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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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

 

 

Sit, Think, And Write

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Preparing for a test is an activity everyone tackles differently. Some really go for it, well in advance of the date of an assessment, some keep on hesitating up till the last moment and then burst out in action. And there are those who keep on worrying when to start, how to avoid, or what precisely to do in preparing for the event. Others take in serious consideration what will bring them luck, what to wear, or which omen will forecast success. Preparing for an assessment is surrounded by all kinds of peculiar human behaviors. Simply because we do not know precisely what to expect! (1). The event of an assessment is veiled with unknowns. How hard will it be, how many question items, on what subjects in particular, and so forth. Of course as a student you have learned the topic, it was covered in the program, and assignment were rehearsed more than once, but still a full demonstration of your actual mastery level at the ‘moment supreme’ is hampered by indefinites. Would it help when students would know in advance much more about the circumstances of the event? For instance, can they ask for clarification in case of unclear test items; can they indicate confidence in their answer of an item; are they allowed to rephrase the question as they understand it; can they add items showing their excellence: “I also know about….” ?

Let’s be fair: an assessment is about showing ability – why not let the student in on how to show it? It cannot hurt to open our minds on how we capture attainments.
An article explored possible ways of assisting the learner in taking tests. The author took different perspectives originating from several disciplines. Optimal foraging theory stemming from ethology points to the issue of providing the learner with sufficient cues and resources to give an answer to a test item. Marginal value theory from economics would suggest the student not to overstay or dwell on one question too long. Prospect theory from decision management would be important in determining how well a learner plans an answer given what one knows, thinks one knows and actually writes down.

Assessments are not an assessors’ playground. It is an arrangement to demonstrate what is attained and what not – by the student. So why not arrange for the student to do his or her utmost? (2) It probably starts with having an open mind for the, in itself quite unnatural, environment we have created for our students to give their utmost, and begin by answering queries like: would it help, for instance, to vary on self-selected difficulty levels; to provide aid or support in case of mix-ups; to give hints on planning an answer? An advice of an examiner at the start of a test like ”sit, think, and write” could then be transformed into “ bring your stuff, ask for help, and go for it”

Source
W. Brian Whalley (2016) Evaluating student assessments: the use of optimal foraging theory, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 41:2, 183-198link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2014.991909

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Referencing
1. http://www.edutopia.org/assessment-guide-importance
2. http://pearsonblueskies.com/2011/first-class-how-assessment-can-enhance-student-learning/

Is There Hope?

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Hope gives feathers, says the poet Emily Dickinson (1). Hope lifts. Hope moves us. Where would we be without hope! But hope is a delicate thing; so easily destroyed, thus robbing us from the willpower and strength to be. To have a companion who gives hope on a hard and difficult journey can do wonders. It can be the cutting edge between success and failure. Giving hope to a person next to you is about sharing beliefs on the ability to engage and fulfill a demanding task. But it is not easily given. Should it be confidential, or carefully put, or willfully posited? Giving hope is such a subtle thing; it is feather light. Education is about hope. Believing that you can make it (otherwise why bother?). For some, actually a lot giving the number of drop outs, completion of an education is a hard journey, without any hope almost not to accomplish. Giving hope can make the difference.
For that reason it is worthwhile to pull in a study that looked at mental health services. In this study new and ongoing health care users with serious mental disorders were compared with regard to the treatments they received. It turned out that new users profited most from the services provided in making rapid improvements and higher chance of discharge. Closer inspection of data revealed that it was not so much the quality of service or treatment itself that made the difference but the presence of a feeling of hopefulness on part of the users. This explained the difference with ongoing users who lost hope in a success of completion of their treatment (and remained dependent on the care service provided to them)

To be hopeful, not burying (2) but keeping hopes alive to remain strong in what you aspire, is truly a crucial not to be dismissed quality; especially when being a student. What is needed is a little help sometimes from a person next to the student who can nurture and feed hope by offering advice, support and guidance. Teachers, hopefully. In many self-studies or biographies both by famous and ordinary persons we can find testimonies of crucial moments in which the appearance of a hope giving teacher made the difference (3) between furthering or stopping aspiration. Education is an affair by humans, with humans and of humans despite treatments, protocols and procedure we put in place.

