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

 

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Life Is The House You Live In

house.

Hmm? A visit starts with the front door, of course. It is the face of the house for everyone to see. May be it is polished and well kept, or will it show the wear and tear of all that went through? Then, let’s skip the hallway and go straight to the living room, the ‘parlour’. This is the place of relaxation built up over the year with  stuff you feel comfortable with. Not always does everything in it fit well together but one tries. At least it is filled with mostly good memories. Home interior design does want you to take action and make smaller or bigger plans to refurbish the place but as often it can wait for a while. More and more the kitchen takes over in interest. After all it is the spot were daily activities come together, talks steam up the atmosphere in the house. The kitchen has become truly the central arena of life and living in the house.  From time to time a piece falls to the floor but easily cleaned for those who run a tight organized home. After work has been done the senses move upstairs. Different schedules run against each other on the stairs. Those who can wait will triumph nonetheless. After the stairs separate worlds are deployed. Bedrooms and bathrooms are individual places of rest and restauration, which one needs to be there. Finally getting peace of mind, or alternatively, worrying about coming things ahead.

Since this is supposed to be a blog on teaching and school life let’s redirect the metaphor to teachers. “Teaching, for teachers, is the house they live in”. How would that turn out?

 

 

Referencing

http://www.truelifeimateacher.com/

 

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

Nothing To Hide

leraar

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.

Source
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

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Referencing
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/

Feeling at Home

home

The life we live has much to do with the environment we live in. Our room, our house, our neighborhood are spaces that will affect the way we feel, behave, and even reason. The so-called built environment has a profound effect on our well-being. That is why designers and architects of spaces have such a great responsibility; they create relatively lasting worlds. More so even for maintaining these worlds. When you neglect cleaning your room, are careless in maintaining your house, or inattentive to your neighborhood, it will not only show but also strike back on the way you and others occupy spaces. Schools as spaces are no different. Some schools are built like factory buildings, uninviting and demanding; others like sanatoria, distant and sterile. How schools are built says a lot about how we think about schooling and education (1) .
For that matter it is good to have evidence that well maintained schools provide spaces where students flourish. A Dutch study linked built environment in schools (playground, classrooms, corridors, facility rooms) to school success of students (mainly study results) and found a strikingly strong relation. Well kept environments provided an open engaging space for support of learning (the opposite also unfortunately being true). The study’s outcome resembles what has been found in the medical world about ‘healing environments’ (2) . Patients recover from their illness much faster when they get well in pleasant surroundings.

Now this all is not to make a socio-critical point, namely that better (and well kept) schools are to be found mainly in well off neighborhoods. It is regrettably obvious. This is meant to state that built environments are not poured down upon us. As social spaces they that can be modified and refurbished the way we like them to be (more or less we can). We interact with our environment, and when it is not interpreted as a given or pre-formatted world to be coped with we can uphold it according to our own specifications. It is a matter of how we want our lives to be. Therefore a great responsibility lies not only upon designers of built spaces but on educators and students alike to rearrange staffrooms, create open learning landscapes, ergonomic desks; in short, get involved in effective school design.

Source
Predictors of study success from a teacher’s perspective of the quality of the built environment by H. Kok
M. Mobach & O. Omta
Management in Education 2015, Vol. 29(2) 53–62 ; ª 2015 British Educational Leadership,Management & Administration Society(BELMAS)
www. sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0892020614553719

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Referencing
1. http://www.nsbn.org/publications/newsletters/summer2006/4.php
and http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cflat/about/schoolbuildings.htm
2. http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/healing-environment

Parents’ Pride

miffy2

Children are parents’ pride, especially when children are doing well at school. Therefore, the ultimate function of schools is to make parents proud. Overall, parents seem to be quite satisfied with the school they send their kids (schools get a small plus)(1) . Once a school is selected for their child, which is mainly based on school test scores and school safety, parents’ judgment of school quality is primarily guided by adequate information they receive from the school about their children (2). Next in the parents’ view, school quality is determined by the degree to which parents are involved in the school and how well they communicate with teachers. This social emotional tie seems far more important than adequacy of school resources, or how effective the school is managed.
We know quite a lot about what makes a school stand out in the view of parents. Conclusion?: It is not just school average test scores. This is true for parents from different backgrounds and with children of all abilities (3). A nice illustration is found in a study on offering bilingual education in the school to raise academic level/ opportunity of English speaking students. “Nice…” parents seem to be thinking but first comes how well my children will learn from good instruction on standard curriculum subjects (quality of instruction gets a 52% and how safe a learning environment is for my kids comes second with 22%) .

“Nice…”one could rejoin, but what about the object of parents’ pride? It turns out that children’s’ self-reported happiness and satisfaction with their learning environment is unrelated to average test results in their school (4) : children are just as happy in schools where average test scores are low as in schools where average test scores are high. So, parents’ satisfaction with school quality is not strongly related with their children’s’ enjoyment of school. A noteworthy circumstance. The thing is that a child’s happiness and enjoyment with the school affects learning results – which makes the circle round again. Satisfaction/parent, quality/school, happiness/child and learning: a strong loop.

Source
Lisa M. Dorner (2015) From global jobs to safe spaces: the diverse discourses that sell multilingual schooling in the USA, In: Current Issues in Language Planning, 16:1-2, 114-131,
DOI: 10.1080/14664208.2014.947013
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2014.947013

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Referencing:
1. http://www.nais.org/Articles/Pages/The-NAIS-Parent-Satisfaction-Survey.asp
2. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/09578230710747811
3. http://cee.lse.ac.uk/ceedps/ceedp103.pdf
4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272775710001470

‘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

School- time

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lezend

 

The Idea Behind This Blog
School-time can be a great time, at least it should be. I believe “sed scholea discimus” much more than life normally offers. School-time is there to bring a person the opportunity of cognitive and moral advancement, at least it should. School-time for life-time, would that be a delight or an horror? – that is the issue we are confronted with in school practice.
My quest is to bring together “ grounded” knowledge about thought-provoking moments and remarkable places where students and teachers interact to explore, discover, inquire, and build knowledge together with the intent to achieve higher levels of understanding (yes, teachers too).
Such knowledge is already widespread available (in journals, internet-sites, education studies, teacher records). It is just for the taking. But content needs a form. I will, therefore, take a didactical stance as the most suited way to bring forward lessons learned by others, and will frame them as “emblemata”
An emblemata is a didactical and moral (!) display of a “wisdom of practice”, consisted of a picture, a motto, and a subscription. The picture often represents the allegorical by referring to the outside world (context, if you like); the motto captures the lesson and wisdom entailed in the lesson learnt; and the ‘subscriptio’ contains the substance; in this case, the study conducted, the story told, the autobiography shared. Emblemata, once popular, are great formats in taking a perspective and disclosing multiple layers of interpretation.
It is my intent to collect interesting pieces of work available on the Internet dealing with “school-time” for everyone to absorb, review, reflect upon or just to be entertained.

Acknowledgement
The blog may be considered to be an emblemata itself: borrowing the motto from a poem by the narrative and highly didactic poet Wordsworth called “The Prelude”. The picture(s) signify the age old tradition of teaching and the scholarship that goes together with that profession which is contrasted on the opposite end with a picture signifying the eagerness and wonder on part of the pupils entrusted to a period of schooling and learning.