But It’s Only a Theory! A Case for Great Science Teaching in Elementary School

Today’s blogger is Lauren Madden, an Associate Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at The College of New Jersey, whose recently published article Teaching Science Is a Sacred Art” appears in the special issue of The Educational Forum on educator activism in politically polarized times. In that article, she argues for enhancing elementary science and offers tools to help teachers in this process.

So often, when the public or political sphere engages in debate about scientific ideas, “it’s only a theory!” becomes a popular refrain from those denying the existence of evolution, the pattern of climate change, or the efficacy of vaccines.

Once the term theory is mentioned, somehow an enormous body of visual, mathematical, and practical evidence gets equated to a guess as to which Kardashian sibling might be pregnant.

As a result, the public begins to question the expertise of actual scientific experts, and science becomes politicized.

Well, so what is a theory? In science, a theory “is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing” (Ghose, 2013). Some theories that are not [yet] controversial include cell theory, or the idea that all living things are made of cells, and the theory of heliocentrism, the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. These are not simply guesses—they are critical ideas that explain the way in which our world works. Knowing what theories are, along with other aspects of the nature of science, is essential for unpacking political debates about science and necessary for building a scientifically literate citizenry. And this process must start with the youngest students at the elementary years.

Then where do we start? In a recent essay in a special issue of The Education Forum dedicated to educational activism, I outlined a broader argument for enhancing elementary science teaching and offered tools to aid teachers in this process (Madden, 2018). One such tool is Lederman’s (2014) guest editorial in Science and Children, which provides straightforward suggestions for elementary teachers to help their students better understand what science is (and isn’t).

Teachers do not need to be experts on everything, but they do need to know what makes science science and how to help students learn to be good consumers of scientific information.

For teachers looking for tools specific to science topics that have become controversial, KDP offers some excellent ideas. For example, the UNESCO guidelines for teaching about climate change can be found at KDP’s climate education resource center.

Teachers are sometimes seen as change agents, but at a simpler level than that, teachers are knowledge agents. Elementary teachers hold the key to helping future generations understand the scientific process and navigate a highly politicized world. And perhaps in the future, we can look forward to eye rolls at the misuse of terms like “theory.”

What strategies do you use to help students unpack politicized nonscientific information?

Leave your ideas in the comments, and let’s work together to build a scientifically knowledgeable populace.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through September 30, 2018.

 

References

Ghouse, T. (2013). “Just a theory”: 7 misused science words. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/just-a-theory-7-misused-science-words

Lederman, N. (2014). Nature of science and its fundamental importance to the vision of the Next Generation Science Standards. Science and Children, 52(1), 8–10. doi:10.2505/4/sc14_052_01_8

Madden, L. (2018) Teaching science is a sacred act. The Educational Forum, 82(3), 303–308, doi:10.1080/00131725.2018.1458360

Asking the Question: What Is the Purpose of Public Education in a Democracy?

Today’s blogger is Aaron Samuel Zimmerman, an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at Texas Tech University, whose recently published article Democratic Teacher Education: Preserving Public Education as a Public Good in an Era of Neoliberalismappears in the special issue of The Educational Forum on educator activism in politically polarized times. In that article, he argues that teacher educators play an essential role in preserving public education as a public good.

In your opinion, what is the purpose of public education?

  • To prepare students with the skills they need for the workforce?
  • To provide students with credentials that will facilitate their social mobility?
  • To cultivate the virtues that students need in order to participate as active citizens within a democracy?

Americans tend to hold multiple (and sometimes conflicting) priorities when it comes to public education (Labaree, 2011). We tend to believe that public schools can prepare students for democratic participation while simultaneously preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and credentials they need to advance in a capitalist economy. When we examine the current state of public schools in our country, however, we disturbingly find that schools tend to function almost exclusively as private businesses catering to consumers rather than as public institutions committed to preserving the public good (Ravitch, 2014).

I understand this to be just one more symptom of neoliberalism, the political and economic ideology that places a premium on privatization and self-interest. At this point, the influence of neoliberalism in our country is so prevalent that we are hardly even aware that it consistently shapes our values and decision-making (Giroux, 2008). One need look no farther than Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos—and, before her, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—to see the way in which neoliberal values have crept into public education. Parents are treated as customers, schools are positioned as businesses producing a product, and students are taught how to become diligent workers (and faithful consumers) in a capitalist economy.

