How to improve student success in the transition to high school.

Think back to your first day of high school. Can you remember how you felt? Were you nervous? Scared? Excited? Did you feel overwhelmed and out of your element? Did you feel like you fit in? Did you feel like you would be successful?

The transition from high school to elementary school is a challenging one. This can be even more challenging for students coming to school from small, remote elementary schools. Additionally, some students may face further changes when then arrive at a School District run high school from a band run First Nations elementary school. At least, this was my perception was well as that of my teaching colleagues. I chose to investigate the reality of people who have experienced such a transition with the intention of learning how high schools can set their incoming students up for success.

While I initially intended this to be a thesis study, I am in the midst of converting it to become a project. Life presented me with an opportunity to begin my career as a Vice Principal at a new school. While this has been a wonderful learning opportunity, and has brought to life many of the discussions from our educational leadership courses, it has been a challenge for my Masters thesis work. I have noticed the challenges that our grade 8 (the youngest grade at our high school) group present. Efforts that go beyond the traditional grade 7 high school visits are required to help smooth out the social, emotional and academic transitions that this transition requires. With new flexibility in our scheduling for next year thanks to COVID-19, I am in the process of helping to design a new schedule that provides greater wrap around support for our newest students. The aim is to help them be successful in their new environment. We want out students to be:

  • Self-advocating
  • Supported
  • Belonging
  • Loved
  • Valued
  • Understood
  • Connected
  • Growing (not just physically)
  • Respected
  • Comfortable
  • Confident

To achieve this, our school will have a dedicated group of educators working with our grade 8 cohort. They will take part in psychoeducational activities for staff helping to understand what social/emotional needs teenagers have when they are in new and stressful environments. Teachers for the grade 8 cohort will set out clear and consistent expectations that exist across all classes. There will be opportunities for staff to get to know the incoming students on a personal level. Events will be organized around activities and interests based outside the traditional school system. Staff will have facilitated conversations with new students to achieve personal connection, and develop a plan of what each student needs to be successful.

Team Teaching for Professional Development

by: Ryan Gray

I have always been interested in the idea of team-teaching. Since the provincial government decided that the majority of educators in the province will work under a cohort model where they are primarily grouped with one other educator, why not have a look at some impacts that decision is having on educators? Have educators used their fellow cohort partner as a team teacher? Has this set up mandated by the provincial government had any impact on the professional learning of educators?

Teaching is inherently social in nature. Despite this, it has been referred to as a socially isolating profession (Hindin, Morocco, Mott & Aguilar, 2007). We spend hours with our students but we do not spend enough time reflecting, discussing and evaluating our practices with each other. Research has shown that teachers who work individually without a partner or critical friend will likely not undertake any significant change to their teaching practice (Dufour, et al, 2004). Traditionally, professional development has been dependent on input from outside experts in the form of presentations or one day seminars. Short term professional development programs are often not enough to change practice as teaching learning and development are a long-term practice (Rytivaara & Kershner, 2012).

The purpose of my research is to determine the impact of a strong relationship with their cohort or team-teaching partner on individual teaching practice. I will be collecting quantitative data to determine if teachers have a strong relationship with their cohort partner, that the relationship fosters professional development, and increases attachment to their schools.  

The goal of my research is to determine if a cohort teaching model impacts individual teaching practice and connection to their school. The specific questions guiding my research are as follows:

  1.  What are the attitudes of teachers who teach in a cohort model regarding professional learning and development?
  2.  What are the factors that determine a strong professional relationship between teaching partners?
  3. What impact does cohort teaching have on teachers feeling connected to their school in a positive way?

I am still in the pre-research portion of my thesis, therefore questions about collecting data, writing a survey and interpreting data might be out of my expertise. I would invite questions about other aspects of writing a thesis: coming up with an idea, prioritizing time, difficulties and successes along the way!

An Exploration of Maker Spaces in Vancouver Island Public Schools

by: Kelsey Lawson

“Maker” is an umbrella term for people who have been known as hobbyists, tinkerers, hackers, builders, crafters, artists, and innumerable other terms.

“Maker spaces” are those places where people come together to create all types of things – physical items and virtual products.  Initially found in places such as community-based spaces with nominal paid memberships or in libraries or children’s museums, maker spaces have more recently begun to be implemented in schools across the world.

As Maker Spaces are a relatively recent phenomenon in education, I am exploring how such spaces are being implemented in a BC-specific context to support constructionist learning for students, particularly those at the upper-elementary and middle school grade levels before classes typically transition to subject-specific content such as woodwork, metalwork, or robotics.

I wanted to know things such as how maker space teachers chose the technologies they included in their spaces, how they funded and obtained supplies for the space and courses, what support they had from various levels of their school community, how such learning differs from or complements learning in an academic classroom, changes teachers had noticed in their own teaching methods and in their students’ learning or engagement, and any recommendations maker space teachers had for others who were in the beginning stages of implementation. I decided to perform a comparative review of dedicated school-based maker spaces to document the various ways that maker spaces have been implemented and used to support student learning. Following the completion of my comparative review, I intended to use this information to create a guiding resource for BC teachers wishing to incorporate maker space concepts within their classrooms and schools.

