Category Archives: Uncategorized

Delightfully Surprised

I (Cathy) was in the mood for a mystery thriller and happened upon a novel called The Passage by Justin Cronin.  As i like to be surprised, I didn’t read the book jacket.  Indeed i was surprised.  It was a horror thriller with characters akin to the Walking Dead zombies, but with more life, strength, and smarts.  In other words the human race didn’t stand a chance.  I admit when this was first revealed, I was a bit skeptical, however, the writing was suburb and the characters wonderfully rich and complex.  I ended up getting hooked and also listened to book two and three in the series, The Twelve, and the final book, The City of Mirrors.  All excellent.  It was after the first book I read a review:

“Read this book and the ordinary world disappears.” (Stephen King)

And he was right.  It was consuming until the very end. So, I think I’ll it start again!

passage_

A Listening Party for We Are the Halluci Nation

A Tribe Called Red just released their much anticipated album entitled, We Are The Halluci Nation. The Tribe Called Red is the Canadian-based music group comprised of First Nations members who merge electronic music styles along with contemporary powwow music. Their latest album features many artists (both Canadian and international) and focuses around the themes of decolonization and unification.

After listening to this powerful album several times this past weekend, I decided to incorporate it into my course Building on Reflective Practice. Since we have read some of Freire’s work about “reading the world” I thought analyzing this powerful and politically driven music would be an excellent way of tying together theory and practice. Students will be asked in pairs to “read” a song of their choice by analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing.

Probe questions will be asked such as:

  • What story is being told?
  • How does the work compare with other similar works?
  • What cultural, economic, or political forces influence the work?
  • What historical forces influence the work?What can you do in your daily life/classroom to contribute to shifting the narrative of colonization?

This will be followed by a listening of the album interspersed with insights and discussion from the groups and whole class. Below I am including the official video for the first song off the album.

Happy Back to School!

I (Pooja) have just joined a university as a new faculty member. Getting up this morning I, as many people were today, was filled with several emotions ranging from excitement to fear. I am looking forward to this new chapter in my professional life, and sharing new and interesting experiences with the wider teacher education and research community through this blog.

To all the educators, learners, and parents out there, I wish you a successful and memorable new school year!

firstday

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.

Building on Reflective Practice

This upcoming Fall I (Pooja) will begin teaching my first course at Simon Fraser University entitled: Building on Reflective Practice. The past few weeks I have been consumed thinking about what I want my course to look like. I have been asking myself: What do I want students to experience during this course? What is my overall goal for this course? What new understandings do I want students to be able to arrive to?

While developing the course I have realized I want students to have opportunities to develop as critical reflective practitioners;  that is think deeply about how issues of power, dominance, and equity influence their work and those they work with. I stumbled upon the following image (Pietroni, 1995) which has stuck with me. It speaks to how critical reflection helps to develop our practice (as teachers, social workers, nurses, etc.) as a professional, personal, and political act.

personal_political_professional

If you have taught a course in critical reflective practice, I would love to hear about your experiences. What worked and what didn’t? What did students find meaningful?

 

 

Teachers’ and Teacher Educators’ Roles beyond the curriculum

For decades academia, teacher education, and teachers have been talking about critical pedagogy. Like everything in education debates continue as to how much, when, it what ways it can and should be taught. My current post is not about whether we as teacher educators and teachers should or should not be critically conscious or the extent to which we should. This post is a consideration for how to teach for equity. I found this video about teaching inclusively our university’s website:

http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/oise/About_OISE/PrideVideo_Story.html

The video is a safe start. It is basic awareness and consciousness for more equitable practice. We, in North America, have been overwhelmed with what I feel are devastating events surrounding people: People of Colour, LGBTQ People, Police Officers, People of Muslim Faith and many other marginalized groups. Social media is exploding with perspectives and emotion surrounding the varying issues and people everywhere are left to understand what it what based on their own experiences and contexts. What responsibility do schools have in teaching for a more equitable society?

