Teacher Preparation for Online Learning: Now Is the Time

Mary RiceToday’s blogger is Mary Frances Rice (University of New Mexico), who co-authored the article “Orienting Toward Teacher Education for Online Environments for All Students,” which appears in The Educational Forum. KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share access to the article free through June 30, 2020 at Taylor and Francis Online.

In March 2020, 1.3 billion learners at all levels were displaced from their educational buildings due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).

In the U.S., most school buildings closed for the rest of the shool year (Education Week, 2020). For many, closures of this magnitude were previously unthinkable.

Even as buildings closed, many schools and institutions of higher education adopted some form of remote emergency learning.

Aside from the psychological panic induced by COVID-19 that made transition to new ways of learning difficult, many students did not have the devices and reliable internet access necessary for online learning. In fact, many teachers did not. Moreover, teachers had not been prepared to teach online. Why not? Well, for many reasons (see Rice & Deschaine, 2020). For some teacher education programs, it was because they thought online teaching was not real teaching. For some programs, it was because they lacked resources—faculty with know-how and models to emulate. For others, it was because they (and their state licensing boards) were tightly tethered to the notion that (time in seat = learning) and online instruction disrupts that equation.

Regardless of the reason, teachers in many schools distributed devices as best they could and started sending work online to families.

Did they bring their strongest pedagogical practices to the emergency online work? Some probably did.

Success stories abound from teachers at schools who already had consistent access to infrastructure and who were already using digital resources. I have a research site right now where students are receiving private music lessons with instruments provided on a rent-to-own basis by the school as part of their home-based learning. In this school, teachers are also sending students to break-out rooms for conversations, reading bedtime stories to students, and making use of learning management systems for young children. In these nice, safe neighborhoods, teachers can parade in their cars and wave to students to lessen the distance while keeping everyone safe. Moreover, in these neighborhoods, parents can stay home with children, find places in their spacious homes to make fun spaces for learning, and monitor children’s formal learning for a few hours a day.

But that is not what it is like for most families.

In many schools, the worst pedagogies and the most deficit-laden attitudes followed them to remote learning.

In another school site where I am conducting research, students were assigned to watch a 45-minute slide presentation with narration about the Falkland Wars. Students were supposed to take notes and write an essay. This  expectation—to learn using one of the driest content delivery systems ever invented—is for 12-year-olds! In another district, parents of students with disabilities were barred from entering their children’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) virtual meetings because they did not have district email addresses. When parents were not logging on, school officials chalked it up to parental ineptitude instead their own.

And then, there are the teachers who are not able to teach at all.

The devastation of the virus in some communities has been so intense that teaching and learning are the last priorities—with good reason.

For example, the Navajo Nation on the Arizona/New Mexico border is fighting the virus while most community members lack running water (McGraw, 2020). Surely, if we have to choose between the internet and running water, the water should win, along with food and medical supplies. But in most communities, if they had decent internet bandwidth and families had access to devices and teachers were prepared to teach online and collaborate with families remotely, all students could do home learning with some success.

Although there were good reasons to prepare teachers to teach online before the pandemic, it is understandable that many educators and many communities were caught underprepared.

However, moving forward from COVID-19, it seems prudent for institutions of higher education who prepare teachers to make preparation to teach online and in blended or hybrid spaces their highest priority.

Yes, teaching online requires different types of skills (Pullham & Graham, 2018).

Yes, teaching online requires teachers to think about time and achievement differently (Yan & Pan, 2011).

Yes, teaching online increases the transactional distance between students and teachers which must be lessened through strategic actions from teachers (Moore, 1993).

But, teaching online can be done well.

Teaching online can be a positive relational experience for students (Rice & Carter, 2015). Teaching online can also support the development of critical digital literacies and other advanced skills (Blau, et. al., 2020). But stop-gap emergency will not ever be anything other than that. And if we continue to rely on it in times of trouble, we run the risk of exacerbating educational inequalities that are already beyond tragic and unacceptable.

Communities need internet.

Students need devices.

Teachers need preparation.

Parents need support. Let’s lay the blame for uneven remote learning where it belongs—lack of planning, lack of interest, and structural inequality.

Then, let’s fix it.


