Planning for my Final Teach-Now Master’s in Education Project

My favorite definition of Action research is the one by Emily Calhoun (1994).  It says: “Action research is a fancy way of saying “let’s study what’s happening at our school and decide how to make it a better place.””.

The main phases of Action Research consist in:

  1. Assessment of the need for a change or action;
  2. Implementation the action;
  3. Study and evaluate the results of that action (i.e. draw conclusions);
  4. Rethinking phases 1, 2 and 3.  This last will be optional at some point, once the desired outcome is attained.

Action research presumes that the researcher is undertaking their research for a specific and relevant purpose.  This purpose could be general e.g. “to improve the teaching at our school” and is later made more specific by selecting an area of focus prior to engaging in the research.  Alternatively, the purpose or need could already be known, and it is decided that action research (or investigation with trial and error and feedback) is required to respond to and identify the cause of this need, e.g. “a student is having severe difficulty with acquiring reading skills”.

The reason ‘action research’ has become a ‘buzz’ word recently is because it refers to a particular kind of research which is conducted by the person who is most interested in discovering its conclusions and because the modified actions will likely be put into practice immediately.  “The wisdom that informs practice starts coming from those doing the work, not from supervisors who oftentimes are less in touch with and less sensitive to the issues of teaching and learning than the teachers doing the work.”  (Richard Sagor, 2000).  In a sense, action research is a more informal and instantaneous type of research.

Some educators prefer to conceptualize action research as a seven step process where each step is more clearly defined.

The Action Research Process

  1. Selecting a focus
  2. Clarifying theories
  3. Identifying research questions
  4. Collecting data
  5. Analyzing data
  6. Reporting results
  7. Taking informed action

In more detail, each step consists in:

  1. Selecting a focus: To use the researcher’s time and efforts in the more efficient and effective way.
  2. Clarifying theories: Identifying the values, beliefs, and theoretical perspectives the researchers hold relating to their focus.
  3. Identifying research questions: To generate a set of personally meaningful research questions to guide the inquiry.
  4. Collecting data: Ensuring that the data used is
  • valid (meaning the information represents what the researchers say it does) and
  • reliable (meaning the researchers are confident about the accuracy of their data).
  • appropriate
  • Evaluating the validity and reliability of data may be done using triangulation (which means using multiple independent sources of data to answer one’s questions).
  1. Analyzing data: User-friendly data can be a boon to a researcher.
  2. Reporting results:
  • Interpreting results with others
  • Discussing results with others
  • Relaying and sharing results with others for the benefits of their insights and to improve the collective knowledge base.
  1. Taking informed action: Planning the course of action and steps to take. Constantly refining these actions.

Action research is powerful because it transforms a teacher into a reflective practitioner, it facilitates teacher progress on school-wide priorities and it helps construct a professional teaching culture.  “Furthermore, when teachers begin engaging their colleagues in discussions of classroom issues, the multiple perspectives that emerge and thus frame the dialogue tend to produce wiser professional decisions.”  (Richard Sagor, 2000)  In addition, a powerful argument for action research and the collection and analysis of data is that for teachers, as has been found with athletes, “the continuous presence of compelling data that their hard work is paying off becomes, in itself, a vitally energizing force.  […] Great personal satisfaction comes from playing a role in creating successful solutions to continually changing puzzles.”  (Richard Sagor, 2000)

 

Acknowledgement of my Understanding of the Requirements for the Final Project

The purposes of the Final Project are to:

  1. Enable candidates to increase their knowledge in an educational topic of their choosing,
  2. To use this knowledge to improve their teaching, and
  3. To develop skills they can use for future activities.

My Final Project must focus on some aspect of globalization or ‘international mindedness’ which is relevant to education in general or to my specific situation.  I understand that my Final Project will consist in original work completed by me, and submitted in the form of a written report or action plan in Microsoft Word format.  This Final Project will involve the collection of data and critical analysis both of my findings and of previous research done in the field.

There are up to seven sections within the Project Report, as detailed in the document Teach-Now’s Guidelines and Rubric for the Module 14 Final Project (as received by me on 3rd December 2017, but modified for user-friendliness or ease of reading see the link to document here).