Critical pedagogy in education is not new. It is a pedagogy that has been studied and discussed and to some extent taught in schools and yet it continues to be a pedagogy that sits on the periphery of practice. It is pedagogy that is left to some to tackle in teacher education ~ usually those who themselves have a personal connection to inequity (as our research on literacy teacher educators has shown). Sometimes critical pedagogy is infused in some courses but mostly it is taught in an isolated course. We know that many teacher education programs continue to be dominated by White, middle class, women. Knowing this, I wonder how much impact one or two courses has on the consciousness and practices of a teacher who has not had many opportunity to even think, let alone experience, inequity.

What can be done? What should be done?  I think about my courses and the teacher candidates and feel that deep critical understandings within context, content and pedagogy is essential. In light of the movements and violence and confusion that is happening across the globe I see no option. If teaching is a relational act, then we must deepen our understandings of the varying relations that exist in communities and prepare teachers to not only teach for equity but have confidence in dealing with media literacy.

 

 

The Rise of the Two-Tiered System in Higher Ed

Over the past several decades,  higher education has slowly developed into a two-tiered system made up of tenure-track/tenured faculty and contract faculty. The latter of which work increasingly long hours often without great compensation or benefits. However, contract faculty work in these conditions because “at least it’s work” and/or “it’s a foot in the door.” I’ve been there as have many of my colleagues with dreams of making a career of teaching in higher education contexts. In her blog post on Inside HigherEd, Carolyn Betensky tries to make sense of how the two-tier system came to be through her own experiences:

How did we let it happen? Speaking for myself, I was so busy trying to find a job after completing my doctorate in 1997 that I didn’t pay much attention to the bigger picture. All I could think about was my own situation. Even though I understood that the odds of getting a tenure-track position were against me, I spent my time trying everything I could think of to improve my chances. Getting a job was up to me, I told myself. Oblivious to the highly individualistic ethos implanted in me in graduate school, I figured that if I was good enough, I would succeed. I did not think of the many other graduates who were also desperate to find tenure-track jobs — except for when I wanted to make myself feel better about the jobs I didn’t get.

I found a job — a three-year term position that turned into a six-year term position — whereupon I devoted myself to becoming even more irresistible as a job candidate the next time I had to go on the market. When I finally got an assistant professorship at the institution that employs me today, my thoughts turned to getting tenure.

It’s embarrassing to admit this, but even though I disapproved of the treatment of contingent faculty, I just wasn’t paying attention to the way the naturalization of their exploitation was taking place concurrently with my own professionalization. I never thought of myself as having any say in the matter: without a stable position from which to voice my opposition, I just looked on as administrations chipped and hacked away at humanities programs across the country, cutting costs by depleting programs of their tenure lines and replacing them with adjunct slots. Like most people I knew in the humanities, I felt helpless to do anything about the seemingly irreversible decline of the profession.

Betensky calls on tenure-stream faculty (since they have job security) to get “vocally involved at every level of governance in the ways that our institutions hire, compensate and retain educators.” She argues:

Tenured professors have considerably more leverage than graduate students or adjunct instructors in our institutions; it’s up to us to come together to put pressure on our administrations to make the many invisible positions we fill under the table into “real” jobs. We need to do it for all of our students, present and future, undergraduate and graduate, academe bound and otherwise. If many of us are already working under austerity conditions at our institutions and feel our own jobs imperiled, so much the more reason to act now to secure a living wage for all who teach at the university level. It is in the interest of all faculty members to band together to demand a future for higher education.

Betensky’s blog post has provided a lot of food for thought. What are your feelings on the rise of the two-tiered system in higher education?

Read Carolyn Betensky’s entire blog post here: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2016/06/28/tenured-faculty-should-help-battle-opportunities-graduate-students-and-adjuncts

 

 

 

School’s Out. Move over Alice Cooper: A response to traditional schooling

What is good pedagogy? What works for student achievement? What engages students? What are our end goals for schooling? As another school year draws to a close I begin to reflect on what the school year looked like, what was achieved and if in fact the intended goals for student development were met.

Our team writes on a variety of topics associated with 21st century literacy and learning. The pedagogy, vision, and goals of 21st century learning differ from traditional literacy learning and teaching in many ways.  Sometimes tradition and contemporary methods connect and sometimes they clash. As Clive has written in past posts; the idea isn’t to contrast and compare or pick and choose one particular position; instead, there is value in understanding the purpose, strengths and outcomes of varied stances and consider our contexts and goals for teaching and learning.