References

  • Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students?. The Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.
  • Education Week. (2020). Map: Coronavirus and school closures. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html
  • McGraw, G. (2020). How do you fight the coronavirus without running water? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/02/opinion/coronavirus-water.html
  • Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education. (pp. 22-38). Routledge.
  • Pulham, E., & Graham, C.R. (2018). Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching competencies: a literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411–432.
  • Rice, M. & Carter, Jr., R. A. (2015). With new eyes: Online teachers’ sacred stories of students with disabilities. In M. Rice (Ed.) Exploring pedagogies for diverse learners online (pp.205-226). Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Rice, M. F., & Deschaine, M. E. (2020). Orienting toward teacher education for online environments for all students. The Educational Forum 84(2),114-125.
  • UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19 educational disruption and response. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
  • Yan, H., & Pan, S. (2011). Rethinking time management of online instruction: Flexible or strict?. Open Education Research, 3. Retrieved from http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-JFJJ201103018.htm

Focusing on African American Male Preservice Teachers

Today’s bloggers are Samantha L. Strachan and Jillian Davis, who co-authored the article Loud and Clear: The Importance of Telling the Stories of African American Male Preservice Teachers,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Close your eyes for a few seconds and think about all the teachers who taught you.

How many of your teachers have been African American males?

If you thought about your past experiences as a student, and your answer was “none,” you are not alone. In fact, many students in today’s P–12 schools will never have the opportunity to be taught by an African American male teacher. While a number of programs and initiatives have been implemented across the country to place Black men in classrooms, there is still much work to be done.

The Problem

Educational leaders and researchers alike have focused on several issues that impact the teaching profession. One issue that continues to make headlines is the absence of African American male teachers in P–12 schools. Currently, around 2% of all teachers in the United States identify as Black males (U.S. Department of Education, 2016). This dire statistic means that concerted efforts must be made to understand how these men can be recruited and retained in classrooms as teachers. Neglecting to do so will continue to result in their absence from the classrooms and from the lives of the students who most need them.

In our article in the current issue of The Educational Forum, “Loud and Clear: The Importance of Telling the Stories of African American Male Preservice Teachers,” we advocate for understanding the perspectives of African American men on the pathway to the teaching profession. We make an argument for placing the stories of Black male teacher education candidates front and center in education. We encourage understanding of why they decide to become teachers, despite not always having had good experiences in P–12 schools as students. We also discuss how, even as preservice teachers, men of color can experience challenges that, if not confronted, can continue to hinder them from fully participating in the teaching profession.

Transforming the Profession, One Story at a Time

Stories can be powerful. Like all teachers, African American men have stories that need to be shared and heard. These stories can provide the impetus needed to transform how they experience the teaching profession. However, their stories must be told and highlighted in a way that does not perpetuate stereotypes and negative notions, but instead will further how the education and research community could make changes to ensure that Black men can fully engage with the teaching profession. This is especially true for men in teacher education programs.

Since the stories of Black male preservice teachers are rarely highlighted, it is important to use their perspectives as a foundation for understanding the specific changes needed in the teaching field, and how these changes could be implemented in a manner that allows men of color to thrive in the profession.

African American male preservice teachers are uniquely positioned to provide insights that could be transformative to the teaching field. They have made the decision to become educators, and their perspectives, especially during training, can serve as reflections for teacher education and the teaching profession.

If we want to know how we can engage African American males as educators, providing spaces for them to share their stories will be important.

Not doing so will continue to sideline a group of educators whose impact in classrooms could be great.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2019.

References

  1. Department of Education. (2016). The state of racial diversity in the educator workforce. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/highered/racial-diversity/state-racial-diversity-workforce.pdf

Dr. Samantha Strachan

Dr. Samantha L. Strachan is Interim Chairperson of the Department of Teacher Education and Leadership at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. She also serves as Director of the M.AL.E. (Males for Alabama Education) Initiative, a state-funded program focused on recruiting and preparing minority men for P–12 classrooms. Dr. Strachan’s research is focused on improving minority students’ participation in teacher education, particularly in the STEM fields. Her work also focuses on examining creative ways to diversify the teaching workforce. This includes sharing the stories, perspectives, and experiences of African American men on the teaching pathway.

Jillian Davis

Jillian Davis is a MEd candidate in Elementary Education at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University. Her current research explores the stories of African American male preservice teachers, discussing their personal experiences, understanding their perspectives, and raising awareness of their impact on education. Jillian’s interests include the study of social justice in education, inequality, and poverty. Jillian serves as a graduate assistant.

Beginning Teacher Resilience: Considerations for Formal and Informal Mentoring

Today’s blogger is Dr. Brie Morettini, who authored “Building Beginning Teacher Resilience: Exploring the Relationship Between Mentoring and Contextual Acceptance,” published in The Educational Forum.