  1. Introduction and Statement of Problem or Question

This section of the Report clearly describes the specific problem or question that is being addressed in the project and describes its significance and its purpose.

  1. Literature Review

This section of the Report presents a carefully organized account of the research relevant to my project, including a section that summarizes the reasons why these studies are pertinent to my project.

  1. Description of the Project

This section provides the layout and sequence of the project with sufficient detail that someone could replicate the project just by reading this section.

  1. Analysis of the Results

In this section, I will evaluate the results and answer questions such as what I learned from this project and what I expected to learn but did not learn.

  1. Summary and Considerations of Next Steps (Action Plan)

This section is a brief summarize of my findings which takes into consideration how your project connects with what was previously understood about the issue.  I will also explain here any limitations and factors which were out of my control and which may have impacted my results.

  1. References

In this section, I will list in American Psychological Association (APA) style format all references cited in the document and all sources used for my research.

  1. Appendices

The Appendices are where I will include any important material used within the study such as data collection tools or intervention materials.

The expected length of the Project Report is between twenty and thirty pages.  I acknowledge that this Project must be completed and submitted by me by the end of Module 14, which is in ten weeks’ time (by Saturday 17th February 2018).  I will assume that every page of writing will have involved between at least one hour and at most two hours of research and commitment.  Thirty pages therefore represent between thirty and sixty hours of research and commitment.  Erring on the side of caution and preparation, I therefore commit to dedicate six hours to my Final Project each week henceforth until the due date in mid-February 2018.  I believe that with such a time commitment I should achieve my objective of completing this project to a quality satisfactory to me, within the allocated timeframe and prior to the deadline date.

 

My Ideas for my Final Project

  1. With globalization, the U.S. has set the standard in many areas of commerce, scientific research and academia. The American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) reference format is the accepted standard for citing sources and reference material.  However, I feel that APA format has completely ignored the way in which people perceive surnames and that the world is not made up of only Americans.  I would like to study how people perceive gender in surnames.  I suspect that many surnames (regardless of origin) are perceived as being masculine.  This would not be a surprising assumption considering that most societies are patrilineal and pass down the man’s surname to their children and many women still substitute or add husband’s surname to their own names.  Furthermore, many surnames also serve as male first names.  Educational research has demonstrated that students perform better if they can identify with the studies they are doing.  We tend to forget that adults are also subject to perceptions.  My hope is that the results of this paper may serve as motivation to make slight changes to APA format so that first names would also be listed.  This would enhance women and girls “seeing” women as a presence in academia.  Further studies: leaving off the state and country name when it is a city within the U.S.
  2. Research why boys are not responding as well and wanting to do things like United World Colleges. Why does it seem that many ‘gay’ boys more likely to succeed in this setting?  Is it because boys need competition?  Do they not respond as well in service oriented things (and men too) or collaborative things, like girls seem to do?  Why are some charitable (including religious) organizations successful in having male membership (e.g. Kiwanis, Junior Achievement) and others are not?  How can we get men to participate fully in the society (e.g. Parent Teacher Associations, etc.) and value family?
  3. Research intercultural literacy, cultural capital and the imposter syndrome with reference to the high drop-out rate (abandonment of school after grade 6) among rural children in the world, concentrating on the case of Costa Rica. (See paper on high expectations written in Teach-Now’s Module 4).

 

Anticipated Challenges

I anticipate that the biggest challenge with my project will be the timeframe.  Because of the timeframe, the scope of the project may have to be severely restricted and this could affect the validity of my research and its persuasiveness as an instrument for reform.  I am comfortable with this challenge because I feel my project will only be the beginning of research within the topic I have chosen.  The goal if for more researchers to undertake similar projects until the results of the research are irrefutable and engender real change within the educational system.