Sadly, teacher education tends to perpetuate neoliberal ideology. Most teacher education programs (both university-based programs as well as alternative routes to teacher certification) focus on helping teacher candidates learn how to raise student test scores (Kumashiro, 2010). Indeed, teacher quality is often measured by standardized test scores (Harris & Sass, 2011); but, unless teacher educators actively challenge this paradigm, early-career teachers will enter the profession assuming that high scores on standardized tests represent the ultimate goal of public education.

Of course, this is not to say that we should never measure student achievement or teacher quality through standardized tests. Public education in our nation, however, is in danger of being completely overtaken by this neoliberal logic. Teachers in public schools do more than help students achieve a credential; public school teachers also play a formative role in sustaining democracy by cultivating the virtuous dispositions required for democratic participation (dispositions such as open-mindedness, honesty, imagination, and generosity; see Huber-Warring & Warring, 2006). Our country’s democracy will suffer if teachers and teacher educators do not actively defend public education’s democratic purpose. We need to remind ourselves that public education can do so much more than provide students with degrees, grades, and GPAs. Public education has the potential—and, perhaps, the responsibility—to nurture democratic citizens.

Therefore, I would like to ask teachers and teacher educators the following questions:

  • What do you believe is the purpose of public education?
  • Do you actively pose this question to the aspiring teachers whom you mentor?
  • Do you pose this question to the members in the communities whom you serve?
  • What are ways that we can collectively invite teachers, students, and, indeed, all citizens to reimagine the role that public education can play in our democracy?

I titled this blog entry “Asking the Question” because, indeed, asking the question is half the battle. If we do not actively ask ourselves questions about the purpose of public education, other people will answer the questions for us . . . and those answers are likely to be justified only by a profit margin.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through August 31, 2018.

References
Giroux, H. A. (2008). Against the terror of neoliberalism: Politics beyond the age of greed. New York, NY: Paradigm.
Harris, D. N., & Sass, T. R. (2011). Teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement. Journal of Public Economics, 95(7–8), 798–812.
Huber-Warring, T., & Warring, D. F. (2006). Are you teaching for democracy? Developing dispositions, promoting democratic practice, and embracing social justice and diversity. Action in Teacher Education, 28(2), 38–52.
Kumashiro, K. K. (2010). Seeing the bigger picture: Troubling movements to end teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 61(1–2), 56–65.
Labaree, D. F. (2011). Consuming the public school. Educational Theory, 61(4), 381–394.
Ravitch, D. (2014). Reign of error: The hoax of the privatization movement and the danger to America’s public schools. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

 

Proudly Announcing the 2017-2018 Award Winners

These awards honor individuals and chapters for their significant contributions to Kappa Delta Pi and the education world.

This year’s pool of winners include chapters with inventive and impactful programming, dedicated counselors and officers who are leaving an incredible legacy for their respective chapters, and chapters who serve their institutions well through their overall actions to support the education community both on and off campus. Thank you to all who applied for your thoughtful entries!

Winners will be recognized at Convo 2018 and throughout the KDP Chapter webpages, blogs, and chapter highlights.

Chapter Program Awards

The Program Awards recognize chapters for demonstrating excellence in one of six program areas: service, professional development, fundraising, membership, education for sustainability and communication.

Professional Development

Kean University — Professional Development Workshop: Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning with Practicing Educators
Lindenwood University —Teacher Tips
Mercyhurst University — Teaching and Learning Expo
Rowan University — Mindfulness in the Classroom
Seton Hall University — Praxis Prep!
Shepherd University — Literacy Leaders Conference
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte — Teacher Toolbox Tuesdays
University of Rhode Island — KDP Career Fair Spring 2018

Membership

Nova Southeastern University — Membership Initiation – Virtual Ceremony
Stevenson University — KDP Family
University of Nebraska at Kearney — DESIGNING THE FUTURE: Building & Growing Our Legacy

Community Service

Governors State University — Hashtag Lunchbag
Indiana Wesleyan University — Books: The Gift That Opens Minds
Middlesex County College— Hands of Hope Fall Harvest Festival
Rowan University — Annual Pajama Party
University of North Texas — Teach Denton Mentorship

