L’idée est venue lors d’une rencontre en salle de classe de Rosemère High School en décembre 2010. Le président de l’AQEFLS, Marc-Albert Paquette et moi-même discutions des possibilités de partenariat entre nos deux organismes respectifs que sont l’AQEFLS et LEARN.
Nous jonglions avec les concepts de formation continue, de développement professionnel ainsi que de l’éventualité de rejoindre le plus grand nombre de personnes dans les différentes régions du Québec et même de l’extérieur, pourquoi pas!
Quelques mois et rencontres plus tard, notre idée s’est raffinée : une conférence en ligne grâce à notre plateforme Zenlive. Nous devions trouver un thème et un animateur. Qui de mieux pour animer cette conférence et embarquer dans cette folle aventure que Marc-Albert Paquette! Le thème : la rétroaction enregistrée* qui est une adaptation de la communication « L’écrit et la rétroaction enregistrée » de Geneviève Leidelinger de l’université McGill, présentée lors du congrès de l’AQEFLS, le 29 avril 2010.
Voilà! La table était mise. L’invitation lancée à tous les membres de l’AQEFLS et de LEARN. Quelques jours avant la cyberconférence, étant donné que nous utilisions une nouvelle technologie, nous avons convié la quarantaine de participants inscrits à une exploration de la plateforme Zenlive.
Le jour venu, à 17 heures tapantes, la conférence débutait. Tout le monde impliqué de près et de loin était sur le qui-vive pour cette grande première qui fut une expérience enrichissante et réussie.
Aussitôt la conférence terminée, j’ai enregistré la rétroaction de l’animateur. Voici donc l’entrevue :
J’en profite ici pour remercier personnellement Rita, Paul, Debbie, Jeremy, Christy et tous les autres pour leur soutien technique et moral ainsi que Marc-Albert Paquette pour sa disponibilité et son esprit aventureux!
À la prochaine cyberconférence !
*Au lieu de corriger au stylo la copie des élèves, l’enseignant commente de vive voix tout en s’enregistrant la production écrite quant à la forme et au contenu. Il remet ensuite le tout aux élèves qui écouteront les commentaires audios de leur enseignant afin d’améliorer leur texte.
In my previous post on Action Research in the classroom, I wrote about the idea of action research as a form of self-directed professional learning. I think that we learn to be better teachers by asking questions about issues we have in our practice, and then taking steps to answer these questions. The issues we have are unique to us, unique to our way of seeing the world and our particular school and class situation. Our unique preoccupations lead us to reflect and ask questions about how we might improve our practice. Good action research questions a) come from our own practice, b) are in our sphere of influence and c) assume that we are where we are. The question, of course, is just the beginning…
In one of the many lives I lead, I work with dance teachers on their practice as art educators. I run a teacher development series that takes place every six weeks throughout the year. It is a very participatory series, with discussions and sharing of thoughts and ideas about teaching dance to adult non-dancers (although… we believe that everyone is a dancer). I am a big proponent of reflective practice, an process articulated by Donald Schön in his book Educating the Reflective Practitioner. The main question I have about my own practice is “Is what I am doing encouraging the teachers to become reflective practitioners?”. I started by unpacking the question into several subquestions:
Answering some of these questions allows me to see what evidence I need to answer my main question. If I have a clear picture of what I am looking for in a reflective practitioner, I am more likely to know it when I see it. If I know what it looks like, then I am able to figure out what I need to do to find out if it is happening. This leads me to the very important step of data collection. Hopefully, as you read this, you have your own question in mind. Having your own question, no matter how embryonic or hazy, will allow you to see how different types or sources of data can be used to answer it.
I think of data collection like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet. You have many options, but not all of them are going to suit your needs or your tastes. Also, as we are naturally drawn to some food over others, so too, are we naturally drawn to some ways of collecting evidence over others.
The evidence buffet is long and loaded with steaming dishes of data. On one side you have those sources which are primarily words and called qualitative or narrative. The other side is heavy with data which can be counted, tallied or rated. This is called quantitative data.
The important thing is not to get bogged down in the array of choices available, but to select sources of data that fit a few key criteria.
