Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teacher Quality Status Entwined Among Top Performing Nations

Teacher Quality, Status Entwined Among Top Performing Nations.

Prestige and respect, not only salary, are seen as crucial elements in the quest for a truly professional teacher workforce.

One of the most troubling things that the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, hears about her profession can be summed up in a single observation: the idea that she and other top-performing colleagues are “just” teachers.

The word “just” serves as a reminder of a subtle mindset among some in the United States that a career in K-12 teaching, while considered noble, is nevertheless somehow seen as beneath the capacity of talented young men and women.

“People go into teaching because they are committed to young people, because they are incredible communicators or experts in their field,” says Wessling, a high school English teacher in Johnston, Iowa. “But many people in our country see teaching as though it’s a second-choice profession.”

It is a sentiment that is virtually unheard of among countries such as Finland, Singapore, and South Korea that top the charts on high-profile international assessments.

“Teaching is a similar career to a lawyer or a medical doctor. It’s an academic profession, an independent profession,” says Jari Lavonen, the director of teacher education at the University of Helsinki, in Finland. “There is lots of decision making at the local level, and teachers enjoy freedom and trust. They work as real experts.”

Similarly, in territories within other nations that have led the pack on improvements to their systems, such as Canada’s Ontario province, leaders credit investment in their teaching force as an important reason for their improvements.

“The key idea to get better student performance was to help teachers to get better, and to expect them to get better,” says Ben Levin, a former deputy minister of education in Ontario, who helped oversee reforms begun in 2004. “But we wanted an approach that was respectful of teachers as professional educators, as opposed to assuming that they needed to be slapped into line in some kind of way.”

Even nations such as Chile that still have a steep hill to climb to improve student learning have focused policy efforts on improvements to the profession and are beginning to see dividends from those undertakings.

The specific strategies deployed by these countries to raise the status of the profession have been filtered through their own political and cultural contexts, but several common themes stand out. They include a movement toward rigorous recruitment and training regimes, more competitive teacher salaries, and support systems to help teachers perfect their craft.

“The combination of better working conditions, higher pay, and higher share of pay based on effort and performance all work together to attract people who are smart, hard-working, and want to make a difference,” says Emiliana Vegas, the lead economist for education at the World Bank, in Washington.
In short, successful nations have made teaching a respected and supported profession, if perhaps not a lucrative one.

There’s little disagreement that U.S. educators deserve a similar degree of prestige, but the translation of that lofty goal into effective public policy is anything but clear—and the policy levers at hand are not easy ones to pull.

“The institutional structure for training, employment, and compensation in medicine [in the United States] is radically different from K-12 education,” notes Dan Goldhaber, an associate professor of economics at the University of Washington Bothell campus, who has studied the structure of the teacher labor market. “[The medical profession] has higher starting salaries, higher eventual salaries, much more rigorous selection up front, and many fewer training institutions. … I don’t think there’s any short-term fix, bottom line.”

A Different Landscape
One of the key challenges to building on the lessons from international practices lies in the fact that the United States’ teacher-quality system differs so greatly from that of most other nations. To name just one significant difference, the sheer size of the United States, coupled with its federated structure, has produced a complex melange of 50 different licensing and preparation systems across some 1,400 training institutions. Even accounting for population differences, that’s almost three times the proportion of such institutions in Canada or Finland.

And unlike smaller, centralized nations, the United States trains nearly all interested aspirants to teaching and filters out only a small percentage. Those filters consist both of formal ones, such as the licensure, certification, and evaluation systems states have created, as well as informal ones, such as high teacher turnover, particularly at the lowest-performing schools.

Alternative-certification programs, meanwhile, have sprung up partly to meet market needs in shortage subjects or locations. Some of them, like the Teach For America program, are among the most prestigious and selective routes to teaching in the nation. Yet teachers note that the nation’s patchwork selection system carries a downside.

“When I’m driving to the airport and see a sign saying, ‘Become a teacher in six weeks,’ I don’t think that sends a message that teaching is a profession,” says Wessling, the Teacher of the Year. “I think it sends the message that we need bodies.”

Teacher-quality measures in many top-performing countries begin with a highly selective process, in which candidates are screened closely before entering classrooms, and hiring decisions are closely matched to projected demographic needs.

In its most recent admissions cycle, the University of Helsinki accepted just 7 percent of the approximately 1,700 students who applied to the teaching program, according to Mr. Lavonen. In addition, entry standards to teacher preparation include a review of high school work and a written assessment asking teachers to read and analyze 250 pages of material from academic journals, among other steps.

According to profiles of the country prepared by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, mainly a group of developed nations, teaching is the most popular career for high school graduates in Finland, and training programs typically select only one in 10 applicants from the top quarter of their classes.

By contrast, the United States’ elementary-level teachers continue to hold below-average high school grade point averages and SAT scores, despite some recent improvements in those figures Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. Few teacher-training schools, meanwhile, can boast the selection ratios seen in Finland, and states set generally low entry requirements, including cut off scores on required licensure exams that frequently fall far below the 50th percentile of test-takers.

Would it be possible to move the needle if the United States’ training institutions were to recruit stronger students in the Finland mold? However common sense that proposition, it remains something of a best-guess theory. Studies linking teachers to student-achievement growth have failed to find any “silver bullet” preservice teacher characteristics that consistently predict higher student achievement. Determining who, on the front end, will prove to be an effective teacher remains an imprecise science.

