Blaming The Teacher

70engel2It seems so evident. You go to school, enter a nice building, and find your classroom, flip open your laptop to start working on uploaded assignments, having a teacher nearby to help you out. Not so in many places all over the globe. You may be lucky having a seat on a bench and find some writing material to work with. Pupil hardship is teacher hardship. How can a teacher provide education when sufficient infrastructure is lacking?  The amazing thing is that good teaching still goes on, despite serious scarcity of essentials for learning. The situation teachers face are often bleak, nevertheless they manage to comply with regulations and mandatory procedures most of the time.

A study conducted in a southern part of Kenya interviewed teachers about the prospects of providing good Physical Education (PE) to their pupils in the absence of facilities: i.e., children that do not have PE kits and changing rooms, with fields that are too muddy due to climate and the type of soil. As can be expected teachers (and students) do not take PE very seriously. You take it as it goes. Despite these poor conditions a substantial amount of PE lessons still were provided.

Are the teachers to blame on their attitude, the government for not providing facilities? Not really; it’s the circumstance, stupid! But one that can not be ignored. The study rightfully points to a serious impediment and the mere fact of signaling it may help to improve the situation. The thing is tough that it is one typical instance of hardship in teaching that has to be overcome. There are more serious and also less grave instances and they need to be coped with all the same. How? Manifold by (2) : a) raising awareness, b)  given it a proper place in the curriculum. c) exploring the issue more deeply, d) developing  participation, e) sharing responsibility. f) building capacity, g) developing resources, h) involving policy, i) promoting a creative climate, j) building a culture, k) facing complexities…. They are better options than blaming the teacher.

Source

 Susan M. Onyancha, Charles Nyabero,  Rachel Koros  (2017). Influence of teacher attitude challenges on the implementation of physical education instruction in public primary schools Nyamira south sub-county, Kenya . International Journal of Multidisciplinary Education and Research Volume 2; Issue 5; September 2017; Page No. 01-06 ISSN: 2455-4588   www.educationjournal.in

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References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/272812976_Impediments_to_Effective_Teaching_and_Learning_of_Basic_Technology_in_Nigerian_Public_Secondary_Schools
  2. http://www.esdtoolkit.org/discussion/challenges.htm

 

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Play And/Or Win

Untitled-2From ancient times on games and play have been real political arenas. Times have not changed. Be it the Olympic Games with their connection to national pride and honor, or more close to home with the end-of-the year school games, it’s all about contest and competition. Not that this needs to evolve in a hostile or unfriendly atmosphere. Far from it; play can advance mutual acceptance and reciprocity, provided of course some stewarding here and there. A lot depends on abiding to the rules and a guardian to watch over compliance. Especially when the rules are followed evenly play really can be an encouraging political arena where social moves and group forces can mature in a thriving way. It is the whole point of entering into a game to get together as a team and become engaged to the full in pursuing one shared goal. It asks from you to rely on your team mates to get to glory. It was so in ancient times, today, for those grown up, and for the young as well.

But what if one was to follow the maxim attributed to Michael Jordan: “There is an I in Win” . Already a lot has been said and cited about team winning behavior (1) pointing to the importance of behaviors being displayed. A recent study shows that the type of behaviors that matter to have a ‘nice’ game are already operative at a very early age. Preschool children that show favorable, social positive and sharing play-behaviors (like turn taking, following up, allowing to) were more liked, received higher socio-metric status than their counterparts. The quality of play improved when acceptance behaviors were present .

As an educational arena play certainly cannot be equated with a political one dominated by the Jordan Maxim. Play to learn is something different than play to win (2). Acceptance behaviors seem to be primary key, meaning to let someone else to be a winner. Well, that certainly is a big challenge, not just for the young.

