Reflective Practice
I am an educator with the Western Quebec School Board and a phd candidate at the University of Ottawa. This blog is a depository for many of my resources and a place to reflect on educational issues that interest me as an educator and parent. It is my hope that one day it will stimulate dialogue and be a place for educators to share ideas. Thank you for joining me on my reflective journey.

Journal #9- The final weeks

In my Epistemologies of Educational Research class, we were asked to keep a journal over the semester.  Initially, I was writing them privately, but have decided to post them to my blog to reflect the research journey I am on.  Although most journals are written as I engage with our required text:  The Research Journey- Introduction to Inquiry by Sharon F. Rallis and Gretchen B. Rossman (2012), this is my last entry for this class.

I can’t believe I am in the home stretch!  I don’t think I was even able to imagine this place from where I started this journey way back in September.  I know that I have many more twists and turns ahead of me, but at this moment it does feel good to be heading towards what Rallis and Rossman (2012) call ‘True North’.  For the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to engage with the research topics of my classmates through workshops and seminars.  It has been amazing to hear about their research process and witness how far we have all come in the past few months.  I chose to do a workshop to present my research process to my classmates and was pleased with the experience.  I used Hilda Taba’s Concept Formation (thanks Instructional Intelligence training!) to have participants engage with my conceptual framework and research design through an inductive thinking strategy.   After finally completing the OGS and SSHRC applications, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what I intend to do in my inquiry project and how I will accomplish it.  Trying to put all the important elements of the research and design into a workshop was both challenging and rewarding.  Once again, I am reminded about the importance of making my research engaging to others and always being able to answer the question, ‘So what?’

As a celebration of our journey together, our last class will be a carnival where invited guests will join us as we share our research through a creative means.   Through my journals, I have been reflecting on my perspective, epistemological assumptions and potential  biases that I bring to the research process.  In my research on the mentoring experience for mentors in the Western Quebec School Board, I feel it is paramount that the voice of the mentors is captured and shared.  Since most induction and mentoring research is focused on the new teachers and their experience, I want to explore what mentors in the WQSB experience and learn from the mentoring process.  The research questions that will guide me through this doctoral inquiry project are:  1) How do teachers transition into effective mentors? and 2) Does the mentoring experience transform a mentor’s professional practice and if so, how?

Although there have been few studies directly focusing on the mentors’ experience with mentoring, Moir and Bloom’s (2003) study on new teachers did reveal important insights into the mentoring experience for mentors.  It indicated that effective mentoring not only benefits new teachers, but has powerful benefits for veteran teachers in that it offers professional replenishment, contributes to the retention of the region’s best teachers and produces teacher leaders with the skills and passion to make lifelong teacher development central to school culture.  I want to hear from the mentors in the WQSB whether they also experience these benefits in their professional practice.  I also want to capture their voices in sharing the triumphs and struggles they’ve experienced as they transition from teacher to mentor.

Posted: November 24th, 2013 in journal, phd | No Comments »

Article Critique #3- Mentoring focused on one instructional strategy

Open Text- Week 8

 

Stanulis, R.N, Little, S. & Wibbens, E. (2012). Intensive mentoring that contributes to change in beginning elementary teachers’ learning to lead classroom discussions.  Teaching and Teacher Education. 28. p.32-43.

 

“Mentoring has gained popularity as an effective way to support beginning teachers during the induction year”(p.32).  Researchers argue whether an investment in mentoring will lead to increased teaching effectiveness and student learning (Feiman-Nemser, 2001; Hobson et al., 2009; Lofstrom & Eisenschmidt, 2009; Roehrig et al. 2008; Stanulis & Floden, 2009; Sundli, 2007).  Mentoring has been linked to professional growth, teacher retention, increased instructional repertoire, increased job satisfaction and greater student learning.  However, one concern that this article raises is that much of the international research on mentoring relies on mentors’ and beginning teachers’ perceptions of learning through interview or survey (Hobson et al, 2009).  In fact, there are no large-scale empirical studies of impact of teacher mentoring after one year of mentoring (p.32). In fact one experimental study in the US indicates that after one year there was no effect on improving classroom practices, which is problematic for mentoring and induction proponents. “Generic mentoring was not found to make a difference in changing practice; generic professional development has not been found to make a difference either”(p.32).  In order to be effective, studies show professional development must have key characteristics: extended time for opportunities to learn, a challenging of the status quo of teaching practices, time to work and learn in communities of practice, a focus on theory combined with practice and a clear link to student learning.  Similarly, mentoring must have structured professional development that targets a clear, ‘high-leverage’ practice linked with instructional quality (p.33).

The first year of teaching marks a critical phase in teaching; new teachers are not finished products that only need to refine skills they learned in teachers’ college.  “Targeted feedback can help novices develop ways of seeing and understanding complex ways of teaching by enacting specific practices with guided support”(p.34).  Although beginning teachers need to learn many things, they can benefit from developing one practice well rather then trying to fix everything in their teaching at once.  Mentoring has the power to do this, however, it is often focused on emotional support, managing the workload of teaching, and classroom management.  “Little is known about the direct impact of mentoring on developing teaching effectiveness in specific skills”(p.34).  This study argues that it makes sense for beginning teachers to focus on only one ‘high-leverage’ practice such as learning to lead classroom discussions. High-leverage is defined in this article as a practice that: a) occurs frequently in teaching; b) can be enacted across curricula; c) is something that beginning teachers can work to master; d) allows beginning teachers to learn about student understanding; e) recognizes the complexity of teaching; and f) has the potential to improve student achievement as a research-based practice.  Through purposeful mentoring support, beginning teachers can learn the distinct set of skills and knowledge needed to lead discussions for high-level thinking (p.34).

This mixed-methods quasi-experimental study by Stanulis, Little and Wibbens (2012) took place in a large high-poverty school district in the Southeastern United States and focused on 42 beginning elementary teachers in the treatment group and 41 beginning teachers as the control group.  They created an intervention (high level discussions) based on principles of instructional quality and effective professional development, and studied the effects of this intervention on the treatment group’s practice as it compared to the control group.  Whereas the treatment group had prepared, full-release mentors to support them with this intervention, the control group “received the district’s ‘standard’ mentoring program, which consisted of assigning a beginning teacher to a school-based mentor who was also a full-time teacher.  The district did not have a formal induction curriculum, no selection criteria for mentors, nor formal expectations for mentor preparation or mentoring activities”(p.35).  “[The study] relied on observations of teachers’ practice across one school year in order to collect empirical data about teacher growth”(p.33). Specifically, it examined whether mentoring focusing on one instructional strategy can have an effect on classroom practice and was guided by two basic principles: 1) Leading discussions is a high-leverage practice that beginning teachers need to learn to execute effectively; 2) Mentoring directed to a targeted practice will lead to increased effectiveness in this practice (p.33).  Learning theory guided the design of this study and it is framed by four key principles described in the article.  Instruction in schools should be: learner-centred (acknowledgement and value of student voice), knowledge-centered (teacher use of high levels of questioning leads students to a deeper understanding of content with higher rate of retention and transfer of learning), assessment-centered (higher-order questions facilitate formative and summative assessment), and community-centered (sense of collaboration and partnership with their teachers and peers in the classroom).

This study used quantitative data from an observation rubric to show that participation in the “mentoring program does make a significant contribution to instructional quality as measured by our instrument”(p.38). The survey analysis (qualitative data) provided further “insight into the ways in which beginning teachers reported that participation in the intensive mentoring program impacted changes in how they set up and used discussion in their classroom”(p.38).  The findings of this study indicate that: ”When a high-leverage practice is targeted, beginning teachers can learn to appropriate important knowledge and skills associated with a complex practice such as leading discussions early in their career.  In this way, induction is aligned with high-leverage practices associated with internationally recognized research on instructional quality”(p.40).  As stated by the study’s authors, there is further research needed to provide more evidence that discussion-oriented teaching produces certain student outcomes related to critical thinking and understanding.  Ultimately, this study was designed to research whether induction support through mentoring that is intensive and structured in a developmental sequence will help beginning teachers’ pedagogical needs.  Over the course of the year, through mentoring the treatment group improved in their ability to lead high-level class discussions.  “Typically mentors are provided little or no focused preparation on ways to support novices to develop high-leverage practices”(p.40). There are many questions that remain to be answered that the study poses:  Are there particular kinds of mentor actions that are more successful in changing beginning teacher practices than others?  If so, what qualities do the more effective mentors possess and what mentoring moves do they enact?  What elements of the school context could lead to increased changes in teaching practices?  Why and how are some beginning teachers more adaptive to teaching situations and contexts?  How does student learning improve as a result of discussion-based teaching?  These are great questions to guide my own research journey and there is an important lesson to take away from this study:  mentors need specific training in high-leverage instructional strategies in order to target these interventions with beginning teachers.  A structured plan and support program for the mentors to introduce a variety of these instructional strategies would be useful in all induction and mentoring programs.