Nevertheless, several clues exist within the data. Specific measures of academic competence, such as high verbal ability and college-entrance-exam scores, do appear to give those who hold them an edge in the classroom in the earlier grades. At the secondary level, math content knowledge also appears to be correlated.

Finally, there is the observation that so many of the highest-performing countries have made rigorous recruiting of teachers with strong academic qualifications one of their guiding educational principles. “It’s difficult to imagine that we wouldn’t be in a better place with the education system if we had more-capable teacher-candidates to choose from,” Goldhaber says.

A handful of teacher-training programs in the United States have embraced a similar theory of action. Two years ago, Indiana University began a system whereby those high school students with a minimum of 1100 on their SAT and a 3.7 GPA who are interested in becoming teachers can be directly admitted to its education school. (Typically, Indiana University undergraduates must have a 2.5 GPA in their lower-division courses to enter the school.)

About a third of those who enter undergraduate teacher preparation now come through the direct-admit program, said Gerardo M. Gonzalez, the dean of the school of education. And the program has had the added benefit of making the school more prestigious.

“High-quality students want to be with high-quality students,” Gonzalez says. “We’re competing for the best students with every field.”

Yet obstacles, both cultural and financial, have served to slow widespread adoption of more-rigorous recruiting endeavors in the United States.

“I think there’s a lot of validity to the argument that when you raise standards, you attract better-quality students,” Gonzalez says. “But there’s also, I think, the understanding that, in many cases, institutions are working against significant social and professional attitudes, and frankly, the reality of the marketplace. They will not always be able to recruit the kinds of students they want to because of the competition.”
The incentives built into an increasingly tuition-based higher education system also pose challenges, teacher educators acknowledge.

“It is profitable, certainly in the for-profit realm, to produce as many teachers as you can,” says Arthur E. Wise, the president emeritus of the Washington-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. “Frankly, [that incentive] exists even in the public sector, because training a teacher is still pretty cheap, the way it’s practiced.”

Best and Brightest
In the United States, the idea of recruiting the best and brightest is complicated by the sheer numbers of candidates needed for a professional workforce the size of public K-12 teaching, which counts about 3.2 million individuals in all.

School districts face the challenge of balancing increased selectivity with the need to recruit enough teachers to meet demand. That is especially true in higher-poverty schools and districts, where turnover is typically higher and recruiting more difficult, notes Matthew Di Carlo, a senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank that receives support from the American Federation of Teachers.

“You can’t quite recruit teachers the way you recruit Navy SEALS or traders at Goldman Sachs. Those fields require comparatively fewer candidates,” Di Carlo says. “We need to be careful about applying this small-scale thinking to a very large, diverse, and geographically dispersed labor market.”

One of the particular downsides to the teaching profession in the United States, economists point out, is the relatively low starting compensation relative to comparable occupations, and the many years it takes to achieve a maximum salary. And while few prospective teachers go into the profession for the salary, wages in the U.S. are generally associated with prestige.

OECD data show that U.S. salaries for teachers with 15 years of experience are, on average, just 60 percent of the full-time earnings for 24 to 64 year olds with college educations, compared with 80 percent in other OECD countries. Meanwhile, studies suggest that, in the United States, the most highly skilled college graduates who select teaching over other occupations for which they’re qualified can forfeit thousands of dollars in wages.

Here again, international practices provide stimulating food for thought. In a relatively short time frame, Chile’s performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, an international exam, improved enough to surpass its South American neighbors’. Though not a top-performing country, it now approaches the mean score of all countries affiliated with the OECD.

Chile’s dramatic improvements are thought to be partly related to its investments in salaries, which were gradually tied to reforms, including a new teacher-evaluation system in 1996, and later, several bonus-pay programs, the World Bank’s Vegas says.

Between 1990 and 2007, the country raised teacher salaries by more than 150 percent; during that period, applications to teacher education programs increased by 39 percent, and the average score of entrance exams increased by 60 percent, according to research on the country’s labor force.

As for the United States, a market-research analysis by McKinsey & Co., a New York City head quartered consultancy, concluded that if teacher salaries here began at $65,000 and maxed out at $150,000, the number of high-performing college graduates who would consider the profession would rise from 14 percent to 68 percent. (Beginning teacher salaries in the United States average about $39,000 and rise to $67,000, the report states.)

Raises for all teachers could be prohibitively expensive in the United States, given its current fiscal state. The alternative approach—salary differentiation targeted to specifics at certain career milestones, subject taught, performance, or other criteria—has won the support of economists, who view the nation’s current compensation system as too flat and inefficient.

“You can’t repeal the laws of supply and demand, however much you think you can,” says Michael Podgursky, a professor of economics at the University of Missouri, in Columbia, who urges, for instance, higher pay for math and science educators. “The kind of skills these teachers have demands a market price.”
Such efforts have traditionally been frowned on by teachers’ unions. But several new experiments, in cities such as Pittsburgh and Baltimore, are beginning to restructure teachers’ base compensation to identify top-performers, and those plans have been approved by the local unions.

The prestige associated with the teaching profession, as many teachers volubly remind policy makers, comes from more than just higher salaries. Teachers enter the profession for its intrinsic rewards, such as influencing young people. Their reasons for leaving the profession often have to do with feeling as though factors outside their control are impinging on that goal.

