Category Archives: university

Congratulations to Tim Fletcher

Congratulations to our friend and colleague Tim Fletcher on the publication of Self-Study in Physical Education Teacher Education which he co-edited Tim Fletcherwith Alan Ovens. Tim has a long-time commitment to the practice and study of health and physical education. Teaching at Brock University where he is an Assistant Professor and conducting research on the preparation of teachers to teach phys ed, he understands the complexity of the issues facing teachers and teacher educators. Helping children and youth acquire the skills and attitudes to lead a healthy and active lifestyle is not easy but is critically important. This text will help us think differently about preparing teachers to teach health and physical education.

Here is a description of the book:Book cover

In this in-depth examination of self-study as a research methodology, an international selection of physical education scholars share their ideas and experiences and consider the value of self-study as a vector for highlighting the emerging conflicts, dilemmas, and debates currently developing in teaching and teacher education pedagogies. A vital new addition to Springer’s series Self-Study of Teacher Education Practices, the volume is divided into three sections assessing the significance of the approach itself, offering detailed subject-relevant case studies, and exploring the nuances and controversies attending the evolution of the methodology.
The contributors show how self-study enables reflexivity in pedagogical practice, a notable lacuna in current critical research, and at the same time they make the technique accessible to scholars of physical education wanting a practicable introduction to the subject. The analysis also explores the implications of applying self-study to pedagogy itself, to the curriculum, and to human movement and educational practice more generally. By embracing more organic, emergent notions of research practice and learning, the book achieves a broader and more inclusive survey of pedagogical work in physical education teacher education that fully acknowledges the complexities of the field.

Interviews and the Research Process

I (Yiola) have used the method of interviews for data gathering for over a decade. I love it;the entire process is fascinating. From designing research questions, to finding suitable participants, to setting up interview dates, to meeting with participants, to reading the transcript and to sharing the transcript with the participants.



There is something special about qualitative interviews.  Perhaps what is special is the human connection, perhaps the interaction, perhaps the commitment demonstrated by the participants . I think perhaps all of the aforementioned make the interview process special. In my many years of interviewing participants,  what inspires me the most is the passion the participants demonstrate as they explain with detail and careful description their thoughts and experiences about education.  I can (and do) listen for hours. The participants I have worked with show appreciation for their involvement in the research and often express how much learning they receive from the experience. The latter is particularly true of participants in longitudinal studies.

The role of the researcher: what an honour and privilege to spend time with willing participants; to be privy to their time and thoughts. A special relationship develops between research and participant that is built on trust, respect and commitment.  This relationship takes time to foster and requires thoughtfulness.  The interview data is often the foundation of the research.  This data is built upon a deep understand of research literature, thoughtful research questions, carefully crafted interview questions, and committed research participants.  Relationship building is key when using interviews in the research process.




Stimulating Writing with Youtube

I (Cathy) teach Writer’s Workshop in my university literacy class by having my student teachers participate in one.  They engage in the entire process from selecting a genre, to peer editing, to learning from descriptive feedback, to publishing their work.   I am amazed every year how much the student teachers gain from the experience.  They often begin the process terrified of being a writer and of  teaching writing.  The Writer’s Workshop structure helps them overcome much of that fear.   One of the biggest challenges they must overcome is selecting a genre to write in.  Every year several students are completely stymied by this.  To aid these students I provide wordless picture books for which they must write the words.  They love it and swear they will do this for their own students when they are teachers.

The other day I came across a new source for stimulating writing.  It made me laugh out loud.  Would you write it from the sea gulls point of view, or the cat’s?


The Gift of Education

I (yiola) came across this article while surfing the net a few days ago and read it over twice in order for its news to set in.  What amazing news!

Right here in our own backyard, in a small region of Ontario, an anonymous donor is giving many students and their families the gift of higher education and an opportunity to change their lives and make their dreams come true… “when I grow up I want to be a…”

Financial accessibility is a significant issue for so many things today, higher education is certainly a privilege.  This story is unique and very touching. Congratulations to all the students who have a wonderful opportunity for ongoing education and thank you to the anonymous donor.

Graduation Time and New Journeys Begin

It is that time of year again when thousands of University graduates wear their gowns and receive their degrees of academic achievement.

I (Yiola) work in the most amazing graduate/teacher education program. The Child Study and Education program (MA CSE) that is part of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). The program’s vision, structure, and content, are premised on the child being at the centre of learning. How children learn and what research says about children’s learning are central to the program. The program looks at child development and learning and grounds these notions in the varied contexts (social, cognitive, spatial) that children experience.  With this focus in mind, I teach a curriculum course and a teacher development/instructional methods course. Equity and inclusion, collaborative practice and professionalism frame my courses.

This two year Masters level graduate program prepares  teacher candidates for teaching in elementary classrooms (early years to sixth grade).  The program now admits sixty students per year.  Included here is a photo of some of our graduates at our graduation reception last week. This photo is taken in front of our beautiful and unique building, the McCarthy house, located at 45 Walmer Rd. in Toronto. It is an old Toronto mansion that not only houses the MA CSE program but also contains the Toronto Laboratory School and the Laidlaw Centre (faculty from the University of Toronto).

As I watched and celebrated with our graduates this year I heard of the many journeys that were upcoming: many are now on the Toronto District School Board hiring list and will be occasional teachers in Fall, some are going on to PhD programs, a few are traveling to places around the world to explore and contribute to schooling systems abroad (India, Brazil), some graduates are entering the independent school system.  I wish every graduate much success and happiness as they embark on new challenges and adventures.

