Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bishop (1989) - Incentives for learning

Bishop, J. (1989). Incentives for learning: Why American high school students compare so poorly to their counterparts overseas. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. [PDF]

In the US, by contrast, credentials signifying time spent in school are well rewarded but most students realize few benefits from studying hard while in school. (p.3)

Admission to selective colleges is not based on an absolute or external standard of achievement in high school subjects. It is based instead on aptitude tests which do not assess the high school curriculum and on such measures of student performance as class rank and grade point averages, which are defined relative to classmates' performances not relative to an external standard in the way scout merit badges or the English '0' level exams are.

The peer group actively discourages academic effort because studying hard shifts the grading curve up and makes it harder for classmates.

Parents do not demand higher standards because this will not improve their child's GPA, rank in class or SAT score and it would put at risk what is really important--the diploma.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beijaard 2004 - Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity

Beijaard, D., Meijer, P.C., and Verloop, N. (2004). Reconsidering research on teachers’ professional identity. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20. 107-128. [pdf]

Erikson: identity is not something one has, but something that develops during one’s whole life

Mead: the self is developed through transactions with the environment; the self can arise only in a social setting where there is social communication; in communicating we learn to assume the roles of others and monitor our actions accordingly.

Professional identity refers not only to the influence of the conceptions and expections of other people, including broadly accepted images in society about what a teacher should knowand do, but also to what teachers themselves find important in their professional work and lives based on both their experiences in practice and their personal backgrounds (Tickle, 2000).

Professional identity is not a stable entity; it cannot be interpreted as fixed or unitary (Coldron & Smith, 1999). It is a complex and dynamic equilibrium where professional self-image is balanced with a variety of roles teachers feel that they have to play (Volkmann & Anderson, 1998). In this context, Coldron and Smith (1999) pointed to the tension between agency (the personal dimension in teaching) and structure (the socially 'given').

Connelly and Clandinin (1999) referred to professional identity in terms of ‘stories to live by’. A story to live by, according to the authors, provides a narrative thread or story-line that educators drawon to make sense of themselves and their practice. 'Stories to live by' is a way to conceptually bring together a teacher’s personal practical knowledge, his or her professional knowledge landscape, and identity (see also Clandinin, 2003).

Features of professional identity:
1. Professional identity is an ongoing process of interpretation and re-interpretation of experiences (Kerby, 1991)
2. Professional identity implies both person and context.
3. A teacher’s professional identity consists of subidentities that more or less harmonize.
4. Agency is an important element of professional identity, meaning that teachers have to be active in the process of professional development (Coldron & Smith, 1999). In addition, it can be argued that professional identity is not something teachers have, but something they use in order to make sense of themselves as teachers. The way they explain and justify things in relation to other people and contexts expresses, as it were, their professional identity (Coldron & Smith, 1999).

A cognitive perspective underlies most studies on teachers’ professional identity. From this perspective, the research results are based on written or verbal data collected from the teachers (e.g., portfolios and interviews). Understanding these data is only possible when data is also available about the teachers’ contexts from a more sociological perspective, e.g., gained through (participant) observation and analysis of school documents and student materials.

Furthermore, a teacher’s biography is important for professional identity formation (e.g., Knowles, 1992; Sugrue, 1997). In the literature on teachers and teaching, 'biography’ seems to imply a perspective of its own, with the emphasis on life histories (Goodson, 1992; Kelchtermans, 1994). Life histories are not just 'life stories', but stories that are embedded in a socio-historical context.

The cognitive and the biographical perspectives on professional identity formation are both characterized by a narrative research approach. This cannot be said about the sociological perspective, though it is implied in the biographical perspective. In view of professional identity formation, we feel that more clarity is needed about these perspectives that can possibly be combined in research on teachers' professional identity.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Naturalistic Paradigm - Moschkovich & Brenner (2000)

Moschkovich, J.N. & Brenner, M.E. (2000). Integrating A Naturalistic Paradigm Into Research on Mathematics and Science Cognition and Learning. Chapter 17 in Handbook of Research Designs in Mathematics and Science Education. Mahwah, NJ: LEA