On teacher mobility, for instance, shows that teachers’ decisions about whether to stay in a specific school are more strongly linked to working conditions, including the quality of their principal, as well as characteristics of the student body, than to their salaries.

In Wessling’s view, one of the biggest differences between teaching and high-prestige professions such as medicine is the perceived lack of trust in educators and absence of professional autonomy in schools.
Nurses and doctors are vested with the power to collaborate and are trusted to diagnose and solve problems; teachers, by contrast, often work in isolation, and the profession in general offers few opportunities for leadership or advancement, she notes.

“The culture of schools is really powerful,” Wessling says. “Amazing teachers can come into a school, but if that culture is so stifling, all their creativity can go unused.”

Many of the highest-performing systems have gradually helped schools and educators build their skills, but without a strict, top-down approach. It is the key lesson from Ontario, according to comparative case studies conducted by analysts for the OECD.

Beginning in 2003, the province’s education ministers began crafting reforms to raise students’ literacy and numeracy skills. They chose not to use an approach that, for example, required specific time allotments for certain reading activities, fearing that the best teachers would find such an approach off-putting. Instead, the province’s education leaders convened teams of expert researchers on those topics to build capacity in each school, says Levin, the former deputy education minister.

“We emphasized consistency of practice around classrooms and did a lot of work to create teams of teachers in the schools,” he says. “You get commitment to the practices because teachers believe in it. It’s about building people’s sense of professional commitment and skills.”

The percentage of students reaching basic reading and math goals in the province has risen from 55 percent to about 70 percent since 2004. Importantly, the changes also appear to have stemmed a teacher shortage by making the profession more appealing, Mr. Levin says.

Opportunities to improve one’s craft are better integrated into the school day in several other top-performing countries, too. Teachers in OECD countries spend 700 hours a year, on average, engaged in face-to-face instruction of students; in South Korea and Finland, where much of the school day is spent planning and refining lessons with colleagues, that figure drops to 600 hours. Teachers in the United States, by contrast, average about 1,100 hours a year.

Countries such as Singapore couple professional development with a career ladder, so that teachers identified as being especially effective are given opportunities to advance to positions in which they are given formal responsibility for coaching and helping colleagues improve.

Take, for example, Japan and China’s Shanghai province. They use “lesson study” as a form of professional development. Teachers watch a colleague teach a lesson and then meet as a group to discuss ways in which it could have been strengthened. In such a system, teachers whose skills fall behind both have incentives to improve and higher-skilled role models to emulate.

The McKinsey group has identified a handful of school systems in the United States that have developed similar practices around professional development, including the Long Beach, Calif., district.

Current Efforts
Interest in teacher-quality policy in the United States has increased considerably under the Obama administration, which has put it at the front of the agenda.

The administration has emphasized changes to teacher-evaluation systems as the central component for improving teaching, its theory holding that establishing common definitions of good teaching and measuring performance will help knit together other aspects of the profession. For instance, such systems could identify top-performers for promotion or extra pay, help improve the relevancy of professional development, and identify which teachers should be counseled out of the profession. A handful of districts, including Hillsborough County, Fla.; Pittsburgh; and New Haven, Conn., are beginning to institute these systems.
Some scholars, such as Goldhaber of the University of Washington, see promise in the movement toward improved teacher evaluation. He believes that such initiatives could build constructively on the nation’s back-ended teacher-selection system. Research suggests, for instance, that teaching performance in the first few years on the job is a significant predictor of future performance.

The evaluations could be tied to other ideas to boost the profession’s prestige, such as a national teaching certificate to recognize those identified as being especially effective, he said.

“The fact that we have 50 different licensing regimes makes a teaching credential less valuable because it’s less portable,” Goldhaber says.

Yet observers say many nuanced issues remain to be worked out before evaluations can effectively be used to improve teacher performance.

“The design and implementation of new teacher evaluations—what they consist of, how they are used, and whether the results are presented to teachers in a useful manner, will determine their success or failure,” says Di Carlo of the Shanker Institute, who has blogged on a number of occasions about those issues. “I’m concerned that these details are taking a back seat, when they should be driving the process and debate.”
The move toward incorporating student test scores into evaluations has been hugely controversial in the United States, and one where there is little international precedent. Though other nations do look at student work and some, such as Singapore, review student scores, standardized tests generally receive less weight than other sources of information, including parent surveys, inspections, and peer review. Indeed, teacher evaluation is generally broader in scope and less formalized in countries where much professional accountability comes from colleagues rather than outside monitors.

For Randi Weingarten, the president of the AFT, such examples offer a frustrating contrast.
“We talk about the conclusions from these international reports, but we don’t dissect and deconstruct them in a way that follows how they got to those conclusions,” she says. “Singapore has embedded professional development in evaluation so it becomes about improving practice. That’s something we should learn from.”
She contends the evaluation systems currently being created in the United States “are not about board of education responsibility, school superintendent responsibility, student responsibility, or parents’ responsibility. They’re only about teacher and principal responsibility.”

For her part, Teacher of the Year Wessling is unsure where the teacher-evaluation discussion will lead, but she believes that attempts to raise the prestige of the profession will need to be comprehensive—a point of view that reflects the conclusion of most international-comparison studies.

She adds that teachers must play a role in the transformation, both by making their voices heard by those who set policy, and by setting an example in their own schools of how teachers can reshape individual school environments to reflect the professional practices of teachers in the best-performing countries.
After all, she reasons, cultural change begins from within.