Each year, teacher candidates across the country graduate from colleges of education. Many of these recent graduates already have teaching jobs lined up for the following school year, while many more work earnestly and excitedly on applications for positions.

These beginning teachers are enthusiastic and qualified and possess the pedagogical content knowledge needed to effectively reach the diverse learners who will fill their classrooms. Yet, much more remains for them to learn—so much that it is hard to learn it all in a methods course, a clinical practice seminar, or even through a high-stakes assessment.

For those of us who look back fondly on our years spent in classrooms, the gift of time has rendered our daily challenges and struggles into memories. For beginning teachers, however, these struggles are not memories—they are living, breathing, real elements of their everyday lives in the classroom. The ability to thrive despite the daily struggles of teaching are what we have come to understand as resilience.

Scholarly and practical interest in teacher resilience has emerged as a topic of international interest, as the need to develop a stable teaching force has arisen as a global commitment.

To better understand the nuances of beginning teacher resilience, we sought to develop a study that focused on one rather commonplace aspect of beginning teacher resilience development: mentoring. I recently co-authored a piece with Dr. Kathryn Luet and Dr. Lisa Vernon-Dotson about mentoring as an element of building resilience, which is featured in The Educational Forum and is titled “Building Beginning Teacher Resilience: Exploring the Relationship Between Mentoring and Contextual Acceptance.”

Research shows that beginning teachers who receive mentoring from more seasoned, veteran teachers are more likely to return to their high-needs school than teachers who do not receive mentoring. Mentoring, therefore, has become a widely practiced aspect of first-year induction for beginning teachers in an effort to retain talent and diminish the high rates of teacher turnover that plague the profession, particularly in high-needs schools.

Our study is part of a larger grant-funded project aimed at improving mentor quality by drawing on tenets of sociocultural theory. We maintain that individuals learn and grow when educational opportunities attend to environmental factors and teachers’ specific needs, and when such opportunities progress in logical stages promoting incremental learning and growth. Specifically, the context in which beginning teachers work influences their learning about the nature of the profession.

As part of our grant-funded project, cohorts of mentor teachers received 2 years of intensive professional development on culturally responsive pedagogy, anti-racist education, and critical friends’ groups. These topics were identified through a large-scale needs assessment with teachers from Hillside Public Schools. This represents an organic approach to mentoring targeted at the needs articulated directly by beginning teachers.

The study explores whether and to what extent, if at all, this targeted mentoring support contributed to beginning teachers’ resilience.

What we found throughout our study was that resilience is best achieved through a nested approach. More specifically, beginning teachers begin to build resilience when they experience layers of contextual acceptance: acceptance from students, colleagues, and the larger community. And, mentoring offers entrée into feelings of acceptance from colleagues, which consequently prompts some beginning teachers to feel belonging or acceptance from their students and ultimately the larger community in which they teach. The feelings of belonging and acceptance that a range of mentoring experiences creates for beginning teachers enhances resilience, which helps beginning teachers overcome their perceived lack of preparation for the rigors of teaching, particularly in a high-needs setting.

The beginning teachers in this study referenced the support they received from some level of mentoring, whether the support occurred as formal mentoring required by the state for first-year teachers or as more informal, sporadic mentoring from colleagues. The study illuminates the importance of formal and informal mentoring spaces for beginning teachers and of building a community of support and acceptance so that beginning teachers can manage and overcome the chronic and acute stresses that accompany teaching.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through March 31, 2019.

Dr. Brie Morettini

Dr. Brie Morettini is an Associate Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary and Inclusive Education at Rowan University. She teaches courses on research literature and analysis, working with families and communities, and inclusive early childhood and elementary education. Her research focuses on beginning teacher identity development, beginning teachers’ perspectives on the profession, and the use of self-study methodologies to uncover and acknowledge epistemological frames.

 

 

LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out

Today’s bloggers are Pamela Baer, Tara Goldstein, and Jenny Salisbury from the University of Toronto. Together, they authored “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” published in The Educational Forum.

Since 2014, our research team at the University of Toronto, led by Professor Tara Goldstein, has been conducting interviews with LGBTQ+ families in four different regions of Ontario about the issues they experience at school and how they work with teachers and principals to create safer and more supportive learning environments for their children.

Our findings indicate that, despite recent safe schools legislation, much work remains in helping LGBTQ+ families feel welcome at school. We have used the transcripts from these interviews to write a verbatim play called Out at School.

