At the Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, we are engaged in current issues in education in many ways.
Below are articles and books reviewed by Elizabeth Morley, Principal Emerita of Jackman ICS, for Teachers’ College, Columbia University, New York. Jackman ICS Lab School has a long connection to Teachers College and contributes to its professional development work through Jackman ICS Principal Richard Messina’s teaching in the Klingenstein program for early career teachers, and through the following reviews in Klingbrief, an electronic publication of recommended articles, websites, and books selected by and for school educators.
Some books stand the test of time. One hundred years after its publication, John Dewey’s Democracy and Education continues to inform, incite, challenge, and inspire. Now, in a perfectly timely and needed way, comes a book to accompany Dewey’s thinking as it moves through the 21st Century. In his 2016 A Companion to John Dewey’s Democracy and Education, Stanford professor D.J. Phillips does two things to give a beloved but often challenging text a current context. First, he makes excellent use of relevant, brilliantly illustrative examples from schools today that show what Dewey meant when he said that his purpose was “to state the ideas implied in a democratic society and to apply these ideas to the problems of the enterprise of education”. Second, Phillip is clear and jut personal enoguh to make the reader feel at home in the book, but he never strays far from Dewey’s text. Though he addresses head on, and often with humour and strongn critique, some of the density of Dewey’s writing Democracy and Education, he is also sympathetic to the message and meaning of Dewey’s work. This is not a watering down, not a paraphrase of Dewey, but a welcome elucidation of a foundational book that advanced the principles of equality and justice in our schools and our society. Dewey articulates the potential of schools in a way that we cannot avoid. Phillip’s book is a respectful, reneweing, and urgently relevant visit of how, where, and why democracy and education share a crucial intersection.
University of Chicago Press; December 1, 2016
If we accept the decades of data that show that high engagement leads to positive outcomes, it is worth knowing more about another bank of research, the data on building trust. What does science tell us about how to create and sustain trust, a key contributor to engagement in our workplaces? Neuroscientist Paul Zak has written extensively about the science behind trust, specifically what happens in the brain when trust is present, and his more recent work then analyzes the promoters and inhibitors of trust as shown in brain analysis. In this article, Zak summarizes strategies that build trust such as recognizing excellence, creating “challenge stress,” and communicating in ways thaat reduce uncertainty. He is perhaps most compelling on the strong impact for leaders of building trust by showing vulnerability. Secure leaders who ask for help from their team, and are honest about what they themselves don’t know, evoke high trust, rather than low regard, from colleagues and staff members. If we accept the adage that “trust begets trust”, this article earns its place in this month’s Harvard Business Review and as recommended reading for school leaders. In the process, it further points the way to building robust trust and sustaining it in the form of increased commitment and engagement.
Harvard Business Review, January 2017
Many educators know and follow David Brooks’ New York Times writing and his books, most recently The Road to Character (2015). When he is asked to give a commencement address, he comes, not surprisingly, with ideas, humor, encouragement, and advice. This spring, at the University of Pennsylvania, what was surprising was how little time he affords the graduates to take action. He points out that they have been called promising for a long time, right up until graduation day. At that point, though, something shifts. “Promising” is not enough, because it reflects someone else’s judgement and standards. He is clear: “Starting tomorrow, ‘promising’ becomes a verb. Now it’s your criteria that matters.” Those students who will have a fulfilling life, he asserts, know how to make, and live by, promises to family, vocation, a philosophy, and a community. And he gives the grads advice on how to choose promises that matter and to which they can commit, because being good at keeping promises makes meaning of each day. This inspiring address goes an important step beyond giving students of promise one more gold star on the ledger. It offers the exciting and demanding invitation to lead best where it matters most – in selfless commitments that are rooted in service and that last.