Education for Sustainability

Seton Hall University — ELLs in the Mainstream: A Toolkit for Pre-Service Teachers
Governors State University — Education for Sustainability: A Political Action Event

Fundraising

Kean University – Yankee Candle Fundraiser
Liberty University — Concessions Nights
Stevenson University — 20th Anniversary Celebration Raffle Baskets
University of Rhode Island — URI School of Education T-Shirt Fundraiser

Communications

Purdue University Ft. Wayne — Communication Plan to Promote Rho Kappa Chapter
Shepherd University — Kappa Delta Pi – Delta Psi Facebook Page

Phoenix Award

The Phoenix Award recognizes those chapters that have taken significant action to improve their overall level of effectiveness in chapter management and programming.

Alpha Zeta Xi Chapter – Reinhardt University

Distinguished Chapter Officer Award

The Distinguished Chapter Officer Award honors current or immediate-past officers who set positive examples for their chapters by representing the ideals of Kappa Delta Pi.

Alexandra Schrunk, — Membership Chair, University of North Texas
Caitlyn Murphy — President, Kean University
Cassandra Marques-Leach — President, University of Rhode Island
Grace Kibe — President, University of Memphis
Hannah Gaston — President, Liberty University
Jessica Thompson — Treasurer, University of Central Florida
Miranda Rachel Spina — President, Camden County College
Paige Millirons — President, University of South Florida
Yasmeen Anis — President, Flagler College

Regional Chapter Counselor Award

The Chapter Counselors achieving this award are leaders who represent the mission and ideals of KDP and who have achieved excellence in the role of Counselor.

MidwestDr. Susan Beesley, Marian University, Indianapolis
NortheastLeana R. Malinowsky, Kean University
Southeast Dr. Sandra Trotman, Nova Southeastern University
WestDr. Jeanne Tunks & Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez-Carriedo, University of North Texas
Community College/OnlineMrs. Jennifer Souza, American Public University

Dr. Victoria Tusken Becomes KDP Executive Council President

(July 1, 2018, Indianapolis, IN) – Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) is proud to welcome the newly elected 2018–2020 Executive Council President. Dr. Victoria Tusken will lead the Executive Council in realizing the strategic goals of the Society and developing a vision for the organization’s next 3 to 5 years that allows it to be of maximum service to teachers and the teaching profession. The Executive Council will work in partnership with KDP Executive Director Faye Snodgress, as well as Snodgress’ successor.

“All of us, who have a role in education,” shared Tusken, “bear the responsibility to equip today’s students with the necessary skills to become participating citizens of an increasingly global 21st century. To that end, Kappa Delta Pi remains committed to supporting quality teacher preparation and programs, to retaining quality teachers in the classroom, and to advocating for equity and global sustainability for all.”

Effective now through June 2020, the KDP Executive Council includes the following leaders:

Victoria Tusken (DeKalb Community Unit School District #428), President

Elizabeth Elliott (Florida Gulf Coast University), President-Elect

Peggy Moch (Valdosta State University), Immediate Past-President

Rose Cardarelli (Eagle Development, LLC), Member

Peggy Marciniec (University of Wisconsin–Platteville), Member

Barbara B. Meyer (Illinois State University), Member

Shannon L. Rice (Jefferson Central School), Member

Suellen Reed (Indiana Department of Education, retired), Member

Christine Sleeter (California State University–Monterey Bay), Laureate Representative

David C. Berliner (Arizona State University), Advisory Member

Ali Jafari (CourseNetworking), Advisory Member

Tusken was first elected to the Executive Council in February 2014 to serve a 2-year term as the Professional Representative, a position that no longer exists on this leadership board. In February 2016, she was elected to the Executive Council to serve as the President-Elect for the 2018–2020 biennium.

To learn more about the leadership of Kappa Delta Pi, please visit our website at http://www.kdp.org/aboutkdp/index.php.

5 Perfect Summer Side Gigs for Teachers

Today’s blogger is Joyce Wilson, who has worked as a teacher for decades. She believes knowledge is the key to a more successful and fruitful life. 