“Teachers and educators can’t subscribe to this outside perception of what we are,” she said. “The responsibility for defining the profession is ours.”

By Stephen Sawchuk


Friday, January 27, 2012

Theories and Models of Learning for Educational Research and Practice

Theories and Models of Learning for Educational Research and Practice.
This knowledge base features learning theories that address how people learn. A resource useful for scholars of various fields such as educational psychology, instructional design, and human-computer interaction. Below is the index of learning theories, grouped in somewhat arbitrary categories. Note that this website is an iterative project and these entries are a work in progress; please leave comments with suggestions, corrections, and additional references.

We need writers!  Please contribute new entries or revisions to this knowledge base.  Email your contribution to: info [at]

Behaviorist Theories:
    Behaviorism Overview
    Classical Conditioning (Pavlov)
    GOMS Model (Card, Moran, and Newell)
    Operant Conditioning (Skinner)
    Social Learning Theory (Bandura)

Cognitivist Theories:
    Cognitivism Overview
    Assimilation Theory (Ausubel)
    Attribution Theory (Weiner)
    Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller)
    Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer)
    Component Display Theory
    Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)
    Gestalt Psychology (Tolman)
    Mental Models (Johnson-Laird)
    Schema Theory
    Stage Theory of Cognitive Development (Piaget)

Constructivist, Social, and Situational Theories:
    Constructivism Overview
    Case-Based Learning
    Cognitive Apprenticeship (Collins et al.)
    Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger)
    Discovery Learning (Bruner)
    Goal Based Scenarios
    Social Development Theory (Vygtosky)
    Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
    Situated Learning (Lave)

Motivational and Humanist Theories:
    Humanism Overview
    ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller)
    Experiential Learning (Kolb)
    Facilitative Teaching (Rogers)
    Invitational Learning (Purkey)
    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow)

Design Theories and Models (Prescriptive):
    Design-Based Research Overview
    ADDIE Model of Instructional Design
    ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller)
    Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)

Descriptive and Meta Theories:
    Activity Theory (Vygotsky, Leont’ev, Luria, Engstrom, etc.)
    Actor-Network Theory (Latour, Callon)
    Distributed Cognition (Hutchins)

Identity Theories:
    Erikson’s Stages of Development (Erikson)
    Identity Status Theory (Marcia)
    Self-Theories: Entity and Incremental Theory (Dweck)

Miscellaneous Learning Theories and Models:
    Affordance Theory (Gibson)
    Multiple Intelligences Theory (Gardner)


Thursday, January 26, 2012

eCheating Students Find High Tech Ways to Deceive Teachers

eCheating: Students find high-tech ways to deceive teachers.

Everything's going digital these days — including cheating.

As students gain access to sophisticated gadgets both at school and at home, educators are on the lookout for new kinds of cheating. From digitally inserting answers into soft drink labels to texting each other test answers and photos of exams, kids are finding new ways to get ahead when they haven't studied.

YouTube alone has dozens of videos that lay out step-by-step instructions: One three-minute segment shows how to digitally scan the wrapper of a soft drink bottle, then use photo editing software to erase the nutrition information and replace it with test answers or handy formulas. The video has gotten nearly 7 million hits.
    STORY: N.Y. students surrender in exam scandal

"There's an epidemic of cheating," says Robert Bramucci, vice chancellor for technology and learning services at South Orange Community College District in Mission Viejo, Calif. "We're not catching them. We're not even sure it's going on."

Several security-related companies, such as, will even overnight-mail a kit that turns a cellphone or iPod into a hands-free personal cheating device, featuring tiny wireless earbuds, that allows a test-taker to discreetly "phone a friend" during a test and get answers remotely without putting down the pencil.

One Toronto firm named ExamEar shut down its website after authorities investigated how it was selling $300 Bluetooth devices to desperate exam candidates.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit advocacy group, finds that more than 35% of teens ages 13 to 17 with cellphones have used the devices to cheat. More than half (52%) admit to some form of cheating involving the Internet, and many don't consider it a big deal. For instance, only 41% say storing notes on a cellphone to access during a test is a "serious offense." Nearly one in four (23%) don't think it's cheating at all.

But authorities are increasingly getting tough on cheating. Police in Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island, this fall arrested 20 teens at five public and private schools in an SAT cheating ring. Five are accused of taking SAT and ACT tests for other students, who paid up to $3,600 for the service, authorities say.

An Orange County, Calif., student pleaded guilty in March to stealing Advanced Placement tests and altering college transcripts. Prosecutors say Omar Shahid Khan, 21, pilfered a teacher's password for the school's grading system by installing spyware on school computers.

In a 2007 case, two students in China used the wireless devices to cheat on an English exam but had to be hospitalized afterward to have the tiny earbuds removed, according to China Daily.

"This is about the pressures that kids are feeling in school," says Jill Madenberg, a Great Neck, N.Y., college consultant. "The pressure to do well, the pressure to get into a good college."

She says cheating like the kind seen in Long Island isn't isolated. "It's literally all over the country — it's an epidemic of sorts."

A former high school guidance counselor, Madenberg says that perhaps the only positive aspect of the Long Island SAT scandal is that it will begin a discussion on the pressures kids feel. "There's no question that people are beginning to look at that," she says.