Source
New and Ongoing Users: The Differences in Outcomes Among Children and Adolescents Receiving Mental HealthServices
Hyun Soo Kim, Seok-Joo Kim, Thomas G. Williams, and John F. Garrity

Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 2015, Vol. 23(4) 238–247
© Hammill Institute on Disabilities 2014
www.sagepub.com/journals
DOI: 10.1177/1063426614565053
www.jebd.sagepub.com

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Referencing

1. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171619
2. http://www.prrb.ca/articles/issue15-berry.htm
3. http://perkins.org/history/people/helen-keller

Home Truth

leelring

School – Home – Work; a trinity. After school you go home and do your homework. It is as old as the way to Rom. There is a lot to be said about the merits of doing homework, and a lot against it (1). Agreed upon is that it is not being liked by students. But that is not really a valid argument because anyone nowadays brings work to home. One may not like it; it is, however, a necessity of life today. In this sense homework prepares for a future at work, one could say. A pragmatic reason for homework is that not everything can be treated to the full during school-time. So, working on assignments at home is a kind of overflow of learning into another arena. Strangely enough this argument is not very popular. More widely adopted are statements like: it is good to practice, some repetition might be useful; preparation for what is to come; extra time benefits learning; transfer occurs when learning in a different context (2) . Next to: it keeps them of the street; it is good to create a study attitude, and it can be motivating to do assignments in your own pace and time. So, where lies the truth about doing homework?
A study helps to clarify the issue. In a carefully controlled design having a large groups of students, three types of home work conditions were compared using mathematics assignments to work on. In a practice condition students were asked to complete assignments that had been worked upon in the classroom before. In an preparation class the students had to learn the topics to be covered in the next lesson. In an extension treatment transfer of learning to new tasks was promoted by giving additional more in-depth assignments’ of what was treated in the lesson. It turned out that the extension treatment resulted in higher math grades. The authors attributed this to the higher cognitive demands the treatment placed on learning.

The implicit warning made by the study is clear. Do not give homework to kill time with boring, repetitive assignments on what was done already in the classroom but initiate to keep on learning. Doing your homework needs close attention, not cutting corners. Homework is not something additional, something extra. It is more like what has been done at school. But one might wonder then: if you can do at home what is done at school why or what do we need schools for then?

Source
Does homework design matter? The role of homework’s purpose in student mathematics achievement by Pedro Rosário, José Carlos Núñez, Guillermo Vallejo, Jennifer Cunha, Tânia Nunes, Rosa Mourão, Ricardo Pinto. IN: Contemporary Educational Psychology 43 (2015) 10–24.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2015.08.001 0361-476X/© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Referencing
1. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar07/vol64/num06/The-Case-For-and-Against-Homework.aspx
2. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/do-kids-have-too-much-homework-55452207/?no-ist

Education Makes Unhappy

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Why would you want to learn when the outcome of it is that you still have to learn more? Gargantua, the famous character created by Rabelais (1), knew this all along and decided to pursue his happiness instead. Education makes unhappy. Gargantua’s life maxim is: “to achieve something is not aspire it but to let it come as it comes”. (Good) Education makes you hunger for more; Gargantua, however, wanted to be satisfied. If we were to follow Gargantua’s advice a minimal effort mentality would inundate our schools. Or worse, education must be “satisfactory” – be gone any intention to excel! Now, anyone knows that, at least in rhetoric, Gargantua’s advice to go for satisfying is not followed to the letter but as an observation of what really happens when enjoying the fruits of education it is a pretty realistic one (2).
A study in the economics of education looked into the relation between aspirations and experience of happiness. The outcome of the study in Japan led to an interesting observation: “High aspirations dampen satisfaction”. That is, by following education reported happiness will become higher (the satisfaction of knowing more than before) but also the desired happiness will have risen; that is, you learned you want/need more of it. The authors conclude that a significant part of happiness is cancelled out by higher aspirations. The authors (coming from economics) add wittily that this relation holds as well for income. And for that matter one could add this holds for care giving too. Apparently, and in contrast to Gargantua’s stance, we will never be satisfied once we start giving care, earning money or, indeed, do our best in learning. Enough is never enough.

