The Researcher’s Responsibility in Communities of Color

Today’s bloggers are professors Gholnecsar E. Muhammad, Georgia State University, and Bettina L. Love, University of Georgia. They describe here the background for their interest in Critical Community Conversations, which they recently wrote about in The Educational Forum.

Throughout history, researchers have come into communities of color to engage families and conduct research in unethical and inhumane ways. In these events, researchers have used our communities for profit or self-gain without working to advance these same communities or without deeply learning from or listening to community members.

Perhaps the most well-known case is the Tuskegee trials, conducted between 1932 and 1972, when U.S. Public Health Service researchers persuaded roughly 600 Black male sharecroppers into a clinical study by telling them that they would be given free medical care, meals, and burial insurance. Two-thirds of the men participating in the study had syphilis, yet were never informed of their disease or given a treatment for their illness, although a cure existed when penicillin was developed in the 1940s. They were lied to and told they were being treated for “bad blood” when, in fact, they were not.

Instead, the treatment was withheld; many of the men, and some of their wives and children, died as a result. It wasn’t until 1997 that President Bill Clinton offered a public apology, calling the experiment shameful and racist.

An earlier example, in 19th-century South Africa, was an enslaved Khoisan woman, Saartjie Baartman, who was taken to Europe so that pseudoscientists could “study” her body and “investigate” her sexuality due to her body shape. They wrongfully concluded that Black women have a greater sexual appetite.

During their research, Baartman was raped, tricked, and forcibly put on display (sometimes in a cage) in a museum for lookers to observe and mock. When she died in 1815, her body was dismembered and displayed in a French museum until 1974. Her remains were not properly buried in her homeland until 2002.

Neglect of and disregard for Black bodies in so-called research does not begin or end with these two cases. Although ethical and more humane research standards have since been put in place, we still question the authenticity and carefulness of researchers as they study communities of color, including their intent, their honesty, and the ways they represent and write about Black and Brown youths and families.

As we continue to engage with communities, conduct research with communities of color, and prepare the next generation of researchers, we are mindful that elements of the unethical research of the past can be and have been repeated today. This charges us to ask:

  • Do educational researchers love the people in communities of color and the participants in their studies?
  • Are researchers going into communities for self-gain or merely to publish in journals from the problems that Black and Brown youths experience?
  • Are researchers receiving substantial funding for their studies while the communities they study get no benefits from those dollars? Are researchers of color employed on these funded projects?
  • Are researchers deeply listening to and being positively changed by people of color?
  • Are researchers treating people of color as positively as they write about them in research articles?
  • Are researchers displaying honesty and integrity in their methods of collecting information? Or again, are researchers merely taking the information they desire and leaving people unhealed? In other words, are we seeing modern-day Tuskegee trials in educational research today?

We have found from our personal experiences that we need to ask these questions and understand who is being given consent to study our people and our communities. We need university researchers to have a keen awareness of the responsibilities and the impact they can have in authentically partnering with community members. We purposely use the word “authentic.”

So often we have found that researchers come in and take from communities of color because those are the sites of the greatest needs used to problematize their research. We have observed researchers talk about social justice in articles but not display the same awareness in day-to-day life.

The responsibility we have to communities of color is also one takeaway from our Critical Community Conversations in the Atlanta area. In this work, we remind others and ourselves that our intentions and actions must be grounded in lessons from history, intersectionality, and anti-colonialism.

There is a history of hypocrisy when it comes to researching and engaging communities of color, and we know that element of history is still present today. We must go beyond good intentions and continue to question our actions as educators and researchers. We purposefully start our questioning with love because, as we remind ourselves each day, love is the first responsibility we have.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Gholdy and Bettina’s research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through December 31, 2017.

Seven Tips for Preparing for the PRAXIS Elementary Education Exam: Multiple Subjects (5001)

The Praxis Education exams must be passed by those who want to become professional educators. Most states require the test for Education students. The exact Praxis tests you will take depends on the grade levels and the content areas you plan to teach. Because the test is computer-based, take time familiarizing yourself with the process of Praxis.

