Go On, Ask!


“Those who ask, will be given” (1) but you better “ask those who know” (2). Although different in tone these two quotes from religious books both promote advice seeking as a virtue and a benefit. But as often with well-meant guidance it needs a reality check (even an advice as portrayed in the opening sentence). Such a reality check would reveal that the act of asking puts you in a dependent position, and rely on others for help. In education it normally would be allowed, although excessive use of asking behavior would count as submissive and not ‘self-regulated’ (3). In cases of a more equal distribution of power in relationships you will pay a tribute when asking or requesting for ‘help’, that is, you allow for dominance, and when not constrained, it will invite authoritarianism (3). It is that bad? May be. Truth is that in most cases people are hesitant to ask for advice, to request for assistance. Take, for instance, regular team meetings. Apart from the usual questioning or inquiring type of communication, really asking for advice and support is seldom done. It makes you vulnerable, almost incompetent in the eyes of your colleagues. Imagine: “I have a serious issue with…You really need to advise me on how to..; yeah, right…”).

Still, it can be done, according to a qualitative study on team interactions in a school community. Opening up for help and being aware of the cultural change to be made, the team decided to be permissive and supportive to each other’s requests for assistance. The study is a bit inexplicit about the team’s composition (age, gender, position matter in these cases), but discloses that agency in asking disrupted isolation, mediated change, and supported a concerted practice.

So, it has been done. What is the secret behind it? Max Weber, a sociologist, (4) was among the first to underline that permission seeking (and giving) is power related. It means that only within a jointly accepted set of rules and shared sense of perspective one may allow, or iteratively, exert control. Put simpler: circumstance brings you to open up for probing. In that respect the opening sentence and the advice given in them gets more texture.  Proof?;  Well, would you follow the title’s advice, not knowing circumstance?


Permission-seeking as an agentive tool for transgressive teaching: An ethnographic study of teachers organizing for curricular change by Kira J. Baker-Doyle& Leif Gustavson,  J Educ Change (2016) 17:51–84

DOI 10.1007/s10833-015-9251-7



  1. http://biblehub.com/matthew/7-7.htm
  2. https://www.al-islam.org/ask-those-who-know-muhammad-al-tijani-al-samawi/chapter-1-concerning-creator-most-sublime-and#second-question-justice-god-and-predestination
  3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201502/the-mind-the-authoritarian
  4. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/socsi/undergraduate/introsoc/weber11.html



Ask A Friend


Online social spaces, who doesn’t use them. From Facebook and Twitter to special interest group wikis, and in-company forums we love to participate in ongoing debates and join in liking what we like. The time we devote to partaking is booming. Online activity of some of us exceeds almost 18 hours a day (1). Mostly for a reason. Online spaces offer a huge resource of information, products, informal learning, political action, dating and you name it. So, we join to connect, collaborate, and share (2). It may seem these spaces offer neutral ground to wander around and browse on what is on offer but that would be naïve to think. Online spaces like their social counterparts in daily life attract, select, shape, and create (as well as hurt) identities. As environments, manifold as they are, they structure the nature of online engagement. After all, Facebook is not VSCO, and Foursquare not Meetup. But are we aware that online social network environments govern how we interact and allow (or not) for the kind of agency we like to express? They certainly are not engagement-neutral or interaction-open but shape discourse.

This is precisely the point made in a study on teachers online peer interaction. Three environments were compared. An (open) Facebook page, an (invitational) Facebook group and an (anonymous) Forum run by a publishing house. The kind of interaction and nature of communication differed substantially. In the open space teachers felt uncomfortable about being liked or not; in the anonymous space conflicts led to naming and shaming; in the invited space micro groups developed which tried to dominate the agenda.

Online networking is an inspiring, enhancing tool of teacher connectivity and professional learning – many have stated in its favor (3).  However it helps to know that its format contours how we take position or what we bring up. Then it may be realized too that trust and familiarity come to the foreground when connecting to peers. The interplay between the type of functionality and the nature of commitment requires careful consideration of teachers before going online. In some cases they do better to ask a friend.