I came across this interesting article that brings to the table a “newer” consideration for literacy teaching: makerspace.  Not an entirely new concept, and inclusive of several well known pedagogies and approaches, the maker movement does challenge more traditional ways of learning.

“Making is a stance about learning,” Martinez said. “It’s the landscape you create in a classroom or any kind of learning space where kids have agency over what they do and a large choice of materials that are rich, deep and complex.”

The link to the article is here:

How to Turn Your School Into a Maker Haven

Now that “school’s out for summer” it may be a good time to think about how to improve our practice for student learning. It may be a good time to learn more about the maker movement, what it entails, and how we can learn from our students, from each other, and, more about the elements for achieving creativity, problem solving, collaboration, innovation, and literacy.

Eliminating the term “developing” country.

world

The World Bank has taken (a welcomed) position and has decided to eliminate the terms under developed, developing, and developed country.  Previously the World Bank labeled countries in the bottom two-thirds of Gross National Income as developing. A senior economist at the World Bank, Umar Serajuddin, explains why categorizing disparate countries together in the same groups is not useful:

“The main issue is that there is just so much heterogeneity between Malawi and Malaysia for both to be classified in the same group—Malaysia is more like the US than Malawi.”

These terms can be reductive and simplify the status of countries. The World Bank is hoping other organizations will follow suit.

Click on the link to read more: http://qz.com/685626/the-world-bank-is-eliminating-the-term-developing-country-from-its-data-vocabulary/

Does a Longer Teacher Education Program Make a Difference

I (Said) recently read an article in the Toronto Star about Ontario’s new two-year teacher Image_Said Pictureeducation program that left me a little disappointed https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2016/06/08/double-trouble-for-teachers-college-expansion.html. The recent move by Ontario’s Ministry of Education intends to “help address an oversupply of graduates, enabling Ontario’s qualified teachers to find jobs in their chosen field” (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2013). However, the lack of pedagogical renewal, combined with condensed courses, increasing class sizes, and fundings cuts are characteristic of reform that does not signal improvement.

The extra year of training, while providing more classroom experience, will not necessarily produce better teachers. Some may argue that more time can be spent on areas such as mathematics and special education, but this approach assumes that candidates enter the programs with deficiencies that need to be remedied before they become practicing teachers. A more sensible approach would seek to redesign the admission process, thereby selecting the best-suited candidates for the profession. By identifying qualities relevant to good teaching and utilizing an approach that can highlight them in applications, we can improve the quality of our candidates, even if the process becomes tougher (Kosnik, Brown, & Beck, 2005).

The decision to increase the length of the program, followed directly by finding strategies to help students graduate as fast as possible is an indicator of a system that wants to continue to rapidly produce teachers rather than emphasize the quality of the education that it is providing. Topics such as the micro-politics of teaching continue to be ignored despite the well-known fact that there exists a large disparity between what candidates learn in teacher education and the realities of the classrooms they end up teaching. As a result, beginning teachers will continue to suffer in a profession that “eats its young” and has a hard time retaining young, innovative teachers who are struggling to find employment.

In their chapter on reform efforts in teacher education, Kosnik, Beck & Goodwin (2016) present a constructivist vision of teaching and teacher education that ultimately promotes human well-being and rejects “reforms that stifle dialogue and impose a crassly political or narrowly economic agenda” (p. 294). Unfortunately, teacher education reform in Ontario has leaned towards the latter, but gradual progress will hopefully convince policymakers and the general public that short-sighted solutions will not unlock the potential that the teaching profession has to change the world.

References:

Kosnik, C., Beck, C., & Goodwin, L. (2016). Reform efforts in teacher education. In J. Loughran & M.L. Hamilton (Eds.). Handbook on Teacher Education (pp. 267-308). Dordretcht:            Springer Academic Publishers.

Kosnik, C., Brown, R., & Beck, C. (2005). The preservice admissions process: What qualities do  future teachers need and how can they be identified in applicants? The New
Educator, 1
(2), 101-123.
Ontario Ministry of Education (2013). Modernizing Teacher Education
in Ontario.
Retrieved from  http://news.ontario.ca/edu/en/2013/06/modernizing-teacher-education- in-ontario.html