The 5001 Praxis Multiple Content Area Exam includes questions based on all of the major content areas for elementary education, including mathematics, social studies, science, and reading/language arts. . The reading and language arts section represents the majority of the questions with 80. The social studies section has 55 questions, while science and mathematics each include 50 questions.

Since this exam covers all of the major content areas, it is best to be prepared properly. The 240Tutoring PRAXIS Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects 5001 Study Guide has 1000 practice questions to help you prepare.

Education exams are expensive, so the best strategy is to spend as much time as possible preparing. A worst case scenario is having to retake the test in a few months because you failed due to inadequate preparation. You can avoid this scenario by spending some time with the practice questions and reviewing these tips.

  1. On the day of your Praxis exam, arrive early to the test center. If you’re running late, you might not be allowed to take the test, thus wasting the money you spent on the test. To avoid any surprises, view this short video on what to expect on test day
  2. The testing center prohibits all electronic devices. They do not allow drinks or food either. Leave your phone in your vehicle and put it out of your mind for the next four hours.
  3. Eat a good breakfast that will not leave you hungry in an hour, but don’t eat so much food that you’re groggy or running to the bathroom every so often.
  4. The Praxis exam is scored based on your correct answers. If you are unsure about an answer, make your best guess. There is no penalty for missing a question. Remember, you get credit for correct answers, you are not penalized for wrong answers.
  5. Read questions carefully. Missing a question based on a technicality or carelessness is avoidable. Some questions require more than one answer, while others require you to select a sentence, while others might require you to select an entire paragraph in a story. Never assume what the question is asking, read it carefully before answering.
  6. Since your Praxis exam covers all content areas, determine what grade level is implied within the question. For example, you would probably not give the same math advice to a kindergarten student as you would to an eighth grader. Read closely to determine which age group to the question refers to.
  7. Finally, if you are unsure about an answer, you are allowed to mark it and return to it later. The test is long and you can easily become frustrated when you’re stuck on a problem. Simply skip the problematic question and return to it later. The time crunch won’t feel so oppressive if you know you have one remaining question and 30 minutes to solve it.

Follow these tips and keep calm while taking the Praxis 5001 exam. Half of the battle is arriving to the testing center with a positive attitude. Watch the video so you know exactly what to expect. Spend time leading preparing for the exam by doing practice questions. After all, without preparation, you are actually preparing to fail. With proper preparation, you’ll have a great shot at passing the exam the first time you take it!

Scott Rozell is the Director of 240Tutoring, Inc. 240Tutoring is the premiere provider of PRAXIS study guides and has helped over ten thousand teachers pass their certification exam and get into the classroom.

5 Tips for Introducing Your Style in a Mentor Teacher’s Context

After weeks of observing, co-teaching, and getting a feel for the school, my mentor teacher finally hands over the reins of the classroom and says, “Now it’s your turn. What would you like to do?”

It can be tricky to introduce your own teaching style and values into your mentor teacher’s classroom context, especially if your styles are different. Overcome the challenge of establishing your approach while maintaining respect for your mentor teacher with these tips.

  • Be open and honest.

Keep your mentor teacher in the loop with your lesson planning, especially if it deviates from what your mentor teacher normally does. Don’t be secretive or try to surprise them with what you are going to do. If you tell them what you are thinking and planning, they can offer their perspective, suggestions, and additional ideas.

  • Ask for permission.

To respect your mentor teacher and their space, there are certain ideas that you should run past your teacher before implementing. For example, ask them for permission before rearranging the desks in their room or assigning students homework. It is better to ask for your teacher’s permission and support than for their forgiveness.

  • Support your decisions with research.

If your mentor teacher disagrees with your instructional choices, find research to share with them to explain your decisions. You also might provide your mentor teacher with successful examples of other teachers implementing your idea. If your instructional plan is backed by research, you’ll more easily convince your mentor teacher to let you try it in their classroom.

  • Don’t be afraid to say no.

There are times when your mentor teacher will share ideas for your lesson that you do not want to use. For example, my mentor teacher showed me several short stories I could use in a lesson I taught on discrimination, but I chose a different story that I thought the students would like better. It is okay to say no to your mentor teacher’s ideas; just be respectful and polite.

