Who’s The Best


Almost about everything you will find a contest to point out who or what is the best: miss world; top best cook, champion darts throwing, or award prize winner arm wrestling, even the fastest shrimp peeler . So why not nominate the world’s best teacher. Yes, it can (1). The top finalists have been selected (Dec 13, 2016). One needs, of course, to have a lot in store to become that exceptional. Why not take a moment to reproduce what you would consider a sound criterion…. The organizing academy thinks of things like: achieving learning outcomes, innovative instructional practices, outside recognition of achievements in the classroom and beyond; and also helping children become global citizens, and peculiarly enough: Encouraging other teachers to stay in the profession (2) . Probably there could have been a lot more to look for the best from the best – the list you were just making may evidence that. The exercise or (con)test even might suggest we know what it takes to be a good, excellent teacher but we don’t (3).. The things with these lists is it depends on who you ask. Try by reversing the list of good criteria into one of bad teaching criteria. It probably leads to a whole different set of considerations.

So. Lets’ ask teachers. In day-to-day teaching a lot comes down to TSR. Having good Teacher Student Relationships. A recent study indicated that for teachers (and students as well) it is crucially important to have comfortable interactive relationships with students in the classroom. Teacher self efficacy, fun in working with students, experiencing no fear or anxiety in getting good learning outcomes (actually all are affecting the criteria considered in the contest) were  dependent upon TSR.

There is a certain danger to these lists – they tend to become reified or separate from what is happening in real classrooms and disconnected from what drives teaching. Teachers learn to live up to these standards in order to comply, forgetting what is real (4). It may seem a mundane view to ask teachers to be always aware of improvements to their teaching regularly. Probably a more sound approach than wanting to comply to lists of teaching excellence.


Gerda Hagenauer & Tina Hascher & Simone E. Volet (2015) Teacher emotions in the classroom: associations with students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship Eur J Psychol Educ (2015) 30:385–403

DOI 10.1007/s10212-015-0250-0



  1. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/
  2. http://www.globalteacherprize.org/judging-criteria/
  3. http://languagegoesonholiday.blogspot.nl/2011/11/evidence-of-teaching-excellence.html
  4. http://psychjobsearch.wikidot.com/forum/t-632105/evidence-of-teaching-excellence-teaching-statement



The Third Voice


The German idiom contains a great expression: ‘Der Dritte im Bunde’,  which literately means something like: “a third party involved”;  but as with many expressions the German saying comes with an implicit meaning  which in this case is referring to an, in  general, positive force acting in between two other parties. A kind of bridging or mediation, so to speak. Another layer of meaning is that it is considered to be a hidden, silent voice. There would be certainly an interest in making such a third voice explicit or known. Now, enough about expressions. Let’s talk about relationships. Mediating forces can do a lot of good provided they are overt in aims and knowledgeable in actions (1).  Consequently they need to be certified, or at least warranted. Imagine if the third voice would be flawed; damage is beyond repair. Moving away from mediational voices in areas like marriage, or legal and public affairs one might wonder how a third voice operates among teachingaffairs and on educational arguments. More specifically, could research claim to be a mediator in the discussions among teachers?

Anything to say about this matter has already been said, to be honest (2). Still, it remains worthwhile to bring in some research findings on the matter. An empirical study gauged the use of research findings by teachers and as it turned out teachers made (sparsely) use of the conceptual underpinnings of research that they knew about in the debates among their colleagues. It was meant to strengthen their way of arguing and their position in defending or promoting a stance on teaching

Who had expected otherwise. Research as a ‘Dritte im Bunde’. It may not seem much to some (e.g. 2) but it truly is a privileged and influential locus a mediating force can occupy. It honors the position of teachers as professionals in action.  It adds to the arguments in situ, not by overruling them, but, as a closely connected voice, making arguments more reasonable (not justified though). Research is frankly a searchlight to professionals.