Is this a saddening result? Looking at it from the bright side one could retort by saying: there is always a new horizon. Or should we regress to a life of blessed ignorance? Gargantua’s life in a way provides an answer: once he discovered a clear goal in his life (in his case rescuing his father) matters fell into place. Goals can materialize aspirations, and thus make them manageable and tangible. Happiness becoming real, although there remains always something to wish for, hopefully.

Source
Andrew E. Clark, Akiko Kamesaka & Teruyuki Tamura (2015) Rising aspirations dampen satisfaction, Education Economics, 23:5, 515-531, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2015.104296

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Referencing
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gargantua_and_Pantagruel#Gargantua
2. http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/introduction2.asp
3. http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl/

High and Low

pipesFailure, you want to avoid that! How annoying and discomforting is it to experience that you flopped. A reassuring response would be to say to yourself: well, a lesson learned, or well, that was not the real me, next time better. Or blame it “on the boogie” (1). We all have our motivational and approach-avoiding strategies. The classroom is a place where you become aware how to deal with evaluations of your competence and performance. Mostly in reference to what your peers manage to accomplish (2) . You learn how tricky the balance is between effort and ability, and hot it depends on the (un)fairness of your teacher who does the assessing. On top of that exist parents as a complicating factor; they mostly seem interested in end-results, not the efforts made. It is a delicate thing: dealing with failure. Success breeds success but how do you cope when foreseeing bad results on tests or assignments to be made? Being high in avoidance of failure could mean you are setting your performance goals low and that would imply low attainments as well. Climbing the achievement ladder causes you to make tradeoffs. Now imagine you are not the only one involved in making these tradeoffs but that others, most notably parents, are looking over your shoulder. Suppose they set standards high, for many reasons. Then it becomes really delicate. 10 to 1 that you decide to try to avoid failure.
This is precisely the situation a French study looked into in more detail. The study particularly gauged ‘first generation” students from immigrant backgrounds. Often these students outperform regular students in their school achievement scores (3) and are highly motivated to excel. The study found these students were also high in trying to avoid failure and avoiding high performance goals (being afraid of performing poorly). The study’s contribution is to point out that it is not simply a matter of motivation but clearly one of social belonging and cultural environment of students. Pressure or expectations in your immediate life space are being internalized, as the study suggests, and affects study orientation and motivation.
Apart from the lesson learned that motivation is not merely internal but framed by others and circumstance, a warning is given by the study’s results in that teachers might misinterpret underperforming. Students potentially high in mastery may show a low motivation to perform but while low in setting their performance goals this may be caused by fear of failure. Complex.

Source
When first-generation students succeed at university: On the link between social class, academic performance, and performance-avoidance goals by Mickael Jury,, Annique Smeding , Martine Court, Celine Darnon; Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 25–36;
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.0010361-476X /c 2014 Elsevier Inc.