  • Put students’ needs first.

The goal of your instruction should be to do what is best for your students’ learning. Sometimes you will need to be honest with yourself and consider if you want to use a strategy because it sounds fun or because it will help students better understand the material. If you believe you are teaching the content in a way that genuinely puts the students’ needs first, then stand by your choices.

Finding the balance between introducing your teaching style and respecting the authority of your mentor teacher is challenging for all student teachers, but this is the time to establish your identity as a teacher and test some of your own ideas in the classroom. You only get one student teaching experience, so be confident in your values, take risks in your lesson planning, and try something different.

Resources:

Ms. Upah is a student teacher in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is currently in a seventh-grade classroom where she enjoys interacting with her unpredictable yet inspiring students. She is passionate about language arts, reading, and educational technology … and blogging. Find her latest posts at https://www.lightbulbmomentsblog.com/ or on Twitter @upahk.

Bridging Social Capital in a Full-Service Community School

Today’s blogger is Xiaoxia A. Newton, an associate professor in the College of Education at UMass Lowell. She reflects here on a research article she and her colleagues recently published in The Educational Forum.

Sofia Vargas (a pseudonym) is a 17-year-old sophomore attending the Advancement Academy, an alternative urban high school in the Northeastern United States. Like her peers at the school, multiple factors place Sofia at risk: poverty, a history of high-level behavioral referrals each year, multiple course failures due to her inability to meet course expectations or refusal to complete course work, and an ongoing mental health condition. Two years ago, the Advancement Academy began the process of transforming itself into a full-service community school (FSCS) with the support of multiple community partners and funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

The FSCS initiative is transforming Sofia’s life by providing opportunities for bridging social capital, a scholarly concept that describes the connections or relationships between individuals in various social groups or networks. Prior to receiving any FSCS services, Sofia had an average 20 to 30 behavioral referrals each month. Since her involvement in the FSCS services, Sofia’s behavioral referrals have been drastically reduced, and she has not had any referrals in many months.

Most important, Sofia’s outlook on school has become more positive and self-regulated, as she is often asking teachers for her progress reports and course credits.

Sofia’s teachers commented on how she is like a new student, and they unanimously nominated her for a teacher-student award. Despite still going through periods of behavioral and emotional distress (often related to out-of-school events), Sofia now has a support network of school staff and community partners working together to address her holistic needs.

My colleagues and I showcased Sofia’s story and the Advancement Academy’s FSCS initiative in a peer-reviewed paper in The Educational Forum (Newton et al., 2017). The empowerment evaluation approach we chose allowed us to move beyond focusing solely on numeric indices but instead on engaging key program stakeholders in building our understanding of the problems they try to tackle and prioritizing our evaluative inquiry.

We chose the Empowerment Evaluation (EE) framework to guide our evaluation work because of the fit between the program design and the key features that characterize EE. The program attempts to address a complex social problem and therefore adopts a whole-child approach that engages multiple community members and is at the very beginning stage. On the other hand, EE focuses on improvement and empowerment, emphasizes collaboration between evaluators and stakeholders, and employs both quantitative and qualitative methods. Given the program design, its context, and its stage, EE offers an ideal framework guiding our evaluation effort.

Several lessons emerged from our work that invite more questions than answers. For instance, are numeric indices adequately capturing the richness of individual stories (like Sofia’s) as the school is transforming some if not all of its students’ lives? How do we think of scale in this context? As university researchers, the empowerment evaluation approach has forced us to move out of our own methodological comfort zone and wrestle with conceptual, methodological, and logistical challenges when doing this line of evaluation work.

Meanwhile, Sofia’s story is an example of the opportunities for bridging social capital that full-service community schools can offer students placed at risk.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Xiaoxia and colleagues’ research with the education community. Access their article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through November 30, 2017.

October 24th is United Nations Day

Dr. Rose Cardarelli is a Kappa Delta Pi NGO Representative to the United Nations.