It is our hope that these short scenes will provide insight into the ways that participants are living with gender and sexual diversity, while also offering educators, parents, and students strategies for engaging in activism and allyship as they work to create more inclusive schooling spaces for all students. Here are a few excerpts from the play:

Excerpt From Scene 5

You have to start the work at the beginning

KARLEEN PENDLETON JIMÉNEZ

You have to start the work at the beginning. I say, even the earliest, the earliest thing that happened with [my son], was when he was in, maybe preschool or daycare or whatever they call it. You know, he was 4 and they did [this chart]. You’ll see this in the kindergarten curriculum, you know, my, you know, about family, and he had to write my mom’s name is blank, my dad’s name is blank, my siblings name are blank. And up until that time, he didn’t ever think anything was weird about our family. And then, when he had to fill that out, he just started crying, and he fell apart. He was a wreck, probably for a month over that, because the little chart didn’t match. So, [we went] to the teacher, not angry with her, but just, like, “Hey, you know this isn’t just a gay issue, like there are many different kinds of families.” And she started crying. She was really upset that she had hurt his feelings. But [she] just didn’t know, you know?

Excerpt From Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

MICHAEL MANCINI 

Mother’s Day and Fathers’ Day were really interesting because early on, the teachers would feel they were supporting us by having our children make Mother’s Day presents for us. But our daughters have birth mothers and they have a relationship with them.

ERNST HUPEL

We are in touch with their birth mothers. So, early on, Milena would go and say, “My teacher said I don’t have a mom, but I do, her name is Heather.” So, you know, the teachers were doing it to actually support us but after our daughters said, “No I actually have a mother” . . . they began to make Mothers’ Day cards for their birth mothers and we send the cards to them and yeah so . . . We get double Father’s Day cards.

MICHAEL MANCINI

It’s a big day.

ERNST HUPEL

It is! It’s like Christmas here.

Excerpt from Scene 7

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

JESS SWANCE-SMITH

[Teachers shouldn’t] assume what a child’s family may look like . . . take their word for it. I mean, if they say they have multiple people in their family, let them make those, you know, 10 Mother’s Day cards that they need to make (Evan and Jess laugh). Or whatever, five Father’s Day cards because maybe there’s, you know, . . . maybe an aunt or an uncle who’s like a father or a mother to them. 

EVAN SMITH

I think one thing I really appreciate is that, for instance, at Mother’s Day, the school wasn’t sure who identified, you know, as a mother, for sure, and so they just sent out like you know a blanket message through our, you know, we have, like, an app we use to communicate with teachers and they sent out a message saying, you know, “We need to know who in your family identifies as a mother and should be getting a Mother’s Day card.”

In addition to the play, which we discuss in more depth in our article “Pairing Verbatim Theatre and Theatre of the Oppressed to Provoke Startling Empathy,” we have also published over 300 video clips from these interviews on our website: www.lgbtqfamiliesspeakout.ca. In curating the videos, we had a vision of creating a collection of community stories that can act as a resource for both parents and educators. For examples of two of our video clips, you can listen to parents . . .

…Max & Ryan talk about their hopes for teachers of trans families:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ba7DXaXzmA

…Catherine & Nazbah talk about what they think school should be:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpBSp457L24

 

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through December 31, 2019.


​Pamela Baer is a PhD candidate in Pedagogy and Curriculum at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Her current research explores the use of applied theatre with young people from LGBTQ+ families to explore their experiences of school through a process of collaborative performance. Pamela is the Research Manager on the LGBTQ+ Families Speak Out project and an Instructor of Applied Theatre at Brock University.

Tara Goldstein is a professor, ethnographer, and playwright in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, where she teaches an undergraduate course called Equity, Activism and Education for the Equity Studies program at New College, as well as a graduate course called Gender, Sexuality and Schooling for the Curriculum and Pedagogy program in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Tara also is the Founding and Artistic Director of Gailey Road Productions, a theatre company that produces research-informed theatre on social and political issues that affect us all.

​Jenny Salisbury is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research interests include contemporary Canadian play creation and devising processes, with a focus on audience, community-engaged theatre, and the role of the artist as researcher. She is a co-founder and Associate Director of The Centre for Spectatorship and Audience Research.

Truth Talk: Conversations About Race

Khasnabis

Dr. Debi Khasnabis

Today’s bloggers are Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin, who co-authored with Ebony Perouse-Harvey and Margaret O. Hanna to write “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Race permeates every thread of the fabric of society in the United States, regardless of whether we recognize and speak to it.

Simona Goldin

Dr. Simona Goldin

This truth is stitched throughout all aspects of public schooling, from the gaps in academic learning opportunities that children of color experience relative to their White peers, to the racial marginalization of children at recess. This truth weakens the fabric of the institution of schooling.

