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Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy’

  1. 2017 ACSA Conference – Part 3

    8 October 2017 by shartley

    2017 ACSA Conference

     

    WHAT IF? Embracing complexity through curriculum innovation

     

    Program: https://www.acsaconference.acsa.edu.au/program

     

    Part 3

     

    There is a constant tension between the curriculum as constructed and the curriculum in practice. While politicians and the media carry on about how Australia goes in world rankings in education and schools performing or underperforming in NAPLAN and other state enforced testing, schools and their teachers need to focus on real learning.

    However, many institutions and people believe a move away from teaching to the test involves acute risks, for example, in the forms of parent backlash and reduced government funding. One conference delegate from a prestigious private school in Melbourne told me she had no desire to change her teacher-centred approach to learning because she was achieving great marks from her students and they were learning the set curriculum as intended. This was her job, not worrying about the skills and attributes students may need for actual life. Yes, that comment is a bit harsh, but illustrates how I feel. I understand where she is coming from, particularly considering the pressure for marks, but I don’t agree with the approach all the same.

    So how can schools shift the traditional view of education being about the accumulation of knowledge to more genuine authentic learning appropriate for our modern world and heading into the future?

     

    Reclaiming the Curriculum – Implementing Change

     

    At the conference I attended sessions relating the journeys of two different schools: Parramatta Marist High School with Gavin Hays (slides) and Campbelltown Performing Arts High School (CPAHS) with Stacey Quince, the Principal.

    The message that most clearly struck home, for me, is that communication with all stakeholders about the need for change is vital, particularly with parents. The Futures Unit of the NSW Department of Education has produced a case for change in this video:

     

    Schools need to be clear about the reasons for changing the style of learning within their schools. These reasons include:

    • Student engagement in learning
    • Preparing students for a modern world of globalisation and technology driven change
    • Providing students with the skills to enter university eg interview skills for early-entry

    On the front page of their website, CPAHS is upfront about their learning approaches, summarised in this video:

     

    The biggest contrast between these two schools is their pedagogy. Parramatta Marist is a completely dedicated PBL (Project Based Learning) school where students undertake 200 projects during their time at high school. On the other hand, CPAHS advocates a range of pedagogical approaches, including PBL, design thinking and explicit instruction. As I’ve said before, I’m all about balance, so prefer a horses for courses approach.

    Other than that, the schools were quite similar in how they implemented change. At the core of change is a focus on learning and the skills required for the world today. Assessment is then aligned with these skills. Other changes include reducing timetable restrictions, adjusting the physical environment to allow for more collaborative learning and making stronger connections to the community. On that last point, I have deep admiration for how CPAHS has worked with their local council to solve various issues in their area. For instance, Year 8 students participated in a PBL with a design thinking process to consider How can we improve community engagement and sustainable use of a local wetland area? To quote the council’s Comprehensive State Of The Environment Report: Major Achievements July 2012 – June 2016:

    Students from Campbelltown Performing Arts High School investigated environmental and social issues surrounding the Park Central wetland and developed a suite of management actions aimed to improve the local environment, increase awareness about the wetland and engage local residents with the space. As a result, Council has implemented two of the student’s ideas; a children’s storybook ‘Eric the Eel’ and a wildlife tile game. Both projects aim to raise awareness of the unique plants and animals at our local parks. (Campbelltown City Council n.d., p.21)

    As a consequence of these implemented changes, CPAHS students are gaining early university entry because they can articulate what they’ve done at school and why it matters.

     

    TeachMeet 

     

    Although technology prevented a visual and coherent presentation (hyperlink to slides) from Bronwyn Joyce, my interest was piqued enough to investigate further. She is a strong advocate for integrating the UN Sustainable Global Goals into the classroom and some amazing #OneWorldOneClassroom activities can be found here. Click on the presentation slides to gain free temporary access.

    Svetlana, a pre-service teacher, presented about the importance of psychology in teaching. It resonated with the audience:

     

    Yaso showed a video about the curriculum changes being made at her school:

    Leanne Cameron talked about AI and robots taking over the workplace, or not. See Students teach to avatars in classrooms of the future, AI tutors and meet Amelia and Jill.  

    Chatbots don’t need to seem “human”, they just have to be useful.

