Learn to Play

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Quality time with your kids – what does it mean? You get home after a busy day (this is a gender neutral statement): off-loading, exchanging daily burdens at the kitchen table, greeting the kids, (vice versa); checking the mail, then what …? May be before bedtime a small reading session with the kids. Before that most likely sitting on the coach to watch tele. It can’t be Sunday every day. Let us be real: Quality time is a created construct to sanctuary activity with your children, but actually it is a highly fabricated, almost unnatural creation: “sorry, you are out of quality time; beat it” .  Admitted, it is better than no time. In a lot of homes almost no intergenerational interaction above the level of directives occurs. Quality time at least gives some indication on the need for interaction. It is the nature of interaction that counts, not time per se.  Especially with young children interaction comes down to inter-activity, doing things together, like in play. For adults, parents as well, this is a difficult shift to make. They are not kids anymore. For some, play seems a regression, an ineptitude with which one feels uncomfortable. Parents’ beliefs about play interfere with a full engagement in play.

At least this was found in a US study validating an assessment instrument to gauge parental attitude toward play. It turned out that pointing to prevailing beliefs about interaction through play with your child affected the self-awareness of these parents and moderated a positive disposition towards play. Thus, supporting the study’s intent to construct and disseminate a belief measurement on parental attitudes about play.

“ My learning is playing, my playing is learning” , as the poet once proclaimed. Playing is serious business then? Playing in function of..? Is it for that reason that parents should interact  – because it is quality time? Playing together with an adult is different from playing by oneself, or with a peer. Comenius in his pedagogical tale “Labyrint of the World”  (2)  warns against putting too much wisdom into a child and defends the usefulness of time to experiment, to roam; that is to value play for reasons of its own, not in purpose of. There are so many ways in which parents can interact with children; do not take away play from the children.

Source

Expanding home visiting outcomes: Collaborative measurement of parental play beliefs and examination of their association with parents’ involvement in toddler’s learning Patricia H. Manza, Catherine B. Bracaliello  in Early Childhood Research Quarterly 36 (2016) 157–167

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.12.015  0885-2006/© 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved

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Referencing

  1. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/5-ways-to-spend-time-with-your-kids-when-you-have-no-time.html

2. http://www.labyrint.cz/en/contents

 

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Team Stress

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In schools you will find teachers. Quite normal. They are supposed to be working as a team for the benefit of students. As one might expect. It is, however, not always turning out that way. So, what is wrong? It is not that teachers are not dedicated professionals. On the contrary. Work engagement is high in the teaching profession and motivation to help students in their learning is known to be the prime drive of teachers (1). It is also not true that teachers like to be distant from their colleagues and perform as ”isolated professionals” (2). Collaborative work is quite common in schools. Still, working as a team is a bit of a problem in many schools (3). It takes quite a lot to be a team, for sure. Teams share a common philosophy, distribute defined roles and tasks evenly among each member, and are enabled to work as a team based on sufficient resources. But even when team conditions are fulfilled it may not flourish. Collaboration in a team requires a lot of individual stress regulation.
A study among early childhood professionals working as a team (in day care centres) conducted in Finland looked at the physiological signals that could indicate what happened when working together. The researchers measured cortisol levels, alpha-amylase enzyme in saliva as indicators of psychological stress. This measurement was related to team work related demands. It showed that it was not so much work engagement or motivation (which are attributed to individuals) but far more quality of the work environment (i.e, clear goals, defined roles, and resources) that contributed to the regulation of stress. Teams that are energized to work well together are able to manage their work demands.

A link between physiological and psychological states is one thing the study managed to establish, the other perhaps is that person related factors (work engagement, motivation) are not the stressors per se but the quality of the work environment really is. The good news remains that teachers are devoted to their work, just let them be able to enact it. Stress is part of work life but it helps when it can be regulated through enabling conditions.

Source
Mari A. Nislin, Nina K. Sajaniemi, Margaret Sims, Eira Suhonen, Enrique F. Maldonado Montero, Ari Hirvonen & Sirpa Hyttinen (2016) Pedagogical work, stress regulation and work-related well-being among early childhood professionals in integrated special day-care groups, European Journal of Special Needs Education, 31:1, 27-43, DOI:10.1080/08856257.2015.1087127

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Referencing
1. http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~jus/0303/bishay.pdf
2. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/alone-in-the-classroom-why-teachers-are-too-isolated/255976/
3. http://www.ericdigests.org/1996-3/work.htm

Power To The Pupil

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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.

Source
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

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Referencing
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

Give It To Me

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Receiving a present or a gift (be it a donut, a tablet computer or whatever..) is a moment of joy and excitement. Not so in education. Receiving something (be it a new book, a new course… ) does not come unconditional and unrestricted. There is always a twist. The giver (mostly the teacher or the ‘program’) wants you to do or achieve something with it. The gift is not yours. To be more precise, look at the numerous initiatives of ‘giving away’ tablet computers or cell phones to students, often already at early stages of schooling (1). The idea behind it is that children will grasp the benefits of the Internet World to the full. And they will, often quicker and more skillful than their educators can foresee (2). But the gift is a mixed blessing; it comes with all kinds of limitations of use and often as a stripped version. Kids will immediately notice it is not the full monty.
This is not to question the benefits of wide spread dissemination of information technology tools in education. It is the widespread educational urge of limiting an unreserved use of the tools (for all kinds of reasons and motives). The cited study (below) dived into what children think and say about their use of cell phones that were distributed to them for educational purposes. It turns out that, first of all, the kids were not at all pleased with the gift, once discovering its potentials, but were disappointed actually. Also, the expected use of the tool turned out to be highly overrated by educator since children gradually confined to what was asked of them. A generative and learning intensifying deployment was not achieved. Even frustration occurred in that students thought teachers would invade their privacy.