 

 

References

Padak, Nancy & Padak, Gary.  (2017-09-28).  Research to Practice: Guidelines for Planning Action Research Projects.  Ohio Literacy Resource Center (OLRC), Kent State University.  Retrieved from http://literacy.kent.edu/Oasis/Pubs/0200-08.htm

Rigsby, Leo.  (2015).  Presentation on Action Research: How is it defined?  Initiatives in Educational Transformation Program (IET).  George Mason University.  Retrieved from http://gse.gmu.edu/assets/media/tr/ARRigsbyppt.htm

Sagor, Richard.  (2000).  Guiding School Improvement with Action Research.  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).  Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A.  Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/100047/chapters/What-Is-Action-Research¢.aspx

Teach-Now Educatore School of Education.  (2017).  Master’s of Education Program – Guidelines  and Rubric for the Module 14 Final Project.  Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/open?id=1HENDXgi7azEuAJiwYTWzdhE07p9jRnYHL6nDwg5N_Oo

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M12U1A1 International Schools

It is common general knowledge that the elite class in virtually all Western countries has been relatively mobile for centuries.  Europeans in particular have been fond of schooling their children abroad in other parts of Europe, e.g. British artists and writers visiting “the Continent” for further artistic or literary training and exposure.  Anyone who has read even one classical novel will have noted this trend.  With the expansion of Europeans and their descendants into India and the Americas, that trend continued with many of the “enlightened class” being shipped back to their parents’ homeland for superior studies, e.g. Colonials in Jamaica would send their children to boarding schools in England from grade 6 through to university.  As time progressed, their offspring felt less expat and identified themselves more with their local community (and probably interbred with locals).  As a result, this boarding school model evolved into the international-minded international school model [international school type #1], which accepted students from virtually every colony where that language was spoken, e.g. the territories and colonies of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and later the U.S.  Notwithstanding, prior to this evolution, wherever there was a large community of expatriates, many chose to educate their young (at least until the end of secondary school) within their local setting at schools that focused on the curriculum that community deemed superior (because it was their own), i.e. American Schools, British Schools, German Schools, French Schools, etc.  As such, this type of international school was probably one of the first to appear all over the world and was directly linked to colonial expansion.  It started out with the purpose of satisfying the exclusive needs of a specific community [international school type #3].  And there still exist many schools that have stuck to that primary objective and exclusivity for expatriate children, e.g. United Nations International Schools, US Department of Defense Schools, Association of Christian Schools International, and many others.  Nevertheless, the nature of the vast majority of the original schools has changed over the years and the typical ‘international curriculum school’ is now more market-driven and open to accepting local pupils [international school type #2], which is why I have defined them as a different class, as such.

Please refer to my infographic for a visual representation of these categories of international school.  Link to my InfoGraphic:  https://create.piktochart.com/output/26384077-m12u2a1-international-schools

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In the latter half of the 20th century, Kurt Hahn was instrumental in the development of the first type of international school I have mentioned here: the international-minded international school.  He saw the need for this type of school when the model was in its infancy and he took the opportunity to guide it along with his ideas of what such a school should be.  These included: promoting peace, being open-minded, embracing diversity, developing compassion and kindness, being physically active, engaging in healthy competition, fostering true and close association with youth of different nationalities and cultures, and developing an appreciation for service.  Mr. Hahn also recognised the emerging dominance of English as a world language.  Rather than fight this trend, he embraced it so that his educational model would include educating students from all countries.  The ‘poster child’ for Kurt Hahn’s model of international schooling is the United World Colleges (UWC) International Organization.

It is evident to any bystander that international schools are rapidly increasing in popularity all over the world.  This year’s data from the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) http://www.iscresearch.com/services show that over the next decade the number of international schools worldwide will increase from 8,716 to 16,600, the number of pupils will increase from 4.7 million to 10.4 million, the number of staff needed will increase from 443,300 to 637,000 and the income from fees will increase from $43 billion to $82 billion.  Regions such as Asia and Latin America will be growing particularly rapidly in line with their expected economic growth.  These figures alone are an impelling enough argument as to why all teachers should be interested in and involved with international education – so that they may contribute their input to the process and be a part of this movement.  Such involvement can only be achieved by gaining access to the data through international educational organizations such as COIS, ISC and the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), which teachers should encourage the international schools at which they work to join.