As stated in the article, the facilitation of high-level discussions that promotes critical thinking is a core practice and it is situated within a particular type of instructional quality that is learner-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered and community-centered.  However, this study’s focus on one instructional strategy—beginning teachers learning to lead effective classroom discussion—does not take into consideration that there are many other instructional concepts and skills also at work, such as strong classroom management, building a safe and collaborative learning environment.  Surely, the mentor would be supporting the beginning teacher to establish these criteria before true high-level discussions could take place.  As well, this study indicates that by targeting the mentoring practice to one specific intervention, beginning teachers “did teach differently post-intervention when compared to a similar group of teachers who did not receive [the] intervention”(p.37).  I feel that there is also a missing discussion in this study on the implementation process of an instructional strategy.  There is evidence that the power of an instructional strategy develops as a teacher moves along the various Levels of Use (Hall and Hord, 2011) from level 0- non-use and moving to the top level of VI Renewal (0- Non-Use, 01 orientation, 0I preparation, III Mechanical, IVA Routine, IVB Refinement, V Integration, VI Renewal).  After one year, there will likely be significant variance between the teachers’ abilities to lead high-level class discussions and I would argue that similarly, the mentors would have varying levels of ability with the intervention which would ultimately affect their beginning teacher’s practice.  Another concern I have with this study is that the quantitative data focused only on the beginning teachers’ ability to lead high-level class discussions.  This is only one instructional strategy that will have an impact on student learning.  What if mentors from the control group focused on how to use graphic organizers in the classroom to increase student learning.  Of course, the beginning teachers would not perform as well on a rubric focused on classroom discussion, but they may in fact have equal success when it comes to student learning.  Since this article highlighted at the beginning the fact that the majority of mentoring research relies on mentors’ and beginning teachers’ perceptions of learning through interview or survey, I am critical of their use of an observational rubric focusing on teachers’ practice of leading class discussions rather than capturing student achievement data.  Ultimately, this is an area that needs much greater research in induction and mentoring research.

 

Hall, G.E., & Hord, S.M. (2011). Implementing change: Patterns, principles and potholes (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Posted: November 7th, 2013 in Article Critique, Open text, phd | No Comments »

Theoretical Notes #10- Language

Theoretical notes #10

Pennycook, A. (2004). Performativity and Language Studies. Critical Inquiry in Language Studies: An International Journal. 1(1), 1-19.

  • There is a crisis in the understanding of language which may give an important impetus to the development of language studies.
  • Consider languages themselves from an anti-foundationalist perspective, whereby language use is an act of identity that calls that language into being.  And performativity, particularly in its relationship to notions of performance, opens up ways to understand how languages, identities and futures are refashioned.

 

  • There is an over-determinded sense of linguistic fixity, with its long ties to colonialism and linguistics needs to be profoundly questioned.  The concept of language used by linguists was invented by European theorists to account for the diverse modes of articulation by different human groups, but for all the supposed relativism of the notion of languae, the concept’s model of totality, basically organic in structure, is no different from the nineteenth-century concepts it replaced. (p.2)
  • We need a set of relations that preserves the concept’s differential and relativist functions and that avoids the positing of cosmopolitan essences and human common denominators.
  • We need to: 1) transcend the disciplinary constraints imposed on us by linguistics and applied linguistics; 2) ‘disinvent’ language; 3) build a reconstructive program to find new ways of thinking about language.

Disciplining language

  • There is an entelechial assumption (a thing whose essence is fully realized) that languages are real objects waiting to be discovered.
  • Languages are not pregiven entities but rather are the products of the mode of study; and this process of forming languages is deeply embedded within colonial projects of knowledge formation.
  • Cohn (1996): “Europeans ‘took control by defining and classifying space, making separations between public and private spheres; by recording transactions such as the sale of property; by counting and classifying their populations, replacing religious institutions as the registrar of births, marriages and deaths; and by standardizing languages and scripts”(p.3)
  • Assumptions about languages as bounded territorial entities: an ideology of languages as separate, autonomous objects in the world, things that could be classified, arranged, and deployed as media of exchange

Disciplinarity

  • 1) Linguistics of Saussure is tied to “cultural constructions of colonialism” focusing on internal linguistics.
  • 2) Structuralist perspective that words did not represent objects, but rather were part of a self-contained system held in place by mutual agreement
  • Language was an objective fact and thus could be studied according to the same scientific principles as other objective domains of the real world.
  • 3) huge emphasis on the scientific nature of their enterprise and the need to establish for linguistic studies respectable academic status as a ‘science’.  Foucault: “What types of knowledge do you want to disqualify in the very instant of your demand ‘Is it a science?’”
  • linguistics disqualify: all those non-scientific, interpretive, exploratory, open-ended questions about language and life.
  • There is a particular arrogance about most linguists concerning what it is necessary to know about language, so that only those who ‘really know’ are regarded as having proper authority”
  • ARGUMENT: need to find ways of using linguistic knowledge within a broader paradigm of language studies.

Disinvention, reinvention and performativity

  • Harris: linguistics has profoundly misconstrued language through its myths about the autonomy, systematicity and rule-bound nature of language, its privileging of supposedly expert, scientific, linguistic knowledge over everyday understandings of language, its belief in the primacy of spoken language and the existence of homogeneous speech communities, and its belief in a telementational model of communication.
  • Hopper and Harris take issue with the assumption that languages or grammars have an ontological status prior to their emergence in communication
  • PENNYCOOK: interest in exploring how we can develop a more useful sense of language for the diverse contexts of applied linguist work: 1) no longer isolates language from other social behaviours and semotic systems, allowing for a broader approach to multimodality (integrated meaning-making practices). 2) develop an antifoundationalist view of language as an emergent property of social interaction and not a prior system tied to ethnicity, territory, birth, or nation.
  • ‘disinvent current notions of language in order to be able to reinvent them for use in a new politics of language studies”

Performativity

  • J.L. Austin’s Speech act theory & Performativity- think about language and identity, languages as entities, and language as part of transmodal performance
  • Butler: work on gender and identity
  • Performativity: can be understood as the way in which we perform acts of identity as an ongoing series of social and cultural performances rather than as the expression of a prior identity
  • The performative constitutes identity, and thus is a productive act, but also that what it constitutes is what it is purported to be, and thus it is involved in a form of circular, self-producing activity. 2) this process of self-production is by no means a question of free-willed choice to take up some form of identity or another but rather occurs within a “highly rigid regulatory frame”(p.8)

Performative speech acts

  • Austin: Constatives: describe a state of affairs; Performatives: accomplish something.  Significance of performatives as that they were not boiund by truth conditions but rather could succeed or not succeed, their success depending on contextual factors such as following the conventional procedure, the right words being uttered by the right people in the right circumstances, and the whole having the right effect.

Performativity, power, iteration, identity

  • How is it that language can function as a form of social activity, achieving different effects, causing people to act, bringing multiple reactions?
  • The idea of how we do things with words: discourse in poststructuralism
  • Derrida: objected to the serious/nonserious distinction, seeing it as too closely linked to notions of intention and presence, and further raised the question of originality in writing.
  • Habermas: a principal fault with the post-Cartesian philosophy of consciousness on which much critical theory rested was the reliance on instrumental reason presupposed by the concept of a subject isolated from other subjects and a material world.  Set out to understand how a relationship to the world was intersubjectively established and how the communicative function of language was central to this process.
  • Habermas: emphasis on a normative version of language use as essentially for the purpose of communication and the realization of rational understanding reduces this use of the performative into little more than the grounds for achieving rational consensus.
  • Bourdieu: performative utterances must always fail if the speaker does not have the institutional power to speak
  • Butler: language should not be seen as “a static and closed system whose utterances are functionally secured in advance by the ‘social positions’ to which they are mimetically related”(p.12)
  • While Bourdieu usefully shows that both the linguistic and the Critical Theory (Habermas) approaches to performativity fail to conceptualize the local contingencies of power that enable a performative to work, Butler shows that this implies a static vision of the relationship between language and the social, by which power in language is determined only by prior power in the social domain.
  • We need, therefore, to have a theory of how social transformation operates through linguistic use rather than seeing all language use as mirroring the social.  The performative, then, is “not merely an act used by a pregiven subject, but is one of the powerful and insidious ways in which subjects are called into social being, inaugurated into sociality by a variety of diffuse and powerful interpellations”(p.13)

How to do identity with words

  • Performativity: We are able to go beyond the language/society divide that Bourdieu perpetuates; we are able to see how social subjects are constituted; and we can see how the sedimented intepellation of the subject produces performative effects.
  • Poststructuralist point of view, the subject is produced in discourse- the production of identity in the doing.

