Tag Archives: Growing as a Teacher

Longitudinal Study of Teacher Continues: Multiliteracies Teaching in a Digital Age: Balancing the Old and the New

Clive and ClareClive and I (Clare) along with our amazing research team (many of whom have posted blogs) having been following 40 teachers, some for 10 years and others for 8 years. This has been incredibly rewarding research because we have seen how teachers change over time. In Growing as a teacher: Goals and pathways

Growing as a Teacher book cover
Growing as a Teacher

of ongoing teacher learning we reported on their first 8 years of teaching. We are VERY happy to report that we have received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to continue our research for another five years. The title of our proposal was: Multiliteracies Teaching in a Digital Age: Balancing the Old and the New. Click here to see the Description of Research that we submitted to SSHRC. Final Detailed Description 2014We could not have conducted this research without the work of our research team and the cooperation of the teachers. We look forward to seeing how our teachers change and develop as mid-career to later-career teachers.

How do teachers learn? Guest blog by Elizabeth Rosales

What are the ways teachers learn? What kinds of professional development activities do Elizabeth Rosalesteachers participate in during their careers? What are the main supports for teacher learning in Ontario? What are the professional learning activities teachers find more helpful? What are teachers’ critiques to the current professional development activities?

These questions were in my mind when I (Elizabeth) started my Master´s thesis research at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Working with Clare Kosnik and Clive Beck in the longitudinal study of teachers (https://literacyteaching.net/projects/) has been a great opportunity to learn about teachers and teaching. My Master’s thesis research was a sub-study of this longitudinal study.

The experiences of Tanya and Anita – the two teachers who participated in my study – offered me a great opportunity to gain insight into their learning experiences. Drew on interviews that were held over their first eight years in the teaching profession, my aim was to:

  • identify the kinds of professional development opportunities that were available to the teachers, and
  • describe the teachers’ perceptions of the possibilities and limits of these opportunities.

The most relevant conclusions of my study are:

–        Mentoring can be very helpful provided the mentor is well-selected, the timing is precise, and the relationship is encouraging

The findings suggest that there are three key elements for a beneficial induction process: (i) the pairing process should consider a match in the teaching assignments of the mentor and mentee, (ii) the induction should start in the first year of teaching and early in the academic year, and (iii) the relationship should respond to the emotional needs of the new teacher.

–        Collaboration can significantly enhance teacher professional learning. However, the benefits can be constrained by educational policy pressures and different visions of teaching within the collaborating group.

The teachers participated in several formal and informal opportunities to collaborate with other teachers. They valued “bouncing ideas off each other” and “talking through” their pedagogical practices in these experiences.

Nevertheless, teachers critiqued the formal opportunities sponsored by the government since they focused on specific content that was not related to their needs. The research points to the necessity of teacher input and decision-making for the design and implementation of relevant professional development programs.

Also, teachers found it challenging when different vision of teaching emerge within the collaborating group. The findings suggest the importance of conducting a discussion of visions of teaching in order to establish common ground on which to build collaboration in a community of teachers.

–        University graduate degree work can be a valuable means of teacher professional learning through fostering connections between pedagogical theory and teaching practice.

The parallel work of teaching and part-time graduate studies presented one of the teachers with several opportunities to link theory and practice. There were reciprocal gains from participation in both spaces. For instance, the readings about new theories of literacy shaped her classroom practice, and also her teaching informed her research.

Further research is needed to understand the potential benefits of graduate studies as an alternative route for teacher professional development.

If you are interested in learning more about Tanya and Anita learning experiences, you can access the following link to download my full work (for FREE!)


Your opinions and feedback are welcome!