Digital devices haven't necessarily made cheating happen more often, experts say. They've just make it harder to detect.

"The naïve folk belief is that cheating never used to be a problem," Bramucci says. "It's always been a problem."

Problems like detecting cheating boil down to what Nobel Laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls "cognitive bias." If teachers can't see it happening in front of them, they're unlikely to believe it's happening and so they're less likely to try to prevent it. But Bramucci says educators "are lousy detectors at cheating."

To prove his point, a few years ago he brought in a group of students to take a mock test and instructed them to cheat in a handful of different ways, all under the gaze of South Orange professors, who watched and took notes.

"They didn't even get a third of the ways people were cheating, even when they knew they were cheating and it was happening right before their eyes," Bramucci says.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Summer Schools Help Poorer Students Applications

Summer Schools Help Poorer Students Applications.

University summer schools, designed to encourage applications from poorer youngsters, make a significant impact, suggests research.

Among students who attended summer schools run by the Sutton Trust, 76% gained places at leading universities, according to a report from the education charity.

The figure for students not attending the summer schools was 55%.

Researchers said the findings suggested that "summer schools do work".

Since 1997 the Sutton Trust charity, which works to improve educational opportunities for disadvantaged youngsters, has provided funds for 10,000 bright pupils from poor backgrounds to attend summer schools at leading universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Nottingham.

The idea is to give 17- and 18-year-old pupils, who might later become the first in their families to go on to higher education, a taste of university life.

They attend lectures in their chosen subjects and are mentored by student volunteers.

In order to apply, the pupils must have five top GCSEs and meet a series of measures of an underprivileged educational background, for example attending a poorly performing school.

The summer schools are regularly oversubscribed by a factor of seven to one.

The research, led by Dr Tony Hoare and Rosanna Munn at University of Bristol, attempted to quantify the effectiveness of the scheme.

"I was pleased with the results. The word on the street from the universities was that summer schools worked, but until now the evidence was anecdotal," said Dr Hoare.

The team measured the effectiveness of the scheme, including tracking up to 250,000 students through the Ucas university application system.

The researchers found strong statistical evidence that having attended a summer school was associated with an increased likelihood of applying to at least one of the participating universities and to other leading universities.

"Not only does the summer school experience encourage all attendees to target the more elite universities, but what is particularly encouraging is that they reduce, sometimes to vanishing point, the greater reluctance of the more underprivileged groups to do so," the authors conclude.

This year the Sutton Trust will hold summer schools in 50 subjects at seven universities: Cambridge, St Andrews, Bristol, Nottingham, Durham, University College London and Imperial College London. Oxford now runs its own scheme.

The summer schools are one of a number of outreach initiatives aimed at encouraging young people from poorer backgrounds to apply to university.

The schemes include bursaries and visits, and are funded not only by the educational institutions themselves but by businesses, government and charities.

By Judith Burns


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Apple Wants to Get Into the Textbook Business

Apple Wants to Get Into the Textbook Business.

The invitation is finally out for the latest hotly anticipated Apple announcement in New York City, rumored to be iBooks-related and definitely education-oriented. The event is scheduled for January 19 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, pretty close to a lot of fancy private schools as well as standard public schools. We're going to go out on a limb and suggest that Apple might just want a slice of the highly lucrative textbook business. Remember: nobody ever knows what Apple's going to do, but the company's been working hard to position itself, especially its beloved iPad, as a pro-education company. Last year, the company partnered with Teach for America in an iPad donation program that helped put thousands of the devices in classrooms around the country. And if you've ever played with that constellation app, you'll know that the interactive experience on the iPad is much, much better than the old ink-and-tree things that probably helped you learn about the world. Not long after the invitation went out, however, an anonymous source for The New York Times's Bits technology blog confirmed,"The event will showcase a new push by Apple into the digital textbook business, but will not feature any new devices."


Monday, January 23, 2012

Efforts Are Under Way to Tie College to Job Needs

Efforts Are Under Way to Tie College to Job Needs. 

Assaying the output of higher education in Texas, Michael Bettersworth evoked the image of a crippled Apollo 13 craft hurtling into space, its future uncertain.

“Houston, we have a problem, and it’s not that too few people are going to college,” said Mr. Bettersworth, an associate vice chancellor at the Texas State Technical College System. “It’s that too many people are getting degrees with limited value in the job market.”

Students throughout Texas are amassing college credits without knowing whether they will lead to employment, and many face serious debt when they graduate.

Meanwhile, the state’s population of skilled laborers is aging and approaching retirement, and there is a dearth of recent graduates with two-year vocational degrees who can take on those jobs.

Experts say a retooling is in order if the state hopes to expand its manufacturing industry.

As the economy begins to show signs of life, efforts are under way at two-year colleges across the state to make programs more responsive to the labor market. Some Texas leaders are trying to reverse the trend toward encouraging students to attain the highest degree possible.

“It’s not that we don’t need engineers and Ph.D.’s and research scientists,” said Joe Arnold, a government affairs manager with B.A.S.F., a chemical company. “We do, but that’s not all we need. We need skilled craftsmen. We need operators.”

The Texas State Technical College System was established in 1969 with the mission of supplementing the state’s work force. Recently, the four-campus system joined Credentials That Work, a new project run by the Boston-based nonprofit Jobs for the Future, which uses new technology that scrapes information from online job postings and provides real-time labor market information. The technology also offers information on which skills — in addition to simply which degrees — employers are seeking.