Doing language with words

  • Understand how we constitute linguistic and cultural identities through the performance of acts of identity.
  • Hopper:  grammar is simply the name for certain categories of observed repetitions in discourse; “there is no natural fixed structure to language.  Rather, speakers borrow heavily from their previous experiences of communication in similar circumstances, on similar topics, and with similar interlocutors”(p.14)
  • It is actually a result of the repeated layering of acts that purport to correspond to an identity but actually produce it in the doing
  • Bakhtin: all language use carries histories of its former uses with it.  This challenges the centrality of competence over performance (the ways in which in the doing it does that which it purports to be)
  • Languages are no more pregiven entities that preexist our linguistic performances than are gendered or ethnic identities.  Rather they are the sedimented products of repeated acts of identity.

Refashioning ourselves with words

  • This notion of performance can open up our understanding of language as a transmodal performance.
  • We need to be cautious not to suggest that language is merely a site of identity performance.  Thus, while it is useful to view language and identity as interrelated acts, we should also try to avoid a view that suggests that they are acts that we can easily choose.  Paraphrasing Butler: Fashioning language and identity implies a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance.
  • Performance in the sense it is being used here provides the way of seeing agency in the refashioning of the self, going beyond a notion of the original and mimicry to include parody and appropriation.
  • Such a view of language in terms of performativity, helps us to see how subjectivities are called into being and sedimented over time through regulated language acts.  Ground for considering languages themselves from an anti-foundationalist perspective, whereby language use is an act of identity that calls that language into being.  Performativity: opens up ways to understand how languages, identities and futures are refashione.d

 

Posted: November 7th, 2013 in phd, theoretical notes | No Comments »

Journal 8- Week 8

In my epistemology class, we are being asked to keep a journal over the weeks of this semester.  Initially, I was writing them privately, but have decided to post them to my blog to reflect the research journey I am on.  For the most part, the journals are written as I engage with our required text:  The Research Journey- Introduction to Inquiry by Sharon F. Rallis and Gretchen B. Rossman (2012).  This journal focuses on chapter 6.

There is an important connection between the conceptual framework and the design (the what and how).  As I begin to develop my inquiry project, I am starting with the conceptual framework and moving to the design- which may actually modify my conceptual framework!  An important note stressed in the reading: “the overall logic and approach to a study should not be driven by methods; it should be driven by the conceptual framework and research questions”(p.114).  For now, my two research questions are: 1) How do teachers transition into effective mentors? and 2) How does the mentoring experience impact the mentor’s professional practice?  By focusing on the mentor’s experience, the conceptual framework of adult experiential learning seems appropriate.  I will use Dewey’s (1938) 3 principles that govern our life: continuity, interaction and reflection.  With mentoring, these principles are definitely at play as I explore how veteran teachers transition into mentoring (continuity), and their experience with mentoring: how they interact with new teachers, other mentors, students and their school community (interaction) and how they reflect on the mentoring experience as required by the CMP (reflection).  The realm of adult development theory is quite complex and there are different approaches to it, however, Malcolm Knowles’ theory of ‘andragogy’ and its 6 principles [1)the learner’s need to know, 2)self-concept of the learner, 3)prior experience of the learner,4) readiness to learn, 5)orientation to learning, 6)motivation to learn] is a good starting place.  In this way, the questions, in practice, provide the bridge between the conceptual framework and the design (p.115)

Along all stages of the inquiry project, I must remain clear about my purpose (goal, aim, guide, intention).  At this moment my purpose is to explore and describe the mentoring experience for mentors in order to inform the current practice at the WQSB.  As such, the case study design where I will study the CMP at the WQSB in depth is useful because it is “intended to capture complexity and context; their often open-ended nature encourages the inquirer to ask about what is not yet known or obvious”(p.123).

Posted: November 6th, 2013 in journal, phd | No Comments »

Open Text #6- Teacher mentoring and evaluation

Open Text – week 7

Darling-Hammond, Linda (2013)  When Teachers Support and Evaluate their Peers.  Educational Leadership 71(2).p.24-29

Future reading:  Darling-Hammond, Linda. (2013)  Getting Teacher Evaluation Right: What really Matters for Effectiveness and Improvement (Teachers College Press); The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar (Jossey-Bass, 2013)

Key notes from article:

  • Focus of the magazine is on teacher leadership which connects to the practice of teacher mentoring
  • Historical failings of teacher evaluation system: Reliance on the school principal alone as the person expected to observe teachers, mentor beginners, coach those who need help, document concerns and support processes for those who struggle, and make the final call on whether to recommend dismissal based on the assembled record.
  • Peer Assistance and review (PAR) programs that rely on highly expert mentor teachers to conduct some aspects of the evaluation and assist teachers who need it.  Demonstrates (over 30 years) that “it’s possible to evaluate teachers rigorously, support them intensely, and make personnel decisions effecively.p.24
  • Union leader Dal Lawrence (1980): proposed a program to the Toledo Public School District to better mentor and induct new teachers into the profession.  The program also provided intensive support to veteran teachers who struggled.
  • Success: identifying teachers for continuation and tenure as well as those needing intensive assistance and personnel action.
  • These systems- collaborations between unions and school boards- build in due process and assistance for teachers placed in intervention.  They have proven more effective than traditional evaluation systems at both improving teaching and making effective and timely personnel decisions.
  • Center for Teaching Quality- benefits of peer evaluation: “key to strengthening [teacher evaluation] will be to involve more classroom teachers in the process of reviewing their colleagues…1) good teachers know content and how to teach it..2-administrators are overburdened with many complex issues that only they can address..3)any effective teacher evaluation system will need to be closely connected to other elements of teacher development from pre-service [to] induction [to] professional development in working communities of teaching professionals”(p.25)
  • PAR has 2 features: 1) the expertise of consulting teachers, skilled teachers who have been released from some classroom teaching responsibilities to serve as mentors who support fellow teachers in the same subject areas and grade levels; and 2) a system of due process and review that involves a panel of both teachers and administrators who recommend personnel decisions based on evidence from the evaluations (p.26)
  • Internal review board is made up of 9 members- 5 teachers, 4 admin who oversee the program.
  • Governing body is responsible for overseeing the work of the mentor teachers as well as evaluating accumulated evidence on a participating teacher and making final tenure and employment recommendations to the superintendent of schools.
  • Consulting teachers: 5 years of teaching experience; intensive selection process that includes classroom observations, interviews, a review of their teaching evaluations, and recommendations from peers and administrators.  Toledo: They are employed full-time to support 10 novice or struggling teachers over the course of an intervention or mentorship period.  They serve up to 3 years before returning to the classroom, and they’re paid an annual stipend of $5,000-$7,000

Support & Evaluation:

  • Consulting teachers design a support, intervention, and improvement plan based on the needs of each teacher.  5 domains: planning an designing instruction, instruction, classroom management, assessment, and professional development.  Mentors assist with lesson planning, share resources, observe in classrooms, and provide feedback on classroom management and instructional practices.
  • Struggling experienced teachers: intensive guidance and direction, including helping the teachers design and implement individualized improvement plans.  Periodic reports to governance board.

Program Effects:

  • Retention rates for beginning teachers have increased significantly and that those who leave are primarily those the district doesn’t renew rather than candidates who become disenchanted with teaching.
  • Many improve sufficiently to be removed from intervention status, and typically 1/3 to ½ leave on their own or by district request.  Because teacher associations collaborate in creating and administering the programs and due process is built into the design of the model, there are no extended legal proceedings when a teacher is dismissed.

PAR in action:

  • Primary goal was not to get rid of bad teachers but to further develop good ones.
  • “Today we have better trained teachers who are used to reflecting on their practice and talking about pedagogy.  We want evaluation to make sense for them”
  • Existing induction program called Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment (BTSA)

What the Research Found

  • Historically, about 2/3 of veterans identified for intervention improve substantially and successfully complete the program; about 1/3 resign or are dismissed.  Among beginning teachers, about 20 percent are not renewed.
  • Success of the program in both building competence and weeding out poor performers at the beginning of their careers has helped raise the overall quality of practice in the district.
  • Both consulting teachers and mentees report that they became better teachers as a result of their careful analysis of and work on practice.  Thus, relatively few teachers are identified as struggling later in their careers.
  • It combines the mentoring and evaluation functions that are sometimes kept separate in district evaluation systems: Poway: we are also responsible for evaluation of first-year teachers.  So we observe and conference, we support teachers, but our evaluations are not confidential…People ask, ”How can you do both support and evaluation?”…95 percent of the teachers I have worked with have forgotten that I am their evaluator by Thanksgiving…I am there to support them…Permanent Teacher Intervention Program: The teacher receives assistance from a teacher consultant much like the new teacher does in the induction program.  In this program, the principal remains the evaluator and the teacher consultant reports progress to the principal and the governance board”(p.27-28)

What Consulting Teachers Do:

  • Consulting teachers are carefully chosen by the governance board and the program director on the basis of their teaching ability, coaching and communication skills, and leadership ability
  • San Juan & Poway: Consulting teachers serve for 1 to 4 years before rotating back into the classroom.  The governance board evaluates their work by reviewing their reports and presentations and can terminate their appointment at any time if there are concerns about performance.
  • The consulting teachers participate in targeted professional development and in a regular problem-solving group with peers
  • Provide extraordinary amount of support for instructiona dn evaluation, both for the teachers with whom they work diretily and often for other teachers in the district.  They not only observe in the classroom and give feedback, often videotaping or scripting the lessons so there’s a record of practice, but also work with the teachers to develop lessons, assignments, classroom management systems, and grading systems.  They help select curriculum materials, model lessons, and analyze student work in conjunction with the participating teacher.  They lead professional development events and also attend various events with the teachers so they can provide follow-up coaching.  During this period, they document the teacher’s progress both as a learning tool for the teacher and as part of the due process that accompanies evaluation.