As teacher–educators, we support beginning teachers in seeing and responding to the ways that race pervades children’s experiences in classrooms.

In doing so we help them leverage the knowledge that children of color and their families bring to their work in schools as well as repair the rips in the social compact.

Our current research, highlighted in “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice” in this issue of The Educational Forum, is inspired by our awareness that children’s full sets of knowledge are often unseen in schools. Children of color, especially, are unlikely to be seen for their knowledge. This invisibility occurs in instructional moments when that knowledge is related to students’ racial or ethnic identity.

What does it look like when children’s knowledge is made invisible? 

A common refrain heard in schools is “That’s racist!”

Digging into this, we were initially surprised to learn what young children identify as “racist.”

When children are raised to be “colorblind,” they can think that referring to people by their racial identifiers is racist.

What are the effects of this? From Black colleagues, we learned that their race-conscious children who had been raised to recognize, discuss, and analyze race and its associated qualities were silenced by their peers and teachers in discussions of race.

One colleague’s son, after referring to a Black person as “Black,” was hushed by a peer and told “That’s racist!” This also occurs in instructional interactions when children of color speak about race and racism. When they are silenced, what becomes invisible is their racial literacy and fluency, their advanced and sophisticated knowledge.

More than just students blister at direct discussions of race in classrooms. Teachers also frequently steer clear of discussions having to do with race.

A teacher candidate once consulted with Debi after two Black students in her science class critiqued a Bill Nye video as racist.

The students’ critique rested on their judgment that the film featured fewer people of color than White people. The teacher candidate expressed trepidation about how to handle this accusation, especially as she saw nothing “blatantly racist” in the film. She wondered how she could convey to the students that their critique was inappropriate.

These everyday occurrences affect the health and vibrancy of classrooms.

In addition to silencing students, they fail to leverage and mine the racial fluency and expertise that some students, especially students of color, can bring. Further, students whose racial fluency is undeveloped lose out on critical opportunities to speak directly about race and racism, to practice having substantive discussions about inequality, and to construct, together, a pluralistic society.

We argue teachers should model interest and engagement in the child’s thinking. When students use racial identifiers, teachers should perk up, as this is a sign that their students are bringing reservoirs of knowledge about race to this discussion. This knowledge is a rare and precious resource.

When students launch racialized critiques, this shows their teachers that they have reservoirs of knowledge about oppression.

Recognizing students’ reservoirs of racial knowledge for what they are—assets to be built upon for learning—is in the interest of the child and the learning community.

When we silence these discussions, we uphold normative ways of being that support White supremacy.

Simona Goldin teaches courses pertaining to the sociology, history, and policy of schooling in the U.S. She conducts research on ways to transform the preparation of beginning teachers to help them teach in more equitable ways and has elaborated the teaching practices that bridge children’s work in schools on academic content with their home and community-based experiences. 

Debi Khasnabis is a clinical associate professor of education and the chair of elementary teacher education at the University of Michigan School of Education. She teaches courses focusing on multicultural and multilingual education and conducts research on pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of culturally responsive teaching and understandings of inequality in schools.

A Survey of All Knowledge

Today’s blogger is Daniel Tanner, Board Chair of the Daniel Tanner Foundation. He reflects here on the writings of Frank Lester Ward, the subject of an article recently published in The Educational Forum.

In early 1961, while attending the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Los Angeles, the announcement was made that the book The Transformation of the School by Lawrence Cremin had just been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in history.

Unfortunately, the publisher’s representative at the conference had no copies for sale at the meetings. I soon obtained a copy after I returned home and found that once I opened the pages I could not put it down.

Beautifully written, yet richly documented, the book told the story of the life and passing of the movement for progressive education that was part of the larger social movement of progressivism in America from 1876 to 1957.

In Transformation I found only passing mention on how, early on in John Dewey’s tenure at the University of Chicago, a colleague there, Albion Small, called Dewey’s attention to a book by Lester Frank Ward that had been massively ignored and virtually forgotten.

Had it not been for Small, according to Cremin, “a whole generation of educators might well have missed his work.” Ward’s ideas on education, as outlined by Cremin, were profound and fascinating to my mind, but all too brief with no mention of how Dewey drew upon Ward’s ideas. And so I obtained from interlibrary loan a copy of Ward’s massive and musty two-volume work published in 1883, Dynamic Sociology or Applied Social Science.