When school lets out for the summer, teachers collectively exhale. For many, this two-month break means travel, getting back into hobbies, or catching up on favorite books, movies, or shows. But for others, that’s 10 weeks without a paycheck, which can be a bit nerve-wracking. As an educator, you have many skills and talents that you can put toward a side job to help supplement your income during those summer months.

Not sure where to start? If you want to earn extra income during the summer, this list might offer some perfect opportunities to work side gigs or even start your own business.

Sell Your Materials

As a teacher, you have amassed an enormous amount of materials, activities, and ideas that you can sell online to other educators. You could spend the summer getting your own business off the ground—building a website, recording a few videos, setting up e-commerce, and uploading your materials—so that this income can roll in year-round. A little time and effort now can generate passive income even when you resume teaching.

Give People a Lyft

An ideal summer job for teachers is one with flexible hours that they can wrap around any schedule they want. That’s what makes ridesharing services like Uber or Lyft great gigs; they let you set your own hours, use your own vehicle, and meet new people. If you want to work, you do; and if you feel like spending a few days enjoying your break, you don’t have to work. Many people can earn as much as $20 an hour driving for a rideshare, which requires minimal processing and training.

Work Online

From freelance writing to online tutoring, working online can be a great summer gig for educators, and there are lots of opportunities out there. ACT hires educators to be item writers who ensure that test questions reflect what is actually being taught in classrooms. The eNotes Educator program frequently hires educators as answer writers for their online homework help section. Some teachers report making nearly $40 per answer writing for eNotes. English teachers who enjoy the world of online learning can hop over to VIPKid and earn up to $20 an hour teaching English to second language learners. Similar to working for a ridesharing company, you can often set your own hours and workload by freelancing online.

Teach Other Teachers

Your experience and knowledge is worth sharing—and being paid for. Teach other educators how to use your innovative ideas by setting up courses on a platform like Udemy. Let’s say you have a curriculum that incorporates social media, or have a communication style that works with even the most distant of parents. You can create an online course and promote it on Udemy for other educators to learn from.

Caring for Others

Summer is a great time to earn extra cash as a babysitter, dog walker, or part-time caregiver. With kids out of school for the summer, many parents scramble to find accommodations, and who wouldn’t love an in-home summer nanny who is a certified teacher? On websites like Sittercity.com, you can apply for jobs that involve—you guessed it—caring for others, which is something teachers tend to excel at.

Be Wise About Managing Your Finances

Whichever gig you choose, be sure to start by creating a financial plan. When starting your own business, you need to spend your money wisely; one way to do that is to choose the right credit card. Many business credit cards offer cash back rewards, which could help you purchase more materials for your classroom, while others help you build credit, which would be very helpful for a new business. Having a business credit card can also help you establish and stick with a budget for keeping your venture up and running. Many websites for these cards have built-in budgeting tools, and seeing a breakdown of your expenses each month—although you should check them at least weekly—will help you see where your money is going and whether you’re investing it in the right areas.

Whether you need the extra income or just want to stay busy, summer is a great time for teachers to flex their entrepreneurial muscles. You can teach kids English online or walk dogs in your neighborhood. You can help make sure college prep test questions are up to snuff, or hop in your car and drive people around town. Your expertise as an educator can be your strength in a side gig.

Fighting back from the Global South: Education reform, teacher’s rights, and social media resistance in Mexico

Today’s blogger is David Ramírez Plascencia, a professor and researcher at the University of Guadalajara–SUV, whose recently published article “Education Reform, Teacher Resistance, and Social Media Activism in Mexico, 2013–2016” appears in the special issue of The Educational Forum on educator activism in politically polarized times. In that article, he relates how Mexican teachers use information technologies to engage in the fight against new regulations that affect their labor rights.

In recent decades, education systems in developed and poor countries have been impacted by neoliberalism tendencies that emphasis cost-benefit factors to the detriment of social access and equity. Public education in Mexico has not been an exception. In 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered the establishment of an educational reform. Teachers unions claimed the reform’s lack of legitimacy because they were never consulted; and since 2013, there have been several offline and online protests.