    Annie Gerasimou promoted Club Kidpreneur which I loved the sound of because it has a Market Day that focuses on real world problems instead of food and drink, but then I found out it was outsourced to a commercial enterprise. A little disappointing.

     

    Other Presenters/Events

     

    Deena Yako shared her life story and how schools can connect with their local immigrant community. In brief she:

    • Fled Iraq as a child, went through refugee camps
    • Entered Year 8 after 3 terms of English lessons
    • Had high hopes for HSC but bombed it
    • Through TAFE ended up with job in the settlement of Iraqi refugees in Australia – educating school communities and others about refugee experience, empowering refugees to be their own advocates and contribute back to society – they want to, but many hurdles

     

    Read more about what she has achieved:

     


    Scott Eacott, Director, Office of Educational Leadership, University of NSW


    Pip CleavesTracey Breese and Alan Hope presented:
     

    Final comments

     

    I loved this conference for its mix of teachers and academics across Australia and that a handful of these people were the tribe I know and love from TeachMeets, conferences and Twitter. Cameron organised the conference and Yaso organised the TeachMeet. I hung out with Stephy, John, Darcy, Phil and Nigel who were also presenters. I connected with my MEd idols Alan Reid and Bob Lingard. I met Omar Musa and saw him perform!

    I also loved the new connections I made with a bunch of academics who want to cross the university/school divide and encouraged me in the my own pursuit of academic research. I want to research how to encourage teachers to adapt their pedagogy to make learning the focus instead of high stakes testing taking precedence, by reducing the risks they perceive.

    You can’t take home the whole beach, just bits of driftwood.

    At the TeachMeet, Cameron shared the above adage, he once heard from a colleague. Well, the driftwood I’ve brought home from this conference is pretty darn special.


  2. ICERI 2013

    2 December 2013 by shartley

    ICERI A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to attend, present and chair at the International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI) in Seville, Spain (18-20 November 2013).  This came about due to the comprehensive research completed by a group of us at school, upon the request of our principal, into ‘ICT and Active Learning’.  The investigation involved visiting a variety of innovative schools, surveying our own community and secondary research.  The report ended up being 60 pages long and has resulted in the implementation of REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning), a concentrated effort for a paradigm shift to more student-centred learning in a Year 7 pilot program for 2014.  Since we had already completed the research we wrote a couple of different abstracts to apply to present at international conferences and were surprised to be accepted by both.  The school is paying for the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) to attend the International Conference on Learning in New York, July 2014, so couldn’t send us to the ICERI one too.  I therefore asked for leave and attended under my own steam (except for accommodation).  I also gained permission to add a couple of days in Paris to visit my 16 year old daughter on school exchange there.  From lift-off to landing I was gone for a total of 9 days, only absent (in body) from school for 5 of them.

    So why would I go to so much expense, effort and jet lag to be at ICERI 2013?  Put simply, the experience.

    For the first time I’ve had an academic conference paper published (with my two colleagues, Melissa Carson and Nick Cook).  Although it’s not the level of a peer-reviewed journal, it’s still something.  It had to be submitted back in October; I wrote it during the school holidays, heavily based on our report for the principal.

    For the first time I’ve presented at an international conference.  I was the first to present during my session, forgot to mention a couple of key points, but generally thought it went well.  We were asked to use either Adobe Acrobat (pdf) or PowerPoint for our presentations.  I was quite pleased with my slides, prepared the day before I left and I wrote what I said during the flight over.  I was asked which I thought should come first, the pedagogy or the technology, and I replied quite definitely, the pedagogy, but what I’ve read since has made me question my decisiveness a little.

    For the first time ever (beyond the classroom) I’ve chaired a session of presentations.  This meant I had to introduce each of the presenters with a supplied biography, pronounce their names as correctly as I could, and ensure they adhered to the tight time regulations.  The duo that followed me were speaking for a couple of minutes before I remembered I had to time them but I recovered and nobody knew.  The next presenter was so nervous that I concentrated too much on calming and preparing her that I forgot to introduce her.  She ran out of time so I concluded with a comment about how fast the time slips away when up front that I also forgot to introduce her and did it then, at the end of her talk.  From then on I was much better and even managed to gain a laugh with my comments about the last speaker’s presentation.

    Of course there is the added benefit of the credibility it provides to me and my school.

