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(Un)Learning Anthropocentrism: An Ecocritical Framework for Teaching to Resist Human-Supremacy in Curriculum and Pedagogy

UBC Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy
2016-2017 Seminar Series

(Un)Learning Anthropocentrism: An Ecocritical Framework for Teaching to Resist Human-Supremacy in Curriculum and Pedagogy

John Lupinacci, PhD
Cultural Studies & Social Thought in Education
College of Education
Washington State University

October 28, 20106
12:30-2:00pm
Scarfe 1214 

Abstract
In this talk, I will call attention to—and critically question—the epoch now referred to as the Anthropocene in relationship to Western industrial assumptions rooted in the understanding of human-beings as separate from and superior to all other life-forms and the environments upon which they depend. Drawing from an ecocritical framework in education, I emphasize that because anthropocentrism is cultural rather than inherently natural, it is amenable to social change. As a scholar-activist educator, I take the position that (un)learning anthropocentrism as radical change is imperative in light of environmental degradation, climate change, and the multitude of social and ecological problems that follow as a consequence. The stakes are high and the capacity of the planet for sustaining life depends upon future generations learning to live in harmony and at peace with the diverse ecosystems within which they reside. More than a critique of anthropocentrism, I work to challenge this worldview and seek ways of engaging educators and educational researchers in doing the same. Drawing from ecocritical projects in education—including critical animal studies, anarchism, and ecofeminism—while recognizing centuries of wisdom in indigenous epistemologies, this talk shares a pedagogical process aimed at helping educators to recognize an anthropocentric worldview, to examine how this worldview is implicated in maintaining human (and male, white, able-bodied) supremacy, and to rethink anthropocentrism in favor of ecological alternatives that are socially just and encompass all living systems.

Bio
John Lupinacci is an Assistant Professor at Washington State University. He conducts research and teaches in the Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education (CSSTE) program using an approach that advocates for the development of scholar-activist educators. His ecocritical work in education is interdisciplinary and draws from critical social theory through anarchist philosophy, critical animal studies, new materialism, and queer-ecofeminist philosophy while recognizing that many of these Western frameworks are entangled with colonial cultures and thus ought not take precedence over—or appropriate—diverse indigenous knowledges. Drawing heavily from critical conceptions of environmental education, Dr. Lupinacci’s research focuses on how people—specifically educators, educational leaders, and educational researchers—learn to both identify and examine destructive habits of Western industrial human culture and how those habits are taught and learned in schools. His experiences as a high school teacher, an outdoor environmental educator, and a community activist-artist-scholar all contribute to his research, teaching, and development of interdisciplinary research projects open to the (im)possibilities of unexpected spaces with(in) education and educational research.

Download poster [PDF]

 

Seminar: Challenges and Tensions in Curriculum Management: Theory and Practice

Challenges and Tensions in Curriculum Management: Theory and Practice

Public Seminar Sponsored by
Institute for Critical Education Studies

July 13, 2016
12:00pm
Scarfe 2108
2125 Main Mall
University of British Columbia

Carolina Castro, Héctor Gómez, and Fernando Murillo, co-authors in the recently published book Desafíos y Tensiones en la Gestión Curricular: Teoría y Práctica [Challenges and Tensions in Curriculum Management: Theory and Practice] in Chile, will present their contributions to the discussion of curriculum design, development and implementation in the contexts of schools and higher education.

The book, co–edited by Gómez and Castro, gives voice to a variety of perspectives and experiences in schools and higher education. In this regard the authors ask: How is curriculum managed? Who is involved in the process and how? What authority do curriculum managers have, and how is power distributed in order to influence and make decisions on the curriculum? What effective spaces for innovation exist? How are perennial and new issues considered in the management of curriculum?


Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 6.11.50 PMCurriculum Design and the Teaching Role: An Outstanding Relationship. Reflections From Research at a Hospital-Based School
Carolina Castro

Bachelor in Education – Primary School Teacher, Master of Arts in Education and Curriculum. Head of the Curriculum Unit at Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez in Santiago, Chile.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 6.12.04 PMProfessional Formation Beyond the Know-How: Considerations and Challenges for a Post-Competence Curriculum Management
Fernando M. Murillo

Bachelor in Education – TEFL, Master of Arts in Education and Curriculum, UBC PhD student in Curriculum Studies

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 6.12.16 PMTeacher Education in Chile: Curriculum design and its Complex Discourses.
Héctor Gómez

Bachelor in Education – Teacher of History and Social Sciences, Master of Arts in Education and Curriculum, UBC PhD Student in Curriculum Studies

DESAFIOS Y TENSIONES.jpg

U of L provost who hired notorious ed school dean Robert Felner steps down

Shirley Willihnganz, the University of Louisville provost who hired “notorious ed school dean” Robert Felner has stepped down from her $342,694 a year position and will return to the faculty after a sabbatical.

Willihnganz told the Louisville Courier-Journal that the “Felner episode” was the biggest regret of her 13 years as a top administrator at U of L.

Willihnganz hired Felner as dean of the U of L College of Education and Human Development in 2003. Felner’s deanship has been described by some as a “reign of terror” because of his abusive treatment of staff, faculty, students and alumni.

Despite dozens of grievances filed against Felner and a faculty vote of no-confidence, Willihnganz and her boss, university president James Ramsey, were dismissive of complaints and vigorously defended him. Ultimately, Willihnganz was “forced to apologize” to the faculty, saying “mostly what I think I want to say is people have been hurt and something very bad happened, and as provost I feel like I am ultimately responsible for that.”

In addition to his well documented abusive behavior, Felner was also engaged in criminal activity while working for the U of L and under Willihnganz’s supervision.

In 2010, Felner was sentenced 63 months in federal prison for a scheme that bilked $2.3 million of US Department of Education money from U of L and the University of Rhode Island.

On June 20, 2008, Federal investigators (Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service) raided Felner’s office at the U of L College of Education and Human Development (and his new office at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, where he was in the process of taking over as campus president) to seize documents and a computer.

Read more about the Felner saga and his journey from “high performer” (Willihnganz’s description) to infamous ex-con here.

Courier-Journal reporter Andrew Wolfson asked me to comment on Willihnganz response to Felner. The statement below was quoted, in part, in the C-J story.

Of course it’s hard to disagree that the hiring of Robert Felner as dean of CEHD was, in hind sight, a disastrous decision by the U of L administration and Dr. Willihnganz in particular, but it was not entirely unpredictable. As chair of the largest department in CEHD at the time, I vigorously opposed Felner’s hire and called for the administration to resist the “old boy” network within the college that backed him. The provost’s office failed to do its due diligence in the hiring, despite a plethora of signs that Felner was not a good choice for the university. At the time, I was aware that other universities had considered Felner for deanships, but excluded him based upon thorough investigations of his career. The fact that President Ramsey and Dr. Willihnganz remained in office after defending Felner’s abusive leadership style, and ultimately criminal behavior, says much about the lack of accountability for decision making at the U of L. The damage done to the university’s reputation has been significant and is not merely the result of Felner’s felonious activities and generally abusive treatment of staff and faculty, but can also be laid in some measure at the feet of Dr. Willihnganz and President Ramsey.

The Courier-Journal reports modest positive accomplishments during on Willihnganz’s years a provost, including increased graduate rates and slight improvements in the U of L’s standing in university reputational rankings.

But, these accomplishments pale in comparison to the Felner episode and a long series shameful debacles that have tarnished the reputation of Kentucky’s second largest research university. The C-J reports that,

Under [Willihnganz’s] watch … university employees have stole, misspent or mishandled at least $7.6 million in schemes at the health science campus, the law school, the business school and the athletic department’s ticket office.

Willihnganz also was criticized for approving about $1 million in buyouts for former high-ranking employees, some of which included agreements not to disparage the university or its leaders.

