80 Years of The Educational Forum: Educational Research During Tumultuous Times

alan-amtzisToday’s blogger is Dr. Alan Amtzis, academic editor of The Educational Forum. He is Director of the Master of Education in Instruction Program at The College of New Jersey.            

This year marks the 80th anniversary of The Educational Forum.

forumtitle2Out of curiosity, I returned to the first issue of The Educational Forum to see how we began and what educational research looked like in November 1936 as the planet perched on the brink of encroaching war, struggling against both worldwide depression and growing fascist threat.

Our first issue contained 10 articles, and not one author’s name was familiar to me now in 2016. That issue also included an editorial, a poem, and 20 pages of book reviews. The only reviewed book I’d ever heard of was Gone With the Wind—a book whose popularity is legendary, but whose contribution to educational research and practice rather eludes me.

As one of the academic editors of The Educational Forum, I admit to some pride about the direction that KDP and my coeditors (Tabitha Dell’Angelo and Ryan Flessner) have given to the journal.

In addition to theme issues on aesthetic education, sexuality and gender identity, and global citizenship, we have also offered guest-edited issues by such senior scholars as Michael Apple (“The Politics of Educational Reforms,” 2016), Pedro Noguera (“Racial Inequality and Education,” forthcoming in 2017), and Ana María Villegas (“Linguistically Diverse Classrooms,” forthcoming in 2018). In addition, we’ve published a wide array of research developed by emerging scholars, many of whom are still in their pre-tenure phase.

This combined range of experience and perspective offers our readers a substantial complement of the ideas that are important to users of educational research, as evidenced by the fact that many of our most cited articles have been published within the past 6 years.

Still, I can’t help wondering if these issues and names will be known to readers 80 years from now.

It’s an interesting and even challenging time right now to be the editor of an educational journal.

In fact, it’s an interesting and challenging time to be an educator.

Here at the close of 2016, we face what many feel is a pivotal moment in U.S. and world history, with challenges ahead we can only guess at. For me, this moment raises questions about the ability of educational research to not only reflect the interests of our readers, but also to influence and contribute to the world of education…and the world beyond the classroom.

Are there opportunities for our work at The Educational Forum to inform and even influence policy? Can we withstand the current storm to publish work that will be of interest to a new generation of educators?

Of course, these questions are difficult, at best, to answer and the outcomes may be impossible to predict, but the changes around us may prompt us to envision a kind of educational activism as part of our mission—one that might help the journal endure another 80 years.

 

When Worlds Collide: A Teacher Becomes an Administrator

mceachern_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. Kirstin Pesola McEachern, Curriculum and Instruction Director at The Summit Country Day School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Read her full article, “Developing a Research Identity: Promoting a Research Mindset Among Faculty and Students” (coauthored by Dr. Jessica L. Horton), in The Educational Forum.

A few years ago, I moved to an administrative position at the private school at which I had been teaching high school English for more than 10 years.

I had long wanted to be in a position to change the problems I and other teachers lamented over in the lunchroom, but it wasn’t until the assistant principal role opened unexpectedly and others encouraged me that I threw my hat in the ring.

When the school announced my appointment, colleagues’ responses took one of two forms, sometimes both: delight that I was bringing my teaching experience to the job, and disappointment that I was joining “the dark side”—the place where administrators forget what teaching is all about and make decisions that leave faculty scratching their heads. 

mceachern_photo_mugFellow teachers even gifted me with a Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head, which still sits in my office.

Some might have perceived this change as abandoning one world in favor of another.

However, such transitions often grant us opportunities to draw from past experience to improve our future practice.

While teaching, I had gone back to school for my master’s and doctorate degrees, and being a student again made me a better teacher. My classroom assignments were more intentional, as I didn’t want my students questioning a lesson’s purpose like I sometimes did in the courses I took. My methods were more varied, as I was learning new approaches from my professors. And I better understood the realities of being a student with seemingly impossible homework loads and teachers who thought their class was the only content occupying my headspace.

Much like being a student made me a better teacher, being a teacher made me a better administrator because I knew firsthand the implications for the decisions I made.

For instance, as a teacher of freshmen, I believed the timeframe in which I had to recommend their level for sophomore year was too short; students often didn’t hit their stride until after Christmas, yet I had to decide whether they were honors material when half the year was still ahead of us. As a teacher, I did my best and crossed my fingers, but as an administrator, that deadline was one of the first policy changes I made—much to the satisfaction of my colleagues.