“Schools have to nail it pretty much in terms of producing graduates that respond to the needs of the marketplace,” said John Dorrer, the director of the Credentials That Work program.

However, even when degrees can be tailor-made to fit companies’ needs, students still must be persuaded to pursue them. Mike Reeser, the college system’s chancellor, said there was “a misperception in the country that the worst bachelor’s degree is more valuable than the best associate’s degree.”

Tom Pauken, the chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, said one of his top priorities this year would be countering that notion. “I think we’ve got to revisit this entire issue,” he said. “We’ve gotten completely away from the idea that we’ve got different talents and there are different approaches in terms of education.”
Should Mr. Pauken’s campaign be successful, there will remain the matter of financing. With budgets being slashed at all levels of education, resources are tight, and the more highly specified training is expensive.
“We have to be more efficient, we have to be more effective, and we have to rely on employers for more support,” said Mr. Bettersworth, the associate vice chancellor.

Increasingly, manufacturing companies are taking the initiative by investing in community colleges in order to produce the workers they need.

This year, for example, B.A.S.F. will give Brazosport College in Lake Jackson the final installment of a $1 million grant for the creation of a new facility devoted to the petrochemical, energy and nuclear industries. This academic year was also the first of five years in which the company would provide $50,000 in scholarships.
“Community colleges are workhorses for us,” Mr. Arnold said. “The problem is there aren’t enough people going to them seeking education that will put them to work for us.”

Mr. Arnold is on a Texas Association of Manufacturers committee that is looking into the causes. So far, he said, there certainly seems to be an image issue.

“People know that we need more manufacturing, but they don’t think of those jobs as something they want to send their kids to go do — or to do themselves,” he said.

But Leo Danna, 20, who enrolled at the T.S.T.C. campus in Waco after two years at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, said the switch has worked for him.

“That kind of college wasn’t right for me,” he said. “I couldn’t focus and didn’t understand what I was going to do when I graduated. Here, in the first semester, you’re already talking to companies in your field.”


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Teacher Quality Matters But There is More

Teacher Quality Matters, But There’s More.
On the first day of each school year, the long-term principal at my kids’ elementary school assembled the school community for what was to us his famous new-shoes speech.  “Think of all the new shoes in this room,” he’d marvel.  Then he’d follow with announcements about what else would be new that year – new teachers, new programs, new floors in the bathrooms.
Those were calmer, nicer times.
These days principals really should include some marveling about how the latest obsession of the education industry will affect the school this year.  Such honesty might feel less welcoming, but it would be a favor to parents.  Education has always done a stunningly bad job of explaining itself to lay people.  And it’s particularly crazy-making to parents not to have hard information about the forces behind education’s latest obsession – school choice, accountability, curriculum alignment, integrated technology, new tests.  What do they mean?  Why that?  Education officials settle on one big idea and seemingly forget all the big ideas that came before.  Not unfairly, teachers call the ideas “fads.”
Currently, America is obsessing and compulsing about teacher quality.
And yes, of course teacher quality matters hugely.  No dispute whatever.
But the thing to remember is that teacher quality is by no means the ONLY thing that matters.  The myopia of these obsessions is what keeps steering us wrong.
Dr. Robert Balfanz, one of my personal heroes, says “Everything that you think matters, matters.  But only a little bit.  You have to do it all, and do it all at once.”
“But only a little bit.”  Radical thinking.
Balfanz is a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, and the Co-Operator of the Baltimore Talent Development High School.  I admire a man with his head in the academic stratosphere and feet planted firmly on the hallway floor of an urban high school.  He knows whereof he speaks.
Remember the “math wars” and the “whole language” fight?  Remember social-and-emotional learning?  Remember how the Gates Foundation invested gajillions to help big schools cut themselves into “smaller learning units?” When these Big Ideas didn’t get quick results, everyone just moved on.  Did they build their next Big Idea on their prior one?  Rarely.  Mostly, they just pulled the plug.
But Balfanz and his colleagues can tell you that working on one or two initiatives piecemeal will not produce a cumulative effect.  Schools need all the good stuff, all the time.
Back in the late 1980′s, the seminal reports “Turning Points” and “Breaking Ranks” pushed educators to go bananas over “personalization,” which is to say, getting to know the kids.  Some schools made real progress, but the anonymity of the student experience remains a major issue.  The drop-out crisis continues nearly unabated.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Teaching Grammar: It's vs Its

Teaching Grammar: It's vs Its.
This one is confusing, because generally, in addition to being used in contractions, an apostrophe indicates ownership, as in "Dad's new car." But, "it's" is actually the short version of "it is" or "it has." "Its" with no apostrophe means belonging to it.
It's = it is
Its = belonging to it
It's important to remember to bring your telephone and its extra battery.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teaching Grammar: You're vs Your

Teaching Grammar: You're vs Your.
The apostrophe means it's a contraction of two words; "you're" is the short version of "you are" (the "a" is dropped), so if your sentence makes sense if you say "you are," then you're good to use you're. "Your" means it belongs to you, it's yours.
You're = if you mean "you are" then use the apostrophe
Your = belonging to you
You're going to love your new job!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why We Forget

Why We Forget.
Science shows our memory can easily be distorted and erased, but our forgetfulness also helps us survive.
Our memories are wrong at least as often as they are right. At best, they are incomplete, though we might swear other wise. This affects countless aspects of our lives, and in many cases our memories — true or false — affect others’ lives.
Perhaps the most exciting neuroscience discovery of the last several decades is that our brains are not static hunks of tissue but flexible and adaptive organs that change throughout our lives. The term used to describe this new understanding is brain plasticity. The flexibility of your brain is essential to memory and indispensable to learning. Specifically, the “plastic” parts of our brain are synapses — the connection points that allow neurons to transmit signals between each other.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning in Pin Drop Silence

Learning in ‘pin drop silence’. 

