Friday, February 27, 2009

Related Readings Educational Leadership February 2009

Educational Leadership, February 2009, Volume 66, Number 5, Page 7 .

This whole issue of Educational Leadership is at

When asked about the tough stance many policymakers currently take toward teachers, one middle school teacher and administrator had something to say. On a visit to the ASCD offices, ASCD book author Robyn Jackson noted, "If teachers aren't raising test scores sufficiently, reformers say they should be weeded out. The same people believe that 'All students can learn.' Why don't they start believing that 'all teachers can learn'?" Robyn asked.

Her book, with the provocative title Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching (ASCD, 2009), reflects her faith that "the gift of being a master teacher is not the exclusive domain of a blessed few" (p. xv). Anyone can become a master teacher with the right kind of practice and mind-set, she writes. As her title slyly implies, however, the process entails taking a good look inward. "You want to raise your expectations of your students," she says, "but first you have to raise your expectations of yourself."

This issue of Educational Leadership examines the many ways that educators can improve their practice and refresh their mind-set, starting with an idea whose time has come: the professional learning community (PLC).

In a look at how high-achieving nations invest in their teachers, researchers Ruth Chung Wei, Alethea Andree, and Linda Darling-Hammond (p. 28) note that, internationally, time for professional learning is built into most teachers' work hours. More than 85 percent of schools in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland provide time each week for teachers' professional collaboration. And in South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, teachers spend only about 35 percent of their working time in the classroom; the rest is for sharing, planning, and working together.

"I believe that the professional learning community is the most powerful strategy and structure available now for schools to improve their effectiveness," says Shirley M. Hord (who with Stephanie A. Hirsch writes in this issue). "I am, however, concerned about the wide variation in definition of PLCs. The word learning seems so frequently ignored. But isn't it continuous professional learning that increases, expands, and improves quality teaching, the most significant factor in whether students learn well? Meeting together is only a necessary beginning."
In "Moving Beyond Talk," Debra Smith, Bruce Wilson, and Dick Corbett (p. 20) elaborate on the conditions that heighten the quality of learning in collaborative communities, among them voluntary participation and trained facilitators. Hord and Hirsch add rules for principals who want to help learning communities move from talk to action (p. 22).

Another author in our issue, teacher Bill Ferriter (p. 34), has found that an electronic meeting of the minds can enhance his learning, especially because "adult learning is often pushed aside in schools as educators sprint through the day." His solution was to join the education blogging community for 20 minutes each morning. "Some blogs leave me challenged. Some leave me angry. Some leave me jazzed. All leave me energized and ready to learn more," he writes. Blogs are not only a forum for public discussion, but also a way educators can prepare themselves-and their students-for a future driven by networked learning.

In her research column, Tracy Huebner (p. 88) reminds us that teacher learning is an iterative process, involving both group interaction and self-reflection. Teachers who at first reject a new idea may yet assimilate that idea and make it their own. "It challenges the myth that once teachers walk into their classrooms and close the door, no messages get through," Tracy writes. "In fact, we know that classroom doors are permeable."

In our lead article, Sonia Nieto (p. 8) reminds educators of the many reasons they entered the profession-from the desire to engage with intellectual work to the hope of changing students' lives, from a belief in the democratic potential of public education to anger at the conditions of schools today. All of these are at the heart of what makes for excellent and caring teachers. She writes:
Probably the most significant action school districts can take in changing the nature of professional development is to provide meaningful and engaging programs that respect the intelligence and good will of teachers. The conditions in which they work are often trying. If we are to keep good teachers in the classroom, [we] need to find ways to create environments in which teachers can form strong collaborative relationships with their peers and in which they can continue to learn about themselves, their students, and their students' communities.

Her advice to first-year teachers is worth repeating:
"Make a friend." By this I mean work to create a community. When teachers develop allies, they remain fresh, committed, and hopeful.
And they also learn."

IME4511 Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Concepts & Design

Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Concepts and Design is an inservice and Maris Stella High (Primary) School hosted it on four Monday afternoons.
In the first session, participants were introduced to the basics of lesson study. In particular, they watched a video on lesson study in the Japanese education system to understand how lesson study fits into the professional development of teachers. They also watched another video on lesson study in mathematics, also from Japan, to see what it means when we describe lesson study as comprising of (a) lesson planning (b) research lesson (c) post-lesson discussion and (d) revising lesson plan.
By the end of the first session, we have gone on to identify the research theme for a lesson study effort. When schools want to begin lesson study, they should start by articulating the research theme which serves to give focus and direction to teacher learning. Participants were asked to compile the vision and mission of the education system, their school and their department to help them articulate their research theme. This research theme will be used to describe ideal student characteristics wrt the research theme. Participants were also asked to locate information about the actual student characteristics. The gap between the actual and ideal will be crucial in the subsequent stages of lesson study.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lesson Study Events 2009

Inservice Courses

There are two in-service courses for lesson study in primary mathematics offered by NIE. The one in March (2, 9, 23 and 26 March 2009) focuses on concepts and principles. This is suitable for beginners. The other one is on the implementation and the course is essentially your team doing one cycle of lesson study. This can be done anytime between April and July and takes place in your school. This second course has started and schools have started to form their lesson study team to accomplish the task. Please see TRAISI for more details.
NIE Courses by CTL

Patsy Wang-Iverson conducted two level one workshops, one during the March school break in Temasek Secondary and another during the term in St Stephen's Primary School. There was also a level two workshop during th eMarch school break. She aslo did one in-house session for Jurong Secondary School.

Symposium on Lesson Study in Mathematics

We are planning to hold this symposium during the September holidays or end of the year. We are still looking at partners to co-host it. Details are still being worked out. If your school or organization is interested to co-host this with us, please let me know. This symposium is a follow-up from the one we had in June 2008 (NIE) organized by NIE and AME and the first one that we had in August 2007 (Cedar Primary School) organized by NIE and Tsukuba University.

Projects with Professor Akihiko Takahashi

Two primary schools are involved in a project with Akihiko Takahashi. When he is in town in September 2009, we will most likely organised workshops for teachers in Singapore. Keep a look out for this.


WALS2009 takes place on 8-10 December 2009. It will be in Hong Kong again. The subsequent WALS will be outside Hong Kong. In fact, we are looking for it to be held in Singapore in the coming year.

Learning Journey to Japan

I am discussing with Makoto Yoshida and Akihiko Takahashi to organise a study trip to Japan to learn more about lesson study in mathematics. The one planned for June-July for the US teachers is cancelled because of the economic situation in the US where funding for education has been reduced.

The photo shows teachers participating in a research lesson as part of an in-service course on mathematical problem-solving heuristics in October 2008. The lesson was held at Princess Elizabeth School, Singapore.