Source

Leandra Coelho, Nuno Torres, Carla Fernandes & António J. Santos, (2017).  Quality of play, social acceptance and reciprocal friendship in preschool children.  European Early Childhood Education Research Journal. Pages 812-823 | Published online: 29 Sep 2017

https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2017.1380879

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References

  1. https://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/12winteam.htm
  2. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/links/infographics/Pages/PlayToLearn.aspx

A Lot to Learn

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It is said that learning breeds future success, and learning is there to benefit subsequent performance, but does it really prepare for future events? The school system thinks so. Investment in learning is a guarantee for achievement later in life, so runs the claim. It may be so in general but, actually, later in life, do you still use or apply what you learned some time ago? – Only bits and pieces probably, while most is gone or in oblivion. What you learn tends to be forgotten – that is a fact of life. This is not to say that all learning is futile, vanity, or worthless. What then is the true nature of learning? – without false promises. It could very well be that the gain from learning effort could just be specific and particular (1).

Consider a setting in which you have to learn, acquire something yourself, a skill of some sort, say a certain teaching skill, let us assume self-monitoring, and then have to teach others to acquire that skill as well , say your students. What would yield your learning? Precise prompts on how you are doing, i.e., specific feedback on the steps you take or more generic, overall hints on how you are doing? And what about trickle down effects on your students? Would they be helped with specific or common suggestions? And what about effects later on, after a while, say a few months later – what would remain from your learning effort?

A study in a teacher education setting looked into this and indicated that what was kept is what was specifically prompted and even then the gain was likely to be lost later on. We simply cannot assume that what is learned stays; certainly not when only loosely stimulated.

May be for this reason learning needs repetition (2), going over it again and again  – Think of learning a foreign language, or practicing a music piece. This will  give a new meaning to the phrase”  There is a lot to learn’

Source

Bracha Kramarski &Zehavit Kohen (2017). Promoting preservice teachers’ dual self-regulation roles as learners and as teachers: effects of generic vs. specific prompts Metacognition and Learning  August 2017, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 157–191

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References

  1. https://blog.keras.io/the-limitations-of-deep-learning.html

 

  1. http://www.readingbrightstart.org/articles-for-parents/lets-repetition-important-learning/

 

Empowering Students

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School is a place for learning but not exclusively. Learning outside school for that matter may even be superior, that is more engaging, motivating, appealing, and in many respects more realistic. Provided of course that the learning environment offered is in some way in gear with the learner, linked to their learning interests. Some learning environments have that potential.  Take the museum for example and how it has changed into places of learning. The times are over when you walked in small groups with a friendly, but overly talkative guide alongside walls hanging full with stuff you did not know you cared about. Visits to a museum nowadays have become interactive and most of all active (1) . For instance: You could redraw a painting hanging in front of you in your sketch book so you can remember and connect to it. Or do a puzzle game walking through the museum rooms to find certain key points that will help you to apprehend a topic better. No hissing commands to be silent, instead you can even take part in discussion groups set up around a piece of art and position yourself against the stuff they show you. Nothing dull and dreary here. What is so engaging in such a learning environment is the open world you step into, at least that is how it manifest itself.. It could very well be the essence of learning empowerment: you are discovering what “ it”  (i.e., content that is offered) means to you.

For those not convinced a recent article on learning in open environments with the use of mobile phones might be illustrative. Students received action instructions through their cell phones tracking their achievements while performing tasks given at certain locations in the museum. They received real time feedback on how they were doing and what to do next.  This way of teaching and learning offered them real joy in learning, while being active, and learning in their own way.

Tell me about it, you might think. Nothing new here. Lots of new opportunities rooted in new technologies are now entering the school (2). Yes, indeed, some of them are incorporated in school learning slowly but the key issue is: are they empowering the student?, or put differently; is it changing the way school is doing their business of learning. And then the scene is a bit bleaker. New (tech) opportunities are added (sometimes) but not really changing school’s business  in favor of open environments of learning. Opening up the school seems far away still.