Another important transition I had to negotiate when becoming an administrator was what it meant for my identity as a researcher of my own practice. Did I have to give that up? As I describe in my article in The Educational Forum, teacher research was an empowering force when I was in the classroom, and encouraging teachers at my school to embrace a research mindset remains a passion of mine as an administrator. It requires cultivating a culture of trust and risk-taking, and doing so communicates to faculty that administrators understand and respect their teachers’ knowledge and contributions to the larger learning community.

My identities as a teacher and researcher strengthen my work as an administrator, and I remain confident that others can find similar benefits when facing transitions between what might appear, at first, to be different worlds.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. McEachern and Dr. Horton’s article free with the education community through November 30, 2016. Read the full article here.

A teacher, a Falcon, and a Kadelpian for life.

A few weeks ago, the Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Dr. Dawn Shinew, contacted me and asked if Kappa Delta Pi members would be interested in meeting Muriel Hutchinson Strebe and honoring her at a Classroom Dedication ceremony.

After some inquiring, I learned that Mrs. Strebe was a successful elementary school teacher and had made Bowling Green State University the beneficiary in her estate plan as well as established the Muriel Hutchinson Strebe Scholarship for students entering the College of Education. So, naturally, I agreed, looking for any opportunity to demonstrate Kappa Delta Pi’s support of fellow educators.

After rallying the KDP members that were available during the day on a Friday, we made our way to a personal meet and greet with Mrs. Strebe, taking our seats at a round conference table on the fourth floor of the Education Building, waiting for this generous woman who was being honored throughout the College of Education.

Then she walks in.

Muriel Strebe.

Dressed in orange with a large golden medal hanging around her neck.

Helping her in is Dean Shinew, along with the college assistants who have been with her the whole day. She smiles at us and laughs, explaining that golden medal meant that she was a “Golden Falcon,” an award she won for being an involved alumnus.

She is remarkable, so excited to talk to fellow education students—students to whom she has given so much.

14457321_1659164627728061_5365316323270890690_nAfter she sits down, I introduce myself and tell her that I am President of our campus chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

She said, “Yes, I was a part of this chapter when I went to school here.” I look at her, astonished, and then I look at the dean. I couldn’t believe it. This incredibly gracious woman was a part of OUR chapter. The Delta Phi Chapter! I was so excited. No one in this room knew that she was a member of Kappa Delta Pi before that moment.

I motioned for the next KDP members to introduce themselves, while I scanned my mind for ways to recognize this woman as a KDP member.

“The Binder!” I thought.

The Chapter binder that every KDP initiate has signed for decades. Her name was probably in it! What better way to welcome her home than by showing her the binder she signed more than 65 years ago.

I excused myself from the conference room and ran across campus to get it. It was in our KDP office, only 5 minutes away.

I unlocked the cabinet and went to the very back of the binder. Loose-leaf papers were ripped and aged, with some barely hanging on in the binder. I saw that the pages went back only to 1958, and so the years 1958 down to 1947 were either never documented or were missing. I knew our chapter was more than 75 years old, so Muriel Hutchinson Strebe would more than likely have been initiated her freshman year.

It saddened me that I couldn’t present to her the initiation page she signed so long ago. It was time to be creative and find a way to honor this remarkable woman through Kappa Delta Pi.

Then I see them, the blank certificates in the cabinet. Maybe I could re-initiate Mrs. Strebe and honor her a second time. I knew she was worthy of it, for who better exemplified the words of the Kappa Delta Pi creed?

Mrs. Strebe has lived the ideals of Fidelity to Humanity, Science, Service, and Toil. She has inspired and strengthened others and is the essence of Knowledge, Duty, and Power.

I grabbed the binder, a blank certificate, and a creed. I quickly walked back to the conference room, knowing exactly what I was going to do.

I entered the room while the members were wrapping up their introductions. I looked at Mrs. Strebe and told her that our records had been misplaced, and I couldn’t find her signature—but, if she would be okay with it, I would like to re-initiate her so she can be added to our binder.

She laughed and said that she would be honored!

I placed the binder on the table and read a small portion of our ceremony ritual.

14441184_1659164567728067_1479710292263504065_nI then handed her a pen, and she signed our Society Charter for a second time.

We all clapped after she signed, and I held her hand, thanking her for agreeing to sign our book and be a part of the Kappa Delta Pi Class of 2016.