Tim Cain (2015) Teachers’ engagement with research texts: beyond instrumental, conceptual or strategic use, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:5, 478-492,

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2015.1105536



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediation
  2. https://www.edutopia.org/teacher-development-research-keys-success


Power To The Pupil



Certain things in life are so obvious and regular they hardly need mentioning or consideration at all, like: having a good night’s rest; eating your veggies, love your parents… They get ignored. It is a good thing to be remembered about their worth from time to time. Self-evidency tends to eat itself. There is the story of a good servant who was completely forgotten about by a rich family when moving out of their mansion (1). Apparently, he was too much taken for granted. Unless you are a Kevin (from the movie Home alone) you will be trapped in oblivion. Lesson drawn? Be, or find at least, a Kevin. Professionals (including parents) without a Kevin enter a danger zone: too much of what they do is taken for granted (and ignored). The danger being: what counts and matters most tends to get obscured by routines and worn paths (2). Encapsulated in custom behaviors is a deadly trap for good, professional service (3). Not to fear; it can be mended, not necessarily though the sturdy way of Kevin but by having some kind of investigative reporting that keeps track of professional traps and easygoing. Behind the classroom door pupils can be “helpful Kevin’s” (no, this is not an oxymoron).

A nicely done action research study in Finland showed that pupils, when given the investigative tools like video observation, making photographs, can come up with relevant instances of good and bad classroom activities. Bringing them up in classroom discussion with the teacher helped, according to the findings, to reflect on practices, restructure practical theories, and learn about pupil perspectives. The activity helped pupils to create a sense of belonging and partnership in teaching.

The promising outcome of the study is that “evidence” can be collected (beyond evaluation happiness sheets; i.e, by photographic documentation) about how teaching and learning evolves in a classroom and together with subsequent reflection can enlighten the teacher’s work. But true as well, in a truly Kevin-world this also could scare away the professional. Because there is no reciprocity, or mutual benefit. When viewed as investigative research into classroom activity which is being conducted by teacher and pupils jointly it would really empower to learn.

Reetta Niemi, Kristiina Kumpulainen & Lasse Lipponen (2015) Pupils’ documentation enlightening teachers’ practical theory and pedagogical actions, Educational Action Research, 23:4, 599-614, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2014.942334


1. https://books.google.nl/books?id=X_y5BwAAQBAJ&dq=books+faulkner+servant+mansion&hl=nl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixusztyb_KAhVERg8KHdj_AgQQ6AEIKTAA
2. http://www.enotes.com/topics/worn-path/themes
3. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teacher-misconduct-regulating-the-teaching-profession

The Sphinx With A Secret


Amazing profession, teaching; great profession too. Hiring for job positions would probably allude its energizing working environment, great opportunities for personal development, with challenging, diverse, and interactive tasks to handle; not ever a dull moment. And in smaller font: moderate till low salary offer, highly demanding and principled performance requirements, heavy administrative work load, poor support structure, and from time to time suddenly changing policy conditions. Amazing, one might say, that teaching remains attractive considering its job features; and great that applicants keep going for it. Is there a secret, a hidden treasure in teaching may be? It still needs to be discovered, despite the substantial amount of studies we have on the nature of the teaching profession and characteristics of being a teacher (1). From them we learn about the devoted character, the caring nature, the constraint position, and the hard work that constitutes the job. Still it is a bit of a mystery what makes teachers love their work, despite all that is researched, studied, or analyzed.

An example of such a closer look is a recent study in which teachers were examined on implementation of constructivist instructional strategies into their teaching. Such a study could reveal something about what moves teachers to go for an approach and why they adopt a method to work with in their classroom. The study was of a questionnaire type, with quite a lot of respondents (about 250). It is of interest to have a look at the method of the study first: administration was management approved, and teachers had to fill in the lengthy item list during their lunch break time. Almost all item scores varied little around the central scale mean (3.5); when items refered to their own work the scale mean rises to 4. (a question pops to mind: shouldn’t we abandon survey questionnaire all together?)(2).

Anyway; some findings stand out. Teachers approved the new instructional approach; they indicated they would like to try it; they already used parts of the approach in their teaching, and they like to learn more. One notable critical exception: according to teachers their local needs in curriculum change are hardly taken into consideration. Nothing new so far. What about the secret then. What stands out in the teachers’ responses is the high overall concern with their students’ learning. No matter what conditions, methods, or change it revolves to them all around a real concern for their students. The secret being: “what is good for my students, is good enough for me”. In that sense it is reassuring that we have questionnaires that speak the teacher’s voice.