Source

Guang Chen, Youlong Xin, & Nian-Shing Chen (2017). Informal learning in science museum: development and evaluation of a mobile exhibit label system with iBeacon technology. In  Educational Technology Research and Development June 2017, Volume 65, Issue 3, pp 719–741

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Referencing

1. http://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/trippack/

  1. https://www.nmc.org/blog/future-open-learning-environments/
  2. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/empowering/?story=learningtools&ocid=learningtools_o_edge_null_null_usa_null_null

 

Shifting From School To Work

towerIt is Graduation Time. Apart from the turbulence this period brings it also indicates an upcoming period of transition. After a school career ends by having successfully completed the requisite exams college life transfers into hectic uncertainty.  It is time to flip school for jobs. But then you wonder: Does my school career in any way help me out there to be successful in the zone of work? Ask those already operative in the world of employment about what they think of the preparatory power of education and ten to one you get smiles of sympathy but hardly enthusiasm when it comes to the question of relevance of education for them right now. There may be even some who consider school an adverse context as they experience no bridging significance between their education and work, especially when taking into consideration school accomplishments as an asset for later success in work. One might object to the contrary that school prepares for later work life by building (sufficient) start competences, i.e, a foundational layer that needs to be worked upon later on, but still. As many testimonials indicate (and also some research, (1)) school based knowledge is seldom a thriving power for later competent performance.  This divide has been attributed to a set of reasons: the theory practice gap being among the most prominent (i.e., school is to blame) or referred to as the praxis shock (i.e., student is to blame), and even more alienating: failed induction programs (work is to blame). Never mind these explanations, it is the impact that counts. You don’t want your education to flop. There is hope though.

A Norwegian study on student teacher competence as a predictor for later success in a school career as school teacher showed that levels of teaching competence acquires during the course of the TE program did matter. Perceived competence and self-efficacy as a school teacher were mainly formed during years of active participation in preparation for the profession in teacher education. Even more so, theoretical understanding gained at teacher preparation helped school teachers later on to perceive themselves as good practitioners.

Certainly a hopeful finding and a clear message for those moving from campus to office space. As a reflective signal the study challenges our views on the linkage between school and work (2) which are often quite unidirectional and blunt in demanding immediate gratification of what is learned. School education needs to be ‘useful’ but often it turns out in a different way and more intricate than we think.

Source

 The impact of prospective teachers’ perceived competence on subsequent perceptions as schoolteachers by Ida Katrine Riksaasen Hatlevik, Teachers & Teaching Published online: 08 May 2017

    Download citation http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13540602.2017.1322056

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referencing

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-crouch/grades-do-more-harm-than-_b_4190907.html
  2. http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/6486-transition-school-to-work.html

 

 

Look, No Supervision!

workplaceTo have a teacher teaching you is of great advantage. We often do not realize its full merit. What if one is not available or present at the moment you are in need of learning help? Can you cope, or will you drop your learning endeavor altogether. No teach, no gain. Often we get trapped in situations in which we have to ‘learn’, acquire new knowledge while sheer ignorance is the basic line. Imagine opening your just delivered package with an all-purpose kitchen cooking blender, or a self-assembly wardrobe from a famous, brand notorious for its detailed instructions. After the first panic you start rebalancing your emotions and will conquer your feelings of despair to look for helpful scaffolds – strong clues on how ‘on earth’ to understand what to do next and grasp the meaning of things (1). It would be nice if such clues were lying around from the start of your discovery journey. It would safe time, it would avoid redoing everything after noticing you see a construction piece still in front of you, it would save a lot of sweat and tears.

A study on learning at the workplace gauged how learning may be supported in the absence of supervision and found that newly recruited workers did remarkably well without direct supervision provided enough scaffolds where existent. The learning help arounds were experienced other workers, peers, guiding instructions, organized set ups of the work environments. When engaging in such a learning design they gradually reduced their felt need of learning support.

Environments can teach, rich environments that is. No, not rich, since that could lead to a learner “buried in thought” about the many options offered, but instead what you could call a ‘powerful’ learning environment; one that provides the right kind of scaffolds without arranging your trails as a training camp. The key point here is that it is not so much about having supervision or not , or sufficient teachers around but carefully adjusting, if you will reducing, the kind of (teaching persons or environmentally designed) help so that learners can decide on and are encouraged to interact with what puzzles them. Teachers stand on others’ threshold of discovery, after that it is up to the learner.