    Unlike the various school conferences I’ve attended, this conference was wholly based on academic research.  Each presentation went for 15 minutes and I attended approximately 50 of them on a wide range of topics.  Some were highly technical analysis of statistics that bored me but then I was often surprised by the interest some audience members displayed in the following Q&A.  Most presentations had something that fascinated me.

    By theme the sessions I attended were:

     

    The highlights for me were Morten Fahlvik (@Fahlvik) speaking about blended learning, Ruth Bridgstock (@RuthBridgstock) speaking about educating for digital futures, Alex Tyman presenting on perceptions of leadership and the presenters in my session who had researched teachers’ responses to the introduction of or increase in ICT usage in classrooms.

    Some of the issues that had me thinking include:

    • technology increasing the income gap and the lack of ICT adding to the poverty cycle
    • pedagogy being taken hostage by the tools
    • ‘massification’ resulting in the requirement of large halls; personalisation resulting in the requirement of smaller learning spaces; and ‘interactive classes’ requiring convertible settings
    • parallels between digital media professionals and teachers networking through PLNs on Twitter and TeachMeets
    • how we keep judging leaders against our prototypes (men, tall, suits, aggressive, etc) instead of what we say leadership should be about (consultative, caring, diplomatic, etc)
    • a study of US songs have had a recent exponential rise in use of the words ‘me’, ‘myself’ and ‘I’ in lyrics
    • how students condemn cheating but justify their own cheating but also how this has been researched with many underlying assumptions (eg what actually constitutes ‘cheating’)
    • how to assess social and ethical behaviour/attitudes
    • the language used in relation to shifting teaching styles should not be “make them”
    • focusing more on students’ competencies than knowledge

     

    The other important aspect of the conference was simply talking with other earnest educators, the vast majority being from universities around the world.

    Before the conference, I had already connected with @davidwebster (David Webster – University of Gloucestershire) via Twitter through the hash-tag #iceri2013 and found each other in person during the first break.

    At the first day’s lunch I sat next to Tony Scafide of SUNY Oneonta (USA) and we talked intensely all lunch and throughout the cocktail party the following night about life, the universe and everything.

    On the second day I lunched with Ruth Bridgstock (QUT) and Margaret Mackay (University of Portsmouth) and we discussed how people learn and how to motivate students and teachers to want to learn (without finding definitive answers).

    It was truly an international conference.  In my session alone the presenters were from Norway, Nigeria, Israel, Poland and Turkey.  But I must say, for a conference about innovation in learning, Twitter was rather quiet.

    Overall, despite the rotten cold I had the entire time I was away (and still), it was the conversations with intelligent and passionate people in education that will stay with me the longest.  It motivates me to continue with my study, my teaching and my interest in student-centred learning.  Somebody described me as a border collie, meaning I’m the one who rounds everyone up, gathering them in to try and face them in the right direction.  I think that is a pretty good summary and a conference like this will keep the wag in my tail a little bit longer.


  3. If only Education was like West Wing: what I learned by studying Advanced Pedagogy at uni (M.Ed)

    19 October 2013 by shartley

    I love the television show West Wing.  The fictional government was ethically sound and tried to unite the country by attending the needs of the marginalised, the poor and the society as a whole.  If only we had a government like that.

    Education has become inextricably linked to economic ideals and this has a large impact on curriculum and pedagogy.  One area where this is evident is in the “choice, competition and performance” promoted by politicians (Buchanan 2011, p.68) and I’m guilty of shopping for schools for my own son currently, as one of the financially advantaged who can do so.  Another example of economic prominence in education is how students are continually viewed as a labour resource with a desire for individual success rather than as participants in a community.  As Wyn (2009) claims, “Education must accommodate individual and social goals” (p.43).

    I am an advocate for the type of pedagogical change Kalantzis and Cope (2012) promote for schools with their concept of “learning design” that examines “the big questions” (p.84) in an environment of “energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86).  Thooman et al (2011) found it is important to connect to students and create positive collaborative experiences, “education should provide students with opportunities to work on realistic and situated activities” (p.356) which supports my motto of ‘keeping it real’.  National curriculum and its General Capabilities (ACARA 2011) provide a strong prospect to shift teaching from an industrial learning model to a student-centred thinking model which is the position we’re taking at my school.  Next year as national curriculum is introduced, I am helping teachers to implement our REAL (Relevant, Engaging, Active Learning) Program to Year 7, a student-centred concept, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team.

