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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

If the results of this study are valid, then new teachers are not as prepared as they should be if they depend on teacher education textbooks.

This presupposes that the six research-based instructional strategies are themselves valid and rigorous. But since we have to start somewhere, those fundamental six are as good as any.

The chart seems to be a modification or revision of a 2016 report and presentation by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The fundamental six (in the screen captures below) were from a guide in 2007.

So the fundamental and research-based instructional strategies are not new. However, the researchers found that in their sample of 48 teacher preparation textbooks:

  • none accurately described all six fundamentals
  • the fundamentals were inadequately addressed

What then do textbooks offer teachers about helping students learn?

According to the study, the emphasis seemed to be “posing probing questions” or “elaboration” (41%). However, there did not seem to be any emphasis on helping students retain what they heard or did.

The study then went on to illustrate how teacher preparation courses paralleled textbook content, and in doing so, were also inadequate.

Do stakeholders have reason to worry?

Yes, if teacher preparation is the only time when teachers learn the fundamentals.

No, not when there is learning on-the-job (OTJ) and continuous professional development (PD). In some places, there might also be teacher recertification.

Yes, if the OTJ and PD are not updated and relevant.

No, if the teachers participate in informal PD (I call it unPD) and get the latest and greatest from edu-Twitter, education blogs and newsletters, etc.

Yes, if that behaviour is not the norm or firmly entrenched as an expectation of professional practice.


Video source

Teachers in the USA get a whole week for appreciation. Maybe teachers there would appreciate Singapore teachers’ salaries.

It is just one Teacher’s Day here in Singapore (this year it is on August 31st). That same month, teachers here must pay for parking in their schools — horrors!

Sorry, teachers. See video.

I like watching videos where experts either explain difficult concepts to learners of different ages or just to kids. The video below is one of the latter.


Video source

Explaining to an adult how to create bioluminescent plants from firefly DNA is challenging, much less kids. The two content experts from MIT were not quite comfortable teaching kids and their attempts illuminate some concepts about how students learn and what an effective teacher looks like.

When one content expert tried simplifying the concept of transferring bioluminescence, she ran into some trouble.

Expert: “…we just ask them to give us some chemicals”.
One child: “Do you tell them?”

Expert: “We just borrow the light from the fireflies…”
Another child: “Do you mean like real borrow or do you just keep it?”

The expert was visibly stunned by the kids’ questions and their teacher intervened with timely and appropriate answers.

An effective teacher is not just knowledgeable in content, she should also be a child and learning expert. As information mushrooms and knowledge needs to be constantly negotiated and updated, being the latter type of expert is critical.

The other expert got the kids to participate in a hands-on activity where they simulated bioluminescence by mixing chemicals in small vials. Instead of hearing about bioluminescence, they tried and saw for themselves.

This is not about appealing to different “learning styles” — which is a myth anyway — but to teach and reinforce with multiple methods and modes. That said, kids generally learn best by what stems from natural curiosity, i.e., experiencing and asking.

The teacher as a child and learning expert asked a critical question at the end of the experiment: “What do you think this could help solve?” She did not provide answers to her learners, but got them to generate answers that required them to think actively about what they just experienced.

This funny-yet-sad tweet reminded me of why I need to do what I do.

Viewed positively, you might say that the teacher was very consistent about his attire over four decades.

Viewed more critically, you might ask if his dressing was a possible reflection of his unchanging mindset.

Symbolism aside, the teacher’s attire does indicate how many teachers operate. They might get older, but they do not change how they appear to others.

Ask most lay folk what a teacher looks like and you will likely get traditional views. You will hardly, if at all, hear of distinctions between teachers and educators, or educators who reach through walls, teach over the Internet, or operate without school principals.

These are educators who are pushing the boundaries of the past so that their learners are better prepared for the present and look forward to shaping their futures. There is value in looking back, but facing backwards while trying to walk forwards is a recipe for falling and injuries.

I liking showing people how to look and walk forward, strange as that may sound. I start by pointing out that they have their feet pointed in one direction and their eyes in the other.

Here is a tweeted headline that could have been relevant ten years ago.

The Yellow Pages were irrelevant even then. It seems to have taken a newspaper a decade to realise or admit it.

It sometimes takes teachers in schools just as long, if not longer, to realise and admit that some of their practices are losing relevance.

The aptly named Yellow Pages can also mean that the medium is showing their age. The problem with irrelevant practices is that the signs are not as obvious. It takes critical reflection to spot the yellowing edges of bad habits and pages of unquestioned tradition.

Like most educators, I agree with the point that @BluntEducator raised.