While she was in another meeting, I went to our Technology Resource Center and printed a fresh Kappa Delta Pi certificate with her name and the date on it. When I saw her after the classroom dedication, I gave her the folder with the certificate and the creed.

I thanked her for everything she has done for education students and asked if we could take a picture with her.

This picture includes Kappa Delta Pi members old and new, as well as Freddie and Frieda Falcon, with Muriel Hutchinson Strebe in the center.

This picture includes Kappa Delta Pi members old and new, as well as Freddie and Frieda Falcon, with Muriel Hutchinson Strebe in the center.

A teacher, a Falcon, and a Kadelpian for life.

Kristen Tabesh is a 4th year student at Bowling Green State University and the President of the Delta Phi Chapter of KDP. She is a Middle Childhood Education major with concentrations in Language Arts/Reading and Social Studies. Kristen has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, and she absolutely cannot wait to have a classroom of her own.

Read more of this story on the Bowling Green State University page.

Teacher Disclosure in the Classroom: Part 2

sequenzia-photoToday’s blogger is Ms. Maria Sequenzia, a teacher of Social Studies at Framingham High School. Read her full article, “Working the Dialectic: Teaching and Learning Teacher Research in Social Studies” (coauthored by Dr. Christopher Martell), in The Educational Forum.

As I described in the first part of this blog series, I embarked on a teacher research project to examine students’ perceptions of teacher disclosure in their classes.

I initially asked students about their experience of teacher disclosure with their current teacher—i.e., me. I asked it almost as a baseline; I knew I didn’t disclose much, and especially not regarding topics like abortion and the death penalty, which I asked about specifically in the survey. To my astonishment and consternation, about 40% of students thought I disclosed my personal opinion about these topics, alongside other, more curricularly relevant ones.

As I began to interview students about this specific finding, I realized that the underlying issue was that they couldn’t accurately determine disclosure. In other words, they had difficulty distinguishing between my general discussion of a topic and my opinion of it. For example, when I mentioned that soldiers during WWII were often lonely, one student I interviewed explained to me that that was me disclosing my opinion because it had to do with feelings.

One of the fundamental aspects of teaching history is how teachers communicate information and how students engage with and comprehend that information. It is vitally important that classrooms aren’t just spaces for indoctrination. But at the same time, to “objectively” present information is still presenting a certain perspective—all too often, a white-washed, androcentric, heteronormative one.

This conundrum takes center stage right now, as campaign season kicks into high gear and we confront the challenge of teaching about an election wholly unlike any other.

Now, this issue of teacher disclosure becomes important in a different way—it’s not just about our opinions of certain candidates and their positions. Added to that great challenge is how to answer questions that resonate with students on a more personal level.

How do teachers respond when students ask them how they feel about deportation, and the teachers know they have undocumented students in the class? What about questions surrounding marriage equality, when teachers know they have gay students in the class? For many of us, these are issues of basic human rights. But that’s our belief, our opinion—and some students and parents may disagree strongly.

I wish I had more concrete answers, but as with much of our job, they’re hard to find. My biggest takeaway from this study, and what I’ve been trying to keep in the back of my mind since I conducted it, is to be aware. Be aware of the students in my classes, their reactions to what I say, what word choices I make, what topics I present as “fact,” and what topics I present as “perspective.”

And perhaps most importantly, be aware that even if I think I know how students received a piece of information from me, I don’t—not until they’ve really made their thinking visible, so that we can start to have a more nuanced and thoughtful conversation.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Ms. Sequenzia and Dr. Martell’s article free with the education community through October 31, 2016. Read the full article here.

 

 

Teacher Disclosure in the Classroom: Part 1

sequenzia-photoToday’s blogger is Ms. Maria Sequenzia, a teacher of Social Studies at Framingham High School. Read her full article, “Working the Dialectic: Teaching and Learning Teacher Research in Social Studies” (coauthored by Dr. Christopher Martell), in The Educational Forum.

Teaching high school history means being prepared for questions about my opinion on any number of topics, from the merits of imperialism to the effectiveness of Reaganomics to Deflategate.

I love that aspect of my job; I feel it’s my responsibility to create an environment in which students feel comfortable and engaged enough to ask these questions.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to know how to answer them.

Teachers walk a fine line between the public and the private; the very essence of our job is performed entirely in front of an audience, yet we’re supposed to be objective disseminators of information, teaching skills and facts.