What is in the documentation:

  • A detailed improvement plan; detailed logs of each observation and conference with the participating teacher; meeting notes, email correspondence, sample lesson plans, and other supporting evidence; summary reports that the consulting teacher produces every two months for the governance board.
  • Records, which detail the focus on improving teachers’ practice as much as documenting teacher strengths and weaknesses, are a record for advice and counsel and the source of the governance board’s later review.

Teacher Leadership: The Essential Ingredient:

  • Teacher leadership is essential to productive teacher evaluation that supports growth in practice.  Teachers grow their practice through effective professional learning and coaching, and through the kind of communal engagement in sustained work on instruction over time that PAR offers.
  • Everyone develops shared standards of practice and a collective perspective on how to improve the work.
  • Engaging expert teachers- can help districts build systems that link evaluation, professional development, and collegial learning- and can help develop a teaching profession that retains talent and continually expands teachers’ individual and collective expertise.

 

CRITIQUE & implications for WQSB:

  • Must have collaboration with Union
  • How do you get enough teachers to exit teaching in the classroom to perform job after 5 years?  Is removing them from the classroom a good idea?
  • Great for struggling teachers- what do we have in place now?  Are they open to being part of this?  Is Union on board?
  • Separation between evaluation and support for experienced teachers but not new teachers.  Would this fly?
  • Is there an APP for this- great to create one to keep notes/documentation for mentors.
  • Promote to administrators and then teachers?
  • Different governance board- not only Director of HR but a committee of teachers/admin…great idea!
  • In thesis: Need to talk about new teachers staying in the profession (figures) and quality improvement in the future years.  Talk with administration- survey? Questionnaire?
  • Get to CALIFORNIA- New Teacher Center and Accomplished California Teachers (ACT)
Posted: October 31st, 2013 in Open text, phd | No Comments »

Theoretical notes #9- In preparation for a guest lecture by Colin Evers

Theoretical notes #9

Evers, Colin and Lakomski, Gabriele (2013).  Methodological individualism, educational administration, and leadership.  Journal of Educational Administration and History.  45(2) p.159-173

  • The article argues for a more balanced approach to organizational functioning, one that involves both structures and individuals.
  • There are serious problems with leader-centric accounts which involve a commitment to methodological individualism: 1) it is logically difficult to describe individual actions without recourse to structures. 2) methodological individualism fosters a centralized mindset inviting the attribution of leadership where none may exist. 3) evidence for distributed cognition compromises leader-centrism. 4) administrative tasks themselves are often highly structured.
  • 1950-1980- systems theory provided the preferred model of organizational functioning, structural factors prevailed
  • 1980+ leadership has been increasingly invoked as the dominant explanatory category with transformational leadership one of the main sources driving organizational change. “a powerful capacity for transformational leadership is required for the successful transition to a system of self-managing schools”(Caldwell and Spinks)
  • rise of individualism at the expense of structural accounts which affects the kinds of policies that should be adopted to deal with the problem.
  • This leads to rewards and penalties for teachers and students…links teacher employment conditions, such as salary increments or retrenchments, to the learning outcomes they are thought to achieve.
  • Finland: it educational reforms are of a more structural kind…use of high salaries and high entry requirements, teaching is, culturally, a high status profession.  Teachers, as individuals, enjoy a high level of professional autonomy.  High level of income equality and almost all schools are government schools.
  • Strong international relationship between educational achievement and equality of income.
  • The activity of individuals, which is the central thesis of methodological individualism cannot give the full scope of what can be achieved through the action of individuals.

Individuals and structures

  • “There can be no sociology unless societies exist and…societies cannot exist if there are only individuals” (Durkheim= holism)
  • Social action is defined explicitly as being reducible to the actions, thoughts and beliefs of individuals (Weber- rational action) view of a science of society depends on the interpretation of the meaning of actions.  Even if we have high levels of regularity in social phenomena, explanation of social phenomena need to be cashed out in terms of the rational action of individuals.
  • School leaders= utility maximisers.
  • Social knowledge is not something held in the head of any one individual.
  • Decisions and behaviours occur within the context of knowledge of such social facts as organizational cultures, codified practices, normative standards, institutional goals, and distributed cognition.
  • Distinguish 2 types of methodological individualism: 1) ontological, claiming that the physical nature of an aggregate can be reduced to the physical nature of its component parts.  The ontology of a society is no more than the ontology of all its individual parts. 2) explanatory individualism

The regress problem

  • How we describe what individuals do
  • they might engage in social practices and if we try to reduce these practices to the actions of individuals a regress threatens.  These practices and a vast array of social practices based on institutional structures that include “money, marriage, governments, and property’ are partly constituted by collective intentionality that sometimes must take the form of language for its expression.  And collective intentionality is not a property of individuals.
  • Very existence as principals is constituted by social facts expressed in employment contracts and collective understandings, and their leadership role is partly constituted by contractual and conventional constraints on action, constraints whose specification includes the socially constituted definitions of teachers and other employees.  Leader-centric accounts of organisational functioning are not ignorant of the structures that define and sustain leadership.  The worry, rather, is that the emphasis on the leader as an individual can both bracket and discount the causal field in which organizational functioning occurs.

The centralized mind, emergence, and self-organisation

  • An epiphenomenon, an artefact of collective coordinated action that gives the appearance of leadership
  • ‘centralised mindset’- any pattern is presumed ot be created by someone or something.
  • Alternative leader-less view may be a better explanation of organizational functioning.
  • Central controller: result of initial, low level, context-bound, coordination and collaboration
  • Human brain is a spectacular example of de-centralisation
  • The concept of emergence: “very much a term of philosophical trade” and can mean “pretty much…whatever you want it to mean”
  • Emergent entities (properties or substances) ‘arise’ out of more fundamental entities and yet are ‘novel’ or ‘irreducible’ with respect to them.
  • Social phenomena have emerged out of individual action, methodological collectivists, or ‘collectivist emergentists’ reject the conclusion that collective phenomena are reducible to individual action.
  • Study of self-organising systems: aided by multi-agent modeling that addresses the issue of how collective behaviour emerges from, but is not reducible to individual action.
  • Emergence is above all a product of coupled, context-dependent interactions.  Nonlinear.  The behaviour of the overall system cannot be obtained by summing the behaviours of its constituent parts.  The whole is indeed more than the sum of its parts (Holland)
  • ‘strong” emergence: a ‘high level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are not deducible even in principle from truths in the low-level domain’ (Chalmers) Ex: the phenomenon of consciousness, as consciousness cannot be deduced from any number of physical facts.
  • ‘weak’ emergence: when the high-level phenomenon arises from the low-level domain, but truths concerning that phenomenon are unexpected given the principles governing the low-level domain…weak emergence is the phenomenon wherein complex, interesting high-level function is produced as a result of combining simple low-level mechanisms in simple ways (Chalmers)  Ex: boids and Game of Life where unexpected, novel behaviours emerged that could not have been predicted on the basis of the simple basic rules that first gave rise to them.
  • Non-linear complex systems as schools that are embedded in and responsive to social, political, economic, and other extraneous forces.
  • Leadership may be an epiphenomenon, the result of an emergent property of interacting individuals following organizational rules of interaction that require them to respond to certain aggregate features of the collective.