University of Pennsylvania Commencement Address, May 2016
In her new book, University of California, Berkeley professor, Alison Gopnik’s premise is provocative. She believes that much of the 21st century parenting is wrong-headed, sometimes obsessive and controlling, and often undertaken with the hope of shaping children into a particular kind of adult. She points out that this is both bad science and bad for children and adults. She is specific about what the alternatives are, making the case for listeningn to our children, for the value of play, and for parental love for who the child is. She encourages parents to be gardeners, creating the generative, ready, rich and imaginative ground for their child’s growth, rather than carpenters, who have a finished product in mind before the work even begins. Every chapter will speak directly to any educaator who works with parents who have high hopes and no time to wait for the blossoming of unmarked seed packages. Notably, Dr. Gopnik makes her case with an exquisite empathy rather than blame for parents. One finishes this book feeling that there is a real, preferable, and evidence-based alternative response to the pressures of many of today’s parents place on themselves, and on their children.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2016
Bill Ayers’ newest book is refreshingly provocative and reminds us why we teach. Part of the Teachers College Press Teaching for Social Justice Series, this small book for teachers, parents and policy makers expands on three main themes. First, Ayers believes, as Dewey did, that the way we educate our children is a true and unwavering reflection of society as it is, and that there is no better route to societal change than through the teachers in our schools. Second, Ayers knows that conditions for good learning require social justice to be a focus of each day and every decision. And third, Ayers has written an invitation. Releasing us from received wisdom and conventional thinking, the entire book invites us to imagine and embrace what our schools can be. It also delineates obstacles with a clarity that rings true. We are encouraged to avoid simply swatting the flies away from the truths we know keep us from achieving broader social justice in our teaching. And we are implored to gather up the seeds of desire, effort, desperation, willfulness and enthusiasm and to begin planting a more fertile place for justice to prosper.
Teacher’s College Press, April 8, 2016
Adam Grant goes beyond encouraging us to understand the non-conforming student. He shows the reader how non-conformists and those who challenge conventional wisdom can be among our most creative leaders. Grant champions the willingness to take risks with ideas as a vital skill and he shows parents, teachers and business thinkers how to increase the likelihood of raising successfully original thinkers. With a combination of resourcefulness, creativity and comfort in going against the grain, “originals”, says Grant, can be found everywhere, from early years classrooms to the business world. What they can teach us breaks some long-held beliefs. Of group work, Grant says, research points to the generation of ideas being more productive when done by individuals. The group experience comes into play as superior for assessing ideas for utility, critical thinking, compiling data to support ideas and gaining the skills of argument and listening. Grant brings wisdom to the question of how to teach students to rock the boat while keeping it steady. He makes promising and practical suggestions for using his findings in classrooms. For example, in his classes at Wharton School of Business, he invites the lively presentation of completely counter-intuitive ideas that are research-based. Grant takes special care to ground each chapter of his book in his purpose in writing it: to teach people how to make a difference by learning to meaningfully and responsibly question accepted wisdom and move towards original, even impossible, ideas that can change the world.
Penguin Random House, February 2, 2016
Each year for close to a decade, The American Psychological Association has published their Stress in America Survey results. The 2015 report includes a special focus on the impact of one particular stressor: discrimination. The report highlights the connection between discrimination and stress, along with the resulting impacts on relationships and overall health. This is a report where every finding carries purpose and import. It could become the basis for student analysis, staff development, educational policy setting or curriculum prioritizing. With focuses on specific aspects of discrimination that include gender identity, sexual orientation, finances, race, ethnicity, disabilities and access to emotional support, this survey opens a wide window to an unquestionably clear view of discrimination as reported by a large, representative sample of adult Americans. There are bright spots – the majority of adults feel confident in their problem-handling skills, and they expect good things to happen to them rather than bad. At the same time, there are trends that call for serious attention. For example, 25% of people report feeling fairly or very often that difficulties were piling up so high that they could not overcome them, compared to 16 percent in 2014 saying the same. There is nothing vague in the message of this report. It makes thinking about stress and its impact both more salient and more urgent.
American Psychological Association, March 10, 2016
As the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) turns 50, it has published its recent review of research on the impact of arts participation in early childhood. This report will carry weight with schools, teachers, policy-makers and donors. The arts have a positive impact – that’s no surprise. But here is an analysis that specifically ties music, drama, visual art, and craft to social and emotional outcomes not only for our youngest students, but also for older students who have had the enrichment of meaningful arts access. The evidence is in: participation in the arts augmented social skills development such as children’s capacity for caring, empathy, sharing, creativity, independence, and relationship building. Also important for all children – including, significantly, for those on the autism spectrum – was the role of the arts in children’s ability for regulation of emotion, with positive changes noted in affect, expression, and mood control. In the world of early childhood curriculum, there is often pressure to move toward the academic at the expense of the arts. This report brings rigor and clarity to the argument that skills and motivation can be instilled in young children through the arts, and that this early foundation holds fast the love of learning through the years.
