Thursday, December 18, 2008

Position on Literacy

What is literacy? The basic definition is reading and writing and a hundred years ago that would have been true. However, literacy has changed in the 21st century. To be successful in the modern world, a literate person needs to do more – they need to evaluate, interpret, analyze, synthesize, and respond – not just to words – but numbers, images, video and graphics, and in a variety of contexts. In addition, the amount of information available increases exponential every year. There is no longer a single expert, but a community of experts. Knowledge is no longer something to be attained, but instead, found to be used in practical purposes. A silent classroom indicates teacher control and rote learning, but the job world demands active, independent and collaborative participants who can manipulate information and communicate it clearly. With a changing definition of literacy, classroom instruction need to adapt to reflect the new demands of literacy.

Reading and writing are social events. Teachers need to create opportunities for students to actively interact with text and each other.

Piaget believed that when individuals cooperate, socio-cognitive conflict occurs that creates cognitive disequilibrium, which prompts new perspective-taking and advances cognitive development. Vygotsky showed that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development through the teaching of a More Knowledgeable Other (MKO), often an adult, and learning occurs when the task is within the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). To extend the idea of Vygotsky's more knowledgeable other, Blatchford et al. (2003) feel that, “pupil-pupil or ‘peer’ relations, as developmental psychology has shown (Pellegrini & Blatchford, 2000), can be an inherently motivating context for action and learning. In contrast to adult child relations, they are more horizontally organized and power is more likely to be evenly shared.” (p. 159) In addition, peers understand each other more directly, which may help them achieve intersubjectivity,which, according to Vygotsky, is the shared understanding of something. 
Conversation is an important part of learning. Students need opportunities to discuss what they are learning. One example of this is Literature Circles. Harvey Daniels(1994) pioneered the use of Literature Circles in his book of the same name. Small groups of students read the same text and each student receives a specific role, such as Discussion Director, Passage Picker, Word Wizard, Connector, and Summarizer. When the students get together to discuss the text, each student presents their role and encourages discussion from the rest of the group. Students end up discussing the same ideas that the teacher would assign as questions, though since it is student generated, they feel more ownership for the work. Eventually, students are weaned off of the roles to more book club-like conversations. Through conversation, students are able to gain different perspectives of the text and each other.

Writing and reading are about making meaning from and with text in relation to personal and cultural goals and experiences. The goal of the literacy teacher is to help students clearly communicate their ideas and understand the ideas of others.

Gallagher (2003) gives nine reasons for reading, and none of them have to do with standardized tests or isolated phonic skills. Reading is: emotionally and intellectually rewarding, builds vocabulary, makes you a better writer, makes you smarter, prepares you for the world of work, financially rewarding, opens the doors to college and beyond, arms you against oppression and is hard reading is a good challenge. In the past, the illiterate person was one who physically could not sign their name or read a document. In the future, an illiterate person will be one who can, but chooses not to read or write.

In order to be literate, people need to be able to teach themselves. Not the old version of literacy of just reading, writing, and arithmetic. The new forms of literacy includes evaluation and research skills plus understanding graphics and video. Students will be doing most of their reading online, so they will need to know how to evaluation the bias and information presented on the pages. They'll need to know how to backtrack on a webpage to find the author or organization of the webpage. Our current model of education assumes there is an authority with the correct information – often a writer, teacher, professor, researcher, or encyclopedia. However, that is no longer true. Although books continue to be published, much of the information that students encounter comes from the internet and anyone can put up a website.

What does it mean to be a reader in the 21st century? It isn't just reading the text, but also finding information, decoding text, images and multimedia, critically evaluate the information and organize the information. Mitchell Kapor, a computer engineer and developer of Lotus, said, “Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.” People can make and share websites and bookmarks. They are also using arrogators that automatically find information based on a personalized list of topics. To be a skilled reader, a student must be able to wade through reams of information to find the specific information needed and apply it to a new situation.

Writing will always be an important skill, however the genre of writing is changing. Blogging, wikis, emailing, and other forms of writing are emerging. Communication is becoming more multimedia and not just text. The successful pieces of information are those that get the reader's attention. Therefore schools need to be teaching students how to work with images and video with the images, text, and music working together to create powerful messages.

Graphic organizers can help students not only take better notes from their reading or to organize their writing, but they also organize those notes, present information in an orderly manner, and structure their thinking process. The general definition of graphic organizers is “a visual representation of knowledge that structures information by arranging important aspects of a concept or topic into a pattern using a label (Bromley, et al. p. 6).” Graphic organizers can be used before studying a topic to activate prior knowledge. During a study of a topic, students can use graphic organizers to order their notes, compare characteristics, find relationships, or learn new vocabulary. After studying a topic, graphic organizers can also help students demonstrate their learning. The same graphic organizer format can be used before, during and after studying a topic with just only a slight change in the focus.