Naturalistic Paradigm Principles -

Principle 1: It Is Essential to Consider Multiple Points of View of Events
Principle 2: It Is Useful to Connect Theory Verification and Theory Generation
Principle 3: It Is Important to Study Cognitive Activity in Context

Friday, May 6, 2011

Teaching English language learners in the content areas - Janzen 2008

Janzen, J. (2008). Teaching English language learners in the content areas. Review of Educational Research , 78 (4), 1010-1038.
ABSTRACT: This review examines current research on teaching English Language Learners (ELLs) in four content area subjects: history, math, English, and science. The following topics are examined in each content area: The linguistic, cognitive, and sociocultural features of academic literacy and how this literacy can be taught; general investigations of teaching; and professional development or teacher education issues. The article summarizes key findings in the literature, examining trends and discontinuities across the different content areas, and concludes with implications for teaching and suggestions for further research.
Social studies/history
Through linguistic analysis, Schleppegrell and her colleagues demonstrate that reading and writing in history make unique demands on students in general, and that the language of history textbooks can be very difficult for ELLs in particular. The authors recommend that social studies teachers explicitly teach their students the grammatical features of history language to develop learner proficiency in reading and writing.
Reppen (1994/1995) examined a fifth-grade social studies classroom in which students were taught multiple genres (narrative, description, persuasion, and exposition) through a combination of teacher modeling, explicit teaching about the language and structure of individual genres, and joint construction of texts. Reppen states that several types of assessment demonstrated that this approach produced positive change in terms of student content knowledge, writing proficiency, and attitudes toward social studies learning.
Zwiers (2006) emphasizes students’ functional use of academic language in history. His techniques include word walls that focus on different types of language and hand motions and chants to solidify student memory of specific vocabulary. Zwiers provides evidence that suggests his approach had positive effects: For example, in their final papers, students used academic language that they had encountered in class.

A research review of the features of mathematics language (Schleppegrell, 2007) outlines a range of challenges that math can present in SFL [systemic functional linguistics] terms. These features include the use of more than one semiotic system (symbolic notation, visual displays such as graphs, written and spoken language); technical vocabulary; and grammatical features including complex noun phrases. Schleppegrell suggests that a focus on language is critical for student learning in the classroom, that both students and teachers should use math language, and that instruction should assist students to move from everyday language to the more formal register of math.
In one article focused solely on language issues, Ron (1999) observes that the language of math and the language of everyday life can overlap, but that math language is used to express concepts that are not necessary or important in everyday usage. Additionally, mathematics may require specialized meanings for words. She points out that one of the challenges for ELLs in learning mathematical language is that it can only be acquired in school and not through conversational interaction.
In a study of an effective bilingual fifth grade teacher, Khisty and Viego (1999) describe several teaching practices that promote mathematical thinking, among them the teacher’s consistent and clear use of math terminology combined with the teacher’s requirement that students use math language in the same way. This behavior is in contrast to other contexts observed by Khisty , in which teachers’ use of math language was confusing or unhelpful.
Some of the articles reviewed recommend that teachers should pay attention to classroom interaction and should give students opportunities to talk their way through problems or make verbal explanations of their reasoning. When teachers require oral language use, students can discover alternate approaches to problem solving, and teachers can become more aware of what their students know or don’t know. (Basurto, 1999; Bresser, 2003; Buchanan & Helman, 1997; Garrison, 1997; H. Lee & Jung, 2004; Secada, 1998; Tevebaugh, 1998; Torres-Velasquez & Lobo, 2004/2005).
Several of the articles reviewed recommend that teachers use students’ knowledge or interests to make connections to the math curriculum; alternatively, the authors claim that math studies are more meaningful if they are linked to other content areas (Basurto, 1999; Buchanan & Helman, 1997; Garrison, 1997; Tevebaugh, 1998; Torres-Velasquez & Lobo, 2004/2005).