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Referencing
1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkBS4zUjJZo
2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0065260108602270
3. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3838816?uid=3738736&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21106420025043

‘S cool boy

WP_20150322_001When you grow up under precarious conditions school is not particularly the place you want to be. Your “community of practice” lies elsewhere. Thriving there is rewarding. School’s standard curriculum has not much to offer. Recognition from your mates gives rewards that exceed far more success in passing a high stakes test. Under these circumstances schools have a difficult responsibility and challenging task to realize “communities of inquiry” in their mission not to loose or waste talent. Creating a college-going culture would be one of the first targets for schools to get students inside the building. A battle would be won when schooling would become attractive again to students coming from underprivileged areas. It is of great concern to schools to find the right response here. A definitely wrong response would be to lower expectations for students in an attempt to make sense to them. But then imagine a school that would stick to State exit exams. It would create hugh problems in (trying to) raising motivation of students. Schools are facing real dilemmas and often support programs fall short in finding the right balance between solutions offered and contexts present.
This is precisely the point made in a publication by the Project Muse which conducted a study on state accountability sanctions. Regulations were held against the prospects of creating a college going culture by schools. From the fine and detailed critical ethnographic study we learn that what schools do, for instance by the support and documentation they provide to students, really misses connection with what students need. State sanctions force schools to adhere to instructional approaches not at all adapted to students’ life perceptions. Hard pressures by state school officers to improve accountability ratings are putting schools in a position at the expense of creating an open entry for students coming from high poverty backgrounds (1) . The critical message from the study being that accountability standards can undermine school readiness.
An easy escape out of this dilemma is not available. Acknowledging the dilemma would already be a victory achieved. Connecting the high and low world: standards with needs; regulations with educational opportunities; state policy with local school activity; accountability measures with instructional process is where a possible answer lies (2) . That is; if we acknowledge that schools are the center spots were all students must be able to find time for education.

Source
Walton, A. & Williams, M. Accountability, Strain,College Readiness Drain; sociopolitical tensions involved in maintaining a college-going culture in a high ‘minority’, high poverty Texas high school
The High School Journal, Volume 98, Number 2, Winter 2015, pp. 181-204
www.DOI: 10.1353/hsj.2015.0001

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Referencing
1. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/11/06/12nycriskload.h34.html
2. http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2012/10/david-berliner-on-inequality-poverty.html

A Golden Egg

eiReceiving an award, getting a scholarship on the work you did, that is rewarding. Granted, not many times this happens but when it does it boosts your self-confidence and adds to your career. For a professionals’ personal satisfaction these rare moments of laudation strengthen ties with work and work environment. Who does not want to win a price well deserved? May be for that reason the trend of giving out awards is spreading (1). At the New Year receptions, on evenings at professional conferences, and at specially organized organization meetings you have them: Best awards for… No disdain here, it is important to be able to celebrate, in a community, as colleagues working together. Recognition of outstanding performance is the underlying reason to award – the goose that lays a golden egg, will make the organization richer, according to the fairy tale.
But does it work that way? The cited study provides an in-depth look on how teacher recipients and educational leadership view award winning in school organizations. The stakeholders have quite different goals in mind. Leaders want it for raising output ratings; teachers for improving student learning. All in all they hold awards in a positive way but not extremely. What stands out for all concerned is the innovative trigger an award provides. Excellent performance, embedded in new ideas and outstanding teaching, sets a higher standard.
The thing is: does award-giving lead to higher levels performance that will spread beyond the lauded winner of the award? An egg is for hatching. The study in this case reported that “Over half have presented their work in peer-reviewed venues”. It is a start. But also a meager result. What if we would consider Laying Golden Eggs not to be a back-end issue, i.e., a closure, but better view it as a front-end problem, i.e., a beginning? In this case, laying golden egg is not a rare and exceptional accomplishment but something to breed, nurture, and multiply. In education practice, there are many exemplary enactments to be found (2) that invite to follow, care for, and reproduce. Searching for golden eggs is not just a thing to do at Easter, i.e., special occasions, but an activity for teachers and educational leaders to go for all the time.

Source
Laurel Willingham-McLain (2015). Using a scholarship of teaching and learning approach to award faculty who innovate, International Journal for Academic Development, 20:1,58-75,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2014.995661

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Referencing
1. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/podimproveacad/375/
2. http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/education/catholic-contributions/lesson-1-good-teachers-share-one-special-quality.html