James Robson (2016). Engagement in structured social space: an investigation of teachers’ online peer-to-peer interaction, Learning, Media and Technology, 41:1, 119-139, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2015.1102743



  1. http://www.internetlivestats.com/
  2. http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/051313p10.shtml
  3. http://www.districtadministration.com/article/social-networking-tool-student-and-teacher-learning


Silencing Voices



Speak your mind is may be comforting to do when distressed or worried, but it remains a delicate thing. There are a lot of “what if’s..”, when uttered in the social arena – because it then becomes political. Saying out loud what you think might be considered as an indication of a possible mishap or wrongdoing. And that is a matter of sharing of opinions. When you point to an “Emperor’s New Clothes” your voice needs to be heard, at least that is the point of expressing it.  Tricky it becomes when your voice would not be recognized, considered inappropriate, or thought to be out of bound. What do you do? Persist? Give in? The social arena is very powerful in silencing voices (1). It often are newcomers to a field, individual persons not yet encapsulated by a ‘system’, angry, young daring (wo)men who courageously step forward and say “ Why do you do … the way you do”. To no avail?

An Australian study followed young beginning teachers after their recruitment to gauge how they got embedded in the policy ruled educational renewal programs at their school and collected their opinions and reactions relative to what these young teachers aspired and had been taught during their teacher education. “I had better shut up” could be the concise summary of their experiences. It was not appreciated what they brought forward or commented upon.

Now, these newly arrived teachers to the profession were not ‘whistleblowers’ or critics of the ins and outs of the school’s functioning. They asked probing, relevant questions which were put aside with disdain or neglect. Admitted, these were individual voices, not concerted opinions of dislikes. What lacked was that there were no spokesmen to afford their argument (2). So, who can stand in for these non-silent voices? It is and remains: responsive school management. Comments from newly arrived constitute a strongbox of valuable learning assets that deserve much more than to be handled as insults.



Misty Adoniou (2015) ‘It’s very much taken as an insult if I say anything’: do new educators have a right to speak their mind?, Cambridge Journal of Education, 45:4,401-414, To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2014.987645



  1. https://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/how-to/tipsheets/student-critique.aspx
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34267369


Over A Cup Of Coffee


It starts early and extends till late in professional life: being supported. Teaching no longer can be performed in isolation; it is surrounded by guiding learning materials, demanding course regulations, supervising school inspection, peeping parents and so forth. Teaching is fully embedded in the Age of Transparency (1) . So, let us forget about teaching as ability residing in the individual; it is distributed, shared among those creating the instructional environment at a school site. The teacher as an individual professional is long gone. We are comfortably accustomed to provisions, support, and care up to a level of dependency. This is not to criticize current state of affairs, certainly not. Teaching is not to be a one-man-show; it requires attention. Initiatives to get teachers to help each other should then receive a warm welcome. And indeed, there have been numerous attempts to share and distribute trade knowledge among teachers. Classroom consultation, clinical supervision, Plc’s, team coaching, inter-vision, peer mentoring; there are really a lot of initiatives (2). Given this, it is good to keep on asking: does it contribute (i.e., in keeping teacher ability high)?
An interesting initiative was set up by a group of Danish developers who started a counseling trajectory to support mathematics teachers. They trained a group of teachers in counseling skills to help their fellow teachers at the school site to deal with students having math problems. The program provided a solid framework. Of interest here is the outcome: For the counselor-teachers it turned out that they had great difficulty with the discursive shift, i.e., not to teach their fellow teachers but to mentor them. The counseling talks were mainly of a kind: “let me tell you how I…”. An interesting side result was that teachers were aversive to reading the literature, and preferred talking. As a positive outcome it was noted that the program contributed to more attention to student math problems.

Teaching is not mentoring, and mentoring is not teaching. It requires special skills to mentor. Although teaching nowadays becomes more and more like mentoring; that is, helping another person to master an unexperienced task, teachers are largely ill-prepared in their role as mentors. Being sensitive to the other’s concerns and needs for help requires not “telling”, or talking over a cup of coffee; but a) reviewing where the other currently is, b) pointing out where to go, c) and selecting the right learning path to get there.