    There is an extraordinary amount of political rhetoric surrounding ICT in schools as revealed by Jordan (2011), some of which I readily accept as universal truths, such as how ICT drives change, but the main point where I am in agreement with Jordan is her criticism of students as being described as “digitally savvy” (p.245).  The nature and implications of ICT in education are changing rapidly and nobody is able to keep abreast of it all.  Further pressure on teachers come in the form of charismatic speakers on the education circuit such as Sir Ken Robinson and Sugata Mitra criticising the current methods of teaching and promoting their own pedagogical agenda.

    This rhetoric and economic overdrive affects teachers immensely.  I thus have an ongoing concern about how a pedagogical paradigm shift is integrated into schools.  Too often structural change is forced onto teachers instead of in consultation and students are neglected altogether (McGregor 2011, p.15), making them both feel powerless.  O’Sullivan (2007) demonstrated how teachers are tied to their role emotionally, more than to their professional pride in intelligence and ability (p.9).  Thoonan et al (2011) acknowledged the role teacher self-efficacy had in motivating students. An analysis of teaching standards by Connell (2009) revealed the absence of recognition of the sheer energy required to teach, “Energy, movement, expression and fatigue all matter” (p.220).  Teachers need to be supported and be involved in the change process for it to be successful.

    Education needs to be like West Wing where idealism is implemented for the individuals who constitute the education community and the good of society as a whole.

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Connell, R (2009) ‘Good teachers on dangerous ground: towards a new view of teacher quality and professionalism’, Critical Studies in Education, 50.3, 213-229.

    Jordan, K. (2011). Framing ICT, teachers and learners in Australian school education ICT policy. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 417-431.

    Kalantzis, M and Cope, B (2012) ‘New learning: A charter for change in education’, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, 83-94.

    McGregor, G. (2011). Engaging Gen Y in schooling: the need for an egalitarian ethos of education. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 19(1), 1-20.

    O’Sullivan, K (2007) ‘Unmasking the Professional Identities of English Teachers’, International Journal of Educational Practice and Theory, 29(1), 6–5.

    Thoonen, E, Sleegers, P, Peetsma, T and Oort, F. (2011). Can Teachers Motivate Students to Learn? Educational Studies, 37(3), 345-360

    Wyn, J. (2009). Touching the Future: Building Skills for Life and Work. Australian Education Review, 55, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne.

     


  4. Globalisation and Education

    17 October 2013 by shartley

    SkypeWithPalestine

    Photo by author: Skype to Palestine (ex-student converted from Christianity to Islam)

     

    Globalisation has had a profound effect on education.  The breaking down of political, trading and geographical barriers, strongly influenced by the development of the Internet and advanced communication techniques, is altering education from being inward looking to being more world focused.  Instead of peering into textbooks, students are beginning to connect with the wider world through technological processes.

    Curriculum is being prescribed for a globalised world but it is politically motivated with too much attention placed on the economy and the students’ future role as a labour resource.  The influence of a capitalist economy is also apparent in the political promotion of “choice, competition and performance” in Australian schools, evident in the enforcement of transparency of test results and in the development of national curriculum (Buchanan 2011, p.68).

    An example of economic language involved with curriculum is in the discussion of the environment and in particular climate change.  The word ‘sustainable’ is used often but in relation to a sustainable economy instead of having the emphasis on sustaining people’s interaction with the environment.  For instance, in the draft ACARA Geography Curriculum (2013) the word ‘economy’, or its derivative, appears 66 times.  Lambert (2013) argues for Geography to play a greater role in British curriculum, by linking “economic, environmental and educational crises of our times” (p.85) to present a case for a curriculum of survival as opposed to sustainability. Emotive and economic language is all too common in current literature about curriculum (Ditchburn 2012).

    The economy, globally and locally, is important but it should not be the dominant force influencing curriculum.  There needs to be more emphasis on students being actively involved in all aspects of community, globally and locally, not just the economic component.