Fradd and Lee have trained teachers to implement instructional congruence in elementary school classrooms, and evaluations of this aspect of the project indicate that instructional congruence has a positive effect on student performance (Cuevas, Lee, Hart, & Deaktor, 2005; Fradd, Lee, Sutman, & Saxton, 2001; O. Lee, Deaktor, Hart, Cuevas, & Enders, 2005). In instructional congruence, students are prepared to succeed according to the standards of the science discipline, but for learning to take place, meaningful connections must be made to the knowledge, perspectives, and behavior students bring to the classroom.
Gibbons (2003) states that use of the checklist and discussion of it with the teachers being observed increased the teachers’ use of desired instructional strategies.
Fradd and Lee’s research on teaching in elementary science classrooms has also included a teacher education component. To assist teachers in incorporating instructional congruence in their classrooms, the researchers developed instructional units that include hands-on activities and discussion (Fradd et al., 2001). The authors incorporated teacher feedback in the design of these units, and teachers were taught to use them through a cycle of workshops, school-site meetings, and focused conversations. Several studies measured change in teacher belief and practices, two over the course of 1 year (Hart & Lee, 2003; Luykx, Cuevas, Lambert, & Lee, 2005), the other over the course of 3 years (Lee, 2004). The studies found positive changes in terms of teachers’ effectiveness at promoting literacy skills and student understanding of science content, their greater acceptance of students’ home languages and cultures, and their utilization of instructional congruence in the classroom. However, the authors also note that teachers require extensive support in changing their practices and that the change takes a great deal of time.

Regarding professional development -- Several researchers have suggested that teachers need extended time for professional development so that they can achieve a variety of objectives: (a) learn about the language of their discipline in depth, (b) become accustomed to integrating language and content instruction, (c) understand their attitudes toward cultural diversity and their assumptions about ELLs, and (d) successfully adapt the knowledge base they acquired in training to actual teaching.
A further challenge in the area of professional development is that content-area teachers do not necessarily have either defined obligations or opportunities to learn about working with ELLs. In school settings, mechanisms may not exist for content-area teachers to receive training, and, even when training occurs, teachers may not implement the accommodations they have learned about, as one investigation found (Brown & Bentley, 2004). Power differentials and different disciplinary epistemologies also prevent meaningful in-service cooperation between ESOL and content-area teachers (Arkoudis, 2003; Creese, 2002), to the detriment of the students being served.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Secret, sacred and cover stories - Clandinin and Connelly (1995)

Clandinin, D.J. and Connelly, M. (1995). Teachers’ professional knowledge landscapes. New York: Teachers College Press. Chapter 1. Secret, sacred and cover stories

How is the embodied, narrative, relational knowledge teachers carry shaped by their professional knowledge context?

Personal-practical knowledge: practice, intellectual acts, self-exploration; a practitioners' way of knowing their school and classroom, and as the determining influence on practice

C&C understanding of teacher knowledge is a narrative one; teachers know their lives in terms of stories.

Stories of practice tend to be "secret stories" told only to other teachers in secret places

Teachers tell "cover stories" in which they portray themselves as characters who are certain, expert people.

Sacred stories have their basis in theories that are unquestioningly thought to lead practice. They are "elusive expressions of stories that cannot be fully and directly told, because they [...] lie too deep in the consciousness of the people"

Cover stories are told by teachers outside their classroom in order to prove their competence and hide any uncertainties.

Secret stories are the stories teachers live out in the safety of their classroom. They are only told to others in safe places where teachers do not feel they have to defend themselves.

Coldron and Smith (1999) Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional identities

Coldron, J. and Smith R. (1999). Active location in teachers’ construction of their professional identities. Journal of Curriculum Studies. (31)6, 711-726. [link]


  • Identity as a teacher is partly given and partly achieved by active location in social space.
  • Social space is an array of possible relations that one person can have to others. Some of these relations are conferred by inherited social structures and categorizations and some are chosen or created by the individual.
  • Sets of practices (traditions) convey possibilities within social space.
  • The development of a teacher’s professional identity is largely dependent on the quality and availability of these varied factors.
  • Craft, scientific, moral and artistic traditions are four traditions that are significant in educational practice.

Identity should be seen as something that we use to justify, explain and make sense of ourselves in relation to other people, and to the context in which we operate (p712)

Traditions are repositories of possible or actual practices and structures (p713)

Traditions and practices are the means by which we become ourselves (p714)

Traditions and practices have an associated community. In various formal and informal ways members act as custodians of the tradition and determine judgements of quality. They also contribute to the tradition, transmitting and reshaping it.