Tracing every source I could find on Ward’s life and work, I found that Dynamic Sociology sold very poorly, fewer than 500 copies in 10 years. The two volumes ended with a concluding chapter of almost 100 dense pages under the title Education. The footnote on the first page of the chapter explained that it was “an abridgement of a far more extended treatise actually written ten years earlier” (1873).

Cremin’s Transformation begins with the year 1876, marking the opening of the progressive movement in American education. In the final chapter of Ward’s magnum opus, Ward presented his vision of the three universal curriculums to meet the needed democratic prospect for the 20th century. Ward admitted that no one knew the shape or form that would be taken by the three universal curriculums, but he presented in detail the guiding principles for the new curriculum synthesis that was left for John Dewey’s Democracy and Education (1916).

The lives of Ward and Dewey could not have been more different: Dewey, from a long line of Vermont heritage and security, and Ward from the American heartland and early years of laborious work and struggle. Largely self-educated, Ward managed to obtain degrees to qualify for careers in law and medicine, but his passion was in natural science.

Dewey’s opportunity for higher education was smoothly available in his chosen field of philosophy. Whereas Dewey did not discard the remnants of religious sentiment until his earliest adult years, Ward was an iconoclast, and examined deeply the comparative origins and influences of science and religion in society. Both men were greatly influenced by Darwin’s findings and ideas.

Ward held that through the evolution of the human brain, humanity was empowered to direct the progression of civilization. Ward and later Dewey contended that the course of human progress was to be shaped by scientific method or “the method of intelligence,” released through universal educational opportunity to meet the democratic educational prospect.

After working as a paleontologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, Ward’s writings eventually drew recognition to the extent that he became recognized as the founder of the field of sociology, although one could say it was the entire broad field of social science, as indicated in the title of Ward’s masterwork. At age 65, Ward was invited to join the faculty of Brown University. He was truly an orchestral man, so it seemed fitting that students at Brown flocked to his course, A Survey of All Knowledge. At his passing in 1913 at the age of 72, Ward’s copious collection of notebooks and records were burned by his wife.

Daniel Tanner is Professor Emeritus in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. He is author of Crusade for Democracy: Progressive Education at the Crossroads (SUNY Press, 2015), and coauthor (with Laurel Tanner) of History of the School Curriculum (Macmillan, 1990) and Curriculum Development: Theory Into Practice (4th ed., Pearson, 2007). 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Dr. Yvonne Skipper

Today’s blogger is Yvonne Skipper, who co-authored with Eloise de Carvalho to write “’I Have Seen the Opportunities That Science Brings’: Encouraging Girls to Persist in Science,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

This time-honored question, which children across the globe are asked with regularity, can lead to surprising responses.

Beyond the whimsical “princess” and “unicorn” to the heart-warming “happy,” children often have strong ideas even before they reach school.

However, as children get older and learn more about the world, these ideas can change.

For example, we cannot all become a real princess like Megan Markle! Sometimes these views change, not because of how children see the world, but because of how the world sees them. Society may openly or subtly suggest that certain jobs are for men and others for women.

This view can impact the subjects and careers children choose, as illustrated in this brief video.

There is currently a huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in the workforce. Those with a STEM background are valued not just in the science-based jobs, but also in other roles where the ability to think critically, analyze data, and evaluate evidence is prized.

However, often children are not interested in STEM subjects, seeing them as “too hard” or “boring,” and they are even less interested in scientific careers. When you look at those who do continue in science, typically you find more boys in STEM subjects, such as math and physics, and in pursuit of careers such as engineering. This difference is not seen because girls lack talent in these subjects. In fact, girls often perform better than boys, receiving higher proportions of the top grades. So why are these talented girls less likely to continue in STEM than boys?

It has been suggested that we choose our subjects and our careers based on whether we think we can succeed and our values.

Boys are more likely than girls to believe they can succeed in STEM, even though they are overall less likely to get the highest grades. Their belief might come from seeing so many famous male scientists, both in academia and in fiction. This can lead boys and girls to believe that men are more likely to succeed and also more likely to “belong” in science. Even the television show Big Bang Theory focuses more on male scientists; female scientists Amy and Bernadette do not appear until later seasons and are working in the more “female” fields of medicine and neurobiology. It is important that the media fully represent female scientists in their factual and fiction programming.

We also choose subjects and careers that we think we will enjoy and that we see as useful in our lives or in our communities.

Many girls choose careers where they can help others, such as teaching, midwifery, and social work. Girls often do not perceive STEM careers as “helpful.” This is interesting because, for example, designing a new wheelchair to manage rough terrain, creating inclusive educational technologies, and researching cures for diseases could have a positive impact and help people worldwide. Yet often girls do not make the connection between STEM subjects and the impact of associated careers, and may prefer a more interpersonal approach to helping.