1. The data must work to help you answer your question
Let’s return to my main question: “Is what I am doing actually encouraging the teachers to become reflective practitioners?”. Although I have a fancy new still camera and enjoy taking pictures, I am not sure that taking photographs would go towards answering that particular question. I would probably lean toward interviews, documents from teacher development sessions, along with activity on our private Facebook group. In other words, there has to be a match between what you hope to learn and the data you decide to collect.
2. Several sources are better than one
One is the loneliest number, in love and in action research. Using more than one source of data allows you to be more certain that your conclusions will be accurate and will adequately reflect the reality you are studying. Researchers ideally aim for three sources of data. Three, unlike one, is a magic number.
3. Collecting data should be a natural part of your day
You are a teacher first. The best sources of data are those that occur naturally or can be built into the normal activities of the classroom. Snapping a photograph of your students during a Daily Five session, or making copies of key reflections for tracking are examples of data collection that do not interfere significantly with your work day. Another example is previously existing data, from earlier in the year or from previous years. In short, data collection should not take up too much of your time.
4. The data collection phase needs an end date
Action research is most manageable when finite, when it has a clear beginning and end. This does not mean that you cannot engage in research all the time. It just means that having a fixed timeline will help you either answer or refine your original question and lead to results. It will also help you plan out key moments of data collection – for example, collecting reflections at the beginning of every month to track their depth and quality.
You in your research
There is a belief shared by some that research should be free of bias and that researchers should strive for emotional and intellectual distance from that which is under study. Fortunately, the opposing point of view exists as well! I think that you should not divorce your values, beliefs and insights from your research. Your unique viewpoint and your privileged status as teacher-researcher is what will give your research an unmistakable ring of truth. Remaining aware of and communicating what you believe to be true about education and about learning, will also help you frame future research and find communities of like-minded educators. Like this one! Write and tell me how it’s going – I would love to hear from you.
The LEARN logo. The start to the 2011-12 school year was heralded by a new logo for LEARN. The new look is fresh, simple, yet wonderfully expressive and meaningful. The tree of knowledge with ripe fruit ready to be enjoyed is at the center of our new look. The lowercase letters spelling out the word “learn” deliver more than a corporate image; this is a message to our community and to people everywhere that to learn is a lifelong endeavor in which we must all engage. The green and blue colors are archetypal reminders of our world and the boundaries and expanses around us.
Now with all that behind us, the new logo is simply cool. Young and hip. Nothing like me: I know but still I really like it, and so many have already given us such positive feedback. It is the choice of the Millennials in our organization, and I think they did a great job.
Of course the challenge for LEARN is to live up to its own hype, and I think this year we might just outdo ourselves. The student-focused resources that are coming onto the site are going to open the door to so many exciting and interesting projects; I simply cannot wait. Moreover, these resources, which tap into the interests of students in Quebec, also use social media tools, which are so prevalent in the 21st century. In addition, this year we are adding the research component to the work we are doing. As we undertake the development of these student resources, we will be providing the accompanying academic research which supports the direction we are taking. As a result, not only will our work be timely and responsive to the needs of our community, it will be grounded in sound findings in the field of education.
The 2011-12 school year continues to be a most exciting and challenging year, but we would never want it to be otherwise. It is what makes LEARN the exceptional organization it has become.
After a few weeks of flipping, and having time to actually talk to my students and listen to them, I now realize how much I’ve been missing all these years. I used to give tests, mark them, give them back, and that was it. No discussion, no probing to find better strategies for success, no insight gained into the child, only a number recorded. This week I (again) asked for a self-assessment on their last test. I have read some pretty heart-wrenching entries, this one in particular:
My results are poor. First, I don’t really understand why i failed. I went to tutoring and really studied hard because of my other test result which wasn’t that good either. I don’t really know what happened. Maybe I need more practice I guess.