Distributed cognition

  • 2 key arguments against explanatory methodological individualism: 1) the difficulty in giving an aaccount of what individuals do that does not make use of structural concepts 2)  a) the behaviour of a colletive of rule-following individuals can give the appearance that someone is in charge of the collective but this is misleading- and an emergent property b) the formulation of these rules for individuals in a social, or organizational, collective will make use of structural terms.
  • Article makes 3rd argument: views of leadership, such as transformational leadership, or instructional leadership, that posit as central the requirement that these leaders provide cognitive leadership, such as intellectual stimulation, special problem-solving skills, or knowledge leadership in instructional matters: cognitive ‘scaffolding’ is embedded in various contexts.  What is an organization and how might it function: theory of distributed cognition and the extended mind (iphone example where a non-biological, technological device has become a cognitive extension of our mind)
  • The individual agent (teacher, admin) in carrying out their daily tasks which involve their knowledge and skills, is not sealed off from other such agents but is in fact enmeshed with them in a vast cognitive field that comprises all the other agents in the school and all manner of resources, both material and non-material.
  • QUESTION common complaint: Schools are underperforming in terms of student learning because of leaders’ failures to exercise leadership and/or teachers’ failures to teach effectively
  • There is a fluid and changing inter-relationship, both cognitive and material, that are characteristic of cognition in context.  The idea of the autonomous self that ‘owns’ its knowledge, a central assumption of methodological individualism, is illusion rather than reality.  Causality in teaching and learning is multi-directional rather than linear and is thus much harder to determine.
  • Distributed cognition perspective, the distinction between the individual and the collective or social- between agency and structure- is a difference in quality, dimension and complexity.  ‘Organisation’ in this vein can thus be understood as a formation of extended minds in the way described, characterised by fluid boundaries and intimately bound to and formed by the contexts in which they operate

Structured problems

  • Individual cognition is not only scaffolded by artefacts and the social nature of the division of cognitive labour across other individuals, groups, and societies.  It is scaffolded by the nature of cognitive tasks.
  • The very act of leading in social contexts is constituted by social structures and social facts.

Conclusion

  • Leader-centrism has transformed distributed leadership into influential models of teacher leadership where the same individualist assumptions are already feeding performance and accountability policies and practices.
  • Holistic approach to organizational functioning is required.
Posted: October 31st, 2013 in phd, theoretical notes | No Comments »

Journal 7- week 7

Journal #7- Week 7

After a not so relaxing reading week spent trying to cobble together a SSHRC and OGS program of study statement out of thin air, I am back in classes and reflecting on the research journey.  I feel like I have made leaps and bounds in terms of progress by going through the scholarship application process.  It is really firming up my dissertation framework (whether that remains in the next few years will be interesting to watch) and I notice how all course readings are viewed through a new lens: what does this mean for my research?  In class today we discussed the difference between a conceptual framework and a theoretical framework.  According to Rallis & Rossman, “Theory with a capital T refers to an accepted “set of assumptions, axioms, propositions, or definitions that form a coherent and unified description of a circumstance, situation or phenomenon”(p.91).  Both Theory and theories (that which can be viewed as a set of working understandings or hypothesis (p.90) contribute to a generative conceptual framework, one that can be considered foundational.  “Theory can provide perspective and suggest pattern, but it need not define what you can see”(Schram, qtd on p.91).  The conceptual framework connects the what with the how of the inquiry.  The what: what is already researched, what Theories inform your ideas, what are related concepts? And the how: dow do you make sure the design flows logically from this framework.  The metaphor of lens is useful here when talking about conceptual framework. and a great guiding question for the study:  What have you learned that you didn’t already know?

Speaking about ‘knowing’- in class we discussed the articles focused on memories.  Upon reflection, I see how it is important to be aware of the failures of our memory system as outlined in the readings and the impact this may have on the doctoral research process.  I am more aware of how my interviewees’ memory of events will affect the interview results as well as my own narrative development is affected by my memory. The workshop we experienced on “I remember” which had us brainstorming on what we remember using those 2 words as a starting point was an interesting way to see that episodic memories jump to mind and that the items we shared were not necessarily emotionally laden or something incredibly important to each of us.  I really enjoyed watching the Ted Talks with Elizabeth Loftus on the “Fiction of Memory”.  We had an engaging discussion on the ethics of planting false memories and really about doing experiments on human subjects for the ‘greater good’.  Not sure where I stand on this just yet- as I see the ethical problems, but also see how the experiments focused on planting false (and scary) memories (indeed a questionable practice) also has helped some people- especially innocent victims who were accused of committing a crime based on (false) witness testimony.  The brain is an amazing thing and I will need to be conscious of leading components in my interview questions, as well as my own perception of the mentoring experience in my doctoral work.

Key notes from the lesson:  the literature review can’t be just a description, but must be a critical analysis of the methodology people used- the way people arrive at their findings is just as important as their findings.  As well, how we organize a lit review is important- we may consider arranging the review in any of the following ways: historical or chronological, conceptual or thematic, pivotal moments, or methodological (ie. By the various methods used by researchers on the problem or issue) (Rallis & Rossman, p.106).  In terms of interviews, it is important to consider focusing on 4-6 people (decided by your committee) and I may want to consider the Siedman approach (90 minutes, time shared in advance) : 1) examine past; 2) present lived experience and 3) What was the meaning you assigned to past and present experience.

Since our research journey is focused on conceptual & Theoretical frameworks, I have a few more Theories to consider and have ordered Tara Fenwick’s (2003) Learning Through Experience: Troubling Orthodoxies and Intersecting Questions.  In particular I am looking seriously at experiential learning and the constructivist theory:  reflecting upon concrete experience and using Dewey (1938):  The 3 principles that govern our life:

1)    continuity (for every experience there is a story)

2)    Interaction- individual in a context/environment

3)    Reflection- decipher the quality of experience.

 

Posted: October 31st, 2013 in journal, phd | No Comments »

Theoretical notes #8- Memory

Schacter, D.  The Seven Sins of Memory: Insights from Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (1999).  American Psychologist 54(3) p.182-20.

  • 7 basic sins: First 3 relate to forgetting: transience (decreasing accessibility of information over time), absent-mindedness (inattentive or shallow processing that contributes to weak memories of ongoing events or forgetting to do things in the future), blocking (temporary inaccessibility of information that is stored in memory), Next 3 involve distortion or inaccuracy: misattribution (attributing a recollection or idea to the wrong source), suggestibility (memories that are implanted as a result of leading questions or comments during attempts to recall past experiences), bias (retrospective distortions and unconscious influences that are related ot current knowledge and beliefs), and pathological remembrances: persistence (information or events that we cannot forget, even though we wish we could)
  • The duality is memory’s “fragile power” but memory makes possible: a sense of personal history, knowledge of facts and concepts, and learning of complex skills.
  • Memory researchers have focused increasingly on developing experimental paradigms to explore illusory or false memories in which people confidently claim to recollect events that never happened (p.182)
  • There have been few attempts to systematically organize or classify the various ways in which memory can lead us astray and to assess the state of the scientific evidence concerning them.
  • Sins are byproducts of otherwise desirable features of human memory.

Transience

  • Retrieving and rehearsing experiences plays an important role in determining whether those experiences will be remembered and what aspects will be retained (184)
  • Working memory is necessary for holding information ‘on-line’ for brief periods of time
  • Short-term forgetting can result from a failure of rehearsal processes, storage processes or both

Absent-Mindedness

  • Can occur when an event or fact is initially well-encoded and remembered immediately and can occur even when we deliberately search memory in an attempt to recall a specific event or fact.
  • Absent-mindedness during encoding is a likely source of common everyday memory failures and occur when actions are carried out automatically and attention is focused elsewhere.
  • Change-blindness: people typically encode features of a scene at an extremely shallow level, recording the general gist of the scene but few of the specific details.
  • Absent-mindedness also occurs at the time of retrieval, when people may forget to carry out a particular task or function.
  • Event-based prospective memory tasks are externally cued, so forgetting tends to occur when a cue is not recognized.  Time-based prospective memory tasks, in contrast, depend more on generating appropriate cues at the time an intended action needs to be carried out.
  • Older adults often perform well on event-based prospective tasks and more poorly on time-based tasks.

Blocking

  • People are aware of blocking.  When blocking occurs at an inopportune moment under high stress it can be overwhelming (actors)
  • Blocking appears to be especially pronounced in old age- name retrieval failure

Misattribution

  • To an incorrect time, place or person.
  • One explanation is that people are relying on their memory for the general semantic features, or the ‘gist’ of the items studied.
  • “distinctiveness heuristic”- a mode of responding based on participants’ expectation that recognition of studied items should be accompanied by recollection of distinctive details.

Suggestibility

  • false memories can occur spontaneously when a current situation or test item is conceptually or perceptually similar to a previous one.  But such illusory memories may also occur in response to suggestions that are made when one is attempting to recall an experience that may or may not have occurred.  Suggestibility in memory refers to the tendency to incorporate information provided by others, such as misleading questions into one’s own recollections.
  • Misleading suggestions ‘overwrite’ the original memory
  • Damaging effects of suggestion on eyewitness testimony
  • Suggestive procedures can lead to the creation of subjectively compelling false recollections of autobiographical episodes in a substantial proportion of preschool children.
  • False memories:  experimenters cannot determine definitely whether a target event actually occurred and, hence, whether and to what extent a particular memory is ‘true’ or ‘false’.