Promoting how “helpful” science can be could potentially lead girls to develop an understanding about how science improves society.

In our Forum article, Eloise and I are not saying that girls should be pushed into science careers, but instead that women should not leave a subject or career path for the “wrong” reason, such as believing that they are less likely to succeed than others or that they will not belong. Instead it is important that we feel able to choose our subjects and career paths in line with our interests and goals for ourselves and our communities.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through June 30, 2019.

From the Military to Teaching: Challenges of the Entry Year

Steve Gordon

Today’s bloggers are Stephen P. Gordon and Janis Newby Parham. Their article, “Transitioning From the Military to Teaching: Two Veterans’ Journeys Through the Entry Year,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Many members of our military services leave the military well before retirement age and seek a second career.

Jan Parham

One option many of these military veterans choose is teaching.

If we reflect on this trend, it makes sense. Most former members of the military joined because of their desire to serve a cause beyond themselves. Many veterans were instructors and enjoyed the experience. Like others who enter teaching, military veterans who choose this path are committed to helping young people grow and develop.

Former military members have a lot to offer the teaching profession. They are used to finding solutions to challenging problems, have worked closely with different cultural groups, and are dedicated to completing whatever mission they are given. Overall, we have fewer men and people of color in teaching, but high percentages of veterans who enter teaching belong to those groups. These former military members often teach in high-poverty schools and in high-demand disciplines such as science, math, and special education. Research on military veterans who have entered teaching indicates that they are effective teachers, work well with colleagues, and do a good job of keeping parents informed of their students’ progress.

Reality Shock

Despite the capabilities that military veterans bring to teaching, they also face special challenges. They are used to following specific policies and procedures in the military and having those policies and procedures explained to them in detail. In contrast, district and school policies and procedures do not provide the level of direction that those in the military do, and schools often have “hidden norms.”

Former members of the military were used to following the orders of superiors; if they were officers, they were used to those they led following their orders. Military veterans new to teaching quickly realize that military-style discipline does not work with students, and therefore student discipline can be a serious problem for military veterans beginning their teaching career.

Many military veterans who choose teaching as a second career generally attend alternative certification programs that focus on pedagogical knowledge in general, and so they may have difficulty teaching specific content because of insufficient content knowledge. This problem is especially difficult if the former military member is assigned to teach courses he or she is not certified to teach.

The military requires close collaboration among peers to complete a mission, and military veterans often are surprised by the independence of their teaching colleagues and the level of “privatism” in teaching. This can lead to feelings of isolation the veteran never experienced in the military. The lack of the detailed policies and procedures they were used to in the military, hidden norms, problems with classroom management and teaching, and feelings of isolation can leave military veterans who have become teachers in a state of “reality shock” that makes them question their decision to enter the profession.

Support and Growth

Our study in this issue of The Educational Forum tracks two military veterans, Bonnie and Chad, through their first year of teaching. The teachers in our study dealt with all of the problems described here during their entry year. The new teachers’ greatest source of support in dealing with their transition into teaching were the mentors who had been assigned to them for the entire entry year and other teachers who had been identified as helpful colleagues.

Although their first year of teaching was challenging, through assistance from other teachers and their own experimentation, reflection, and perseverance, Bonnie and Chad experienced considerable growth by the end of their entry year. Among the many things they learned that first year was that developing relationships with their students was critical to student learning and that it is better to motivate students than to try to control them.

By the end of their first year of teaching, Bonnie and Chad had improved their teaching considerably, discovered how much they loved children, enjoyed teaching—and, most importantly, had decided to remain in teaching.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through May 31, 2019.

Selective Rigor: What to Do About It?

Dr. Bruce Torff

Dr. Audrey F. Murphy

Today’s bloggers are Bruce Torff and Audrey Figueroa Murphy. Their article, “Teachers’ Beliefs About Rigor of Curriculum for English Language Learners,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.


Educators have looked high and low for the causes of achievement gaps between the “haves” and “have nots” in our society, and for good reason:

These gaps are distressingly large and resistant to change.

Possible causes include in-school factors (e.g., rigor of curriculum, teacher experience and attendance, teacher preparation, class size, technology-assisted instruction, school safety) and various conditions outside of school (e.g., birth weight, lead poisoning, hunger and nutrition, reading to young children, television watching, parent availability, student mobility, parent participation).

No one seems to know the exact causes, but some combination of factors does the deed.