Another one that’s hard to read, because he is being a bit hard on himself, but on the other hand, he is doing some self-analysis as a result:
Extremely disapointed in myself…It was leagues below my self standards. That did not go well at all, some of my errors were just lack of paid attention but I’m a bit troubled by others that I was originally quite confident about. I suppose tonight I may need to ask you about them should the oppotunity arrise and you have time. I apologize for that
Then there is the child who feels she must “redeem” herself, as if she has committed a crime:
I was very disappointed with myself in this test because many of the mistakes should have been easily avoided. When I look at the test, I understand all my mistakes. I found it very easy while doing it but I am a very fast paced person so little details always escape me. If there is a way I could redeem my mark I would gladly take home an extra assignment or something.
And I got to have a chuckle at this one:
BOO YAH, little errors but still VERY HAPPY
How many kids have I missed out on during my 20-odd years of teaching?
Today I would like to say to my students, past, present, and future, that in my class:
1. You are not your mark. Just like my salary does not represent me. I know that right now, to the colleges or universities you’re applying to, it seems like you are your mark. But you know better. And I do too.
2. The goal is not perfection, it’s growth. And the growth doesn’t even have to be in math, it can be that you learn something about how you learn best, or a better way to get organized, or you discover that you love factoring! Yes, factoring!
3. When you learn something, and you share it, everyone wins. When you don’t share it, it stops with you. Almost no point to that. What you shared with me in this self-assessment is WAY more important than your mark.
4. When you answer your own questions, you get inspiration. You cannot attach a number to that. When you answer the test questions, all you get is a mark. I’m a math teacher, a number geek, and even I prefer the inspiration over the number.
5. Math and science are not the most important things in the world. The arts are just as important. Just try living without movies, music, photography, books, poetry, dance. Or blogs!
I guess this is what they mean (and I forget who said this) by don’t teach the content, teach the student!
This blog post is the first in a series of three looking into the world of Critical Literacy; an instructional approach that encourages readers to actively analyze what they are reading in order to question and uncover underlying messages in the text. As someone who has devoted a good part of her life to the study and enjoyment of reading and children’s literature what better place to begin a series of blog posts than with where it all began?
I’m pretty sure my own earliest teachers had never heard of critical literacy. My memories of learning to read are certainly very different from the emancipatory pedagogy espoused by critical pedagogue Paulo Freire. At the tender young age of 4, I was, as John Burningham (1999) states, “set off along the road to learn” at Saint Christina’s in London, England.
Straight Line by Georgia Heard
All the kindergarteners
walk to recess and back
in a perfectly straight line
no words between them.
They must stifle their small voices,
their laughter, they must
stop the little skip in their walk,
they must not dance or hop
or run or exclaim.
They must line up
at the water fountain
straight, and in perfect form,
like the brick wall behind them.
One of their own given the job
of informer – guard of quiet,
soldier of stillness.
If they talk
or make a sound
they will lose their stars.
Little soldiers marching to and from
their hair sweaty
from escaping dinosaurs
their hearts full of loving the world
and all they want to do
is shout it out
at the top of their lungs.
When they walk back to class
they must quietly
fold their pretends into pockets,
must dam the river of words,
ones they’re just learning,
new words that hold the power
to light the skies, and if they don’t
a star is taken away.
by one star
until night grows dark and heavy
while they learn to think carefully
before making a wish.
This poem illustrates much more than the surface level no-talking rule enforced by so many of our schools. On a much deeper level, it speaks about how schools can systematically go about training young children’s enthusiasm, wonder and freedom right out of their little bodies. As so many classrooms are returning to “teaching to the test”, opportunities for curiosity, creativity and exploration are becoming rare. So many schools are still places where learning to line up quietly is what is valued most. Silent classrooms are often preferred to those in which students are noisily engaged in meaningful conversation; learning to take a test instead of discovering and asking questions. Heard and McDonough (2009) have us consider the seriousness of this issue as so “many elementary schools are valuing “straight lines” in both behaviour and thought.” Sadly, these values are not behind us, viewed mistily through movies, television shows or short stories. They are frequently endorsed today by supervisors of student teachers as well as young teachers who still associate silence and acquiescence with mastery of teaching.