The environment in an educational institute is a key feature that connects the multitude of activities on a campus and the mental and physical development of the student.

There are three key areas that build the environment for an educational institution: the Mind- the Eye- the Ear. In many respects this link is almost invisible, yet everyone experiences their influence.

Well-kept buildings, clean classrooms and equipped recreational facilities are the physical aspects which catch the eye and build the psychosocial impression. But physical environment like the surroundings, noise, temperature, and lighting as well as physical, biological, or chemical agents, ultimately builds image of the learning environment in the mind.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Growth Rate of UK students Studying Abroad Overtakes European Neighbours

Growth rate of UK students studying abroad overtakes European neighbours.

The growth rate of UK students applying to study in the EU through the Erasmus programme has overtaken the European average, according to analysis by the British Council.

UK participation rates increased by 8% on the previous year, compared to the European average of 7.4%. Across Europe, more than 213,000 students received Erasmus grants to study or train abroad – a new record.
For many years there was a persistent decline in the number of UK Erasmus students. However this is the fourth successive annual increase in UK participation rates and clearly shows that the downward trend has been reversed. This indicates that UK students are increasingly looking for overseas experience as a means of improving their career prospects.


Deepening Education Ties India & Japan

Deepening Education Ties India and Japan.
As Indian school education gains fans in Japan and the Japanese academia reaches out to Indian varsities, promising tie-ups are on the anvil that will present major opportunities for Indian educationists and students.
Something is slipping in Japan, and it’s ringing alarm bells and causing dismay in the minds of parents of school-going children in the tiny nation, albeit the most advanced in Asia. A few months ago, Japanese academicians were equally appalled to learn that the country had fallen from first place in 2000 to tenth place in as many years, in an international survey of math skills. The performance slide puts Japan behind Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. In science too, the country is not faring as it well as it used to. Whereas it used to boast the first runners up (second) place, it now stands sixth.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

National Language Championship for Schools

National Language Championship for schools.
Vocab Express, the online modern foreign languages (MFL) vocabulary learning application, has announced the launch of a free, week-long national language championship for all secondary schools in theUKandIrelandto take place during spring 2012. Supporting the current debate in education around encouraging and driving language learning, the Vocab Express National Championship is designed to engage and motivate young people in learning another language.

Following the success of the Vocab Express European Day of Languages Championship in autumn 2011, the Vocab Express National Championship will be officially showcased on stand U44 at the world’s largest technology in education event, BETT, in January 2012.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Professor Refuses to Teach, Bring Snacks

Professor refuses to teach if students don't bring snacks.
Students in George Parrott's psychology courses have an unusual requirement: they must bring homemade snacks each week to the laboratory section, and they need to work out a schedule such that groups of students make sure each session is covered, and that snacks aren't repeated from week to week. If there are no snacks, Parrott walks out of his class at California State University at Sacramento, and the students lose that week's instruction.
Parrott has been teaching at the university since 1969. He says he started this requirement a few years after he arrived -- and that most students have appreciated the ideas behind the rule (which he says are more educational than culinary).

More Foreign Students Studying in USA

More foreign students studying in USA. 

International students and their dependents contributed more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy last year as record numbers of foreigners enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities, reports to be released today show. The numbers of U.S. students earning college credit abroad also is on the rise.

The number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities rose 4.7% to 723,277 during the 2010-11 academic year, says an annual report by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which has tracked data since 1949.

Enrollments of international students have overcome a four-year period of flat or declining growth that began in 2002-03 and reflected concerns about safety and U.S. immigration policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

TEFL Certification Course

The School and the TEFL Certification Course.

While there is no set international standard for what constitutes a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification course, most countries will have requirements that schools must meet before handing out certificates.

Sometimes the review is only cursory, but sometimes it may also be detailed and require certain content for the course and even the qualifications of the teachers.

Here is a short list of questions about your school and its TEFL Certification course:
Is the school licensed by the Ministry of Education or local education office
or just by a business licensing agency of the local government?
This should tell you something about the rigor of the evaluation of the school by their government.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You want to travel. You need experience. Here’s how you get both!

