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.

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!

 

Partners in Loving the Children: A New Year’s Wish

Whitney_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. Anne Whitney, Associate Professor of Education at Penn State University. Read her full article, “Partners in Loving the Children,” in The Educational Forum.

Happy New Year! I always think of back-to-school time as the Real New Year, for in my family of two academics, an elementary school student, and a preschooler, fall truly is the starting point by which we mark all of our time.

We celebrate this new year by finding new shoes that fit, checking jeans for holes, and sharpening pencils. We open our journals to fresh pages and set fresh goals. We get our carpet cleaned after a summer of dirty bare feet, and we clean out the area by the front door where we put our jackets, shoes, and backpacks.

In the days leading up to the start of the new year, my daughter pines for the letter that will tell her who her teacher will be. When the letter arrives, my phone starts to buzz with questions from other parents: Who does she have? Who do her friends have? What do you think of Mrs. X? In our small community, this is typical parent information-sharing. We all want a good teacher for our kids.

But to my daughter Emily, just starting the fourth grade, it’s more than that. She’s asking: With whom will I spend my days? Upon whom will I be relying as I try new and difficult things? Under whose wing will I recover on bad days? Under whose influence will I grow?

The first few weeks students spend with their classroom teachers will shape a new and important relationship.

I take this relationship as seriously as Emily does. Kylene Beers explains in her often-shared meditation on why she “hated” her daughter’s first-grade teacher: “Though I had been a teacher for years before having Meredith, before sending her off to first grade, I had never truly understood the power of a teacher in a child’s life.” It’s like that for me, too. I have been forging relationships with teachers for my whole career, whether as a classroom teacher myself or as a teacher educator. But my sense of the stakes in these relationships changed when it was my own kid. And specifically, they changed most when the going got tough, as I describe in my article in The Educational Forum. When my own daughter was struggling with reading, the love with which her teachers surrounded her—and me, as her parent—helped her in school, but also helped me become a better parent.

Here is my new year’s wish for all kids returning to school: May you enter a classroom community characterized by love. May your year in school be a joyful year in your raising. May your schooling be a team effort. May your teacher be a fierce champion of you and what you need. May your parents, teachers, neighbors, and country join in a great and mighty fight for the loving learning that you deserve.

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

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Research from The Educational Forum: School Leadership, Dual Language, and Social Justice

DeMatthews_photoToday’s blogger is Dr. David DeMatthews, Assistant Professor in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department at The University of Texas at El Paso. He writes here to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Elena Izquierdo) in The Educational Forum.

Emergent bilingual children in U.S. public schools are one of the fastest growing student groups and make up almost 10% of total enrollment.Many Latina/o emergent bilinguals underperform academically when compared with their native English–speaking peers.

False narratives describe the success of past generations’ immigrant groups learning English through full immersion, but research has consistently indicated that dual language education improves cognitive and academic functioning and closes the academic achievement gap. Researchers have also found that dual language promotes healthy multigenerational, multicultural, and multilingual communities.

While some states like Arizona, California, and Massachusetts have outlawed dual language for emergent bilinguals, many districts and schools with growing proportions of Latina/o emergent bilingual students are turning to dual to increase student achievement and foster a school and community culture that values diversity and inclusion.

Although the benefits of dual language are undeniable, school leaders and teachers often confront serious challenges when attempting to develop and implement dual language.

Few teachers or principals learn about language acquisition, bilingualism, or biliteracy in their preparation programs. In our article, “School Leadership and Dual Language: A Social Justice Approach,” we highlight the important role of school leadership in promoting and implementing dual language education.

Readers of this blog may be familiar with some of the effective leadership and teacher practices that support inclusive and bilingual classrooms. For example, dual language often requires effective co-teaching and co-planning, which means principals must provide teachers with opportunities to collaborate, while teachers must have the prerequisite professional skills to engage in collaborative and inquiry-based activities.

However, developing and implementing dual language education is not simply about technical or professional skills.

We argue that school leaders and teachers must take a social justice approach to creating dual language education. All stakeholders should be involved and have meaningful input into decisions that affect how resources and learning experiences are distributed across a school and how student and family cultural and linguistic backgrounds are valued in curricula.

In our article, we present five steps to facilitate a thought process of how to move a school from a segregated pullout English immersion program to dual language education:

  • Lay foundations by valuing all stakeholders.
  • Explore perspectives to engage key stakeholders.
  • Assess the context and plan the program.
  • Recruit and build capacity.
  • Monitor, evaluate, and renew the program.

Although in practice each of these five steps must be continuous and occur simultaneously, we believe they provide a broad framework for how school and teacher leaders can think about dual language education, create a culture of collaboration, and foster an inclusive environment in which all stakeholders share in decisions, trust and support one another, and remain reflective and willing to grow.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. DeMatthews and Dr. Izquierdo’s article free with the education community through July 31, 2016. Read the full article here.

Research from The Educational Forum: Our Educational Crossroads

University of Rochester’s David Hursh, PhD. Professor, Teaching and Curriculum, Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Photographed February 26, 2016 // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

University of Rochester’s David Hursh, PhD. Professor, Teaching and Curriculum, Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Photographed February 26, 2016 // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Today’s blogger is Dr. David Hursh, Professor of Teaching and Curriculum at the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, University of Rochester. He writes here to describe research recently published in an article (coauthored by Dr. Camille Anne Martina) in The Educational Forum.

In the United States, we are at a critical moment in society and schooling that demands our attention. Depending on who wins the upcoming elections, public schools may go in either of two directions. If the neoliberals win, schools may become increasingly privatized, as the support for and number of charter schools increase, and students and teachers will likely be subjected to intensified evaluation through standardized tests. Or, on the other hand, schooling could be redesigned to take advantage of what researchers have learned about supporting students’ thinking and the best ways to help students to tackle the crucial issues we face as a nation and global community. For example, schools could take the lead in preparing students to analyze the evidence regarding climate change, and to develop appropriate responses.

Schools could also become models for democratic citizenship and serve as resources for their communities.

In our article, “The End of Public Schools? Or a New Beginning?,” we show how philanthro-capitalists, non-governmental organizations, corporations, hedge fund managers, and state and federal commissioners of education promote a neoliberal way of thinking about the world that prioritizes individual entrepreneurship within a privatized market system. Readers of this blog will likely be familiar with a number of ways in which we see this at play in U.S. education today. Examples include the increase in the number of charter schools and voucher programs, and the constant portrayal of public schools and public school teachers as failing. The result of such influences is that teaching is transformed into following a script, and teaching becomes deprofessionalized as teachers lose protections including due process.

In response to these threats, we urge teachers to develop a new way of thinking about the world: one based on promoting equality, ending poverty, solving problems, creating community, and supporting one another.

We also suggest that teachers, parents, students, and university educators work together to show how critics of public schools misuse test scores and other data to inaccurately portray schools as failing. Teachers must be willing to enter the political process, work to prevent the end of public schools, and collaborate with their communities to transform schools into places where knowledge is created and shared with the aim of creating an equitable, democratic society.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share Dr. Hursh and Dr. Martina’s article free with the education community through March 31, 2016. Read the full article here.

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