Teachers’ perceptions of constructivist curriculum change as a predictor of their perceptions of the implementation of constructivist teaching–learning activities by Ali Yildirim & Koray Kasapoglu
Asia Pacific Education Review (2015) 16:565–577;
DOI 10.1007/s12564-015-9394-5, Copyright Springer, Crossmark


1. http://ssol.tki.org.nz/Social-studies-Years-1-10/Teaching-and-learning/effective_teaching_in_social_studies/teaching_strategies
2. http://work.chron.com/disadvantages-questionnaires-15870.html



For Whom, How, What For


In ancient China an emperor ordered his court magicians to come up with the shortest sentence possible, so he could use it in any kind of situation that would show his deep wisdom and erudition. After lengthy and careful consideration (for the magicians it was a matter of life or death) the wise men came up with the line: “That too will pass”. Surely multi-functional. Whatever may happen, for better or worse, the attitude expressed by the line creates sufficient distance and overview. Not commitment, that is for sure. From an emperor (being a good ruler – 1) one might have expected differently. Since that time however the sentence, certainly the attitude, has been used widely, both explicitly as well as implicitly. It signals non-commitment. But sometimes ‘things’ will not change without action, or is there no time to wait, or waste; and is a calling for direction necessary.
What to think then of a whole line of research that has been there for quite a while but actually did not add much to a fuller understanding of the phenomena under scrutiny? It would flourish under the emperor, no doubt. Being done without any direction, at least that is the impression when one reads a review study on the Teaching Practicum. The Practicum (2) is the key experiential place of professional preparation for prospective teachers. It is where they become formed as real teachers. But whether it is a sound place to learn the trade we still do not know. The review study meticulously shows the one-sidedness of the bulk of studies: focused primarily on student teachers, their perspectives and beliefs, using small case studies, showing open ended outcomes. A meager, delimited result on “for whom, how, and what for” after decades of research.

Now, we do not have emperors in research. Good ruling has to come from researchers themselves. In that respect it is a bit amazing to see the lack of it, despite the fact there are good reviews available; telling us time and time again the limitations and biases in a field of study. It is not enough to say the biasedness “will pass”. Partiality on “For whom, how, and what for” in fact must act as a wakeup call offered to us by reviews and the educational community.

Research on teaching practicum – a systematic review by Tony Lawson, Melek Çakmak, Müge Gündüz & Hugh Busher (2015). Research on teaching practicum – a systematic review, European Journal of Teacher Education, 38:3, 392-407, DOI: 10.1080/02619768.2014.994060
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02619768.2014.994060


1. http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/bdorsey1/41docs/22-wil.html
2. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10476210.2012.711815

Nothing To Hide


We are all on display, with or without our consent, almost all of the time. It is part of information society that we are being monitored, watched, and screened. When on the street or in our homes we are being recognized (i.e., watched over) by the electronic gadgets we or some-one else has installed for us. Call it transparency of living or keeping tabs on our security. We like it because we want to see how our kids, pets, energy consumption or whatever are doing. “Others” like it because it adds to complete a profile they have of us. Whether you feel the need or not: “surveillance can help” (1). May be for that reason webcams with cloud storage which allow remote viewing through web-portals all the time are so handy. With live video feeds we can put on display whatever is happening or has happened, allowing us to check in from anywhere. Great, isn’t it? What to think of it then applying it to teaching and classroom observation? Looking into the classroom and observe closely how teachers manage and structure the instructional environment for pupils would open up varies ways to explore how students work and teachers do their practice. Except that teachers and pupils alike are hesitant to be subjected to such a live observation (2).
A study however took position on this by installing a live video observation system in the classroom to test reactivity of teachers and students. The study which was conducted in a larger Chinese city, and having the consent of principals and teachers, observed no reactivity to the live observation after a prolonged period after installation of the video system. Teachers became accustomed to it. The authors favor this method of classroom observation over more obtrusive methods as being more real and valid.

If the objective is to obtain credible observation information the authors are no doubt on the right track. But is this the issue? Circumventing the ethical aspect (3) for a moment, a key concern would be the claim of avoiding reactivity. Teachers get accustomed to it, the authors claim. You get accustomed to something by having a reaction somehow: ignore, avoid, adapt, fake, beautify. There is no non reactivity. To accustom requires a change in behavior. The point is how teachers accustomed, and are we sure it was for the better?

The demand for live video observation in classrooms is growing rapidly. Parents for instance are highly in favor. For teachers to safeguard themselves against possible claims would lead them to hide behind a mask of compliance or erect a fence of defense in some way, thus closing the classroom door. We need to agree on rules of  invading professional space, that is for sure.