Mostly, I wish the graduates of the MA CSE program a continued sense of commitment and passion for instilling a love of learning, a sense of confidence and an “joie de vivre” in the lives of all the children they teach.

Some of the amazing graduates from the MA CSE program. I (Yiola) and 2nd from the left. Next to me is my wonderful colleague Prof. Dale Willows.
Some of the amazing graduates from the MA CSE program. I (Yiola) am 2nd from the left. Next to me is my wonderful colleague Prof. Dale Willows.

Standards and Standardization in Teaching and Teacher Education

Clive BeckAs the participants in the symposium talked about the state of teacher education in our 4 countries, I (Clive) was dismayed at the rapid movement toward requiring everyone (teachers and teacher educators) to teach the same things in the same way.
The cartoon about requiring all animals – elephants, monkeys, birds, fish, etc. – to climb the same tree kept coming to mind. This is madness. In the real world, not only are people different but we need them to be different because of the diverse tasks that have to be performed.
But it’IMG_2598s problematic to publicly describe standardization as madness, since conservatives have presented their position in terms of raising or maintaining standards, and we may be seen as being soft on standards.
Two strategies have occurred to me: One is to fly under the radar, teaching in a rich and individualized way while also implementing “standards.” We have to learn to DO BOTH, as much as possible.
The other strategy is to develop and publicize the argument – noted above – that diversity is needed in all walks of life, and a society that doesn’t “let a hundred flowers bloom” will not prosper. I don’t think we have been vocal and persistent enough in pressing this Clive and Nickpoint.
Tug Agency was a fabulous place to hold the Symposium. The Tug Team are an example of very talented people who have gone far beyond the “standards” of education. They are very able and very creative — what can we learn from them about how to make education relevant and engaging?


Engaging with Suffixes

“How to engage students in the understanding and use of suffixes?” was the pressing question on my (Cathy’s) student teacher’s mind. Erica told me she mulled this over for several days, trying to get the pieces to fit together just right.    Her final creation – a suffix game. The wonderfully large, colourful game board alone was enough to grab her grade five students’ attention. Played in teams, each group had to role a gigantic die to move their magnetic counter on the board.   Some spaces on the game board depicted words (e.g. effort, bonus, time) which each team had to add either the suffix ‘less’ or ‘full’ to, and then write each word correctly in a sentence. Small white boards were provided to each team for this task.   Other spaces on the board instructed the teams to create a tableaux depicting the new meaning of the word once the correct suffix was added. A few  spaces on the board provided bonus points.

I have always had a concern about student teachers being focused on ‘fun’ over learning and wondered about the level  of learning these students would experience with this game. This concern, however, was mollified when I witnessed the mistakes the teams were making which forced them to rethink their answers.  The animated group discussions regarding which was correct were very interesting to observe.  When the nutrition bell rang and the grammar lesson came to an end, there were groans and moans of protest. Imagine, grade fives liking grammar. Erica wisely told them they could play again soon.

Erica's Game


A Lack of Diversity in Higher Education Leadership

An interesting article was published last week about the lack of    diversity to be found in university leadership. When looking at full-time faculty at universities across the U.S., 79% were white. The lack of diversity was found most among higher ranking faculty (tenure-track; leadership roles; presidents).  For example, while 44 percent of full-time faculty at degree-granting institutions are women, they hold only 29 percent of tenure-tracked positions at doctoral institutions — even though women outperform men 56 to 40 percent in national research grant awards.”

An excerpt from the article:

Thus, university leadership increasingly reflects neither the student body being led nor the world in which graduates will need to operate, a situation that engenders disadvantages and lost opportunities. Students benefit from having mentors and role models from their own racial, ethnic, or gender group — as do faculty who aspire to leadership positions. Institutional leaders can strongly influence institutional culture; having leaders from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences enriches the intellectual and cultural climate in which students learn. And exposure to and experience working with people from different cultural backgrounds better prepares students for the real-world working environment of their futures.

The excerpt above describes much of what is happening in the K-12 teaching force in North America. Although efforts are being made to diversify the teaching force, white female teachers remain the majority of K-12 teachers.

Read the entire blog here:

Assignments: Bane of Student Teachers and Professors

checkmark imagesI (Clare) was in my department yesterday and ran into a number of colleagues. Most were bemoaning their heavy marking load. This is the end of the semester and most seemed snowed under with the grading papers. A few weeks ago I observed a number of student teachers submitting their assignments. They too looked tired and were complaining about their assignments and workload. Yes assignments are work. Yes as instructors we need to grade student work. But there is something wrong with this picture. Many of the student teachers do not find their assignments useful (as a few commented – “they are just make- work projects”) and faculty spend huge amounts of time marking projects their student teachers found wanting. We definitely need to have assignments but I think it is time to discuss what are useful assignments for student teachers. The corollary issue is how can marking assignment be useful for faculty?
A number of years ago when I was Director of the Elementary Preservice program at OISE we created a survey about assignments which we distributed to around 600 student teachers. The results were surprising: they did not like having to self-assess, they disliked group projects, and they would rather have fewer, more in-depth assignments, than many little ones. (Most criticized were submitting long lesson plans with reflections. Many admitted they simply made up the reflections.) What was not surprising is they valued assignments where they had choice in both the topic and the format. If we (faculty and student teachers) are going to spend significant time on assignments then let’s use our time more fruitfully and productively. We cannot do away with assignments but I think we can reconceptualize them to be more useful for everyone involved.

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.