For me, school was a serious place where you sat quietly at your table and practiced writing your letters of the alphabet and your numbers. There was no time to be silly or to be off task. Too much chatter would find you sitting in the corner the next day if your quota was not filled to the satisfaction of the teacher in charge. Occasionally you would be called to the Reading Room; a place where you would be rewarded with Smarties and Jelly Babies if you performed well. I can still remember the small hardcover books with the happy children on the cover on which the entirety of our reading program was based.
I can also still visualize the repetitive words that we would have to bark out as we went from page to page “Here is Peter. Peter is here. Here is Jane. Jane is here. I like Peter. I like Jane.” or “This is Peter. This is Jane. This is Peter and Jane. Peter likes Jane. Jane likes Peter.” This was our literacy program. This was my entry into the world of reading. I suppose I was reading the word but I was a far cry away from reading the world.
Upon reflection, it is evident that this “Key Word” reading program, developed in the 1960s by British educationalist William Murray, presented much less difficulty for my 5 year-old self to connect with than it would have for my husband who is of mixed Iranian-European heritage (but is visually all Middle-Eastern) or for my former urban elementary school classes comprising of Portuguese and East Asian immigrant students. The social context of brother and sister Peter and Jane, their dog Pat, their Mummy and Daddy, and their home, toys, playground, the beach, shops, summering at grandma’s cottage by the lake, buses and trains reflected the life of a white, middle-class family – my family. The children in these illustrations looked like me and they engaged in activities that were similar to the ones in which we partook regularly. And although nothing about this form of literacy pushed me to think more critically, at the very least, it did not make me feel alien or apart from the little books I was reading.
As a child, I joyfully immersed myself into the world of literature. Mother Goose and A Child’s Garden of Verses, were soon followed by Winnie the Pooh, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Noddy and Big Ears (who were those Golliwogs anyways?), The Brothers Grimm, Peter Pan and Wendy, The Blue Fairy Book, James and the Giant Peach, The Bobbsey Twins, Little House on the Prairie (evil Indians!!), Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Of course, there was always time for Paddington Bear, Pippi Longstocking, and Ramona as well as The Chronicles of Narnia (go get those Arabs with the curly shoes!!) and anything written by Judy Blume. Whether it be at school or under the covers of my bed, flashlight in hand, I fell in love with what happened when words were strung together to tell a story. I was always filled with emotion as I turned from page to page following the adventures, cheering at the triumphs, and weeping at the losses the protagonists experienced in the black typeset captured by my quickly scanning eyes.
In re-examining my childhood reading repertoire, I am not surprised by what I see and more especially what I don’t see. My selection of literature is comprised of classic tales that would easily find itself comfortably sitting on a Western Canon of English Literature list, a compendium of books written mainly by white North American and European authors that does not represent the viewpoints of many in contemporary societies around the world. Nothing in this collection made me stop to question who the main characters were, where they came from or how their life experiences were dissimilar from my own.
School was no different. The basal readers (anthologies combining previously published short stories, excerpts of longer narratives, and original works with individual identical books for students, a Teacher’s Edition of the book, and a collection of workbooks, assessments, and activities) and SRA cards (large boxes filled with color-coded cardboard sheets that included a reading exercise and multiple choice questions) were filled with stories chosen to illustrate and develop specific reading skills, which were taught in a strict pre-determined sequence. Classroom discussions never went beyond the script found in the teacher’s book and questions were always based on determining our acquisition of that day’s isolated skill. Literacy in the 1970s classroom in Québec was based on our ability to decode the print on the page so that we could comprehend the ideas and information that was being transmitted to us. The notion that we were to delve deeper into the underlying meanings and messages implied by the text, to question what was there and what wasn’t and how this made us feel never found its way into my teachers’ planners. I was without question, literate for that day and age but a long way from being critically literate by today’s definition. What is, though, of greater concern are the classrooms that are still operating with this out dated “look and say” format or scripted one-size fits all reading lessons. Today’s world is not the same as it was when I was growing up so why shouldn’t today’s classrooms make that leap forward into the 21st century as well?