Source

Palesy, D. Learning in the Absence of Direct Supervision: Person-Dependent Scaffolding. In: Vocations and Learning (2017). doi:10.1007/s12186-017-9176-9

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Referencing

  1. http://changingminds.org/explanations/learning/ignorance_trap.htm
  2. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/chapter/5-2-what-is-a-learning-environment/

 

Learning Selfies

balloonHow often do we not hear the phrase: ‘We are learning from what we are doing ‘ or ‘We want to learn from our mistakes’. By utterances like these we say we put great value on researching what we do, investigating how things went. Well, forget it. It is not a first priority. Far from it. It often just appears to be not more than an excuse for not taking responsibility (1). At least when you consider the numerous times when no consequences are attached to mishaps and business goes on as usual. But we need not forget that a strong tie between doing and learning is the foundation for professionalism. A true professional is accountable for what he or she does ( 2). It comes with steady evaluating one’s practice and acting upon the results. It seems so self-evident one is tempted to forget it is not that manifest at all in actual practice.

At least this is what you take from a recent in-depth study on teachers’ deployment of research activities in and on their own practice. Gauging their ongoing work teachers are confronted with a huge divide between what needs to be done and what is actually done. The study gives quite a few worrying gaps on: facilitation of research in schools, time for learning and follow up on evaluation, discussing results for improvements. The one that is standing out most is engagement in research activity (75% in favor – 15% actually practiced).

This account is not so much a reason for blaming and shaming or increased management control over what teacher do – it has been done before to no avail (3) . Far more important is to empower teachers in their position as researchers (of their practice). Teacher research (4) to date however seems more like an addendum, or extra freewheeling, not a serious inherent professional activity. To become one it may not be enough to allow for more space and time (as the authors propose), but, by actively, openly sourcing data on teaching practices from a personal perspective and share it with interested others (in the school).  That would be a viral learning 2.0.

Source

Richard Procter (2015). Teachers and school research practices: the gaps between the values and practices of teachers, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:5, 464-477,

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2015.1105535.

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Referencing

  1. http://www.goodchoicesgoodlife.org/choices-for-young-people/accepting-responsibility-/
  2. http://www.learningtoleap.co.uk/2014/06/accountable-professional/
  3. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-to-get-more-power-to-manage-teachers
  4. http://www.nea.org/tools/17289.htm

Harness Yourself

harnasFeedback can kill you, negative feedback that is. Getting no feedback about your performance has a similar effect. That leaves us with positive feedback. But yeah, just getting positive feedback does not feel right as well. “ Oh; Wow, did you just draw that beautiful vase with flowers?”; “Yes, well, actually it’s more like a …. (Sigh) ”.  Feedback can hurt your self-concept so badly, you just may even quit what you like (1). That is even the case when your actual performance is not that bad at all. So, irrespective of what you are able to do feedback can bring you down no matter. Take the case of two learners confronted with (negative) feedback: one with a high self-concept of ability while doing low in performance, and the other with a modest perception of competence while actually doing quite well also.  What would you think will happen to their motivation after a bad appraisal? (2)

These intrinsic motivation effects were gauged in a study on students’ self-concepts after having received negative feedback. It turned out that despite positive learning goal orientations and irrespective of the real outcomes of their task behavior students’ self-concepts declined after having negative feedback and did drop their motivation to do a subsequent task .

Back to the case above. You might have thought that the first student expecting a low rating, gets away with no (great) harm to self-concept, and that it is the second one who got the real blow. But it is not that straightforward given the outcomes of the study. Realistic self-assessments (in both students) can be overruled by feedback nevertheless.

We care about what other’s think of us – we seek it even. Polls, ratings, evaluations, it is all part of our feedback mania.

The tricky part is that realistic self-perceptions are not a safeguard. You might think you are doing well and even may be right in that self-assessment but when others present you with negative comments it will affect you nonetheless.

Harness yourself then and scrutinize your appraisals: as a well meant recommendation to all students stepping into the grading and examination period ahead.

 

Source

Why does intrinsic motivation decline following negative feedback? The mediating role of ability self-concept and its moderation by goal orientations by Anne F.Weidinger , Birgit Spinath, Ricarda Steinmayr, in Learning and Individual Differences 47 (2016) 117–128

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2016.01.003 1041-6080/© 2016 Elsevier Inc.