Jiwen Liang (2015) Live video classroom observation: an effective approach to reducing reactivity in collecting observational information for teacher professional development, Journal of Education for Teaching, 41:3, 235-253, DOI:10.1080/02607476.2015.1045314
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607476.2015.1045314

summary 39

1. https://www.videosurveillance.com/tech/mobile-and-remote-camera-systems.asp
2. http://surveillantidentity.blogspot.nl/2012/09/resistance-to-surveillance.html
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2817758/

In or Out


Anyone can call her- or himself a ‘teacher’, ‘trainer’, ‘educator’, ‘mentor’. Profession labels in education are not protected or safeguarded. Admission to the profession is still regulated by having a proper diploma or certificate, completed by a hiring procedure of an institution having an open position. But this is changing. A call for gatekeeping the profession (1) has been made in professions adjacent to education. Again the health professions set the example. To be admitted as counselor, or therapist gatekeeping is set in place. Entry to the profession becomes a careful profession based (not program based) monitoring process of evaluating personal and professional qualities of applicants. Assessing professional readiness in addition to an academic diploma is favored for remediation and development purposes to prevent potential misconduct in the profession later on.
A strong plea for setting up gatekeeping procedures is to be found in the referred article. The authors state that “failing to do so could result in global consequences for the profession”. (p. 29). Of course, admission and gatekeeping procedures are there for the benefit of good practice.

Gatekeeping the profession is here to stay; it seems inevitable. The ‘Thatcherism” inspired management turn (2) made professions and professionals painfully aware that autonomy comes with a price (i.e, installing accountability measures to control service rendered). Decisions on entry to the profession, certainly, need assurance (meaning: standards, requirements and procedures). But what if turns back on you and starts to function as an impediment? Consider the possibility of a β error (i.e., the incorrect dismissal of a positive instance); that is, not selecting a talented applicant to the profession. Most entry procedures once set in place are not scrutinized or critically examined afterwards anymore. They become ‘norm’-al acting as inert, uncontested bodies with a conserving impact. It becomes increasingly hard to question them. However, from time to time one needs to ask “are you sure you are not keeping out who should be in?

The Gatekeeping Imperative in Counselor Education Admission Protocols: The Criticality of Personal Qualities. By Ann M. McCaughan & Nicole R. Hill. © Springer Science+Business Media, New York 2014.
Published online: International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 2015 37:28–40.
Link: www. DOI 10.1007/s10447-014-9223-2

summary 23

Referencing the issue
1. http://www.quintcareers.com/career_book_reviews/Gatekeepers.html
2. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/15/margaret-thatcher-education-legacy-gove

Run Away


Life is full of risks. The sky may fall one your head; your car swallowed by a sinkhole. There is even the risk of not taking the risk (in finding your fortune, or happiness in life). Some people avoid risk, some seek the thrill of it. There are therapeutic programs to help you deal with risk (1) and economic calculations to manage risks (4). Nevertheless, risk is what we can not control; a boiling mix of fear, fate, and unlikely occurrences. Fact is you have to life with it. Teachers too (3). Now, most of us would contend that teaching is not a very risky profession or rooted in uncertainties. Classroom life has its regularities and its (more or less) planned flow of activity. Could it be then that persons who like to avoid risks in their lives have to some extent a fascination for the profession? This issue was studied, from an economic perspective.
The study compared prospective teachers and economics students using a standard lottery task and looked at their risk preferences. It turned out that the future teachers were risk averse. The authors interpret their findings by saying that “policy makers should take into account teacher risk characteristics when considering reforms that may clash with risk preferences”
Now, two strange leaps occur in this study. First, and you do not have to be a statistician to notice, it may have been that another element was involved. For instance by observing that the group of teacher candidates was composed of females (75%) and the comparison group had 62% males. Could this have been an alternative interpretation for risk preference? Secondly, and more importantly, the study seems to suggest that policy makers should bear in mind that education reforms should not be too risky for teachers. Or, even worse, that teachers may obstruct reform because they feel it is too hazardous for them. The ultimate consequence might be: no risky reforms in education. Truly, a risky advice (2) .