    The more I examine curriculum the more I am convinced that we should be moving to capabilities as a focus in curriculum (ACARA 2011, Reid 2005). Lambert (2013) is arguing the opposite. He views the shift to ‘competences’ and the integration of subjects causing the “contemporary erosion of trust in specialist knowledge, and increased emphasis on students’ experience” and changing “the emphasis of the curriculum from content to skills and to favour more open ‘facilitative’ pedagogies” (p.89). He then concludes that this shift “almost signals that schools should give up on knowledge” (p.90).  Personally, I’m tired of extreme rhetoric.  What we need in curriculum and pedagogies is greater balance.  There is a place for specialist knowledge, a place for experience in active learning and a place for skills as well as knowledge in modern curriculum.

    As technology comes to the fore through globalisation, teachers are as important as ever due to the skill required to balance the numerous influences on education with each unique student that comes before them.  I believe in having a structured curriculum and thus resist the term ‘student-directed learning’ which makes me think of ‘free schools’ where students themselves organise learning activities or self-select from the activities provided (Galley 2004).  I am an advocate for technology and student-centred learning but there needs to be a balance.  I would like to see teachers who generally want to remain traditional, expository in nature, to learn to yield some of the control, place some of the learning process into the hands of students and connect to a community beyond the walls of the classroom.  Again, I call for balance and sensibility.

    Just as there are an immense variety of students in our education system and a wide range of resources available, each and every school, class and teacher need to adapt accordingly.  My dream is of schools, rich and poor, around the world, connecting, allowing all of us to think critically and gain deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. We need to think what is best for our students and community, not necessarily our economy.

     

     

    Reference List

    ACARA (2011). General capabilities. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/general_capabilities.html

    ACARA. (2013). Draft F-12 Australian Curriculum – Geography. Retrieved from http://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum_1/learning_areas/humanities_and_social_sciences/geography.html

    Buchanan, R. (2011). Paradox, Promise and Public Pedagogy: Implications of the Federal Government’s Digital Education Revolution. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 36(2), 67-77. DOI: 10.14221/ajte2011v36n2.6

    Ditchburn, G. (2012). The Australian Curriculum: finding the hidden narrative?, Critical Studies in Education, 53(3), 347-360. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2012.703137

    Galley, M. (2004). Free Rein. Education Week, 23(36), 27-31. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/ehost/

    Lambert, D. (2013). Geography in school and a curriculum of survival. Theory and Research in Education, 11(1), 85-98. DOI: 10.1177/1477878512468385

    Reid, A. (2005). Rethinking National Curriculum Collaboration: Towards an Australian Curriculum. Department of Education, Science and Training, Canberra. Retrieved from EDCN812, Macquarie University iLearn, http://ilearn.mq.edu.au/course/view.php?id=13878

     


  5. Pedagogy

    13 October 2013 by shartley

    PowerToolReadingCooking

    Photos by author

    I have recently been immersed in a wide range of activities learning about curriculum, pedagogy and technology in schools.  As a consequence I am attempting to write a series of related blog posts. Yesterday I wrote about IT Infrastructure.  Today I’m writing about pedagogy with a focus on research by Kalantzis and Cope, as seen in their New Learning website.

    I don’t have a single pedagogical model to call my own.  I am deeply cynical and resent prescribed models dictating a single way of teaching, yet this week I had to present on 21st Century Fluencies because this is a the model I’ve been training teachers in PD sessions at my school, as part of my role on the Innovative Learning Team. Solution Fluency is just one style of Project Based Learning (PBL) and PBL is just one pedagogical practice. What I like about PBL is its focus on process as much or more than the product.

    I believe teaching should be a balance of a whole variety of methods and be flexible according to circumstances, with circumstances being anything from the students themselves to the weather.

    Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.86) describe today’s typical learning environment accurately, “We have in our classes today a generation of young people who will be bored and frustrated by learning environments that fail to engage every fiber of their intellectual and active capabilities”.

    I hence also like how Kalantzis and Cope (2012, p.84) advocate for traditional teaching “to be replaced by new notions of ‘learning design’”.  In some ways planning for learning is my favourite part of teaching because Plan A is for a perfect world where students behave according to expectations and technology works as it should and I’m excited for its potential.  It is then a case of Plan B, Plan C and so on as all the possible variables come into play.  Plan A generally focuses on “addressing the big questions” (p.84), much in line with the programming model my school follows, Understanding by Design, not that I think this needs to be followed strictly either.