Reading and writing are both cognitive processes with several recursive stages. 
In the past, teachers would assign an essay and expect the students to intuitively know how to get a finished product. During the 1970s, writing was seen as a process and teachers were encouraged to treat it as such, with pre-writing, drafting, revision, editing and publishing as a linear progression. However, professional writers see the process as a more nebulous operation, which changes based on the type of writing, subject, and even personal events. Although it is important to teach students different forms of pre-writing and planning and how to revise and edit, teachers need to recognize that the process is different for each student and possibly, for each writing task. Tony Romano (2005), teacher and author of several books, believes that language has tremendous power: writing describes the world, argues for what we believe, frames our thinking, and changes how we think. Believing that you can fill the empty page takes faith and fearlessness. The choice of words determine how we think about things. All writing is creative – even forming an argument and describing a chemistry lab. The creativity is in the choice and arrangement of words. Language is the mother, not the handmaiden of thought. Schools need to help students understand the power of language and develop fearlessness in using it.

Being able to accurately decode text is only the first step in truly being able to read. The reading process is quite similar to the writing process and requires actively engagement of the mind. The reader plans to read through setting a purpose, previewing the text and activating their prior knowledge and then begins to read. While reading, the reader visualizes, questions, tests hypotheses, and makes connections to the content of the text. During and after reading, the reader gets confirmation of his/her ideas and then may share ideas and responses with other people. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Tis the good reader that makes the book good.”
Reading and writing are intimately entwined – one informs the other. Francine Prose, an American writer with over a dozen novels, a half-dozen non-fiction book and three collections of short stories, wrote a book Reading Like a Writer. “Like most, maybe all, writers, I learned to write by writing and, by example, from books.” (2006, p. 2) Writing during reading helps the reader become more cognizant of their own understanding of the text and their connections to it. After reading, writing helps cement the story in the reader's mind. For many writers, reading good literature helps them find solutions to their own writing struggles.

Speaking, listening and collaboration are essential aspects of literacy and must be modeled, taught and practiced.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills was formed in 2002 by leading technology businesses such as: AOL Time Warner Foundation, Apple Computer, Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Inc., Dell Computer Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, along with the US Department of Education and National Education Association. Since that time they have added over three dozen large companies, businesses and educational organizations. The goal of the group is to “serve as a catalyst to position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education by building collaborative partnerships among education, business, community and government leaders” and it has “developed a unified, collective vision for 21st century learning that can be used to strengthen American education.” Within this context, the Partnership has identified communication and collaboration as part of the “skills, knowledge and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life in the 21st century.” This is defined as:
  • Articulating thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively through speaking and writing.
  • Demonstrating ability to work effectively with diverse teams.
  • Exercising flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal.
  • Assuming shared responsibility for collaborative work (Partnership, 2004)
Often speaking and listening get cursory attention in the curriculum and are lumped in with giving presentations and read alouds, but good speaking and active listening takes skill and practice. Coming into the classroom, students are primed and pumped to talk, but are not often aware of how they present themselves and view listening as a passive activity. Students need to have the opportunity to present themselves in a variety of situations – large and small group, form and informal, different genres of speeches, and including the teaching of techniques of body awareness and voice projection. It is estimated that people retain only 25-50% of what they hear, which means most people lose 50-75% of the content of any conversation – which would include classroom discussion and lecture. Learning active listening skills will have an impact on students' personal life, scholarly pursuits and career achievement.


"Our doctors don't treat patients using 19th-century medicines, and our teachers shouldn't educate students using 19th-century learning models...Today's students need to demonstrate knowledge of core subjects such as reading, math, and science—but they also must learn additional skills, including critical thinking, decision making, problem solving and communication, and the ability to adapt to a changing world." (The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2004) 

Ian Jukes (2000), author of Windows on the Future : Education in the Age of Technology and NetSavvy : Building Information Literacy in the Classroom, stresses the need to reform teaching and learning to reflect the profound changes happening in society. He describes seven exponential trends and how these trends effect culture and education. He believes that 21st century learners need to be effective problem solvers and information fluent. A successful problem solver: 1) Defines a problem 2) Designs a solution 3) Does the task with the appropriate tools 4) Debriefs to see if the solution corrected the problem. A fluent information user: 1) Asks the right questions 2) Accesses the data 3) Analyzes the information 4) Applies what has been learned 5) Assesses both the process and the product.

Recognizing these social, cultural and informational changes, the modern classroom MUST adapt to give students the skills and attitudes which will be demanded in their future. It is estimated that the current generation of workers will change careers ( not just jobs) at least a dozen times. That means that the traditional goal of education – filling minds with content – is truly irrelevant. Schools need to teach and encourage students to be thinkers, planners, researchers, visionaries, and their own teachers.
Blatchford, P., Kutnick, P., Baines, E., and Galton, M. (2003) Toward a social pedagogy of classroom group work. In Blatchford, P., and Kutnick, P. (Eds.) Special Edition of International Journal of Educational Research, 39, 153-172.
Bromley, K., Irwin-Devitis, L., and Modlo, M. (1999). 50 graphic organizers for reading, writing, and more. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
Daniels, H. (1994). Literature circles: Voice and choice in the student-centered classroom. Stenhouse Publishers.
Jukes, I. & McCain, T. (2000). Windows on the future : Education in the age of technology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2004). Retrieved November 15, 2008, from:
Prose, F. (2006). Reading like a writer: A guide for people who love books and for those who want to write them. New York: Harper Collins.
Romano, T. (2005, November). Middle school mosaic presentation. National Council of Teachers of English Convention 2005. Pittsburgh, PA.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hollywood, Education and Globalization

In the 1999 film The Matrix, the main characters have ports in the back of their heads in which information can be downloaded. Within seconds, they can access information like jujitsu fighting or flying a helicopter. Yet in this world in which anything is possible and everything is learn-able, the characters are still seeking “The One” who will set them free and they use a Oracle to find it. In many ways, this describes our current educational system. We continue to try and download information into kids, but we are looking for “The One Way” which will make education fair, equitable and accessible to all.