One question the tweet might raise is: What is more difficult than teaching?

My answer: Educating.

Anyone can teach, few can educate. A few years ago I shared some differences between a teacher and an educator.

I do not mean to create a false dichotomy between teaching and educating. I am trying to point out what might not overlap in the Venn diagram below.

Venn diagram of teaching and educating.

One reason for this dichotomy is that teachers tend to teach the way they were taught. Anyone who has undergone a decade or more of schooling has seen models of teaching. Some of these models were good and others bad, but all were embedded in the past.

While most kids are not studying to become teachers, what they see and experience is caught even if it is not taught. So current teachers tend to teach like their teachers, often because of or even despite the efforts of teacher education programmes.

Case in point: I observed this “from the sidelines” while enjoying a day off at a park.

What could have been an experiential learning session came across a lecture and safety briefing. Were the just-in-time delivery of information and safety reminders important? Definitely. But it dragged on unnecessarily.

More importantly, telling does not guarantee listening. Knowing something does not mean being able to do it right. If you are not convinced, consider these exasperated teacher expressions:

  • But I already told them…
  • How many times do I have to tell them…?
  • I just said this earlier, didn’t you listen?
  • I just said this earlier, why didn’t you ask me a question?

Delivering information does not guarantee that it is received. Teaching as some teachers understand and practice it does not guarantee meaningful learning.

What is arguably more important in outdoor education is students learning-by-doing, not replicating the passive sitting or time-tested strategies of a classroom.
 

 
A few years ago, my son went on a field trip to the zoo with his classmates. His enthusiasm soon drained when he learnt that the visit was actually an administrative exercise (forms, briefings, lots of waiting) and a frantic rush to complete worksheets (see checklist teaching).

Teaching outdoors is much tougher than indoors. Teachers cannot control the elements and students might get hurt. The boundaries are less obvious and the modes of teaching are more varied. These might be why most teachers prefer not to teach outdoors or go on field trips when content calls for it. It is too much like real life.

Educators embrace the complexity and uncertainty that the real world brings. The real world has ill-defined problems, no nicely organised textbooks, information that needs to be processed in real-time, mentors good and bad, and real consequences.

Teaching needs to change so that it more resembles educating. Educating anyone at any level means starting first with each learner and where that learner is. It does not start with content, a curriculum, standards, or a scheme of work. While these are important, they should be secondary to the context and how that person learns.

What stakeholders observe from the sidelines might be valid, particularly if they have strong educational backgrounds. If they notice that today’s classrooms and teachers look and behave in the same way they remember, they have a right to be worried.

If they see a disconnect between the way the world operates now and the manner in which schools claim to prepare their children, they have the right and responsibility to speak up from the sidelines.

If we think of ourselves as educators, we should be listening up instead of shutting them down.

So what is more difficult than teaching? Educating. And eating humble pie.

Is honesty always the best policy? Are we totally honest when:

  • Someone asks how you are?
  • A server asks you how the meal was?
  • Your wife asks you if her clothing makes her butt look big?

We lie all the time, and to make ourselves feel better, we call those social niceties white lies.

So is honesty the best policy? No, not when you have to lie to be nice or to ensure peace.

There is another type of lie: Telling the truth, but not all of it.

When I read this tweet, I had to ask myself if this was a lie of partial truth or one of wishful interpretation.

Taken at face value, all the roughly 33,000 teachers in Singapore are mentored. This means that mentors have mentors, and perhaps there is even reverse mentorship because everyone is good at something.

But just how feasible is this given practical realities of limited time and resources?

About five years ago, NIE co-implemented a modified post-practicum system with MOE to formalise the mentoring programme. Before this, mentoring was a function of teaching practicum and only few schools took the initiative to assign mentors for beginning teachers thereafter.

In the more comprehensive programme, all student teachers not only had one or more cooperating teachers during practicum, they had mentors who could look out for them in the first year or so as full-time teachers.

So do teachers in Singapore have mentors? Yes, but they are typically the younger teachers. Do they keep that mentor? Maybe, but not indefinitely. Do they go on to mentor their juniors? We cannot say for sure. Not all are cut out to be mentors and teachers already have so much to do.

The point is that an observation or interpretation in a tweet is unlikely to represent accurately. And yet that partial truth (at best) or a blatant lie (at worst) is what gets propagated.

We live in the era of #fakenews. In schooling and education, we also have #halftruths and #partialfacts. We need to dig deeper, model that practice, and teach all our learners to do the same.

Bonus: I have only critiqued the bit about mentor teachers. There is also the claim about how our students are not evaluated on their results. It is your turn to do the critical thinking.


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