Bias

  • Memory encoding and retrieval are highly dependent on, and influenced by, preexisting knowledge and beliefs.
  • Memories can be influenced and even distorted by current knowledge, beliefs, and expectations
  • Memories of past experiences may be colored by present mood and emotional state
  • Bias refers to the distorting influences of present knowledge, beliefs, and feelings on recollection of previous experiences.
  • Specific form that retrospective bias assumes is influenced by individuals’ implicit theories of whether or not they have changed over time with respect to what they are asked to remember.  When individuals believe it is likely that they have been stable over time, they will tend to overestimate the consistency between past attitudes and current ones….if they believe they have changed over time, they may be biased to overestimate differences between current and past attitudes.

Persistence

  • Involves remembering a fact or event that one would prefer to forget and is revealed by intrusive recollections of traumatic events, rumination over negative symptoms and events, and even by chronic fears and phobias.
  • Rebound effect: the initially suppressed item is subsequently produced at higher levels than are items for which no suppression instructions were given.
  • Persistence can be influenced by aspects of current mood and emotion.  Just as current feelings can distort recollections of past emotions, they can also increase the accessibility of memories whose affective tone is congruent with a current mood state.
  • Persistence of negative memories can be enhanced by ruminative tendencies in individuals with dysphoric moods.
  • Persisting overgeneral memories can be amplified by and also contribute to depressed mood, leading to a downward spiral that may culminate in suicide.
  • Conditioned fear responses that depend on the amygdala, once acquired, may be resistant to erasure over time and thus are in some sense indelible

Costs of an Adaptive System?

  • By-products of otherwise adaptive features of memory
  • Often useful and even necessary to forget information that is no longer current, such as old phone numbers or where we parked the car yesterday.
  • Forgetting over time reflects an adaptation to the structure of the environment
  • ‘memory’s sensitivity to statistical structure in the environment allows it to optimally estimate the odds that a memory trace will be needed”
  • If no blocking- would likely result in mass confusion produced by an incessant coming to mind of numerous competing traces.
  • Absent-minded errors occur in part because establishment of a rich memory representation that can later be recollected voluntarily requires attentive, elaborate encoding; events that receive minimal attention have little chance of being recollected subsequently.
  • Result would be a potentially overwhelming clutter of useless details.  Only those events that are important enough to warrant extensive encoding have a high likelihood of subsequent recollection.
  • Memory is adapted to retain information that is most likely to be needed in the environment in which it operates.
  • False recall and recognition often occur when people remember the semantic or perceptual gist of an experience but do not recall specific details.  Memroy for gist may also be fundamental to such abilities as categorization and comprehension and may facilitate the development of transfer and generalization across tasks.  Generalization “is central to our ability to act intelligently” and constitutes a foundation for cognitive development.
  • Bias: Schemas are especially important in guiding memory retrieval, promoting memory for schema-relevant information, and allowing us to develop accurate expectations of events that are likely to unfold in familiar settings on the basis of past experiences in those settings.
  • Distortions often serve to enhance appraisals of one’s current self and thus in some sense contribute to life satisfaction.
  • Persistence: a mechanism that increases the likelihood that we will retain information about arousing or traumatic events whose recollection may be crucial for survival.
  • Adaption:  evolutionary theory and involves a highly specific, technical definition of an adaption as a feature of a species that came into existence through the operation of natural selection because it in some way increased reproductive fitness.  The other is a more colloquial, nontechnical sense of the term that refers to a feature of an organism that has generally beneficial consequences, whether or not it arose directly in response to natural selection during the course of evolution.
  • Exaptations- useful functions arise as a consequence of other related features that are adaptations in the technical sense.
  • Transience as a genuine adaptation to the structure of the environment.  By contrast, misattributions involved in source memory confusions are clearly not adaptations, but are more likely by-products of adaptations and exaptations that have yielded a memory system that does not routinely preserve all the details required to specify the exact sources of an experience.  Similarly, false recall and recognition may be by-products of gist-based memory processes that themselves could have arisen either as adaptations or exaptations.
  • ‘spandrels’ is a type of exaptation that is a side consequence of a particular function that sometimes gets us into trouble.

Nelson, K. (1993). The Psychological and Social origins of Autobiographical memory.  American Psychological Society 4(1), p.7-14

  • It is important to distinguish between semantic and episodic memory and generic event memory, taking autobiographical memory as a subtype of episodic.
  • Generic event memory: provides a schema derived from experience that sketches the general outline of a familiar event without providing details of the specific time or place when such an event happened, whether once or many times (script that specifies the sequence of actions and empty slots for roles and props that may be filled in with default values, in the absence of specifications.)
  • Declarative memory system and explicit memory system involve conscious recollection of previous experiences.  This provides an explanation for the establishment of a ‘life history’ memory.
  • Episodic memory has the phenomenal characteristic of referring to something that happened once at a specific time and place.
  • We simply do not know whether other animals, or even human infants, experience a phenomenal difference between remembering and knowing, differentiating between one-time happenings and usual happenings.
  • Not all episodic memory is autobiographical memory
  • Very young children do have episodic memories, but do not yet have autobiographical memory of this kind
  • Autobiographical memory as used here is specific, personal, long-lasting, and (usually) of significance to the self-system.  Phenomenally, it forms one’s personal life history
  • Memories for events from the early years of our lives—before about 3-4 years- are not available to adult consciousness.
  • The onset of autobiographical memory is simply the inverse of infantile amnesia
  • Childhood amnesia is the period of life before the onset of autobiographical memory.
  • 2 phases of childhood amnesia: 1)a total blocking of memories usually prior to about 3 years, and the second, between 3 and 6 years, a significant drop-off of accessible memories relative to later memories.  Such a pattern has been verified by the analysis of the forgetting curve for adult recall of childhood memories.
  • Early empirical knowledge: the age of earliest memory has been negatively correlated with IQ, language ability, and social class, and females tend to have earlier memories than male.
  • Memories do not need to be true or correct to be part of that system.

Evidence from developmental Research

  • Children do not preserve episodic memories, although they may remember bits of information from specific events in their schematic event memory.  In early childhood, we believed, all information retained from experience is absorbed by the generic memory system.  ‘overwrite’ mechanisms  However now research shows that very young children do remember novel events, within limits, and sometimes quite readily report episodes that they find interesting.
  • More recent research has verified that children do have specific episodic memories and can remember them for extensive periods—sometimes as long as 2 years—prior to the age of the earliest autobiographical memories reported by adults.
  • Autobiographical memories are the outcome of a reconstructive process based on schemas or frames of reference.
  • Remembering, then, involves reconstructing past events using presently existing schemas, and the claim is that adult schemas are not ‘suitable receptacles’ for early childhood experience; ‘adults cannot think like children’ and thus cannot make use of whatever fragments of memories they may retain.  In this view, socialization and the impact of language force a drastic change in the child’s schemas at age 6.
  • Recent development casts doubt on this and support the conclusion that the basic ways of structuring, representing, and interpreting reality are consistent from early childhood into adulthood.  Young children typically tell their stories in a sequence that accurately reflects the sequence of the experience itself and that has the same boundaries that seem natural to adult listeners.
  • Other differences between adult and child memories includes what is noticed and remembered of an event. – may focus on different events and different aspects of the event.
  • Interest in-and therefore memory for-aspects of experience that seem unremarkable to adults, and indifference to what adults find interesting, as well as lack of facility with language and differences in the knowledge base, may account for why children sometimes seem to have organized their knowledge in a different form or have remembered only fragments from an episode that adults consider memorable.
  • Recent research: children have at least some well-organized specific and general event memories, similar to those of adults; thus, the suggestion that a schematic reorganization may account for infantile amnesia is not supported.  However, children learn to talk about their past experiences in specific ways does provide some clues as to what may be developing and how.

Narrative Construction of Memory

  • Active role that parents play in framing and guiding their children’s formulation of ‘what happened’
  • Social interaction model of the development of autobiographical memory’
  • Children gradually learn the forms of how to talk about memories with others, and thereby also how to formulate their own memoires as narratives
  • Pragmatic mothers, memory is useful for retrieving information relevant to ongoing activities.  For elaborative mothers, memory provides the basis for storytelling, constructing narratives about what mother and child did together in the there and then.
  • Not only that talk about the past is effective in aiding the child to establish a narrative memory about eh past, but that talk during a present activity serves a similar purpose.