Initially, I thought I’d contact teachers in maker space classrooms across BC and visit sites that were within driving distance, so as to have as much information as possible from which to identify themes and draw conclusions. Following guidance from my instructors that any type of school across the whole of BC was too broad a study, I decided to narrow it to public school districts on Vancouver Island, then further to Central and North Vancouver Island. I planned to schedule on-site visits to maker space classrooms to interview teachers in person as well as to observe and document the physical spaces. Then COVID struck, throwing a wrench into everything I had so carefully planned and requiring that I redo a fair bit of the work I had already completed. Despite how it felt as though I should have SO MUCH TIME for thesis work, I found the opposite to be true.

So, ask me anything. I’m perfectly willing to talk about the roadblocks that pop up in the thesis process, working through your literature review, how inkshedding never actually takes 30 minutes. Hopefully my experience so far can be useful to you.

What second language teaching methods are best suited to teach the BC Spanish curriculum? – Ask me anything

My thesis has gone from being a research study looking into the effectiveness and enjoyment of the Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) to now being a project creating a handbook suggesting an integrated approach to teaching the BC Spanish curriculum. I have completed the Research Ethics Board application despite now not requiring it. I can also speak to the differences in approach to conducting a research study and a project. I have conducted an extensive literature review for my project looking into second language teaching methods such as communicative approach, grammar-translation approach, task-based language teaching and tprs. I am happy to answer questions related directly to areas of second language teaching, the BC Spanish curriculum, or more generally about the process of conducting a research study or a project and the REB application process.

Smart Phones in the Classroom: The Teacher Perspective

This was taken with an actual camera – which also illustrates how old this photo must be

Technology has been rapidly changing throughout the 21st Century. While teachers have adapted to 21st century learning, the onslaught of constantly emerging technology has created a divide in how certain technologies should or shouldn’t be implemented in the classroom. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the issue of smart phones; devices that are more powerful and accessible than what is found in school computer labs across the country. My research question is, “Do teachers feel that smartphones and personal devices belong in the classroom?” This leads to more sub questions such as: what are teachers’ experiences with implementing technology through personal devices, what are advantages and disadvantages of personal devices? how frequent should their use be? etc. The purpose of this research is to illustrate teacher’s preconceived notions and opinions about personal devices, as well as the impact of these devices. The research examines how Campbell River teachers choose to incorporate smart phones into day-to-day teaching and how many choose to not incorporate them at all due to a variety of complex reasons. Parents, teachers, and students need up-to-the date information on how, why, and if smartphones should be integrated in and outside of school.

After a grueling grudge match with Survey Planet and how their survey software formats survey’s without paying for it, which can impede young academics trying to cheaply pass the Research Ethics Board (REB), I received the go ahead to survey as many teachers as were willing to find out their thoughts on smart phones/personal devices in the classroom. Armed with an e-mail, a dream, and the innate ability to get people to do me favours by constantly pestering them until they agreed to write the survey, I had 100+ filled out survey’s by Campbell River teachers to go through.

I am currently in the process of interviewing survey takers who indicated they would like to answer further questions. The interview process has been slow, due to the fact that transcribing interviews might be the actual worst thing ever employed in academics. Of course, I have all the hot tips for transcribing – chief among them? Type quickly!

I’m ready for all types of questions. Want to know the quickest way to get something done? Want to know how to write brief, hilarious e-mails in order to get surveys done? Or did you sign up for this seminar as a placeholder, hoping the reading strategies group would open up some more spots? In any case, feel free to ask me anything!

Preservice Teachers’ Understanding of Dyslexia in Relation to Effective Reading Instruction

All students are capable of learning and should be given the necessary tools they need to succeed.  My belief in this fundamental concept led me to the Master of Special Education (MEDS) program at Vancouver Island University.  One of my personal and professional goals is to provide a better quality of instruction for all students and to inspire educators to see new or different perspectives on existing teaching practices.

Influenced by my passion for educating students with dyslexia, I researched literature suggesting that many educators continue to believe misconceptions and myths about dyslexia.  The literature has also indicated that preservice teachers are not being adequately prepared to recognize dyslexia within the context of an inclusive classroom or provide effective reading instruction.  Curious about how preservice teachers are being prepared for the inclusive classroom, I decided to research preservice teachers’ understanding of dyslexia in relation to effective reading instruction. 

My qualitative research study uses a case study approach to gain valuable insight into preservice teachers’ experiences and perceptions about dyslexia.  Four participants were interviewed over the course of two semesters using a semi-structured format.  Preliminary data has indicated that many participants share similar beliefs surrounding dyslexia and many unexpected findings continue to surface.  The aim of my study is to help preservice teachers understand the importance of this area of special education to promote a further inclusive environment that enables all students to reach their potential.  This research may also contribute to the advancement of knowledge by providing feedback for the standards of university undergraduate education programs at higher-level institutions.

Are you curious about dyslexia?  Perhaps you are looking for some classroom strategies to support students with dyslexia?  Are you wondering about the process and application to the Research Ethics Board?  Please, don’t hesitate to ask me anything!