I've been pondering the idea of paideia for quite some time, though I may not have called it that. As a novice teacher, I was concerned about the content I was teaching. My assigned mentor was very traditional – with grammar, vocabulary, literature, and spelling all scheduled out each week. Yet I knew there should be more. I stumbled on Harvard's Project Zero and the idea of Teaching for Understanding, which, in brief, “ says that understanding a topic of study is a matter of being able to perform in a variety of thought-demanding ways with the topic, for instance to: explain, muster evidence, find examples, generalize, apply concepts, analogize, represent in a new way, and so on.” (Perkins, 1993). While attending the 2002 Project Zero Summer institute, I heard a lecture by Howard Gardner based on his work on The Disciplined Mind:What All Students Should Understand. He proposed that schools are dehumanizing education through the focus on standards and teaching. Instead, study should focus on the ideas of truth, beauty and goodness. When I returned to my classroom, I began planning backwards – What major understandings did I want my students to demonstrate at the end of a unit? Then, more importantly, how would these understandings make them better people? At a time that affective education was antithetic, I was embracing it.

Paideia - In ancient Greek, the word paideia (παιδεία) means "education" or "instruction." Paideia was the process of educating humans into their true form, the real and genuine human nature. Since self-government was important to the Greeks, paideia, combined with ethos (habits), made a man good and made him capable as a citizen or a king. This education was not about learning a trade or an art—which the Greeks called banausos, and which were considered mechanical tasks unworthy of a learned citizen—but was about training for liberty (freedom) and nobility (the beautiful).” (Paideia, 2008)

When I look at Hollywood, the directors have already embraced this trend. Dead Poets Society (1989) encouraged students to "suck the marrow out of life" and throw away the institutional format of reading poetry. Dangerous Minds (1995), Freedom Writers (2007) and The Ron Clark Story (2006) showed that students need to see meaning and purpose to their education – but also, part of education should be about becoming fully human – empathetic, creative and purposeful. 
According to Vavrus, education in Tanzania is moving toward social constructivism in order to foster a more democratic society. She quotes Richard Tabulawa who states that too often classrooms in Third World countries are authoritarian, which does not support development of democracies. Yet in her research, Vavrus found a disconnect between what the system says it values and what it actually values. The skill and drill form of instruction dominates because skill in isolation is the focus of test. When pre-service teachers were confronted with the idea of student centered teaching, they mostly rejected it on the basis of “What's going to be tested?” This argument is not unfamiliar in the United States. As wonderful as the student-centered, constructivist, humanistic paideia idea of theorists and thinkers sound, the reality is that teachers/schools are being judged by the test performance of their students. Until the system goals match the system's evaluation method, there will be this struggle.

Hollywood even understands this disconnect. In the 2006 release Accepted, the main character, Bartleby is rejected for every college, although his grades were good. To forestall disappointing his parents, he creates a fictional, South Harmon Institute of Technology. However, when his parents actually want to see the campus, he is forced to really create a school from an old building. With the help of his friends, they fix up the building, create a website, and enlist the help of a burn-out drifter to be the director. When “opening day” arrives, they find themselves with hundreds of students (all rejected from other schools) at the door. Although it is a comedy, the important part of the story is how the curriculum is developed. The students write on a large board what skills and ideas they have and what skills and ideas they would like to have. On the board they find their own teachers and classes and learn from each other. In the end, the school receives a provisional license to try their experiment in education. 
If Hollywood is articulating our society's desire for change, and making money off of it too, why aren't we listening?


“Paideia.” (2008, November 2). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 13, 2008 from

Perkins, D (1993, Fall). “Teaching for Understanding,” American Educator: The Professional Journal of the American Federation of Teachers; v17 n3, pp. 8,28-35.

Vavrus, F., The cultural politics of constructivist pedagogies: Teacher education reform in the United
Republic of Tanzania. Int. J. Educ. Dev. (2008), doi:10.1016/j.ijedudev.2008.05.002

Friday, October 10, 2008

Globalization and International Schools

For the past 10 years, I was a teacher at three different international schools. Each school was very different in terms of facilities, my job description, resources available, student background, parental expectations of education, and local culture. However, each school espoused a belief in their mission statement that in some way, they were shaping global citizens. I was not sure what that meant at the time, and I continue to struggle with this. 

When searching for news articles on globalization, I went to the newspaper I read as an international teacher entitled TheInternational Educator. I had assumed that I would find many articles, but there were only about six articles that used the term global - although many advertisements used the term. One article I found especially interesting was “The Challenge of Global Citizenship in our Schools” by Bambi Betts (2007). She stated, “A substantial percentage of international schools claim through their mission statements that the school will strive to help students become global citizens . . .As elusive as it may be, if it's in your mission, your school MUST do three things: define what it means to be a global citizen, determine how students will be taught to be global citizens, and the piece we find most difficult, decide how to determine the type and extent of progress students are making.” With all of the other demands of schooling and school policy making, I wonder how many schools actually tackle this issue?