In general terms, most of the dissatisfaction concerning this reform centers on the fact that it tends to blame teachers for Mexico’s low-quality levels of education and standing among countries internationally. In addition, the amendment fails to offer appropriate instruments to improve education quality and applies a standard evaluation system that puts teachers under the microscope without consideration of important economic, administrative, infrastructural, and cultural differences among local education systems.

In this work, I focus not only on describing social media activism in education, both pro- and anti-reform, but I also consider how these virtual spaces have strengthened as an alternative media for teachers to fight back against governmental policies.

Meme example. An indigenous lady with a kerchief and the phrase in Spanish “We all are Oaxaca.” This slogan supports teachers’ actions in that state. This visual element is used frequently online to protest Mexico’s education reform.

My article stands mainly on two concepts. The first is “digital discourse,” which encompasses all sequences of interconnected ideas that span across digital media—audio, video, or even “meme” (see illustration). All these media consolidate to create dissidence with which to combat government actions. In other words, they are “weapons of the weak,” which is the second concept, referring to a particular form of resistance in which the oppressed use alternative and hidden strategies, aside from military hostility, to confront authority (J. C. Scott, 1987). What is remarkable in this context is how Mexican teachers use a dissident strategy of diverse multimedia elements as weapons against the educational reform.

In the end, the purpose of my contribution to this issue of The Educational Forum is to emphasize how cases like the teachers unions’ use of social media to support protests in Mexico provide substantial examples that might be replicated. This kind of media encourages movements and communities to have a voice to advocate for their demands, in spite of the government-controlled traditional media like the press or television. However, what is important to recall is that in order to improve education in Mexico, it is important to promote social assets like equality and justice, not only inside the government, and to modernize teachers’ unions as well, to open elections to a clear and democratic process, and to set strong transparent policies regarding usage of members’ dues. We must remember that providing quality education is a challenging task that can be addressed only with the collaborative efforts of all.

I hope you enjoy reading about this issue!

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the special issue of The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through July 31, 2018.

Important Announcement from KDP

Dear KDP Member,

As an ardent believer in the power of education to effect positive change in the world, having a job that allows me to serve teachers—those who make that change possible—is a dream come true.

However, after 17 wonderful years, the time has come for me to step aside. I will be relinquishing my position as Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi at the end of December 2018.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such dedicated and hard-working staff, volunteers, and board members who share my belief that there is no profession as important as teaching. In our role of serving and supporting you—members of the KDP community—we celebrate your successes and share your concerns and challenges.

Over the years, I developed many special and supportive friendships for which I am most grateful. It is because of so many of you who have served as volunteers and leaders, who have taken on projects and so generously shared your expertise, that KDP and I have been successful in serving educators and contributing to the teaching profession.

As I reflect on my tenure with the Society, I’m pleased that we have been able to offer financial support to our practicing professionals through our Classroom Teacher Grants; have grown internationally, which has served to enrich the KDP community; have become an NGO of the United Nations, which has allowed KDP to be a leader in sustainable education; and have increased our professional support of all educators, including a soon-to-be-announced professional development program. None of these things would have happened without the commitment and hard work of so many people, both members and staff.

Some of you may be familiar with my “Faye-isms,” which have become part of the Headquarters culture. These are phrases I frequently use in discussions about members and the development of resources and services. I would like to conclude this note with a few as a reminder of what drives the work we do.

“People join people, not organizations.”
This has been true from the day Kappa Delta Pi was founded in 1911. In one way or another, people want to connect with others and for professionals, it is the best way to improve our practice.

“Never assume you know what members need.”
There is a lot of talk in the media and in politics about what teachers want and need in order to be successful; and often education reforms fail because actual teachers were never consulted. We strive to keep educators involved in all decisions made regarding membership benefits, events, and programs.

“When it comes to service, kill them with kindness.”
It’s 2018. The reality is that our lives are over-programmed; we are all busier than we ever imagined. We have made it a priority to design positive experiences from the first day of KDP membership.

While it will be difficult to leave, I deeply appreciate having had the honor and privilege to serve you—you who make the difference in the lives of our youth every single day. I will miss you, but I am excited about KDP’s future and the many new opportunities that are on the horizon. I look forward to seeing a new leader advancing KDP’s important mission to the next level.

Sincerely,

Faye Snodgress
Executive Director