Daniel H. Bowen, Stuart Buck, Cary Deck, Jonathan N. Mills & James V. Shuls (2015) Risky business: an analysis of teacher risk preferences, Education Economics, 23:4, 470-480,
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2014.966062

summary 21

1. http://elitedaily.com/life/motivation/14-risks-everyone-needs-take-life/
2. http://www.marcandangel.com/2013/10/20/10-risks-happy-people-take-every-day/
3. http://archive.ajpe.org/aj6904/aj690474/aj690474.pdf
4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

I M …


Identity and naming; they are closely connected. How you name yourself says a lot about your identity. “Conan, the Barbarian”; “Marvel, the Daredevil”; “Dennis, the Menace”; they knew who they are. Children’s play is full of name giving: “I was the king and then you was my knight…” – stated in past tense as if identities are established already long before. Identity formation for each of us is a subtle process, taking time and careful consideration. As it happens (especially during adolescence) names are changed to express and launch new identity. We carefully guard our name as part of ourselves. Naming can also hurt – in bullying throwing names to someone is meant to demoralize Self.
So, how do we name our teachers? What is emblematic of the identity of teachers? Teachers have been identified by many names: The teacher as professional; the teacher as reflective practitioner, the teacher as educator; the teacher as social change agent; the teacher as a learner – these names are given to express the core of what teachers do. Intentional naming has an effect on how we view teachers and what they do. And what is more: this naming has a backwash effect on how teachers see themselves and perhaps act accordingly.

It can be important to deconstruct how we name teachers. The philosophical analysis of the cited article helps us to breakdown one of the popular images of teachers, i.e. teachers as professionals. The lucid argument being that metaphors both stress certain features as well as blurs other appearances of what teachers are. A critique can also safeguard against a too narrow interpretation of what teaching is.

Reflective thinking helps to decompose the obvious and to illuminate what is concealed. The “teacher as a professional” metaphor (1) has been taken for granted for a long time and popular especially among those taking a managerial view on education. One of the implicit assumptions being that it involves continuing professional development (i.e., proclaiming basic shortcomings in teachers).
It is then a good thing to know that teaching IS… much more than it seems

‘Teacher as Professional’ as Metaphor: What it Highlights and What it Hides by BRUCE MAXWELL
Journal of Philosophy of Education,Vol. 49, No. 1, 86-104. 2015
© 2014 The Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd,

summary 20

1. http://www.britanico.cl/pdf/Thomas_Beauchamp_2011.pdf

Full Steam Ahead

03princess of norway Teachers resemble performing artists. Teachers too have to get on stage and have to deliver an engaging ‘thing’ before a critical and sometimes distracted audience. Performing can be extremely exhausting. You have to empower yourself with enough energy to give performance a go. The moment before “getting on” can be very stressful. Even experienced performing artists, dancers, show masters, actors, musicians (1) admit they have (often strong) emotions of anxiety and fear before entry for an audience. The strange thing about it is that it does not lessen or disappear with practice or experience. It stays with you no matter how celebrate you are. So how is this with teachers, especially with beginning teachers when they have to prepare for class?
A thorough and enlightening study from Germany gives more background to this. The six authors looked at the interplay of emotional exhaustion, the feeling of self efficacy (“ I am doing fine”) and the professional knowledge of beginning teachers. It turned out that the feeling of being burned out was high among these teachers but it gradually decreased over time. Being exhausted affected their sense of self efficacy (negatively). And unfortunately, being a well-prepared and knowledgeable professional did not help to reduce the dominant feeling of exhaustion (although some signs in the study indicated that it may help a bit).
To deliver requires energy, a lot. Being good, experienced, or qualified does not add much weight to abandon or overcome the exhaustion that is part of being a professional. Knowing this and accepting it might relief a bit the feelings of anxiety that accompany the act of delivery (2) . Apparently performing under pressure is the natural and normal habitat for professionals. But it does not appear that it is being regarded that way that much, both among the professional and the audience. Giving full steam ahead, however, would also imply to accept the energy it consumes.

Beginning teachers’ efficacy and emotional exhaustion: Latent changes, reciprocity, and the influence of professional knowledge By Theresa Dicke, Philip D. Parker, Doris Holzberger, Olga Kunina-Habenicht,
Mareike Kunter, & Detlev Leutnera Contemporary Educational Psychology 41 (2015) 62–72
Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.11.003 0361-476X/© 2014 Published by Elsevier Inc.


1. http://musicpsychology.co.uk/performing-music-under-stress/
2. http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/543974/Stress-can-reduce-mental-ability-to-a-child-s