    I would love to see schools that Kalantzis and Cope (2012) call “sites of energetic intellectual inquiry and practical solution development” (p.86) and my previous school was trying to do this but at the expense of other aspects of education, such as nurturing students.  I think this community centre of thinking is almost science fiction idealism but I dream.

    Back to class, I like students to be active in their learning, meaning I am student centred in my pedagogy.  I’m not so fond of the term student-directed because I believe, in the main, students still need to be provided with direction, although there should be a place for passion projects.  This why I’m against open-plan learning but support flexible learning spaces so that learning can occur at a cohort level, large groups, classes, small groups, triplets, pairs or alone.

    Technology must have a role in Australian education because it is so integrated into our daily lives and is engaging for students.  It also allows for a wider audience and collaborators outside textbooks, schools and teachers’ own knowledge.  Thus learning is more connected to reality.  Students therefore need to be literate and discerning with technology.

    My pedagogical model is a mixed bag but my motto, Keeping it Real, is what’s closest to my heart.

     

    Kalantzis, M. & Cope, B.  (2012) New learning: a charter for change in education, Critical Studies in Education, 53:1, pp.83-94


  6. Protected: The Importance of IT Infrastructure

    12 October 2013 by shartley

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  7. A reflection about reflections

    1 September 2013 by shartley

    reflection

    My number one goal of today was to begin a critical analysis of a journal article for my Advanced Pedagogy course which is part of my Masters of Education at Macquarie University. I have been enjoying this subject very much because it is closely related to my role on the Innovative Learning Team at Oakhill College. In fact, in my professional life these are the two aspects that have me fired up, excited about what I do as a teacher. The university readings have helped give academic evidence to what the ILT is suggesting and preparing for the future direction of the school in terms of technology and teaching practices. My real life experiences as a classroom practitioner and the discussions and research in which I’ve been participating with the ILT have been feeding the online exchanges I have with fellow students and the course convenor. Further to this, the ILT has been accepted to present a paper at the Twenty-First International Conference of Learning in New York, July 2014, so I’m looking to use research I do as part of the Advanced Pedagogy course to contribute to the preparation for the New York Conference.

    But now, let’s look at the article I chose for the critical review and the impact it had on me. One of the many recommendations the ILT is making for the school is that all teachers create and regularly contribute to online reflective journals about their teaching and learning experiences to develop their meta-cognitive processes and therefore improve their teaching. The paper we’re presenting in New York is called Pulling No Punches: The Metamorphic Process of Turning Teachers into Professionals with Pedagogical Practices of the Modern Era so obviously we envisage reflective journals to be part of this process. The article I found, on a list supplied by the Advanced Pedagogy convenor, is called Promoting teacher reflection: what is said to be done (Marcos, Sanchez, Tillema 2011). The article scares me. To explain, I’ll start with an anecdote.

    A science teacher friend and I were chatting about our approaches to studying our different Masters of Education and found we had almost opposing attitudes to reading journal articles. I generally skip over the scientific research components where the method and statistical analysis were conducted and go straight to the findings and conclusion. I like to know what the research found but am rarely interested in how it is found out. My friend says that’s the part he likes, checking the research for scientific and statistical authenticity. We both agreed though that case studies of just a few teachers, often in the same school, were just hopeless as proper research. However, since I had to conduct a critical analysis on this article about teacher reflection, in this case I did read the bits I would normally skip.

    The abstract of the article intrigued me when it mentioned investigating “possible differences between what is evidenced in research and what is promoted in practice” (Marcos, Sanchez, Tillema 2011, p.21). When I promote a course of action in my school I want to have it right and implement it effectively. This was the article for me.

    The introduction listed the ways teacher reflection had been promoted, including (p.21):

    • “to scaffold critical thinking”
    • for “knowledge construction”
    • to “promote self-regulation”
    • because teaching is “a process that lies open to scrutiny and deliberation”
    • as part of “professional development”
    • to improve “metacognitive ability” of teachers

    I thought this was good list and a reasonable explanation of why teachers should maintain a reflective journal. However, the introduction then went on to outline critiques of reflective journals, such as trying to meet too many aims and neglecting to acknowledge underlying assumptions about why teachers should use them (p.22). My summary of this paragraph was that reflective journals had lost their way.