Academic Fraud?
As the chief academic officer of the U of L, Willihnganz allowed the university to bestow a PhD degree on one of Felner’s associates, John Deasy, after enrolling in the CEHD doctoral program for a total of four months and apparently never actually taking any courses.

As reported in the education newspaper Substance,

John Deasy earned his PhD directly under Felner, in a period of four months, earning nine UL credit hours.

Prior to coming to UL, Deasy had awarded Felner’s research company, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy, a $375,000 grant from the Santa Monica district where Deasy was head.

Before he came to UL, Felner had been dean at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Education from 1996-2003. Deasy studied there in the same period, while Deasy was also a Rhode Island school superintendent.

According to a highly placed source, formerly at UL, Deasy’s dissertation’s title page carries the date, “May, 2003,” while it is signed off, “April 9, 2004.” He entered the program in January, 2004.

A UL investigation of the Deasy PhD did not condemn the practice. James Ramsey, UL president, who had turned a blind eye to Felner’s notorious corruption (the faculty gave Felner a “no confidence vote” in 2006, but he served at least two more years at UL with Ramsey’s full support), gave his nod to the “blue ribbon” investigation.

Deasy is apparently cut from the same cloth as his mentor, having recently resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, under a cloud of allegations regarding ethics violations in relation to a $1 billion contract to supply iPads to LAUSD students.

A federal grand jury is currently investigating Deasy’s iPad scheme, which involved Apple and Pearson, the latter one of the world’s largest education publishers.

Many in LA were quite pleased by Deasy’s resignation as district boss.

In the end, it can be argued that the mistakes made by the U of L administration in hiring and protecting Felner, allowed Deasy to obtain a questionable PhD, which surely helped him land the high-paying job as superintendent of the second largest school district in the United States.

As LAUSD’s “Deasy episode” unfolds in a federal jury investigation, it could be that Willihnganz’s legacy will include the “graduation” of two federal convicts from the U of L College of Education and Human Development.

Thirty Records About America—A Mixtape

I used to post quite a bit about music here on the Where The Blog Has No Name, so please excuse the interruption of blogs on education and politics.

I’ve slowly been working my way through Bob Dylan’s Complete Album Collection Vol. 1 the past year while reading Bob Dylan: Writings 1968-2010 by Greil Marcus. This is not a project I want to rush.

Marcus’ book includes a particularly inspired piece from the May 28, 1998 Rolling Stone, “Thirty Records About America.” Below is a link to a Rdio playlist based on the article (minus a great record by Fastbacks “In America” that is not available).

And, if you’re not into the old stuff, here’s a link to my favourite non-Dylan tunes released in 2014:

Call for chapters: Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity

Call for Book Chapters

Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity
Editor: Cory Wright-Maley, Ph.D.

The book is intended to provide a space for scholars and practitioners to reconsider how we prepare students to engage in a democratic society as well as the state and nature of democratic education as a whole. In doing so, this text will seek to draw from thoughtful scholars in the social studies as well as from related fields who can shed new light on the challenges of democratic education in the twenty-first century. In doing so, this volume is intended to help practitioners reconsider their practices in attending to education for democracy. We welcome scholars and practitioners who approach this issue from a variety of directions and theoretical or philosophical perspectives (see the attached document for details).

Scholars and practitioners are invited to submit on or before September 30, 2014, a 400-600 word proposal clearly explaining the central argument and outlining the content of the proposed chapter, including implications for teacher practice, and providing a rationale that connects the proposal to the theme and purposes of the book. Please indicate the section (or sections, if multiple proposals are submitted) for which you are proposing your chapter. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by November 14, 2014 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters are expected to be submitted by April 3, 2015. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. Contributors may also be requested to serve as reviewers for this project. Feel free to send a quick email noting your interest in advance of your submission.