Effects of Language on memory

  • The social interaction hypothesis emphasizes learning to structure memories in narrative form.  Effects of rehearsal
  • Learned response that would otherwise be lost over time may be reinstated and thus preserved if a part of the context is re-presented within a given time period.

Functions of early memory

  • The proposal rests on the assumption that the basic episodic memory system is part of a general mammalian learning-memory adaptive function for guiding present action and predicting future outcomes.  The most useful memory for this function is generic memory for routines that fit recurrent situations, that is, a general event schema (or script) memory system.
  • The more frequently an event had been experienced, the more scriptlike the child’s account became
  • The system cannot know on the basis of one encounter what significance the event might have with respect to future encounters.
  • Reinstatement would play an important part in this proposal
  • Reinstatement would extend the amount of time that a memory is held in the episodic system.
  • All memory is either generic knowledge-scriptlike-or temporarily episodic.  The basic episodic system is claimed to be a holding pattern, not a permanent memory system.
  • This raises the question as to what function the autobiographical system serves beyond that of the longlasting generic plus temporary episodic system just described
  • Initial functional significance of autobiographical memory is that of sharing memory with other people.
  • Social solidarity function with variable, culturally specific rules
  • Social function of memory underlies all of our storytelling, history0making narrative activities, and ultimately all of our accumulated knowledge systems.
  • Children’s experiences in sharing memories of the right kind and in the right form contribute to the establishment of autobiographical memory
  • Not a proposal of cultural transmission or socialization, but rather a dialectical or Vygotskian model in which the child takes over the forms of adult thought through transactions with adults in activity contexts where those forms are employed-in this case, in the activities where memories are formed and shared.
  • Problem for child is to coordinate earlier memory functions with those that the adult displays, incorporating adult values about what is important to remember, and the narrative formats for remembering, into his or her own existing functional system.
  • Sharing memories with other people performs a significant social-cultural function, the acquisition of which means that the child can enter into the social and cultural history of the family and community
  • Important development takes place when the process of sharing memories with other through language becomes available as a means of reinstating memory (hypothesis of paper)
  • Reinstatement through language requires a certain level of facility with language, and especially the ability to use the verbal representation of another person to set up a representation in one’s own mental representation system, thus recognizing the verbal account as a reinstatement of one’s prior experience.
  • Theoretical claim here is that language opens up possibilities for sharing and retaining memories in a culturally shared format for both personal and social functions.
  • Vygotsky’s (1978) model of internalization, after overt recounting becomes established, covert recounting or reexperiencing to oneself may take place, and take on the function of reinstatement.
  • It takes on a personal as well as a social value in defining the self
  • A shift in linguistic communities should disrupt autobiographical memory
  • Number of recounting opportunities should be important, and this might be variable across families and communities.
  • Human language (Miller) is unique in serving the dual function of mental representation and communication
  • Once the child has begun to share memories with others, he or she is well on the way to sharing all of the accumulated cultural knowledge offered at home, in school, or in the larger world.

Bruner, Jerome. (2004)  Life as Narrative.  Social Research, 71(3) p.691-

  • Good thought is right reason, and its efficacy is measured against the laws of logic or induction.
  • The form of thought that goes into the construction not of logical or inductive arguments but of stories or narratives.
  • Analysis of the stories we tell about our lives—“autobiographies”
  • Philosophically speaking: narrative is a constructivist one- a view that takes as its central premise that “world making” is the principal function of mind, whether isn the sciences or in the arts.
  • ‘stories’ do not ‘happen’ in the real world, but, rather, are constructed in people’s heads.
  • Does that mean that our autobiographies are constructed, that they had better be viewed not as a record of what happened but rather as a continuing interpretation and reinterpretation of our experiences?
  • So autobiography (formal or informal) should be viewed as a set of procedures for ‘life making’
  • What we do when we construct ourselves autobiographically?

Culture and Autobiography

  • ‘lived time’ in the form of narrative
  • events chosen with a view to their place in a n implicit narrative
  • mimesis between life so-called and narrative is a two-way affair: that is to say, just as art imitates life in Aristotle’s sense, so in Oscar Wilde’s, life imitates art
  • Life=narrative, it is constructed by human beings through active ratiocination (process of exact thinking) by the same kind of ratiocination through which we construct narratives
  • Selective achievement of memory recall- recounting one’s life is an interpretive feat.
  • Reflexive: the narrator and the central figure in the narrative are the same
  • Reflexivity of self-narrative poses problems of a deep and serious order- problems beyond those of verification, beyond the issue of indeterminancy, beyond ‘rationalization’
  • One imposes criteria of rightness on the self-report of a life just as one imposes them on the account of a football game or the report of an event in nature.
  • Internal criteria.  What is covered- aren’t omissions important?
  • How to specify criteria by which to judge the rightness of any theory or model
  • Life stories highly susceptible to cultural, interpersonal, and linguistic influences
  • Constructed nature and their dependence upon the cultural conventions and language usage, ife narratives obviously reflect the prevailing theories about ‘possible lives’ that are part of one’s culture
  • Eventually the culturally shaped cognitive and linguistic processes that guide the self-telling of life narratives achieve the power to structure perceptual experience, to organize memory, to segment and purpose-build the very “events’ of a life.  We become the autobiographical narratives by which we ‘tell about’ our lives.
  • We also become variants of the culture’s canonical forms.
  • ‘development of autobiography’ how our way of telling about ourselves changes, and how these accounts come to take control of our ways of life.
  • How self-narratives as a literary form, as autobiography, might have developed.
  • Gusdorf (1980) “limited in time and space; it has not always existed nor does it exist everywhere….[Its] conscious awareness of the singularity of each individual life is the late product of a specific civilization…Autobiography becomes possible only under certain metaphysical preconditions…The man who takes the trouble to tell of himself knows that the present differs from the past and that it will not be repeated in the future. P.695
  • Issuing from mixed and unstable marriage between Christian and classical thought in the Middle Ages, further inflamed by the doubts kindled in the Copernican revolution
  • The self-told life narrative is, by all accounts, ancient and universal
  • What varies is the cultural and linguistic perspective or narrative form in which it is formulated and expressed.
  • It is as important to study historical developments in forms of self-telling as it is to study their ontogenesis.
  • It is form rather than content that matters.
  • Self-told life narratives may reveal a common formal structure across a wide variety of content: the forms of self-narrative or, indeed, of narrative generally, of which self-narrative is a special case.

Forms of Self-Narrative

  • 3 aspects of story: [Russian] fibula, sjuzet, forma (theme, discourse, and genre) that are timeless and sequenced aspects of story
  • Particularity of time, place, person, and event is also reflected in the mode of the telling, in the discourse properties of the sjuzet.
  • “make the ordinary strange” depends upon language.  For language constructs what it narrates, not only semantically but also pragmatically and stylistically.
  • A genre is plainly a type (in the linguist’s sense) of which there are near endless tokens, and in that sense it may be viewed as a set of grammars for generating different kinds of story plots.  Genre also commits one to use language in a certain way…Are genres mere literary conventions, or (like Jung’s alleged archetypes) are they built into the human genome, or are they an invariant set of plights in the human condition to which we all react in some necessary way?
  • Story structure is composed minimally of the pentad of and Agent, and Action, A Goal, a Setting, and Instrument- and Trouble (Burke, 1945)
  • Moving towards an empowerment and subjective enrichment of the Agent protagonist. Characterizations of the forms of relationship between an intention-driven actor and the settings in which he must act to achieve his goals.
  • There is a landscape of action on which events unfold.
  • Modern novel: there is a more explicit treatment of the landscape of consciousness itself.  Agents do not merely deceive; they hope, are doubting and confused, wonder about appearance and reality.  Modern literature becomes more epistemological, less ontological.
  • As narrative has become ‘modernized’ so too has its language changed.
  • Satre: “A man is always a teller of stories, he lives surrounded by his own stories and those of other people, he sees everything that happens to him in terms of these stories and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it”(1964)
  • Life stories must mesh, so to speak, within a community of life stories; tellers and listeners must share some “deep structure” about the nature of a “life”, for if the rules of life-telling are altogether arbitrary, tellers and listeners will surely be alienated by a failure to grasp what the other is saying or what he thinks the other is hearing.