Uffe Thomas Jankvist & Mogens Niss (2015) A framework for designing a research-based “maths counsellor” teacher programme . In: Educational Studies in Mathematics (2015) 90:259–284
Published online: 29 August 2015; Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015.
DOI 10.1007/s10649-015-9629-8

sum 42

1. https://hbr.org/2012/07/trust-in-the-age-of-transparency

2. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/02/teachers.aspx

Deliberate Teaching


One of the most successful and effective teaching method goes by the name of “Direct Instruction” short DI. (1) . But it has a bad press. DI stands for introducing a clearly delineated instructional task that will be taught by a teacher, mostly to the whole class, offering plenty of exercises and practicing opportunities, followed by meticulous feedback on results. What is wrong with that? DI was introduced in the sixties of the last century and has since then a long standing history of versions and improvements. It has been implemented in all kinds of subject areas , for different age groups of students, cultural background, and countries all over the world. And it works (2). Several reasons are given as to why: time to learn, immediate feedback, teacher control, opportunity to practice, mastery goals, and also a caring teaching environment (warmth). In that respect DI includes many of the ingredients of a wealth of teaching effect studies.
So what is the complaint? This was carefully sorted out by an Australian study looking for the arguments against DI. Adversaries claim that DI is not suited for all children, it does not address creativity and critical thinking, students do not like it, there are other ways of teaching, and teachers are degraded as technicians.

Now this may all be true (or not, we simply lack the backing evidence of most critiques). Setting aside for a moment the nature and content of critiques and turning to who are issuing the critique would reveal that it comes mostly from educationalist (more specifically educational psychologist in motivation theory). DI is a trusted teaching method for many others: trainers in vocations and organizations, teachers in developing countries, therapists in health care, and coaches in sports. So, we have the strange situation of a teaching method developed by educationalists but then denounces by them, despite the success it has. All would agree on one thing though. DI typically maximizes instruction time – teachers and students are really on task. The core of DI is engagement with the task. When teacher and students do this in a deliberate way, what would be wrong with that?

Source of this article:
Fiona McMullen & Alison Madelaine (2014) Why is there so much resistance to Direct Instruction?, Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 19:2, 137-151, DOI:10.1080/19404158.2014.962065
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19404158.2014.962065


1. http://www.jefflindsay.com/EducData.shtml
2. http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/findwhatworks.aspx



…ness. No, this is not about how to change your life by meditation. It is about change though. Real change in schools, for instance when they take part in an innovative project, is known to be a demanding and long road when it needs to come to actual, sustainable effects. Travelling the innovative path emanates all kinds of resistances and obstructions, not to mention the hardship of recognizing that change requires new changes and adaptations not envisioned before. Schools know that often better than the enthusiastic innovators who come to support (1). It is a lengthy road. Schools (and innovations for that matter) are made by people. Change travels on thoughts and considerations of persons who are involved in and caring for their school. This is the more manifest, when it comes to achieve durable and sustainable outcomes. Innovation has to find its space in the minds and actions that occur daily in a school; which essentially means that each change will turn out differently depending in those who travel the road. So, how come that this is ignored so often in many innovative projects?
A study from Norway recognizing the need to look in depth at what happens in school teams when adopting a change project analyzed discussions among the teachers about the consequences and steps to take in teaching. It pointed out that exchange within the team while scrutinizing their multiple perspectives is crucial for an advanced understanding and school wide sustainable implementation of the proposed change. It is the plurality of perspectives that makes the change concrete and tangible for action, not the uniformity in thinking. A school team becomes innovative by adjusting and transforming individual viewpoints into a collective framework.

Change is construction work, mainly with ideas and notions as building blocks, and executed by thoughtful persons. The thing is what makes perspectives shift, altered over the course of the construction work (2)? It is not merely enough to exchange perspectives in a team (as the study notices as well). Of course, understanding of each other’s insights is a ground to build on; but more than that is needed a commitment to apply – a willingness to make it a success and to put agreements into personal repertoire.

The emergence of innovative work in school development by Kirsten Foshaug Vennebo & Eli Ottesen.
Journal of Educational Change (2015) 16:197–216
www.DOI 10.1007/s10833-014-9234-0. Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014.

summary 26

1. http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/road-trips-in-education/2014/11/constant_change.html
2. http://www.tesl-ej.org/ej17/a1.html

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