As I was reading the texts about the historical context for globalization, I was struck by the cyclical nature of our world. Tilly (2004) states, “Any time a distinctive set of social connections and practices expands from a regional to a transcontinental scale, some globalization is occurring.” Did the Romans and Arabs agonize over the idea of globalization? Tilly goes on to talk about the flow of migration, ideas, trade, and capital as part of globalization. For the international schools I worked at, much of the unwritten curriculum is an enculturation of American values and educational priorities. We had to educate both parents and students how we “do school” the American way, which included projects, group work, disagreeing with the teacher and others and supporting your own opinion. We gave workshops and handouts about homework, reading practices and bullying. By doing this, we were preparing students to fit into American universities and (we assumed) international universities. 

But, I wonder how is that creating global citizens? In actuality, like the Romans did as they conquered other peoples, we (at international school) were creating citizens that could fit into our American society. And yet, the local community and culture, along with the tertiary school culture (made up of locals, third country nationals, and Americans), had a strong influence on how we interpreted American education in that context. As Lee and LiPuma (2002) said, “these interpretive communities determine lines of interpretation, found institutions, and set boundaries based principally on their own internal dynamic.”

Once I entered graduate school and encountered Marxism for the first time, I was confronted with the idea that international schools are actually an unfair practice. Tilly (2004) stated “as of 2000, the world economy displayed startling inequalities.” A classmate of mine challenged me to think of international schools as a colonization technique – another way of subjecting the local population to an inferior education. I have to admit, I was appalled to think of it this way. However, in reflection, I see many of my schools' practices to be just that.

Within a country, an international school often has unique ties to the local government – which I saw in the three I worked at, and heard about from others. Often, the government has to sanction the formation of an international school, which for developing countries, means creating and passing new laws. Implicitly, this means the ruling body agrees with the fundamentals of having foreigners educating the youth in the country. Which, conversely, indicates that the local educational system could not handle the demands of the foreigners in the local schools. By creating separate schools, the nomadic foreigners are insulated from the context of local society, which does, (in many cases) create resentment. In my last schools, most students were bussed directly to the school. A few students, who spoke the local language, would take the public buses. However, they would cover or take off their uniforms because they would be harassed by local students about being “Preppies” or the rich kids who go to the school that anyone can buy their way into. The international schools are generally better funded, are able to import supplies and materials easily, sometimes get special treatment from the government (taxes, educational requirements etc), can hire more educated faculty and the students come from a higher socioeconomic class than the local population. 
To combat this resentment and to create “globally aware citizens,” many international school require community service projects for the students, which, in theory, gives back to the local community. However, I have seen it, at times, create a greater sense of superiority in students and faculty, rather than empathy. As Bauman (1998) says, “Globalization divides as much as it unites; it divides as it unites.” (p. 2) When shopping for gifts for the poorer local kids, some students bought inferior gifts than if buying for their own friends, assuming that since the local kids had little, any gift would be appreciated. 
Rick Steves, a travel writer stated, “Most cultural groups develop separately, with their own logical (as far as they're concerned) answers to life's basic needs. While every culture is ethnocentric, thinking "we do it right," it's important for travelers to understand that most solutions to life's problems are neither right nor wrong.” Sometimes, when confronted with confusing actions from the local communities, parents, faculty and students assume that the local population is ignorant of the “right way” to do something. Instead of creating acceptance and tolerance, this can lead to greater division.

Bauman goes on to cite Dunlap's principle of the company belonging to the shareholders, not the workers or locality. This is true in a lot of schools, yet I think, more evident in international schools – especially in the schools where the student population is overwhelmingly foreign as opposed to local. Generally, the school board is elected of and by the parents. This board sets policy, approves hiring, budget etc. Often, the parents will only be in-country for 2-5 years, so their agendas are short term - “what's best for my kid.” It is difficult to get long-term programs and ideas to move forward, because the student body and faculty turn over every 2-5 years. There can be a sense of “freedom from the duty to contribute to daily life and the perpetuation of the community”(p. 9) along with “no need to engage, if avoidance will do.” (p.11) I know several of my students would not become involved in local sports or hang out with neighborhood kids because the students knew they would move away eventually. As they said, “So what's the point?” I also know that programs I started, such as visits to a local orphanage and offering professional development to local teachers, ended as soon as I left.

So, how should international schools create global citizens? I think, first, the schools must engage the students (and faculty) in becoming local citizens – to care for and about the issues, ideas and people of their host country. This means greater ties to the community, and not just in service projects, but through social events, shared entertainment and sports, and academics; to combat the superiority complex. A school must be grounded in the local, with mutual respect and understanding, so that both the international and local populations benefit and learn from the interaction.


Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization: The human consequences. Cambridge, Polity.
Betts, B. (April 2007). The challenge of global citizenship in our schools. The international educator. 25.
Lee, B. & LiPuma, E. (2002) Cultures of circulation: The imaginations of modernity. Public Culture 14(1): 191-213.
Steves, R. (2008). Culture shock and wiggle room. Accessed Oct. 13, 2008
Tilly, C.. (2004). Past, present and future globalizations. In: Steiner-Khamsi, G. The global politics of borrowing and lending. New York: Teachers College Press. 13-28.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Literature Review for a Metaphor Analysis of a Teacher's E-mail Correspondence with Parents About a Student


People use metaphors, consciously or unconsciously, to make sense of the world around them. The choice of metaphors indicates how the person perceives a situation. In teaching, a teacher may profess a particular ideology or philosophy, yet the metaphors the teacher uses in his/her daily discourse may contradict the conscious declaration. In this study, metaphor analysis is used with a teacher's email parent correspondence to see how her beliefs about education are enacted in written text to parents. The literature review will focus on an overview of metaphor analysis, metaphors in education, and how teacher's express their beliefs through metaphors.

Metaphor Analysis
Metaphors are Embedded in Language

Lakoff and Johnson's (1980) seminal work, Metaphors We Live By, changed the paradigm of how we think about metaphors. They say that the most fundamental values in a culture will be coherent with the metaphorical structures of the most fundamental concepts of the culture. However, the metaphorical structures are often under the surface of thought and action. Metaphor is primarily a matter of thought and action and only secondarily a matter of language. There are different categories of metaphors in language. Orientational metaphors organizes a whole system of concepts with respect to one another. For example, UP = HAPPY or MORE. Therefore, if something is cheerful, we say it is “uplifting” or a good day in the stock market would be called an “up trend.” Ontological metaphors show ways of viewing events, which casts the event as a thing. 
Many researchers agree with Lakoff and Johnson. William Taylor states, “Far from being a mere linguistic decoration, metaphor comes to be seen as a ubiquitous feature of our thinking and our discourse, the basis of the conceptual systems by means of which we understand and act within our worlds” (p. 5). Therefore the study of the use of metaphors is an important aspect of not only linguists, but anthropologists, philosophers, sociologists, historians, psychologists, counselors, and educators. Schmitt (2000) states, “The employment and linking of these metaphors is not a matter of chance, but an indication that patterns of thought, perception, communication and action that are consistent in themselves are here coming into play.”

Influence of Metaphorical Thinking
Not only are metaphors embedded in language and mostly unconscious, the way we use metaphors shape the way we think. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) state:
Many of our activities are metaphorical in nature. The metaphorical concepts that characterize those activities structure our present reality. New metaphors have the power to create new reality. This can begin to happen when we start to comprehend out experience in terms of a metaphor and it becomes a deeper reality when we begin to act in terms of it . . . much of cultural change arises from the introduction of new metaphorical concepts and the loss of old ones. (p. 145)

Therefore, recognition of the metaphor in use will lead to a better understanding of the person's reality. In attempting to change, a person need to imagine and articulate a new metaphor for him/herself.
Sfard (1998) agrees, “Different metaphors may lead to different ways of thinking and to different activities. We may say, therefore, that we live by the metaphors we use.” However, she goes on to contend that metaphors can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences. Metaphors allow abstract thinking to be possible, yet the same metaphor can also confine thinking.

Dominant Metaphors of Education

Metaphors have a strong influence on everyday thinking and action. It is no surprise that the metaphors used in education influence policy, curriculum, and classroom interaction. It is important to recognize the metaphors applied in order to understand the underlying belief and philosophies. Eilliott states:
Metaphors are widely used in educational discussion and fulfil a variety of functions, such as introducing fresh perspectives, making illuminating comparisons and contrasts, picking out kinds of phenomena not yet names, emphasis, illustration, enlivening dull writing, and many others. The vast majority of such metaphors are only transient waves in the sea of everyday educational reflection. (p. 39)

Marshall (1988), Aspin (1984) and Bullough (1994b) contend that the dominant educational metaphor in American education is that of the school as a workplace or factory. In this context, the student is the worker, the teacher the manager, and the principal the boss. Students are rewarded with grades for work completed and the focus of the school is on discipline and management of students, rather then learning. Both researchers site the historical basis of this metaphor in the Industrial Revolution and the stress on productivity.

Education as growth is another dominant metaphor for education, according to Elliot (1984). However he goes on to explain that in the 1960s a new metaphor of education as initiation was introduced by R. S. Peters in his inaugural lecture at the University of London and became one of the dominant metaphors through the seventies, though it no longer has the following it used to. 
In addition, Sfard (1998) believes that education is currently caught between two prevalent, yet seemingly confliction metaphors - acquisition verses participation. Under the acquisition metaphor, knowledge can be acquired and transferred or shared with others; its possession is highly prized. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) would view this under the metaphor MIND IS A CONTAINER, which can be filled. Learning as participation suggests a focus on process and knowing, activities and practice. However, each metaphor has something to offer education and to choose one over the other would create exclusivity and extremism. According to Sfard, neither metaphor can fully explain the complexities of learning and education must learn how to blend the two.