Could it be that one set of factors has been hiding in plain sight? Do educators’ well-intended beliefs about “what works” for different populations of learners play a role, if a largely unseen one? According to research, the answer may be yes.

It’s true, but unsurprising, that success in school has a lot to do with the level of rigor in the curriculum; students given challenging work achieve more. Educators know that lessons need to pitched to challenge but not overwhelm learners, as if to follow Dewey’s advice that teaching should begin a little over the head of the learner. Accordingly, educators’ judgments do much to establish how academically demanding the curriculum will be.

But research shows that teachers favor somewhat less rigorous curriculum for learners they perceive to be low in socio-economic status, SES. And our research published in this issue of The Educational Forum indicates that English language learners are among the student populations educators believe to be less able to handle the rigorous curriculum prescribed for their more English-proficient peers. The rich get richer, getting rigorous curriculum leading to high achievement, prompting more high-octane lessons. And the poor get poorer, with impoverished curriculum leading to lower achievement, yielding another round of undemanding lessons.

In several publications, we tie these beliefs to cultural norms about how learners tick and how teaching should proceed. Beliefs about learning and teaching in our culture, part of the culture’s commonsense “folk psychology,” prompt educators to reduce the rigor of curriculum for some populations, exacerbating achievement gaps. Because of our culture’s way of doing things, well-intended educators fan the flames of the blaze they seek to extinguish, by their efforts to give students the level of academic rigor they deem appropriate.

A question is raised: How can we counter this cause of achievement gaps?

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through February 28, 2019.

School Choice Is Like Choosing Where to Eat? Hardly!

Today’s blogger is Chris Gilbert, who is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. His article, “Creating Educational Destruction: A Critical Exploration of Central Neoliberal Concepts and Their Transformative Effects on Public Education,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Since the election of President Trump in 2016, the phrase “school choice” has rapidly become commonplace in popular and political discourse. Through sheer repetition and careful messaging, supporters of school choice have worked to sterilize the phrase in order to make it appealing and ultimately normal.

For instance, during a speech at the Harvard Kennedy School, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (2017) compared school choice to a selection of food trucks surrounding the Department of Education. “Now,” she remarked, “if you visit one of those food trucks instead of a restaurant, do you hate restaurants? Or are you trying to put grocery stores out of business? No. You are simply making the right choice for you based on your individual needs at that time.”

In other words, school choice is akin to choosing where to eat. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Despite this attempt, and others like it, to downplay the significance of school choice, abundant evidence suggests that it is anything but inconsequential. As I discuss in my article in The Educational Forum, a body of research has shown that school choice mechanisms such as charter schools and school vouchers have had a number of negative educational and social impacts (Carey, 2017; Ravitch, 2014; Strauss & Burris, 2017).

Additionally, I discuss the larger ideas that have produced school choice, primarily those concepts of competition and individualism. In the educational reality produced by these concepts, schools function as competitive entities, families compete for voucher money and limited spots in charter schools, and teachers work against one another to receive paltry raises.

When I worked as a high school English teacher in North Carolina, I experienced this reality firsthand. As I discuss in my article, in 2014 I joined a campaign to push back against policies that sought to inject competition into schools and pit teacher against teacher. Through a statewide effort, teachers and other activists fought to replace notions of competition and individualism with collaboration and collectivism.

It is important to note that the competitive and individualistic reality we struggled against did not manifest by chance. Rather, it resulted from neoliberalism, the dominant social, economic, and political ideology of our time. Neoliberals believe that the logic of the market should dominate all aspects of our lives, and they seek to create an educational system that mirrors the corporate world.

While neoliberalism is certainly not new, and its effects have been apparent in the educational realm for some time, neoliberal notions of competition and individualism now have an unprecedented level of political support and threaten to become the new normal. In the present moment, it may be more important than ever before to step forward and dissent. I hope this message serves as an invitation to do so.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through January 31, 2019.

 

References

Carey, K. (2017, February 23). Dismal voucher results surprise researchers as DeVos era begins. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html

DeVos, B. (2017, September 28). Prepared remarks by Secretary DeVos to JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School. Retrieved from https://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/prepared-remarks-secretary-devos-jfk-jr-forum-harvard-kennedy-school

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.

Strauss, V., & Burris, C. (2017, July 26). NAACP sticks by its call for charter school moratorium, says they are ‘not a substitute’ for traditional public schools. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/07/26/naacp-report-charter-schools-not-a-substitute-for-traditional-public-schools-and-many-need-reform/?utm_term=.5f179b7ef7f7