Why Not Outdoor Education?

The adult in me would like to tell you that recess is no longer my favorite subject.  That wouldn’t be true.  If you ask any kid in my class they will give you the same answer: their chance to go outside is their favorite part of every school day. Recognizing this in my students and myself played a big part in my commitment to providing consistent outdoor education opportunities for my students and eventually, my entire school.  I realized that this love of the outdoors was a platform that I, as an educator, should leverage in my students and not resist.  As a result, I decided to focus on getting the students outside of the school building and into an outdoor classroom as often as possible. I began by using my five-acre property as a starting point for students to explore, learn and awaken their senses through nature.  

My project is a handbook that teachers can use as a resource to help in their outdoor endeavors.  The original focus was a site specific handbook for the staff at my school to use that focused on our largely Indigenous population. However, I realized that this project would benefit all teachers who are interested in pursuing outdoor education in any school.  Many educators see value in outdoor education and yet often lack the confidence to bring their class outdoors and instruct them. I was able to research the benefits of doing this and now through this handbook, I intend to equip teachers with tools to lead their classes in outdoor learning with confidence. In so doing I hope to encourage my colleagues that time spent in nature is time very well spent for children.  

Research shows that many children are living a sedentary lifestyle that is accompanied with poor eating and sleeping patterns.  Numerous screen options, gaming consoles and social media platforms are stimulating young minds instead of the smells and sounds of nature that soothe and energize. Providing outdoor education to students of all ages can bring balance into their educational experience, removing them from traditional sedentary learning spaces and placing them into an active space.  There are numerous benefits to outdoor education including growth and development, improved self-esteem, as well as mental and physical well-being.  With this in mind the question simply becomes, “Why not Outdoor Education?”  Start simple, explore nature with your class and help create a healthy lifestyle for the students we teach. 

What are the practices by some of the Fortune 500 companies when designing sales training programs, as reported by sales trainers and sales training leaders?

By: Mohd Ariff Hamid (Ariff)

Studies indicated that sales are one of the oldest professions in the world since human civilizations existed. In a business environment, the sales training department is responsible for designing, delivering, or outsourcing sales training programs for the salespeople. Greco et al.’s (2019) study revealed that the sales world now has shifted more focus on the importance of sales training as a new tool to keep ahead of the competition and to better manage sales complexity and changing job demands.

As a certified training professional and previously worked in one of the Fortune 500 companies sales training operations, I had witnessed that it is common for organizations facing financial pressures to target and ax their training budgets when looking for easy budget cuts. But was it the best choice?

Building on the idea to improve training professional’s role as evidence to complement my future job application, and relevant to my educational leadership program at VIU, I have chosen my thesis topic to explore what strategies were employed by some Fortune 500 companies when designing a sales training program. After getting the approval from REB in October 2020, using SurveyMonkey as a survey platform, I posted an invite in 3 of my LinkedIn groups that I have joined and actively participated in before I launched my survey. I also sent invitation emails to my friends and ex-colleagues who are in trainers’ roles or are leaders in sales training operations. Surprisingly, by the beginning of December 2020, I successfully collected 99 respondents from my online survey. Wow! I felt happy with myself!

Although I have not finished with my thesis yet, I learned and experienced so much while doing it. I am willing to share with anyone about my tricks and tips while doing this thesis. Please ask me anything.

Talk soon!

Alternative Education: Administrators’ Perspectives on Effective Leadership Practices

As a future administrator and alternative educator for over 24 years, I wondered what successful alternative administrators do to best support their staff and students. This curiosity led me to begin a comprehensive search for inspirational alternative Southern Vancouver Island administrators. In May 2020, I received ethical approval from the REB to conduct semi-structured qualitative interviews with six to twelve of the most extraordinary leaders I could find. Participants had to have been in their position in the last five years and be willing to share their personal stories, lessons learned, hopes for the future, and any other wisdom they thought new administrators like myself should know. My research study, therefore, qualitatively looks into what Vancouver Island alternative education administrators, from 2015-2020, learned, experienced, and consider to be effective leadership practice in alternative schools. In the end, I was fortunate to find eight remarkable alternative administrators, including past and present principals, vice-principals, and assistant superintendents, that agreed to meet with me over Zoom. Their professionalism, passion, excitement and sometimes tears, as we explored their leadership experiences and strategies with trauma and burnout, have been emotional and powerful.

Preliminary analysis indicates that themes and commonalities in their experiences and stories are emerging. I believe what is learned from these leaders will significantly contribute to the academic conversation around alternative school leadership in BC. The data could potentially provide powerful Southern Vancouver Island leadership strategies and practices, which may help to improve alternative education experiences for teachers and students both here and beyond.

Please ask me anything! Do you want to know why I picked semi-structured interviews, the qualitative method, how I received permission to do the research in the two districts that approved me, or how to get going on the Ethics Review Board process? How about how to get help with the library, access to old thesis, finding writing support for your papers, navigating Zoom, COVID issues, or what software to use for analysis? I’m here to help, so please do not hesitate to ask.