A few weeks ago, we two brave LEARNers ventured into the wilds of Barrhaven (an Ottawa suburb fondly referred to as “Barbeque Haven”), during a rainstorm, in rush hour traffic, to participate in a leadership initiative of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. The event featured some awesome student projects and delicious student-created fare, but the real drawing card was a keynote address from none other than Sir Ken Robinson. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with Sir Ken, he is an author, professor and international education advisor. He was knighted in 2003 for his work in the arts, as well as his involvement in education, creativity and innovation projects. His 2006 TEDTalk is the most watched (at the time of this posting it had 7,301,201 views!), if not one of the most popular, and his books are best sellers. Yes, you might say that we admire him…just a little. This particular evening, he was addressing a room full of students, parents, teachers, administrators and visitors with a keen interest in improving student success through the implementation of innovative practice. The theme for the evening: how the power of creativity is a paradigm shifter in our modern schools and that finding your personal passion can be life changing.
Here are the main points of Sir Ken’s keynote address:
There’s a revolution going on! An economic and cultural transformation is taking place at a global level due in large part to innovations in technology and rapid population growth. The way we work and live is changing. This evolution must be reflected in the field of education. To illustrate the change, Sir Ken referred to his book (one he plugged frequently) Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, which he edited for a 10th anniversary re-release in 2011. He thought he would make some minor changes to the original version in a single weekend, but the actual overhaul took months. The scope of the project was a direct result of the the vast number of changes required due to advancements in technology. For example, the prevalence and impact of social media…which did not exist in 2001. (You can now follow Sir Ken on Twitter @SirKenRobinson).
In order to respond to change, we need to tap into that which separates us from other life forms: imagination. Unlike dogs (his example not ours), humans have powerful imaginations from which creativity springs, and this ability to fashion novelty is greatly sought after. According to a recent IBM study of 300 company CEO’s, the three most desirable employee characteristics are the ability to respond to complexity, to be adaptable to change and to be creative. So why are we not preparing our kids to stay ahead of the curve? The more complex the world becomes the more creatively we need to respond to problems. Sir Ken contends that creativity is not a separate activity from the intellect, and yet so many adults believe that they are not creative. The most common myths include that only special people are creative, that creativity is tied directly to things like the arts, and that there’s nothing we can do about it. Not only can creativity and creative thinking be taught, but it SHOULD be taught, systematically, and across curricula.
Our education system was not designed to support creativity and needs to be revamped. Schools run on an industrialized, production line approach, which might have been appropriate one hundred years ago but doesn’t work in the information age. Simply knowing information and how to apply it is not going to cut it anymore. Students need to learn to be big-thinkers and creative problem solvers. One of Sir Ken’s recommendations is that we need to change the system so that it focuses on the natural creative abilities of children. To develop creativity we need to challenge what we take for granted. For example, children should be categorized by ability not age. As well, we should be compelled to create learning environments that encourage students to take chances and make mistakes. “If you are not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
Finding the intersection between what we’re good at and what we love is key. When we follow our talents and passions we meet different people and create a life for ourselves. A path unfolds which is neither linear nor predetermined, and rarely the one we put on paper with our guidance counselors way back when. Many people spend their lives “enduring” with no real feeling of fulfillment. Most people have no idea what they’re really capable of. Sir Ken’s conviction is that we are all born with deep talents and abilities: “It comes with the kit.” And, to be “in the element” infers that we are doing something for which we have a natural capacity or aptitude…with passion. We have all had the experience of doing something routine or uninteresting and have the seconds drag on. When we are in our element, the hours fly by.
After 90 minutes of inspired and hope-filled dialogue, we left the event on a high. Sir Ken did not disappoint! He is an incredibly witty and skilled orator with a worldview that enables him to make connections between seemingly remote ideas. Admittedly, we now have more questions than answers in terms of how to implement the changes he is advocating.
The big question posed by the OCDSB that evening was the following: What are the conditions under which healthy and creative individuals and organizations flourish? Consider the question for yourself and your students. How can you create an environment at your school where students (and staff) can be creative and find their passion?
The LEARN community of bloggers is made up of pedagogical consultants, teachers and other educators working on a variety of LEARN projects. Together, we represent a wide spectrum of professional experience and opinions about education in the 21st century, especially when it comes to the anglophone community of Quebec, Canada. Learn Teaching and Learning blog.