C&S propose that we think of biography as a mixture of social biography and personal biography

Structure is used here to denote relatively intractable social constructs, including cognitive frameworks and affective templates as well as institutional practices. p715

An individual teacher’s choice is crucially determined by the array of possibilities he or she perceives as available.

C&S consider teachers as craftspersons in so far as they plan actions aimed at achieving a pre-determined end, the success of which depends on their spontaneous responses to contextual factors and on the exercise of acquirable skills.

Teaching requires moral judgements in at least three areas. First, each teacher has to evaluate what he or she is asked to do. Second, there are customs and habits that insidiously become part of a teacher’s practice as a result of the institutional culture of which he or she is a part. Third, despite the increasing external influences, many choices are exercised in the classroom and those choices have moral dimensions.

C&S contend that teachers generate additional resources through aesthetic response to professional experience - a particular example of how people in general create personal meaning of great significance for their actions and identity. It is a process that corresponds to the way artists create new resources in relation to existing discourses.

Conclusion and implications

  • Teaching requires mature practitioners who are active participants in a rich array of educational traditions
  • Teachers need to become aware of the plurality of approaches and ways of doing things
  • Teacher educators and others interested in encouraging continuing professional development should strive to engage teachers with this range of resources

Holland et al. (1998) Identity and agency in cultural worlds

Holland, D., Lachiocotte, W., Skinner, D. and Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

+ People tell others who they are, but even more important, they tell themselves and then try to act as though they are who they say they are. These self-understandings, especially those with strong emotional resonance for the teller, are what we refer to as identities (p. 3)
+ They emphasize that identities are improvised (p4)
+ A key premise is that indentities are lived in and through activity and so must be conceptualized as they develop in social practice (p5)
+ Holland et al. conceive of persons as composites of many, often contradictory, self-understandings and identities
+ The culturalist position emphasizes that people's actions are driven by internalized cultural logic; e.g., how one speaks (saying "please" when asking for favors) as reflecting precepts learned in childhood about conducting oneself as a moral person
+ The constructivist position emphasizes the social positioning that goes on whenever people interact (i.e., it depends on maneuverings, negotiations, etc., of relations of status and entitlement)
+ Dialogic perspectives (e.g., Bakhtin) claim that individuals and groups can hold more than one perspective at the same time
+ "egocentric contractual" and "sociocentric organic" concepts of the person. "egocentric contractual" - "Western" perspective that social relationships are viewed as derivative of the autonomous and abstracted individual. "sociocentric organic" - non-Western, context dependent, concrete, and socially defined (p21)
+ social constructivists emphasize that our communications with one another not only convey messages but always make claims about who we are relative to one another and the nature of our relationships (p26)
+ Old debate: is there an essential self - a durable organization of mind/body?
+ Practice theory of the self: (1) culturally and socially constructed discourses and practices' (2) the self is treated as always embedded in (social) practice; (3) sites of the self - loci of self-production or self-process (p.28)
+ Codevelopment - the linked development of people, cultural forms, and social positions in particular historical worlds
+ Activity systems - p38

+ Holland et al. believe identify formation must be understood as the heuristic codevelopment of cultural media and forms of identity p45

Urrieta (2007): According to Holland et al. figured worlds have four characteristics:
(1) Figured worlds are cultural phenomenon to which people are recruited, or into which people enter, and that develop through the work of their participants.
(2) Figured worlds function as contexts of meaning within which social encounters have significance and people's positions matter. Activities relevant to these worlds take meaning from them and are situated in particular times and places.
(3) Figured worlds are socially organized and reproduced, which means that in them people are sorted and learn to relate to each other in different ways.
(4) Figured worlds distribute people by relating them to landscapes of action; thus activities related to the worlds are populated by familiar social types and host to individual senses of self.

Brad: Figured worlds are constellations of interpretations, resources, encouragements to action, social history, possible actions, particular realitites, etc.

Figured worlds are socially situated, and are "peopled by the figures, characters, and types who carry out its tasks and who also have styles of interacting within, distinguishable perspectives on, and orientations towards it" (p. 51).

Old debate: agency vs. structure (a.k.a. free will vs. determinism)
New: examining how people create the structures that influence people's actions, perceptions, beliefs, etc., which then reinforce or change structures, and so on, in a dialectic relationship (dynamic interaction)