Please send proposals and inquiries to Cory Wright-Maley (Cory.WrightMaley@stmu.ca). Here is a detailed description of the book: Teaching for Democracy in an Age of Economic Disparity – A Call for Chapters

New review of research on class size by David Zyngier (Monash U, Australia)

Class size and academic results, with a focus on children from culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised communities

David Zyngier
Senior Lecturer in Curriculum and Pedagogy
Monash University

Abstract
The question of class size continues to attract the attention of educational policymakers and researchers alike. Australian politicians and their advisers, policy makers and political commentators agree that much of Australia’s increased expenditure on education in the last 30 years has been ‘wasted’ on efforts to reduce class sizes. They conclude that funding is therefore not the problem in Australian education, arguing that extra funding has not led to improved academic results. Many scholars have found serious methodological issues with the existing reviews that make claims for the lack of educational and economic utility in reducing class sizes in schools. Significantly, the research supporting the current policy advice to both state and federal ministers of education is highly selective, and based on limited studies originating from the USA. This comprehensive review of 112 papers from 1979-2014 assesses whether these conclusions about the effect of smaller class sizes still hold. The review draws on a wider range of studies, starting with Australian research, but also includes similar education systems such as England, Canada, New Zealand and non-English speaking countries of Europe. The review assesses the different measures of class size and how they affect the results, and also whether other variables such as teaching methods are taken into account. Findings suggest that smaller class sizes in the first four years of school can have an important and lasting impact on student achievement, especially for children from culturally, linguistically and economically disenfranchised communities. This is particularly true when smaller classes are combined with appropriate teacher pedagogies suited to reduced student numbers. Suggested policy recommendations involve targeted funding for specific lessons and schools, combined with professional development of teachers. These measures may help to address the inequality of schooling and ameliorate the damage done by poverty, violence, inadequate child care and other factors to our children’s learning outcomes.

Class size and composition most important public policy issue in BC teachers dispute

Cross post from Institute for Critical Education Studies blog.

Class size and composition is arguably the single most important public policy issue in the current dispute between BC teachers and government.

The educational and economic implications of class size and composition policies are huge, but in the context of collective bargaining and related court cases public discussion of the costs and benefits of class size reduction has been cut short.

Class size is one of the most rigorously studied issues in education. Educational researchers and economists have produced a vast amount of research and policy studies examining the effects of class size reduction (CSR).

What is the research evidence on CSR?

Since the late 1970s, the empirical evidence shows that students in early grades perform better in small classes and these effects are magnified for low-income and disadvantaged students. Most studies have focused on primary grades, but the relatively small number of studies of later grades also shows positive results of CSR.

Randomized experiments are the “gold standard” in social science research. One such study, known as Project STAR, involved 11,500 students and 1,300 teachers in 79 Tennessee schools produced unequivocal results that CSR significantly increased student achievement in math and reading.

A CSR experiment in Wisconsin illustrated student gains in math, reading, and language arts. In Israel, which has high, but strict maximum class size rules, a rigorous study of CSR produced results nearly identical to Project STAR. Studies in Sweden, Denmark, and Bolivia find similar results.

Do all studies of CSR produce unequivocal positive results? No, but the vast majority of research, including the most rigorous studies, leave no doubt about the positive effects of CSR.

The research evidence on CSR led to class-size caps in California, Texas, Florida, and British Columbia, before the BC government stripped them from the teachers’ contract in 2002.

Why are smaller classes better?

Observational research in reduced size classes finds that students are more highly engaged with what they are learning. That is, students have higher participation rates, spend more time on task, and demonstrate more initiative.

In turn, teachers in smaller classes spend more time on instruction and less time managing misbehavior. They also have more time to reteach lessons when necessary and to adapt their teaching to the individual needs of the students.

One, perhaps counter-intuitive, finding from the research is experienced teachers are better able to capitalize on the advantages of smaller classes than more novice teachers.

How small is small enough?

Project STAR reduced class size from an average of 22 students to 15. Previous research found significant positive effects of CSR at below 20.

Based on these findings some have argued that CSR is not effective unless these levels are attainable. But, the broad pattern of evidence indicates a positive impact of CSR across a range of class sizes.

What about the costs?