Longitudinal Study of Teachers: A Highly Rewarding Experience

Clive and ClareClive and I (Clare) are in NYC and NJ to interview teachers we have been following for 7 years. Conducting this longitudinal research has been an amazing experience because we have seen how these teachers change over the years. The first year of the study was stressful for both the participants and me. As brand new teachers, they were sharing with a virtual stranger (me, the researcher) their experiences as new teachers which included both highs and lows. As a researcher I was keenly aware of the challenges new teachers face so I did not want them to feel uncomfortable and I was unsure that the interview questions were appropriate for first year teachers. Over the years, I have gotten to know these remarkable women who often are teaching in very difficult settings. Interestingly, I have seen how their lives changed: getting married, having a baby, losing a spouse …. All life-changing experiences which have impacted their teaching. I am truly grateful that many years ago these young teachers opened their doors to me and have continued to be part of this study. Our interview questions for this year of the study are available. Click on the Link About Our Research then click on the drop down menu tab Instruments.

Some of the findings from this longitudinal research can be found in our new book, Growing as a Teacher https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/professional-learning-1/growing-as-a-teacher/

Cartagena Colombia: Presentations by Clive and Clare

CartagenaCartagena CountrysideClive and I (Clare) presented at the Unicolombo Universitaria Colombo Internacional in Cartagena (Part of a Ministry of Education initiative). The overall theme of our presentations was the need to offer quality education for all.
Clive’s presentation focused on supporting teacher learning in their on-going learningwhile mine focused on the importance of engaging students by offering a rich literacy program.
About 300 teacher educators and teachers attended our presentations. What a lovely audience! In the Q & A part of the presentation, we had a great interchange about the pressure on the educators to improve scores on PISA.
CCartagena Balconieslick below to see our ppt presentations.

Clive: Priorities in Teacher Education: The 7 Key Elements of Preservice Preparation
Bogota Clive#2
Clare: Literacy Teaching:Engaging All StudentsCrepes and Nutella
Cartagena 2014 CK

Enjoy the photos of this enchanting city which is designated a World Heritage Site.Clive and Clare


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. https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/professional-learning-1/growing-as-a-teacher/

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.



Professional Identity

Today I (Clive) was teaching my School and Society (social foundations) course in the preservice program. Our topic was professional identity. What a class we had! We discussed:

·      Teachers’ perception of their role

·      Motivation and satisfaction

·      Challenges of teaching

·      Work-life balance

·      Confidence

·      Stance in relation to system mandates

I selected a number of quotes from our chapter on professional identity from our upcoming text: Growing as a Teacher (Sense Publishers). The students took turns reading these quotes aloud which proved to be very powerful. We brought the “voices” of the teachers into the class. Here are a few of the quotes we read:

Classroom teachers have an enormously challenging job; I didn’t realize that when I first started teaching, but now I do. And that hasn’t made me any less effective, if anything it’s made me somewhat more; because now I’m kinder to myself. I see that basically the teacher sets the atmosphere of the classroom, and if you’re constantly stressed out and trying to attain the impossible you become a frustrated and burnt out person. (Felicity, eighth year teacher)

The most important aspects of my role are ensuring that my students develop a positive sense of self; that they acquire a love of learning; and that they develop a world perspective, with compassion and understanding for other people. Embedded in that are social skills; but it’s bigger than that, because I want them to see beyond their own life and community. This view of my role is broader than it used to be. If you’d asked me when I started teaching I would have said the world citizenship component was important, but it didn’t play into my daily practice to the extent it does now. (Tanya, eighth year teacher)

Coming out of my inner-city pre-service program, where the emphasis was on being a change-maker and inspiring every kid, I had to learn that it can often be slow going and I have to not feel defeated if I fail to accomplish everything I hoped for. Because…you really, really need to enjoy teaching to last in the profession, and it’s draining and can get frustrating. I’ve always worked in inner-city schools, so I’m mentally prepared for it…[but] I’ve had to learn not to take things personally. Otherwise you go home and things rest in your mind and you get physically sick.  (Jessica, fifth year teacher)

Basing my teaching on where the students are and where they need to be [according to the standards-based approach], I found I ended up teaching to the test; and the whole fun and love of learning went out the door. So I changed my process, and asked: What am I teaching? What skills need to be taught? How can I get that across to them in a way that they’ll enjoy? And then after reflecting on it, and seeing where it didn’t work so well, I asked: What should I change?   (Lucy, fifth year teacher)