4 Self-Narratives

  • Bruner chose a family to explore because it constitutes a miniature culture.
  • We are asking whether there is in each account a set of selective narrative rules that lead the narrator to structure experience in a particular way, structure it in a manner that gives form to the content and the continuity of the life.
  • How the narrators construct themselves. the hermeneutical advantage of four narratives that spring from a common landscape
  • Most psychological theories of personality, alas, have no place for place.
  • Place is crucial and it shapes and constrains the stories that are told or, indeed, that could be told.  Also helps to know its “culture” too
  • Psychic geography—“home” is a place that is inside, private, forgiving, intimate, predictably safe.  The “real world” is outside, demanding, anonymous, open, unpredictable, and consequently dangerous.
  • Each creates a different ontological landscape out of the “real world” to give it an appropriate force as the Scene in the narratives they are constructing
  • There is a spatial distinction home-real world concentrates in all four accounts.
  • Voice is revealing- passive= self as an object,
  • Actor as a figure, figure becoming a person, person becoming a self, self becoming an individual

Recipes for structuring experience

  • Radical hypothesis: I believe that the ways of telling and the ways of conceptualizing that go with them become so habitual that they finally become recipes for structuring experience itself, for laying down routes into memory, for not only guiding the life narrative up to the present but directing it into the future.
  • Life as led is inseparable from life as told- how it is interpreted and reinterpreted, told and retold: Freud’s psychic reality.
  • Just as Georges Gusdorf argued that a special, historically conditioned, metaphysical condition was needed to bring autobiography into existence as a literary form, so perhaps a metaphysical change is required to alter the narratives that we have settled upon as “being” our lives.
  • Mind is never free of precommitment
  • Any story one may tell about anything is better understood by considering other possible ways in which it can be told
  • The only life worth living is the well-examined one:  if we can learn how people put their narratives together when they tell stories from life, considering as well how the might have proceeded, we might then have contributed something new to that great ideal.
Posted: October 26th, 2013 in phd, theoretical notes | No Comments »

Open text # 5- New Teacher Centre (California)

Open Text – Week 6

Moir, E., & Bloom G. (2003)Fostering Leadership through Mentoring- Ellen Moir and Gary Bloom, Educational Leadership, 60(8) p. 58-60.

 article here

* think about what role mentors play after mentoring experience and their experience.  Great description of structured mentoring professional development & selection.  How have things changed since 2003?  A trip to California may be in order…

Key notes:

Santa Cruz New Teacher Project began in 1988 and provided new teachers with an induction program delivered by trained mentors recruited from the ranks of the districts’ best teachers.  Not only did it improve the quality and retention of new teachers (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996), but it offered a powerful new role to veteran teachers.  “We have found that mentoring offers veteran teachers professional replenishment, contributes to the retention of the region’s best teachers, and produces teacher leaders with the skills and passion to make lifelong teacher development central to school culture”(p.58).

The role of the mentor who is released for 2-3 years:  work with 15 novices with one to two hours every week individually and a group seminar once a mohnth.  “Mentors observe instruction, provide feedback, demonstrate teaching methods, assist with lesson plans, and help analyze student work and achievement data”(p. 58).

To become a mentor:  3 letters of support, undergo an interview with a panel (teachers, administrators, and union leaders).  Must have minimum of 7 years in the classroom and should have coached peers and supervised student teachers and produce evidence—a record of contributions to professional communities and recommendations from principals and colleagues.  “Effective mentors must be able to observe and communicate; track a new teacher’s immediate needs and broader concerns; and know when to elicit a new teacher’s thoughts and when to provide concrete advice”(p.59).

3 day basic training and 2 days on coaching and observation “which focuses on specific techniques for observing new teachers, collecting classroom performance data, using data to help new teachers develop improvement plans, tying classroom observations to California Standards for the Teaching Profession, and establishing trusting professional relationships”(p. 59).

Weekly half-day mentor forums provide ongoing professional development- “Mentors share strategies, challenes, and successes.  They deepen their understanding of formative assessment of new teachers by assessing their own development as mentors, including setting goals, conducting mid-year reviews of progress, revising their practice, and reflecting at the end of the year”(p.59).

Many mentors become administration or professional development roles as well as teachers.  “Classroom teachers believe that they are much more effective because of what they learned as mentors, and those outside the classroom believe that their mentoring experiences are a primary source of their effectiveness as leaders”(p.59)

“These new school leaders are at the forefront of significant cultural shifts in their schools and school districts, creating schools that will keep teachers in the profession because of their commitment to developing a supportive school culture (Ingersoll, 2001; Johnson & Kardos, 2002).

Themes:  Former mentors have a deep understanding of teaching and learning; They know how to help classroom teachers grow; Former mentors are attuned to the needs of beginning teachers; they know how to participate in and create learning communities; Our new principals have a head start in dealing with such issues as time management and communication;

Posted: October 15th, 2013 in Open text, phd | No Comments »

Theoretical notes #7- Life story & academic probation

Isabelle Arcand and Raymond N. Leblanc, “When You Fail, You Feel Like a Failure”: One Student’s Experience of Academic Probation and an Academic Support Program”  Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 58(2), 216-231.

Find article here

This paper focuses on a life story and is contrasted to current literature on academic probation and is considered in light of Dewey’s theory of experience.  I read this paper with a focus on its structure and how this could be relevant for my own writing.  I also realized that life story came out of case study qualitative research and am thinking about how this would reflect in my own inquiry project.  The following are my theoretical notes to be used for future reference.

Relevant literature on Academic Probation:  In this section, Arcand noted that currently there was limited literature on academic probation. “Seeing as there are no policies or guidelines mandating the development of probationary programs they vary greatly in terms of structure, format, and conceptual foundation.”(p.218),  Most studies are descriptive and rely on quantitative methodologies but “little research is dedicated to the lived experiences of students”… “Effectively, qualitative studies have the potency to render rich portraits of struggling students and provide a thorough appreciation of the complexities of students’ experience with academic probation”(p.218)

The story in Context:  The current study sought to delve into the condition and experience of academic probation  “each story is worthy and brings a unique color to the literature on academic probation” (218)

Constructing a life story profile: “Grounded in a social constructivist paradigm, this qualitative case study focused on meaning, which emerges through transactions with the environment and can be understood against the larger context wherein it took place (Fosnot & Perry, 2005; Shkedi, 2005)”(219).

Seidman’s (2006) phenomenological approach to interviewing & 3-series interview protocol:  1.  the first interview seeks details of the participant’s early experiences; 2. A second interview focuses on details of the participant’s current experiences with activities, social interactions, and endeavors; 3. A third interview explores the meaning of experiences (p.219), Interviews took the form of semi-structured, individual, face-to-face informal conversations that lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. 1, 3, 5 days separation.

Qualitative case study analyses are interpretive (Creswell, 2007; Stake, 1995).  The life story profile is a form of within-case analysis that portrays the participant in his context, establishes themes within this case, and conveys a sense of process and time (Seidman, 2006)  In this process segments that were recurrent or emphasized in the story were discerned and organized in chronological sequence and by themes to present stories that had a narrative logical thread (Riessman, 2008) (p.220).

Mark’s life story Profile:  The findings are presented in the form of a profile, that is, an in-depth view of one student’s life story and experience (Seidman, 2006)…Of particular value, this format allows recognizing the richness and complexity of the experience. Numerous quotes offer support to this analysis allowing readers to develop their own interpretations of the story (Stake, 1995, 2005)(p.220).

Summary of Mark’s story:  relates back to literature what features were similar with those found in academic success or failure.

Mark’s story in light of Dewey’s Theory of Experience: the life story profile allows the reader to take into account the context and conveys a sense of process and time (Cresswell, 2007; Seidman, 2006)(p.226).

Dewey:  “what consists of an experience ‘includes what men do and suffer, what they strive for, love, believe, and endure, and also how men act and are acted upon, the ways in which they do and suffer, desire and enjoy, see, believe, imagine”(Dewey, 1958, p.8).  In short, everything a person acts upon and undergoes constitutes an experience,  It includes all that has meaning for the person, and evokes emotions and attitudes.  In this way, experience influences the individual’s mindset both intellectually and emotionally.  Dewey (1938/1997) suggested that this influence is a function of the quality of the experience, which is based on two principles, interaction and continuity”(p.226)

Interaction:  the person is in undivided unity with their environment and derives meaning from each experience as they interact with their social and physical settings…transactions with the environment also have educative potential as they foster positive internal conditions and are believed to promote receptivity to further experiences and growth(p.226).

Continuity: suggest that experience is cumulative, each experience having an influence on future experiences and conversely, every new experience being shaped by past experiences.  Experiences influence the construction of intellectual and emotional attitudes altering the individual’s perception of and rapport with his environment(p.227).

“The life story profile illustrates that each transaction and experience with the environment shape the individual and further experiences with the environment.  In other words, knowledge, skills and learned attitudes help understand and manage future situations.  In the education context, it is proposed that the physical and social environment should be organized to suit the student’s needs and capacities ensuring growth-promoting experiences (Dewey 1938/1997)”(p.227)

Limits: single case studies are usually not considered a strong basis for generalization to others as the emphasis is to understand the case itself in its uniqueness(p.227).

Significance:  contrasts a life story to current literature and depth and insight add to oversimplified images in reviewed literature.

Posted: October 13th, 2013 in phd, theoretical notes | No Comments »