Srecko Mavrek, Dr. Basanti Chakraborty, and Dr. Rose Cardarelli (L-R)

On October 24th, the United Nations (UN) will observe its 72nd anniversary on the day of the original signing of the UN Charter in 1945.

Over its history, the UN has evolved to stand for more than just crisis mediation. For example, in September 2015 the 193 member states of the UN took on the enormous task of adopting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of objectives consisting of 17 global objectives and 169 specific targets all designed to create a positive impact on our future by 2030.

Our Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) mission of quality learning for all and our strategic goal related to literacy sustainability both appear to be perfect opportunities to contribute to the collective global effort of UN Sustainable Development Goal #4, labelled: “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”

KDP was recognized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in 2010, with the intent of our contributing to UN efforts designed to have a significant impact on advancing quality education on a global scale.

KDP currently has five official professional and youth representatives accredited before the UN. These KDP representatives participate in UN events (workshops, conferences, seminars, media campaigns), and support publications and projects designed to keep KDP members and the UN DPI informed of educational activities that may be relevant to the community at large. In those ways KDP can and does play a key role in helping the UN achieve its sustainable development goals in education.

Serving as one of those professional representatives for the last year, I have had the privilege of attending and reporting on several important events, to include the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN) conference. I have also posted UN events and activities on KDP’s Global and blogs. A recent highlight of my service as a KDP representative to the UN was my selection to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) during the week of September 18th. The passion and enthusiasm from most of the world’s leaders attending the UNGA was not only exhilarating but reassuring. This opportunity also gave attendees access to many important UN side-meetings being conducted around the city designed to address the 17 sustainable development goals by many professional organizations.

As should be expected, education was a primary agenda topic at the UNGA because it is widely accepted by all UN representatives that education (particularly SDG#4) is the fundamental foundation stone for achieving all the other sustainable development goals. There were discussions about the need for funding and investments, and also on the need to leverage and share resources and opportunities across local, national, international levels. There was also discussion among many of the attendees about other related global challenges, such as early childhood education, educating female children and educating the millions of refugee children suffering in camps today. Discussions concluded with the goal of increased collaboration, sharing and helping one another to make access to quality education more of a reality across all the globe.

Opportunities for Children at the UN

CTAUN has a special event for high school teachers and students scheduled at the UN from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on November 9, 2017 entitled: “From Desperation to Inspiration: The Anne Frank Diary at the United Nations.” The event marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The program will help students learn about Anne Frank’s life during the holocaust and will also enable participants to better understand the work of writers whose lives were impacted by discrimination. CTAUN offers research to bring global issues of Peace & Reconciliation; Refugees; Sustainable Development Goals; Coping with Climate Change and Cultural Diversity & Cross-Cultural Communication into the classroom. For more information, contact: teacherresources@teachun.org.

The Guided Tours Unit at the United Nations Visitor Centre also has an exciting Children’s Tour for elementary school children. It opened in February 2013 and is tailored for children 5-10 years of age, with topics such as human rights, disarmament, peacekeeping, and the sustainable development goals, presented in a child-friendly way. Tickets for the tour can be purchased online at: http://visit.un.org/content/tickets.

Celebrating World Teachers’ Day

If you ask a teacher why he or she chose a career in education, chances are that the answer will be to make a positive and lasting impact on the lives of students.

While those of us in education share in this desire and have witnessed the difference a teacher can make in the lives of their students, a 2016 study by the United Nations revealed just how critical the role of teachers is in making the world a better place. In monitoring the progress toward achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals—goals that aim to realize a world with no hunger, no poverty, gender equity, peace, and more—it was determined that without achieving the goal of quality learning for all and lifelong learning, none of the other 16 goals will ever be realized.

World Teachers’ Day is October 5, a day to recognize and celebrate the committed educators around the globe who help youth and adults to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to live a happy and productive life.

Celebrated since 1994, it has become an occasion to empower educators, to assess the state of the teaching profession around the globe, and to consider ways to address the remaining challenges, especially the acute shortage of teachers. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, if we are to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the world needs 69 million new teachers.

In today’s world, teachers are more important than ever before.