There are demonstrable costs involved in reducing class size. As with all public policy questions both benefits and costs must be considered. The potential future costs of not creating smaller classes in public schools also must be taken into account.

Reduced class size boosts not only educational achievement, but has a positive impact on variety of life outcomes after students leave school.

Results from a number of studies show that students assigned to small classes have more positive educational outcomes than their peers in regular-sized classes including rates of high school graduation, post-secondary enrolment and completion, and quality of post-secondary institution attended.

Additionally, students from small classes have lower rates of juvenile criminal behavior and teen pregnancy; and better savings behavior and higher rates of homeownership than peers from regular-size classes.

What are the policy implications of CSR research?

Class size in an important determinant of a broad range of educational and life outcomes, which means policy decisions in this area will have a significant impact on future quality of life in the province.

The money saved today by not reducing class size will be offset by more substantial social and educational costs in the future, making class size reduction the most cost-effective policy.

Sample of CSR Research Articles:

Angrist, J.D., & Lavy, V. (1999). Using Maimonides’ rule to estimate the effect of class size on scholastic achievement. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 114(2), 533-575.

Browning, M., & Heinesen, E. (2007). Class Size, teacher hours and educational attainment. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 109(2), 415-438.

Chetty, R., Friedman, J.N., Hilger, N., Saez, E., Schanzenbach, D.W., & Yagan D. (2011). How does your kindergarten classroom affect your earnings? Evidence from Project STAR. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4), 1593-1660.

Dynarski, S., Hyman, J., & Schanzenbach, D.W. (2013). Experimental evidence on the effect of childhood investments on postsecondary attainment and degree completion. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4), 692-717.

Finn, J., Gerber, S., & Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2005). Small classes in the early grades, academic achievement, and graduating from high school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 214-223.

Fredriksson, P., Öckert, B., & Oosterbeek, H. (2013). Long-term effects of class size. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(1), 249-285.

Krueger, A.B. (1999). Experimental estimates of education production functions. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115(2), 497-532.

Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2001). The effect of attending a small class in the early grades on college test taking and middle school test results: Evidence from Project STAR. Economic Journal, 111, 1-28.

Krueger, A.B., & Whitmore, D. (2002). Would smaller classes help close the black-white achievement gap? In J.Chubb & T. Loveless (Eds.), Bridging the Achievement Gap (pp. 11-46). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Molnar, A., Smith, P., Zahorik, J., Palmer, A., Halbach, A., & Ehrle, K. (1999). Evaluating the SAGE program: A pilot program in targeted pupil-teacher reduction in Wisconsin. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 21(2), 165-77.

Word, E., Johnston, J., Bain, H.P., et al. (1990). Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR): Tennessee’s K-3 class size study. Final summary report 1985-1990. Nashville: Tennessee State Department of Education.

Urquiola, M. (2006). Identifying class size effects in developing countries: Evidence from rural Bolivia. Review of Economics and Statistics, 88(1), 171-177.

Teacher Reflections on the Relationship Between Creativity and Standardized Testing in Ontario

Critical Education
Vol 5, No 3 (2014)

Accountable to Whom? Teacher Reflections on the Relationship Between Creativity and Standardized Testing in Ontario
Catharine Dishke Hondzel

Abstract
This paper describes the reactions and emotions teachers experienced when asked to discuss the impact standardized achievement testing in Ontario has on creative classroom practices. Using an interview guide format, eight teachers were asked to consider their perspectives on, and practices related to fostering creative behaviours in children, and their own creative teaching methods in light of accountability legislation. The responses teachers provided varied from bitterness and disappointment with the way standardized achievement testing influences their schools and classrooms to acceptance and optimism for the children’s future academic success. The results of this examination are framed with reference to accountability legislation in Canada and the United States, and the potential lasting effects of a high-stakes testing environment.

Keywords
Creativity; Standardized Testing; Accountability; Educational Reform; Ontario; Canada; Education Quality and Accountability Office; No Child Left Behind; Legislation; Teachers