Teachers' Metaphors and Sense of Self 
A teacher's personal teaching metaphor, whether it is conscious or unconscious, guides the teacher's curriculum choices, interactions with students and parents, and sense of effectiveness as a teacher. Many researchers believe that a person's belief about education is based on personal experience and is well established before entering preservice training, though often unspoken (Munby & Russell, 1996; Martinez, A.M, Sauleda, N., & Huber, L.G., 2001). Prawat recommends that teachers not only understand their own metaphors of teaching but also how their metaphors are embodied in the classroom (Prawat, 1999, as cited by Martinez et al, 2001). 
Robert Bullough, a Professor of Teacher Education at Brigham Young University, has done extensive studies of pre-service teacher's personal teaching metaphors. When a teacher's personal teaching metaphor is in contrast to the institutional metaphor, the teacher must learn how to negotiate the conflict. In his 1991 initial study of fifteen preservice teachers, he asked the preservice teachers to articulate their beliefs of teaching through identifying a metaphor to describe the role of the teacher. However, once they began student teaching, he found that many students' metaphors were in conflict with dominant metaphors of the students, the cooperating teacher and/or the school environment. All had to negotiate their personal metaphors and the metaphors of the environment, which caused distress as their metaphors were being supplanted. Yet, others found ways to consciously build small experiences that matched their metaphors and felt more satisfied. Bullough (1992) continued to follow two of these teachers into their first year of teaching. One teacher, who had a strongly established teaching metaphor, searched for opportunities to express his true teaching self in a traditional setting, and, having rationalized his compromise, he ended the year feeling positive about himself and his profession. The other teacher was torn between her personal teaching metaphor and the perceived requirements of the situation and ended the year questioning her choice of profession. 
Carol Briscoe (1991) proposes that before a teacher can make significant pedagogical changes, the teacher must recognize the unconscious beliefs he/she hold and how these beliefs have been constructed from past experiences. In her study, the teacher wanted to make some significant changed to the way he taught, but found it difficult to embrace cooperative and constructivist learning. The teacher's actions often contradicted his professed goals in changing his teaching. Briscoe found that he had difficulty reconstructing his metaphors and underlying beliefs to match these new practices, therefore little change happened.

Briscoe, C. (1991). The dynamic interactions among beliefs, role metaphors, and teaching practices: A case study of teacher change. Science Education, 75(2), 185-199.
Bullough, R. V. (1991) Exploring personal teaching metaphors in preservice teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 42(1), 43-51.
Bullough, R. V. (1992) Beginning teacher curriculum decision making, personal teaching metaphors, and teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 8(3), 239-252.
Bullough, R. V. (1994b) Digging at the roots: discipline, management and metaphor, Action in Teacher Education, 16(1), 1-10.
Elliott, R. (1984). Metaphor, imagination and conceptions of education. In W. Taylor (ed.) Metaphors of Education. London: Heinemann. 
Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Marshall, H. (1988). Work or learning, implications of classroom metaphors. Educational Researcher, 17, 9-16.
Martinez, A.M, Sauleda, N., & Huber, L.G. (2001). Metaphors as blueprints of thinking about teaching and learning. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 965-977
Munby, H. & Russell, T. (1996). Theory follows practice in learning to teach and in research on teaching. Retrieved April 24, 2008 from
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Monday, April 14, 2008

Personal Response to The Ethnographic I by Carol Ellis

I was interested in reading The Ethnographic I by Carolyn Ellis for several reasons. First, I am beginning some research, which may turn into my dissertation about Americans teaching in international schools. I've been an international teacher for the past ten years, so I am a member of the group I am researching, though at this time, not as a participate. However, I am using my friends and colleagues as part of my research. This is potentially both advantageous and problematic. First, I have already built relationships with the participants, yet since these relationships are as a friend or colleague, it may be difficult to transition to researcher. I am partially guided by the old adage, “Write what you know” in doing this research. But, I struggle with the objective/subjective part of the research. As an English teacher and bibliophile I have been immersed in narrative for most of my life. When I took the Myers-Brigg Personality Indicator, I had strong tendencies to ENFP – Extraversion, iNtuition, Feeling, and Perceiving. This personality type seems tailor-made for ethnography, “Words, ideas and possibilities spew effortlessly from them. Words are their best friends. . . They use metaphors, stories, images and analogies to make their point” (Myers-Briggs Personality Type, 1997-2006).

From the beginning, it is clear this will be a different sort of methodology book. The cast of characters sets it up to be a play or drama of some sort. It is interesting to note that some characters are based on real people and others on composites. This brings up the question of truth in storytelling, yet the author makes her intentions transparent in the Preface. Ellis says, “In this work, I intentionally combine fictional and ethnographic scenes . . . Combining literary and ethnographic techniques allows me to create a story to engage readers in methodological concerns in the same way a novel engages readers in its plot.” (xx) Which, in beginning the book, I would agree with. The introductory dialogue was certainly a lot more interesting than the typical preface. So, the major question throughout my reading will be, can a piece of research be both ethnography and a novel? If so, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages in writing in this genre as a researcher?

I had to check the character of Jack. He is the model of science in which Ellis has to defend herself, though she say that she isn't defending herself. He is the voice in my head that says the same things – that challenges the methodology.

I am very interested in seeing the Ellis's insecurities as a professor. As a new graduate student, I have the impression that everyone is a little bit smarter and better equipped than I, and to think that a professor would be so concerned about how things are going and afraid of messing up is revealing.