This situation becomes even more complicated when students ask questions about how we feel, and what we think. I thought about this issue often, but it wasn’t until I took a course on teacher research that I had the opportunity to examine it in a more deliberate way. Simply put, teacher research is about teachers reflecting on, studying, and modifying their classroom practice. Effective teachers do this already; teacher researchers do it in a more systematic way. The course was designed around research questions that we would generate and then study in our own classrooms.

With the aforementioned issues weighing on me, I decided to examine students’ perceptions of teacher disclosure (i.e., how much of one’s personal opinion is shared) in class. This is a tricky subject to negotiate under normal circumstances, and it becomes even more difficult, and relevant, during an election season.

Read my article (free through October) and learn more about teacher research in the current special issue of The Educational Forum, “Teaching and Learning Teacher Research.”

In Part 2 of this blog series, Ms. Sequenzia will describe her research project on teacher disclosure. Stay Tuned!

 

Two Books Are Better Than One

The initiates, officers, and members of the Delta Rho Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi at Kean University were pleased to support the needs of elementary students in a public school setting with 601 books that were given to them on Read Across America Day. IMG_7574

Our chapter held a book drive throughout the Fall 2015 semester to collect these books. In February, we started by hosting a Literacy Alive! social event. This was a great way to prepare for our project and have everyone get to know each other in a comfortable setting. At the event, members, initiates, and officers created bookmarks for the students, and created bags with bookmarks and pencils to go with the theme of Dr. Seuss.

IMG_7575To celebrate Read Across America Day, Delta Rho visited Menlo Park Terrace School #19 for the day. The books were delivered, and the students received their gift bags. Some officers and members dressed up as Dr. Seuss characters to add to the spirit of the day. All who attended read a book to an elementary classroom and visited various grades throughout the building.

The second part of the project supported the needs of children and young adults at the children’s hospital who are undergoing cancer treatments. The hospital restricts paper books, so the children read books on iPads. These children need funding for purchasing books. Our project supported their needs through an iTunes gift card so they will be able to purchase books to read while they receive their treatments. Our project supported the non-medical needs of these children and they families.

Our chapter was recognized by the faculty and principal at Menlo Park Terrace School # 19 as well as the director of Embrace Kids Foundation.

This was truly an experience for our chapter, as it was the largest scaled project for literacy in chapter history.

IMG_7576The members, initiates, and officers gained experience in the areas of service, networking, and experience being in the classroom. The communities that were served—although different—were immersed in the love for learning and reading all Kadelpians have and show. Delta Rho is proud of Two Books are Better than One, and we are excited to receive the silver award for it.

The real reward, however, was knowing how many children and youth we touched in both communities through our project.

Guest blogger, Leana Malinowsky, is a first grade teacher at Pvt. Nicholas Minue School in Cateret, NJ, where she teaches the inclusion class. She is also a certified Reading Specialist. Leana is the Associate Counselor of the Delta Rho Chapter at Kean University, and she has been an active member since 2007—over 9 years!

Literacy Alive! Top Projects Announced

literacy-alive-banner

It is with great pleasure that we announce the top projects from the 2015-2016 review cycle.

Gold Projects

  • The University of North Carolina at Charlotte  (Omicron Pi Chapter)
  • Bethune-Cookman University  (Pi Delta Chapter)
  • Fitchburg State University  (Xi Psi Chapter)
  • Madonna University  (Sigma Xi Chapter)
  • Liberty University  (Pi Sigma Chapter)

Silver Projects

  • Ferris State University  (Alpha Alpha Iota Chapter)
  • Kean University  (Delta Rho Chapter)
  • University of St. Thomas – Houston  (Pi Lambda Chapter)
  • Chapman University  (Chi Beta Chapter)
  • University of North Texas  (Alpha Iota Chapter)

Bronze Projects

  • St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn Campus  (Alpha Epsilon Omega Chapter)
  • Armstrong State University  (Nu Zeta Chapter)
  • University of Pittsburgh  (Omicron Phi Chapter)
  • Marian University, Indianapolis  (Alpha Alpha Tau Chapter)
  • Concordia University  (Pi Psi Chapter)

2015-2016 proved to be another awesome year for Literacy Alive! with more than 100 projects submitted, 35,444 people served, and 26,631 books were collected for distribution globally!

literacy-alive-image1

To learn how you can participate in the 2016-2017 review cycle, and read a summary of each of the Gold Project award winners, visit the Literacy Alive! homepage on the KDP website.