    The authors then summarised quite nicely what has been said about reflection (pp.22-23):

    • it’s a cyclical and recursive process
    • includes “problem solving”, “awareness-raising” and “professional knowledge”
    • teachers need to “build on experiential knowledge” (preferably using “action research” eg “observe and analyse classrooms”), “be critical” and “work collaboratively”
    • “requires personal involvement”

    The authors appear concerned that awareness-raising is promoted more than problem solving as the primary reason for conducting a reflection process and that few “studies provide information on its applicability and implementation in the classroom” (p.23).

    Now to my favourite part (not), the method. A total of 122 articles were examined from two Spanish journals, involving 168 authors (p.24). Each article was broken into paragraphs (units) and then all units were divided into 1509 “propositions” which were grouped into 117 “themes” (p.24). These themes were then further split into nine “content-specific categories” (p.25). Is it any wonder I don’t like reading this section? From all this the findings were boiled down to (p.25):

    1. What was said about reflection: What was said was what had already been said in the article too and the concern about the lack of problem solving as an aim was made more clear at this point. The authors were quite repetitive at this point.
    2. The reasons for reflection and the evidence behind these reasons for reflection: This was the scary part. The authors found that there was little real evidence backing statements made about the reasons for teachers undertaking reflection. What empirical evidence they found was based on “specific and iconic research projects…rather than specific data” (p.26). I find this scary because much of the reading I do is based on anecdotes from my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter and various teacher blogs. My convictions about pedagogy and teacher professionalism are based on these readings and personal experience, not academic or scientific research of my own, until now. A table summarising statements made and the evidence provided (or not) ran for five pages and it wasn’t pretty with numerous crosses in the evidence column.
    3. The persuasive techniques used: The authors actually worded this section as “mode of convincing” (p.32). This was another section where I felt damned. The language used was broken into three methods:
    • Implicative – involving an expression of “interesting thoughts and new ways of thinking (i.e.[sic], ‘we believe’)”
    • Descriptive – statements as facts “(e.g., ‘reflection has’)”
    • Prescriptive – “the article directs or hints at a preferable action (e.g., ‘we must’)”

    This is how I write. When I write blog posts, or even for the ILT report into the implications of ICT for the future of the school, I do so based on my convictions from experience, observations, discussion with colleagues and what I read haphazardly online. Although some of this was intentional primary research it isn’t enough.

    A few weeks ago all the contributors to the report met and went through the recommendations thoroughly. It was at this point I realised that everything we wrote in that report had to be supported by evidence or it would have no weight. Yet, reading this article today still came as a shock. I think the message is finally hitting home.

    The article concluded with a discussion about the biases they had discovered. The two most important were (1) how the literature stressed what reflective journals were about without enough attention to how to go about it and (2) how convictions rather than real research were behind promotions for reflective practice (pp.32-33). I liked how the authors said their intent wasn’t to be overly critical but to reveal “certain blind spots” (p.33) and they suggested teachers should be provided with “more evidence-based or research validated information on what works in reflective practice” and that reflections should be scaffolded for them (p.34).

    I definitely intend to provide a scaffold for the teachers at my school when we begin implementing reflections as part of our PD process next year. I’ll leave it to my colleague to back up what we do with the research since he prides himself as being the academic one on the ILT.  He’s also taken on the writing of the paper we’re going to present in New York, dissing my proposal because I’d written ‘the metamorphosis process’ instead of ‘the metamorphic process’ (note that the proposal was accepted anyway).

    This whole investigation into pedagogy at uni and school is a load of fun and I’m learning heaps about the way I act, learn and think, perhaps even more than I am learning about the way I teach.

     

    Marcos, Juanjo Mena; Sanchez, Emilio; Tillema, Harm H. “Promoting teacher reflection: What is said to be done” Journal of Education for Teaching: International Research and Pedagogy, 37:1 , 2011 , 21-36


  8. First draft of a new Personal Philosophy of Education

    7 March 2010 by shartley

    Personal Philosophy of Education

    Education is vital for a society to progress socially and economically.  It is not merely about the accumulation of knowledge but the ability to communicate, negotiate and problem solve in a rapidly changing world.  Every student is a member of society and has something to contribute.  It is the teacher’s role to enable every student to find their part in the world.