While we add our voice in acknowledgment of teachers on World Teachers’ Day, in the KDP community, we celebrate teachers every single day.

KDP strives to continually support its educators through professional development opportunities, networking, online resources, publications, and financial assistance. Just as we understand our students need differentiated instruction, professional development and resources also need to be tailored to differing needs of our educators; so resources, such as our monthly newsletters, vary by professional position. Whether you are a preservice teacher, a teacher preparation faculty member, or practicing professional, we strive to meet you where you are. We are united by a shared commitment to excellence in education and to one another’s professional growth.

As the world celebrates teachers on October 5, we know one day of recognition isn’t sufficient given the critical role of teachers in society.

So, KDP celebrates teachers each and every day. We applaud you, thank you, and cheer you on because you are indeed making the world a better place.

Faye Snodgress is the Executive Director of Kappa Delta Pi.

Research from The Educational Forum: Lifting the Smog: Coaching Toward Equity for All

Today’s bloggers are Jacobe Bell and Reshma Ramkellawan, self-employed instructional coaches in New York. They reflect here on what led to their research article recently published in The Educational Forum.

A man stabbed, his fresh blood splattered all over the bodega counter. A crumpled body in the middle of the street, framed by paramedics, police officers, and weeping bystanders. What was supposed to be a rare lunch break with school administrators became a day that shook Jacobe to her core. It’s not every day a teacher wanders onto the scene of a murder. But Jacobe will never forget the incident for another reason: the perceived indifference of the school administrators. She still wonders if their response might have been different if the murder victim had been of a different race or a higher socioeconomic class. Who knows? What we do know is that a person’s lived experiences affect how they interact with and think about others. What causes educators to become desensitized? What causes educators to see some people differently than they see themselves?

We don’t have simple answers to these questions. Our experiences as instructional coaches, however, have allowed us to gain insight into how teachers develop nuanced understandings of the students they serve in the contexts in which they choose to teach. Smog and Discourse (Tatum, 2003; Gee, 2015) are two theoretical concepts that explore how our subconscious is a manifestation of our lived social, economic, racial, and cultural experiences. In the case of Discourse, implicit beliefs around class, economics, and education are articulated in our word choices (e.g, “these kids can’t do this,” or “stuff like this happens everyday—no big deal”).

Teachers engage in these language patterns because they are surrounded by smog that reinforces their beliefs. The administrators’ reaction to the murder scene is an example of this. They likely had been bombarded by media reports and personal experiences that perpetuated the image of the school community as violent, aggressive, and dangerous. This district in particular has several police officers on consistent patrol. As a result of their lived experiences, administrators (and teachers) often subconsciously fail to see the narratives of their school constituents beyond their own psychological constructions of them. No one ever wants to believe they have made their implicit biases explicit, whether they have chosen to work in an urban setting with children of color or in any community where ethnicities and races are different from their own. However, we cannot always control the smog within which our psyche formulates meaning of the world, especially if we do not have a say in our formative experiences. Institutional racism has significant influence on the smog we are surrounded by and its manifestation in Discourse.

As women of color, we are keenly aware of subtle indicators of racism. We want as many allies as possible in the fight for educational equity. In order for urban educators to be true allies, it is imperative that all of us spend time unpacking the reasoning behind the things we say, the topics we choose to teach, and manner in which we enact pedagogy. As instructional coaches, we help teachers unpack belief systems that impact the instructional decisions they make. It can often be uncomfortable having these difficult conversations with teachers. The approach we ultimately utilized, outlined in our article in The Educational Forum, relied on the foundation of trust and good intention that we established with our teachers. In order for us to ask difficult inquiry questions (e.g., “Why do you believe your students are incapable of learning?” or “Did you notice your tendency to make deficit-oriented statements?”), the teachers we coached needed to understand that we were not judging them for the Discourse and smog that shaped who they are. Rather, we wanted to support their transition to empathetic teachers who are responsive to the needs of their students, moving toward equity for all.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Reshma and Jacobe’s article free with the education community. Access this article and the whole issue at Taylor and Francis Online, free through October 31, 2017.