On page 110, the class brought up an interesting point, “Do you have to be emotional to do autoethnography?” Ellis's response is that the subject matter and process is inherently emotional. Plus, emotionality helps the researcher connect with the participants. However, being too emotional clouds the researcher and may inhibit the researcher's ability to write. Then a question, which I have, is asked, “Does it have to center on pain?” (pg. 110) Ellis feels that pain makes the most evocative writing, which, in her mind, should be a goal of an autoethnographer. However, Art Bochner says, “sometimes the impetus for writing autoethnography is something other than pain. Sometimes it comes from the desire to remember and honor the past. We write to find the truths of our experiences, some painful, some not.” (pg. 111)

One of the issues we've struggled in class is the truth in storytelling. It isn't surprising that Ellis addresses this issue through the voice of Jack. I can relate to Jack, because he asks the questions I would ask in this class, he asks, “How would I make sure that what I said was truthful?” Ellis says, “The 'truth' is that we can never fully capture experience. What we tell is always a story about the past. Gregory Bateson says stories are true in the present though not in the past . . . If you viewed your project as closer to art than science, then your goal would be not so much to portray the facts of what happened to you accurately but instead to convey the meanings you attached to the experience.” (pg. 116) Like Jack, I wonder if this sort of research is respected in education. I feel a connection to the method, but fear not being taken seriously.

Another issue, related to truth is the validity of the research. Being a new grad student, I just went through the Human Subjects Protection Tutorial. In these modules, there were strong warnings and threats about accurately reporting results. Ellis says,
“[The students] ask how we know when our social inquiries are faithful enough to some human construction that we and those we study feel safe to act on what we find. In seeking to redefine validity, these authors turn to criteria for judging the processes and outcomes of research projects rather than the methods by which outcomes are produced. A standard of fairness judges whether all stakeholder views are reflected in the text. Ontological and educative authenticity assesses whether these is a raised awareness in the research participants. Catalytic authenticity and tactical authenticity evaluate actions by participants and researchers to prompt social and political action if that is desired. In autoethnographic work, I look at valisity in terms of what happens to readers as well as to research participants and researchers. To me, validity means that our work seeks verisimilitude; it evokes in readers a feeling that the experiences described is lifelike, believable, and possible.” (pg. 123-124)

This type of research seems to have a lot of ambiguity. Ellis addresses the use of composite characters, which is not reporting on what “actually happened” but “to protect the privacy or a research participant ... you might use composites or change some identifying information. Or you might collapse events to write a more engaging story, which might be more truthful in a narrative sense though not in a historical one.” (pg.125) Again, there is the part of me, trained in scientific method, that criticizes this seemingly lackadaisical attitude about reporting the truth and the responsibility of a researcher.

The story that Ellis shares about taking care of her mother really touches a cord in me. I'm in that stage of life where my parents are also needing more help. However, the issue that really interests me is about getting permission of family members to write about them. We began to explore this issue in class, and really didn't come up with a solid answer. Ellis shares her fear, at first, about embarrassing her mother about the physical details, yet when she finally shared the story, her mother was not upset and it seems to draw them closer. Ellis's conclusion is similar to our class's conclusion, it depends, “Each decision requires assessment of the local circumstances and a desire to avoid doing harm. . . I think you should make decisions in research the same way you make them in your personal life, only with more consideration of the impact on others since usually the research is for your own gain.” (pg. 153)


“Myers-Briggs Personality Type, Your Best Fit Type, and an introduction
to the 16 types.” (1997 - 2006 ). Personality Pathways. Ross Reinhold & Reinhold Development.

Ellis, C. (2004). The Ethnographic I: A methodological novel about autoethnography. Walnut
Creek: AltaMira Press.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Beginning of Grounded Theory

I found it unusual, yet helpful to read the results of using the method (Awareness of Dying) before truly understanding the method. Being a certified nursing assistant and working in nursing homes for several years, I could certainly identify with the conceptual categories Glaser/Strauss identified. Through personal experience, I saw the awareness contexts – and saw them shift. Yet, before reading Discovery, I didn't have a full appreciation of how the data was generated or analyzed.

In the early part of the twentieth century, sociologists believed that the “great men” of sociology has generated enough theory and now the task was to verify these theories, which meant collecting data to support the proposed theories. At the same time was a growing support for quantitative data rather than qualitative as the feeling was that quantitative data was more accurate and easier to verify. As a result, qualitative researchers began writing like quantitative researchers. But, Glaser/Strauss contend that “there is no fundamental clash between the purposes and capacities of qualitative and quantitative methods or data. What clash there is concerns the primacy of emphasis on verification or generation of theory . . .We believe that each form of data is useful for both verification and generation of theory . . . In many instances, both forms of data are necessary.” (pgs. 17-18).