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Referencing

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-take-misery-out-giving-feedback-neena-newberry
  2. http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/quizzes/selfesteem/

School Is Out

schoolWhen you come to think of it schools (and our education system for that matter) must be one of the last remains of 19th century thinking still active in our society. It is driven by a world view in which goals are achieved through hard industrious labor (you have to study hard and continuously), agency is confined to specially designed buildings (you have to visit classrooms) and restricted to time tables, interactions are top down driven (you have to comply to assigned tasks), authority is in de hand of a senior overseer (you are being told what to do), and results are valued as end-products (once it is done it is finished). These restraints are all set in place to objectify and define learners as subjects (1). No escape allowed from the system other than being penalized.

Confessed, there have been more eloquent, comprehensive, and thought provoking criticisms of education, but the aim is similar, i.e., to rethink the structure and process of how we educate. This is done out of a real concern, looking at  present day demands of school learning.

A collection of chapters in a book on student engagement captures most of the key conceptions to be considered when it comes to a revised way of thinking about school education. Its main thread is to promote manifold partnerships of students, teachers, and school managers around their shared business of learning. Goals are open-ended formulated; activity is flexibly organized, interaction is based on equality, and outcomes are considered as stepping stones to higher goals.

As 19th century institutions schools can not accommodate partnership; it is alien to its inherent education view. As 21th century institutions a view would entail learning which is on demand, extended to different locations and times for learning, and highly adaptive to evolving learning needs. It is then that the word ‘school’ is not implying a building but “Bildung’, as a synonym for Building Your Future. It certainly would give the phrase: “I want to come to school more” (4) a new meaning.

Source

Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty, by Alison Cook-Sather, Catherine Bovill, and Peter Felten, San Francisco, CA, Jossey Bass, 2014, xxix + 269 pp., £28.99 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-118-43458-1

Reviewed by Colin Bryson (2016) Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education, International Journal for Academic Development, 21:1, 84-86,  link to this article:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1124966

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Referencing

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Foucault
  2. http://www.ips.org.pk/education/1111-a-critical-review-of-the-aims-of-education-in-the-western-tradition-
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bildung
  4. http://www.lyricsdepot.com/alice-cooper/schools-out.html

 

Happy Teachers

dolphsDo we need to like our teachers in order to learn? If that’s true our learning is in peril. Not all teachers are likable persons (to you). They too have their attitudes. Suppose you wind up with a teacher who really makes a mesh of your comfort zone. Is that the end of a learning relationship? Yes, learning would be in peril but let’s face it, you are a strong person, and probably get over it, thinking of better times ahead, assertive as you are by raising the issue  with your teacher in hope of improvements. The relationships you have with your teacher are powerful. They shape the kind of interactions and are influential when it comes to your personal well-being. As with all human relationships your interactions are a two-sided affair. If one person fails to deliver the other is in jeopardy. So again we can ask: is a happy teacher a requisite for you to be happy, moreover for you to be learning ?

A recent news item in a Belgian newspaper (1) commended a study done at the University of Antwerp saying that happy teachers make happy students. Apart from the implied causality, it is a devastating outcome. It says in fact students need to like their teacher (to be able to be content with themselves).

Another study (See below) takes this a step further by making an explicit link to learning, claiming that tough teachers raise tough students. Such students set high achievements goals for themselves.  A poor student who does not match with a teacher.

Nobody would deny that teachers act as important role models to students, certainly at a young age. But teachers and students are well aware they communicate in service of the act of learning (2) . It is not that teachers primarily want to be liked or that a student’s first priority is to like their teacher. Both players in a (safe) classroom environment are well aware they are there for a common cause which needs to turn out well (for both of them).  So put learning first and happiness (delight) will come (Motto of this blog).

Source

Liking a tough teacher: Interpersonal characteristics of teaching and students’ achievement goals by Tim Mainhard in School Psychology International 2015, Vol. 36(6) 559–574 sagepub.co.uk/journals Permissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0143034315608235

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Referencing

  1. http://www.standaard.be/cnt/dmf20170330_02809107
  2. https://learningfirst.com/