills

As I (Cathy) prepare to teach my primary literacy class in teacher education at Laurier University, I have been reviewing the need to address visual literacy. Visual literacy is interpreting and evaluating images, animations, words, and symbols while also integrating sensory experiences. As students from K to 12 are constantly bombarded with images, it is essential that we incorporate visual literacy into the curriculum to allow students to develop comprehension and critical thinking skills that are specific to visual literary.

Sankey (2002) states:

Visual images are fast becoming the most predominant form of communication. Visual genres and mediums now dominate communication; photographs, television. film, video, the internet, cartoons, posters, t-shirts, comics, multimedia presentations and computer simulations.

The following diagram effectively highlights why visual literacy should be incorporated into our primary curriculum:

6946127

 

Personally, I find cartoons a wonderful source of meaning making and came across the following diagram supporting Blooms and cartoons.

blooms and cartoons

 

I also find cartoons useful in establishing a particular atmosphere in my university classroom and incorporate them weekly into my power points. I’ll use this one on our first day to introduce the topic of visual literacy and how 21st century classrooms may be somewhat different than what we experienced as children.

school-cartoons-2012

 

http://dovernewliteraciesproject.weebly.com/digital-vs-visual-literacy.html