Although this summary of the qualitative verses quantitative conflict did not surprise me, I found it interesting that people, at one time, could have thought there were no new theories to generate. That's like Thomas Watson's (the chairman of IBM in 1943) comment, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." How could sociologists of the time be so arrogant as to think that everything had been thought of? The early 1900s was a time of great change – both technologically and socially. Women were becoming more liberated and a whole new era of conflict between countries began. I can't imagine how old theories would fit the new times, which, I guess is part of Glaser/Strauss's argument. To parallel their contention that quantitative methods gained prominence was the advent of the IQ test. It was a nice, neat number that seemed to explain everything, yet in reality just forced evidence into a preconceived notion of intelligence, which was later disputed by Howard Gardner and his theory of multiple intelligences, which don't fit into a numbers based test.

In grounded theory, the researcher will generating “conceptual categories” - or general statements concerning the situation - like labeling a file. From this category, predications can be made. If something fails the predication, it leads to more questions about the category, not a failure of the category. The categories stay the same, but the evidence filed under each may change. This evidence gives each category its properties. However, sometimes, in comparing data, new categories and/or properties may emerge. In this way, comparative analysis is both verifying and generating theory. Therefore, grounded theory is “theory as process” (pg. 32). This recognizes the need for a theory to change and develop more fully, encouraging more research and questioning.

The section on describing grounded theory methods was a difficult one for me to read. I think a lot of it has to do with the continued prominence of the scientific method. It was a major paradigm shift for me. Throughout my schooling, it was ingrained that I had to have a research question before researching, and the goal was to prove or disprove it. The notion that I could ask, “What's going on here?” was ridiculous – how would I know if my answer was right? Since it is human nature (or nurture) to predict or hypothesize, I would imagine that a grounded theory researcher has to constantly remind herself not to anticipate the data. At this point, I think this would be one of the most difficult aspects for me, having been in the habit of hypothesizing.
The idea of emerging theory blurs the line between collecting and analyzing data. As a researcher collects data he/she may begin to form some hypotheses, which, unlike the scientific method's hypothesis, is more of a suggestion than a testable question. Several hypotheses come together to form the core of emerging theory, which, again, leaves room for flexibility as it encourages continued refinement. “Theoretical sampling is the process of data collection for generating theory whereby the analyst jointly collects, codes, and analyzes his data and decides what data to collect nest and where to find them, in order to develop his theory as it emerges” (pg. 45). When deciding which group to study, the group to be studied is chosen for its “theoretical relevance” (pg. 49). This limits the researcher's ability to pre-plan the numbers and types, but allows for flexibility as the concepts emerge. To begin with, a researcher will compare different groups of the same substantive types. Then, to expand the theory, the researcher will need to compare different types of groups within larger groups or external groups. When a researcher moves to discovering formal theory, she will then select dissimilar groups within the larger class. “Since the basis of comparison between substantively non-comparable groups is not readily apparent, it must be explained on a higher conceptual level” (pg.53). “Theoretical saturation” is the point where a category's properties are defined and no additional data will modify the properties. At that point, new groups should be sought to saturate other categories. As for the method of data collection, multiple methods are encouraged, as it gives a fuller picture of the situation studied. One difficulty in this type of research is the time-line. Since the selection of groups happens as the research indicates, along with how much data and of what kind, a pre-planned, static time-line is impossible.
Flexibility seems to be the key to grounded theory. First, the data collecting is not as straightforward as a scientific experiment. The types of data can't be only qualitative, because numbers don't tell the whole story when people interact with people. Narrative, interviews and observations are messy, yet important. The participant group must also be flexible, as one narrative may lead the researcher to another person or group.

After working through the IRB form in class, I can imagine that this is one of the most frustrating parts of being a grounded theorist. Finally, being flexible with your emerging theory would be a challenge. I think most people like seeing a clear-cut answer – which the scientific method offers, but grounded theory does not.

A substantive theory is one that emerges from the research of a particular group. In developing a good formal grounded theory, researchers refer to the substantive theory as a starting point. Many formal grounded theories are rewritten substantive theories – with the group wording taken out. However, this type of formal theory generation needs more comparative analysis to be taken seriously as a good formal grounded theory. In contrast, by comparative analysis of diverse groups, “exceedingly complex and well-grounded theory can be developed” (pg. 85).

The thing that really struck me as Glaser/Strauss was describing the process of grounded theory was the amount of time it would take. Even researching a substantive theory would take years – and it took six for Awareness of Dying. Trying to get to a solid formal grounded theory I would think would take a life-time. Especially since, as Glaser/Strauss indicates, there aren't a lot of substitutive grounded theories to build off of.
“Because grounded formal theory fits and works, we see its use in research and teaching as more trustworthy than logico-deductive theory, for the simple reasons that the latter often requires forcing of data into categories of dubious relevance to the data's meaning.” (pg. 98)

It seems that a lot of The Discovery of Grounded Theory is really a call to action and a support group. Glaser/Strauss stated many of the objections grounded theory researchers would face and calls for veteran researchers to instill confidence in new researchers. I would agree with their statement that logico-deductive theory research will led the researcher to see evidence of his/her theory to the exclusion of other evidence. No one likes being proven wrong. Yet, the ambiguity of grounded theory may make researchers hesitate in its use. However, so far, I see many appealing aspects to this method such as the ability to really “see” the situation from all angles, following where the data leads, and not trying to prove or disprove something.

*Glaser B, Strauss A. (1965). Awareness of dying. Chicago: Aldine.
*Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing Company.