Tag Archives: Pasi Sahlberg

Guest Blog: Shelley Murphy

Supporting Student Well-Being through Mindfulness Practices
Shelly MurphyLast week I (Shelley Murphy) had the opportunity to hear Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg speak about the quality of Finland’s education system. One of the many things that stood out to me as particularly memorable was Finland’s teachers’ primary focus on supporting student well-being. It got me thinking about the newly published Ontario Ministry of Education document Achieving Excellence: A Renewed Vision for Education in Ontario http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/about/excellent.html. Its focus is on the skills, knowledge, and characteristics learners need for success and well-being and a plan of action for promoting these. I am excited to know that the ministry has recognized the fundamental importance of student well-being and has included it as one of its four core priorities here in Ontario.
One way to promote student well-being and resilience is through mindfulness awareness practices. Mindfulness practice, which has most recently been taught and practiced within the context of medicine, has been increasingly attracting attention in the field of education. When I was an elementary teacher, I used mindfulness practices to help students learn to be more self-aware, less reactive, and to meet each moment with greater attention and presence. As a teacher educator, I now introduce my preservice students to mindfulness awareness practices within my Special-Education courses. There is increasingly convincing data showing that regular mindfulness practices strengthen the areas of the brain that control attention, executive functioning, emotion regulation, and mental flexibility. A myriad of groups and organizations are surfacing to promote mindfulness in our schools for these very reasons (e.g. Discover Mindfulness in Ontario http://discovermindfulness.ca/ ; Mindful Schools in California http://www.mindfulschools.org/ ). Considering the importance of supporting the mental health, resilience, and overall well-being of both school aged students and our preservice teachers, I think mindfulness awareness practices and their applications within educational settings are worth taking a closer look at!

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Dilemma for Educators: Focus on Pisa Scores or Improve Quality of Education

Colombian FlagClive and I (Clare) are going to Bogota and Cartagena to present at two conferences: one for teacher educators and one for teacChildren in Colombiahers. (More about our experience to follow.) In our correspondence with our Colombian hosts, who have been incredibly gracious, we get the impression they are very focused on improving Pisa scores. From our reading about Colombia we recognize there is grinding poverty yet they have made huge strides in improving literacy rates. We appreciate the dilemma faced by the Colombians –improve test scores on international measures yet education is under resourced. Being inspired by Pasi Sahlberg (and in keeping with the findings from our research as described in our new book Growing as a Teacher), the focus should not be unilaterally on improving Pisa scores but should be broader — provide quality education. Good teaching will improve literacy achievement and which in turn improve scores on Pisa. As Sahlberg’s data shows, the countries focused on controlling the curriculum and on teaching to the test have declining achievement on Pisa. (See April 19th blog post on this topic.) Drills and mindless worksheets will not engaged those children who do not see themselves as readers. So our message will be – let’s support teachers so they know how to provide relevant, engaging, and appropriate curriculum. The scores on Pisa will take care of themselves. We would love to hear from others who have worked in Colombia.

Pasi Sahlberg: An Inspiring Educator

I (Clare) attended the BEST lecture by Pasi Sahlberg. http://pasisahlberg.com/ He was Finnish Lessonsinspiring and informative. His talk was based on his bestselling book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? http://www.amazon.ca/Finnish-Lessons-Educational-Change-Finland-ebook/dp/B00CDSTBG6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397850067&sr=8-1&keywords=pasi+sahlberg

His talk went far beyond the book. A few highlights from were:

  • The Finnish public trust teachers.
  • Teachers are respected.
  • We cannot take the Finnish model and transplant it to another context but we can learn from HOW the Finnish people reconceptualized and approached education reform. (The main goal was not to improve PISA scores.)
  • Global Educational Reform Movement (GERM) which has infected countries like the US, UK, Netherland, NZ, and Australia emphasize competition, standardization, test-based accountability, school choice, and human capital. He showed slides of student performance in these countries illustrating that performance on standardized tests has actually gone DOWN – the draconian measures the governments have imposed on teachers have not improved student performance (and probably not student engagement).
  • Finland has a common vision for education that includes great schools for each and every child.
  • The success of Finnish education is not simply a result of improved education initiatives but a whole agenda for society.
  • In Finland if a teacher is struggling, someone helps him/her.

For a copy of ppt presentation (which was amazing) click here: http://pasisahlberg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/OISE-RWB-Jackson-2014.pdf  

Pasi SahlbergI have read his text and highly recommend it to others interested in true reform of education.  Quick fixes do not work but a sustained, comprehensive approach to education is the way we should be going.