As a result of the widening view of international schools, my definition of international education and an international school is broad.  I believe in the value of diversity and I believe there should be room in the definition to fit all the needs various communities may have.  To me, an international school is any school which embraces another culture or multiple cultures as compared to that of the host country.  This may be in terms of its student body, board of directors, staff, curriculum or school culture.  Rather than define ‘international school’ as a school which meets specific criteria as the Council of International Schools (COIS) and the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) have done, I prefer to think of all schools as being on a continuum ranging from wholly national oriented to wholly internationally oriented – as per Ian Hill’s graph from his 2016 article.

Continuum of Schools - National to International (By Ian Hill 2016)

Source: Hill, Ian.  (2016).  What is an ‘international school’? Part II.  International Schools Journal, Vol. XXXV, No. 2.

 

References

Hahn, Kurt.  (1936).  Education and Peace: The Foundations of Modern Society.  The Inverness Courier.  Retrieved from www.KurtHahn.org

Hill, Ian.  (2015).  What is an ‘international school’?  Part I.  International Schools Journal, Vol. XXXV, No. 1.  Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwgYlY1O2AV2UHhHa25ta1JvakE/view

Hill, Ian.  (2016).  What is an ‘international school’?  Part II.  International Schools Journal, Vol. XXXV, No. 2.  Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwgYlY1O2AV2ODAxbGQxRl83dWs/view

KurtHahn.org  (n.d.)  The Legacy of Kurt Hahn.  www.KurtHahn.org

Council of International Schools (COIS).  www.COIS.org

International Schools Consultancy (ISC).  www.ISCResearch.com

Hayden, Mary C. & Thompson, Jeff J.  (Sep, 1995).  International schools and international education: a relationship reviewed.  Oxford Review of Education, 03054985, Vol. 21.  Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwgYlY1O2AV2dFNNOERaMl9lQUk/view

M6U2A3 Designing a Pre-Assessment for a Sixth Grade Classroom

Goals

  • Discuss the nature and purpose of pre-assessments.
  • Discuss innovative differentiation strategies.
  • Highlight use of computerized assessments that track learning.

 

The Nature and Purpose of Pre-Assessments

Students are never a homogeneous group.  The only way to cater to the learning needs of all students is to differentiate instruction.  However, in order to differentiate, the teacher must first be aware of what the learning needs are of each pupil and where they are at in terms of the knowledge and skills for the unit to be covered.  Pre-Assessments are basically placement tests.  They are tests teachers can use to evaluate what material to cover and where emphasis should be placed in instructing each student.  Pre-Assessments are therefore a necessary step prior to differentiating instruction within a classroom of pupils.  Although each student is unique, it may be possible to use the results of a pre-assessment to group students according to their knowledge or skills in relation to the unit about to be taught or being taught.  Refer to the mind map below for an illustration of such groupings.

M6U2A3PostPreAssessmentDifferentiationPlan cropped

LucidChart Mind Map, https://www.lucidchart.com/invitations/accept/a6f176be-7a6f-4aaa-828c-67a867b53102

Innovative Differentiation Strategies

Differentiation is really about making sure that each student is learning in their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  Lev Vygotsky’s ZPD basically states that if the material is too advanced, the student will not learn, and if the material is too easy, they will not learn either but will get bored.  It is kind of like the moral of Robert Southey’s world-famous classic fable “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (1837).  Unless the teaching is “just right”, learning will not take place.  Since each student is at a different place in their learning and have different rates of progress, the teacher must discover what is “just right” for each pupil and keep them within their ZPD.  Accomplishing this is no easy feat, but computerized assessments are an innovative differentiation strategy that can greatly facilitate individualization of learning so that each student can start where they need to and progress at their own pace.

Nevertheless, being innovative in classroom differentiation can be as easy as realizing that the teacher need not give all students the same content for an assignment.  For example, the teacher usually knows who are the advanced students in her class and who will likely finish the assignment long before the rest.  Instead of being caught in a situation where you are denying struggling students feedback and explanations that they need in order to occupy advanced or high achieving students, the teacher can plan for these students beforehand by giving them a more difficult assignment.  In this way, each student will be working on something that is equally challenging to them.  An alternative way to prepare for high achieving students is to give them longer assignments and require more complete and complex responses from them.