You want to travel. You need experience. Here’s how you get both!
LanguageCorps Asia Programs around the globe empower our Teachers to thrive as professionals abroad, living in fascinating locations while gaining valuable experience teaching English.
Programs are available in 5 countries:
* Asia (Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan)
* Intensive, 140-hour, four-week TEFL/TESOL training and certification course
* Assistance finding a paid teaching position that is right for you, with a reputable school
Some programs feature local language and cultural training, pre-arranged job placement, medical insurance, excursions, and other support services. No prior teaching or local language experience is necessary! Costs vary by country and program. A BA degree is required for all programs and countries.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Choosing Your TEFL or TESOL Certification Program

Choosing Your TEFL or TESOL Certification Program.
Most first-time English teachers with no experience need to get a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages) certification before employers will take a look at them. It may be possible to get a job without certification but considering the prospects of not getting a job or getting a poor paying position and the relative ease of getting certified the choice seems obvious. The next question then is where to get TEFL certified.
There are two basic options: online and onsite programs. The online courses typically range in price from $300 to $500, generally include 40 hours of instruction, and can be taken from any location. The convenience of online programs may seem appealing, but I would still strongly recommend on-site programs...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A TEFL Teacher

A TEFL Teacher.
So you have decided to become a TEFL teacher, and you are off on the job search! Aside from the obvious considerations such as what country to work in, there are other things a teacher should consider when looking at potential job offers and training.
Some may say that the most important consideration would be salary and benefits but while both are important aspects of your search, they should be a secondary consideration compared to what you want to do and who you will be working with. Regardless of the salary, most people will not stay in a position where they feel unsatisfied or have no growth. In addition, the people you work with or for have an enormous impact on your job satisfaction. When you are considering a job offer and its associated salary and benefits, do not focus as much on the starting salary but rather on what you wish to accomplish...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Earn Money by Teaching English Abroad in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan

Earn Money by Teaching English Abroad in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan.
Do you want to live abroad and work as a teacher?

As a native English speaker, you can teach English in schools or language institutes in many non-English speaking countries. There is a high demand for instruction from native English speakers – especially throughout Asia. Vietnam, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia and Taiwan are just some of the Asian countries looking for English speaking teachers.

English is the widely-accepted secondary language of the world. Many consider it to be the language of opportunity and the industry of teaching English as a foreign language continues to grow and has not yet reached its peak.

If you want to teach English as a travel job here is an important thing to keep in mind:
Remember that you will teach English to people who have a very limited understanding of the language...


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Teaching Abroad: A Fundamental Guide to TESOL, TEFL, EFL, ESL, ELT, TESL, TEAL, EAL, ESOL

Teaching Abroad: A Fundamental Guide to TESOL, TEFL, EFL, ESL, ELT, TESL, TEAL, EAL, ESOL.
Teaching English as foreign language (or second language) is an excellent option for visiting new parts of the world. Because English is commonly used for diplomacy, higher education, business and technology, English teachers and classes are in high demand worldwide.
What is TEFL, ESL, EFL, etc.?

There are lots of different abbreviations and acronyms that refer to teaching English.
ELT: English Language Teaching or English Language Training
EFL: English as a Foreign Language
ESL: English as a Second Language
ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages
EAL: English as an Additional Language
TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
TEAL: Teaching English as an Additional Language
TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


How Do I Become An English Teacher Teaching TEFL, TESOL, EFL, ESL in Asia

How Do I Become An English Teacher Teaching TEFL, TESOL, EFL, ESL in Asia.
A commonly cited long-term goal for those with a passion for the English language and a love of culture and travel is to become an English teacher to non-native speakers. What’s more, there is a constant demand for English as a language to be both spoken and written, and for this reason there is a high demand for teachers of English as a foreign language.
Gaining The Qualifications
Teaching English in non-English speaking countries requires some form of qualification, although the requirements are far less arduous than those of English teachers in English-speaking countries. It is important to have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification to stand you in good stead when teaching English abroad.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

LanguageCorps Asia Partnership with Cambodian Children’s Fund to Provide Staff Training

LanguageCorps Asia Partnership with Cambodian Children’s Fund to Provide Staff Training.

LanguageCorps Asia, a leader in providing TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) programs across the globe, will be providing free TESOL training and certification for staff of Cambodia Children’s Fund. LanguageCorps, a Massachusetts-based company offers a variety of certification programs for talented people interested in travel, internationalism, and teaching abroad; empowering them to thrive as professionals while living in, working in, and learning about a different culture.

Cambodian Children’s Fund, founded by Hollywood film executive Scott Neeson, serves the needs of Phnom Penh’s most impoverished children...


Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Toughest Ever Job Market, Look to Work Overseas in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China or Taiwan to Gain Experience

2012 Toughest Ever Job Market, Look to Work Overseas in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, China or Taiwan to Gain Experience and Develop a Unique Skill. 

Like 2010, 2012 will shape up to be one of the toughest job markets in decades for new and recent college grads. Fallout from the deepening recession includes record unemployment, and company downsizing across virtually every market category. The result? An extreme challenge for tens of thousands of first-time job seekers. These days, college grads are competing not only with each other – they now find themselves competing directly with older, more experienced workers who are willing to compete in terms of compensation as well as jobs that they would not have considered until recently....


How My Global Perspective and Life Changed When Teaching English Abroad in Asia

How My Global Perspective and Life Changed When Teaching English Abroad in Asia.
Students have fun in an ESL classHow Teaching English Abroad Has Changed My Perspective
Many people fantasize about traveling the world. We think about dropping it all and doing something like teaching English in Asia, or studying Italian in Florence. But for so many, traveling the world, or teaching English abroad remains just that; a fantasy. Bills, jobs, relationships and a general fear of the unknown pervade, and we put traveling off until some magical time in the future, when it will somehow become easy.
But I quickly learned that the timing will never be perfect. Traveling will always be, at least a little bit stressful.
But the truth is, I don’t regret a second of it. Sure, it was a ton of work, but teaching English in Cambodia through LanguageCorps Asia...