A great idea turning into a mischance. Education is not unfamiliar with crashed implementations of great ideas; and, certainly, there have been well thought over explanations for this. But still it remains striking to see how students will evaluate the opportunity offered to them as authentic or not; and based on that may simply dissolve an educational intention. It is more than having a better Information ”teach”nology . It is about ownership of learning, meaning “it is not you but me that is taking the gift”.

Source
Schooling Mobile Phones: Assumptions About Proximal Benefits, the Challenges of Shifting Meanings, and the Politics of Teaching by Thomas M. Philip and Antero Garcia
Educational Policy 2015, Vol. 29(4) 676–707
www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav ; DOI: 10.1177/0895904813518105

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Referencing
1. http://www.editlib.org/
2. http://www.kidsource.com/education/computers.children.html

High Hopes

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Are humans rational beings? Some economist still think that this is the case (despite Kahneman’s comment (1). When it comes to students educators know better. Not that students are irrational beings, but seeking satisfying solutions is not often their major strategy. To cope with the demands of classroom life, especially when it comes to getting satisfactory grades, you have to set your aspirations high. When passing a test or doing an exam it is like ’climbing a mountain’; you have to get sufficiently high in order to raise the flag.
In this matter the cited study gives some enlightening background. The study is about student expectations about their final grade after taking a test. The authors, using an economic perspective, started from the assumption that setting of expectations is a rational process; it is about weighing relevant determinants. Well, it turned out that this was not the case (and the study used quite a lot of sophisticated analytical techniques to come to that conclusion). In fact students were over confident in their expectations about their final grade.
Is it then that students are stupid by being overly self-assured? Most likely not. Living a life in the classroom requires a lot of adaptation (2), and students learn to do this over time, often the hard way, especially when it comes to taking in the results of tests. The education route can be a thorny road. To cope with spiky tasks ahead you need a lot of resilience. The best coping strategy then might be to have a long term perspective like ‘I will get there..somehow’ But, may be, that is not an economic perception.

Source
Belayet Hossain & Panagiotis Tsigaris (2015). Are grade expectations rational? A classroom experiment, Education Economics, 23:2, 199-212,
link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2012.735073

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Referencing
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
2. http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/differentiated-instruction-adapting-the-learning-environment-for-students.html

A Crack In The Ice

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“Smart girls get ready for the future” – a slogan that could be well fitted at a school hallway or up on a bill board. When you see it, you immediately sense a person with an advice to give is standing around the corner. But then again; what would be wrong with a little bit of advice? To get prepared for the future you need some help from your peers, or parents, school, administrators… And girl magazines!.
The cited study examined the impact of advice, wrapped in life stories, comic strips, and columns, as it was given in several girl magazines to see whether girls in the pre-school age would accept and follow (gender-related) recommendations. It turned out that the impact of advice was little. No ‘GirlsLife’ domination, no ‘Total Girl’ cloning was recognized in what young female pupils of that age moved (1).
From an advice giving perspective, it would be of interest to explore what lies beneath this apparent divergence. Advice giving has to deal with acceptance and following recommendations on part of the advice taker. Self-determination (2), i.e., not to follow the path outlined by others for you but exploring ‘unknown grounds’ on your own, may well be what it is all about, even at young age. It is much like stepping on an iced surface carefully listening to the steps you make on the ice to see how far you can safely go. It is exciting and fun, and above all: a source of learning. Advice is all too often obvious and plain. You know it already; it is the thing that you want to see it for yourself. It is seems that girl magazines, as we learn from this study, are walking on thin ice.

Source:
Preschool Girls and the Media: How Magazines Describe and Depict Gender Norms by Mikako Hata
International Journal of early childhood (2014) 46:373–389, Springer Science+ Business Media
www.DOI 10.1007/s13158-014-0123-8

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Referencing
1. http://thesciencenetwork.org/docs/BrainsRUs/Education%20Forum_Diamond.pdf
2. http://www.learning-theories.com/self-determination-theory-deci-and-ryan.html

Got stuck? Ask help!

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Maddening devices computers can be. Or help desks, or trying to explain your complaint to a service desk. Anger management is called for in these situations. But who will deploy them in awkward and stressful situations? The study cited gives some background on what works and what not.
The answer to deal with anger has mainly to do with self-regulation (1), it seems. Luckily the study gives some handles on what to do: arranging your environment (but who can?); monitoring your motivation (“I will get through”), and having a learning orientation (by saying “this is really an interesting situation”). In anger management the study found no gender effects looking at online group work. Apparently face to face interactions matter in this respect. Cultural differences in setting (by comparing US and Chinese students) did take an effect. Comments made by your peers (even online) had a considerable corrective effect.
But what if you got stuck?; which often triggers anger and despair. The study gives a captivating and worrying outcome: in order not to jeopardize peer relationships Chinese students did not seek help or call for information from their peers. If that is true and when we relativize the Cultural we are dealing with the nasty occurrence of being stuck, and not being able to bootstrap ourselves using self-regulation strategies. It means that you are at a dead end. Call for help would be the adequate coping strategy (2) but it needs courage to do so. Let’s realize: Group work (online or in vivo) is flourishing in schools but what if you fall behind in the group you are working with? And who monitors (silent) help seeking requests? (3). I would say: Teacher know your students.

 Source
Emotion management in online group work reported by Chinese students, by Jianzhong Xu • Jianxia Du • Xitao Fan ; Published by Springer in : Education Technology Research Development (2014) 62:795–819 ; DOI 10.1007/s11423-014-9359-0
Published online: 16 October 2014; Copyright: Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2014

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 Referencing
1: http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=search.displayRecord&uid=2001-01625-013
2: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/dev/50/5/1350/
3 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959475210000563