    The classroom is a community within the school community and prepares students for a role in the broader community.  Therefore, the classroom is a place for learning values and social behaviour in order for the students to be able to not only participate but contribute to that broader community.  The teacher needs to model appropriate values and expect the same from the students.

    I believe students learn best when they have a sense of ownership over their progress.  Teachers should facilitate the learning process so that students are self-directed as much as possible.  To maintain students’ interest, content needs to be made real and relevant through integrating technology with a variety of pedagogical approaches, since technology is part of every day existence in Australia.  Careers and workplaces are no longer static and hence our students need to be flexible and be able to quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

    In the senior years, when education is more heavily driven by final exams, there needs to be a balanced approach.  A student’s final school mark is a gateway to opportunities in the future and is hence a critical aspect of their learning.  It is also important to focus on learning for life.  However, the two are not mutually exclusive.  Through a passion for learning students are more likely to achieve at a higher level in exams too.

    A firm, fair and friendly approach aids discipline in the classroom.  The learning environment needs to be respected and valued by all who participate within it.  Preparation and communication are key to making this a reality and boundaries must be clear and maintained.  Yet, compassion will also have a role to play at times, according to individual circumstances.  In a secondary school students are coping with many physical, social and cognitive changes.  There are also a wide range of family situations and difficulties students are experiencing at home and carrying with them emotionally.  It is important to be aware of these factors when teaching.

    As a Christian, I believe I have been called to the teaching profession.  I try to let my faith and principles guide my teaching, my whole life, as I strive to be the best I can be.


  9. content AND pedagogy

    10 January 2010 by shartley

    Someone else’s blog posting has taken me to a bit of a rant:

    …the key to effective teaching is not the content information I have in my head, but the ability and skills to help students find the motivation within themselves to want learn about the subject matter. I don’t have to be an expert in that content subject in order to make that happen.

    Thankfully the blogger went on to add There needs to be a balance.

    I think sometimes we forget that we do not have the time in our clichéd ‘crowded curriculum’ for students to discover every iota of information for themselves.  It helps that the core information is available on tap from the teacher and, heaven forbid, textbooks.   As much as we like to be teaching our students how to research, have inquiring minds, problem solve and to learn for life rather than exams, too much of our school system is geared towards passing tests and writing content heavy essays to prove how much has been learnt rather than how the mind works.

    In the subjects I teach it is very important for me to stay abreast of current events, particularly economics and social issues.  To do this I read a lot and attend conferences.  Attending economics lectures (with accompanying notes) provide me with a wealth of information that would take a multitude of hours for me to research.  The same is true of the classroom.  Sometimes teacher exposition is the easiest way to move through content quickly.  Sometimes the easiest way to learn for exams is to memorise content.  In an exam based system it can’t always be about enthusiasm, engagement and enjoyment.  Besides, we should also be teaching our students resilience and that life isn’t always about being happy about what we are doing.  In other words, to occasionally just ‘suck it up’.

    As I enter my seventh year of teaching I can look back and reflect how much my teaching methods have expanded, much helped by the IT resources provided by my school.  I can see how students are more engaged, self-directed and enjoying my subjects.  However, it has occurred as I have become more confident with the content.  I am more willing to experiment with methods when I have my feet planted in knowledge.  Also, with the time saved by already having gained the knowledge I can spend time on developing new ways of teaching it.  Too often we forget, particularly with new teachers, how long it can take to learn content.  We  need to reduce teacher stress, particularly in the early years.

    I am a passionate teacher and this works well whether I feel strong in a topic’s knowledge or not.  The first time I taught Society and Culture I was thrown into it mid-semester during my second year of teaching and had to scramble to stay ahead of the students but the students and I still enjoyed it.  The best lessons were when we were entirely off topic, but that will have to be the subject of a different post.  The second time I taught Society and Culture I changed one of the optional topics and said to the students that we’d be learning it together.  I was only able to do this because I had proven I had enough core knowledge in the subject to give the students confidence that it was going to be a positive learning experience.

    Balance is a word I use frequently.  Teachers need to have a balance of content and pedagogy training.  I just think we need to be more aware of how they go hand-in-hand.  One is useless without the other.


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