Average students are often overlooked by the teacher to the advantage of high or low achievers in a classroom (who are more often those who disrupt a classroom).  Teachers can fall into the trap of believing that average students are doing alright, and therefore do not really need much help.  Still, a teacher should ask oneself: “How much better could this average student be performing?” and “Am I challenging them to improve their performance?”.  Something as simple as grouping average students together can help them feel less isolated and ignored.  Students then work together and share ideas to come up with solutions.  Again, there is no need for the entire class to be grouped.  Only group those whose purpose is served in this way.  We all know the adage “two heads are better than one”.  This is no less true for average students, even if they are doing just fine academically: There is almost always room for improvement.

Traditionally, low-performing students probably benefit from the majority of a teacher’s time and attention.  The reason for this is obvious: they are the ones who need it the most; who are struggling to master the material.  Some of these students may even have diagnosed or undiagnosed learning difficulties, behavioral issues or mental and emotional challenges.  No teacher wants any of their students to “fall through the cracks” and fail to acquire the material.  Still, sometimes teachers are guilty of helping too much.  What I mean by this is that sometimes teachers need to work harder to convey the message that any sub-standard work will not be accepted.  This is a subtle way of conveying your belief in every student’s ability to do well.  Yes, allow low achievers more time to complete work.  But do not just do this within the classroom.  Have them redo both classwork and homework assignments as homework until they get the subtle message that their effort can make the difference between them spending one hour on homework per week and several hours on homework per week.  In my opinion, the teacher should remain objective and non-critical in their role.  Correct their work each time and give detailed feedback (preferably written and in person) to the student.  Then send them home to make the required changes and re-submit the assignment.  Students will soon catch on that they are spending more time than truly necessary on homework.

Scaffolding is another time-tested tool for helping make work more accessible to low achievers.  However, I caution that a scaffold should always be a temporary measure.  Make sure that at some point the scaffolding is removed and the student knows how to answer the question completely and to the level expected.  (Otherwise, they will never rise to the occasion.)  Students will need to practice assignments without scaffolding several times before they master this.  Again, redoing assignments (without scaffolding) can be a great way to help them to achieve this goal of independent proficiency.

 

Computerized Assessments for Tracking Learning

Returning to the theme of computerized assessments – both scaffolding and differentiation are far more easily accomplished using technology.  Some fantastic game-based learning platforms are the Khan Academy and Quizlet.  Khan Academy is one of my favorites and I recommend it to any Math teacher.  This learning platform truly allows for individualized learning and challenges.  In fact, the Khan Academy can be fun to play anytime and by anyone, even teachers.  Another computerized learning platform that I highly recommend is the game Kahoot!.  This game converts testing into a fun competition that the whole class participates in.  Below is a link to a Kahoot! pre-assessment I designed for my grade six classroom’s unit on Literary Devices.  https://play.kahoot.it/#/k/9e2a9405-3b08-4115-8257-fd365edf9516

 

References

Armstrong, Patricia.  (n.d.).  Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Vanderbilt University.  Retrieved from https://cft.Vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

ESA Regions 6 & 7.  (2006).  On Target: Strategies That Differentiate Instruction.  Grades 4 – 12.  South Dakota Department of Education.  Black Hills Special Services Cooperative (BHSSC).  Retrieved from https://education.ky.gov/educational/diff/documents/strategiesthatdifferentiateinstruction4.12.pdf

Glossary of Education Reform.  (n.d.).  Definition: Demonstration of Learning.  Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/demonstration-of-learning/

Help Teaching.  (n.d.).  How to Write Good Test Questions.  HelpTeaching.com.  Retrieved 2017-06-28 from http://www.helpteaching.com/about/how_to_write_good_test_questions/

Literary Devices.  (n.d.)  Glossary of Literary Devices.  Retrieved from www.LiteraryDevices.net