National Endowment for the Arts, December 2015
While educators work on a daily basis to address bullying, there remains a substantial distance between what happens in our schools and the robust and sustained solutions we need in hand to address social aggression. In May 2015 the American Psychological Association published a review of evidence-based findings from the short forty years since research on bullying and its prevention has been done. In conducting this overview, the editors serve schools, parents and policy makers. The introductory chapter offers a comprehensive summary of what we know about bullying. It is a short and accessible foundation for the five papers that follow it, each one tackling a different aspect of bullying. A look at longitudinal data on the long-term effects of childhood bullying into adulthood indicates the skills students need now to overcome the impact of bullying as they mature. There is research on reasons why children bully, the effects of anti-bullying laws and translating research into practice. Helpfully, the final paper provides a critical analysis of how schools can best address the problem of bullying, reviewing evidence for the effectiveness of school-wide, universal anti-bullying programs. The APA has provided a strong, brief and necessary document to bring what is already known into our thinking about the next decades of our work for children and youth and against bullying
American Psychological Association, May 15, 2015
Claiming the Promise of Place-Based Education, by guest editors Roberta Altman, Susan Stires and Susan Weseen
The newest Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series gathers nine articles under the wide umbrella of place-based education. Growing from progressive roots, place-based education grounds learning in the place where we are, and offers antidote to days and ways that are saturated with the distractions of screens and over-scheduled hours. Place-based educators see the built, human, and natural world as a wide, shared and infinitely engaging “classroom” that offers continuous opportunities for learning. The papers are not only a testament to the value of going outside the real and metaphorical walls of the conventional learning space, but also they take a scholarly and informed position on how and why place matters so deeply. Some articles have a focus on preschool and elementary students, some on teacher growth. There are lively examples of specific learning experiences that take place within communities that range from the streets of New York City to the streams of Hawaii to the foothills of the Himalayas. We meet students and their teachers who are deeply observing, wondering, hypothesizing, documenting, valuing and better understanding their own environments. This collection is an optimistic invitation to being wide awake to the potential of the place we are in, and to developing the invaluable skills of learning wherever we are.
Bank Street College of Education Occasional Paper Series #33, 2015
Lively Minds takes up exactly the question that causes heated, lengthy and as yet unresolved debates in schools, parent associations, academia and families: what is the appropriate emphasis on academic learning for young children? Lilian Katz speaks with passion and recognized acuity, and therefore, a new article by her both excites and challenges those who teach. Here, Katz makes a helpful distinction between academic goals and intellectual goals, as she speaks unequivocally about the costs of the banal, trivial, shallow, or premature work that she often sees in programs for young children. She is a fierce advocate of nurturing in our classrooms the life of the young mind and its intellectual capacity to reason, predict, analyze, and question. These are all skills a teacher can foster and deepen through effective programing and knowledgeable understanding. Katz rejects the earlier is better academic camp in preschool pedagogy and promotes instead the longer term benefits of children’s lively minds being actively engaged in meaningful investigation, hypothesis building, analysis of ideas, and a quest for understanding every day, in every class.
No Child is an island
Supportive Relationships and Active Skill-Building Strengthen the Foundations of Resilience, Working Paper 13, The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
The science of resilience work being done by developmental psychologists, including those who have contributed to the 2015 Harvard National Scientific Council on the Developing Child working paper on the Foundations of Resilience, adds important perspective to our understanding of resilience. Here we learn exactly what science tells us about tipping the scales toward positive outcomes for children. The authors’ evidence-based clarity on widely held misconceptions about resilience is invaluable. That there is no “resilience gene” is well known, but here we learn that resilience requires relationships, not rugged individualism. We would be overlooking the most important variables in resilience if we focused only on grit, self-reliance, and strength of character. More salient are these: at least one completely reliable, supportive relationship and multiple, safe opportunities to develop coping skills. Of significance to those who teach is the evidence that the capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. The authors leave the reader with four clear mandates to pursue for all children: facilitating supportive adult-child relationships; building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control; providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions. Each contributes to the necessary conditions for resilient life.
From both experience and research, educators understand the importance of student attention and engagement. In “Habits of Mind,” Anthony Grafton and James Grossman, from Princeton and the American Historical Association respectively, urge us to reach for attention and engagement through a specific discipline – history – and a specific assignment – student-conducted research. They begin by delineating current trends in thinking that undervalue the humanities for not guaranteeing job prospects after college graduation. The authors then cite research and experience that present things differently. Their work has shown them that when students are involved in serious historical research they bind the pursuit of meaning to analytical thinking skills. Learning to understand the past is an art that can be taught alongside the skills of forming arguments, debating, weighing evidence, mastering datasets and determining what matters. The authors know that doing well-sourced historical research, with the support of a strong, mentoring teacher, makes specific contributions to a learner’s toolkit: the scholarly ability to differentiate between a weak argument and a strong one, to identify a research question that matters personally and academically, to differentiate between evidence and opinion, and to construct and test a hypothesis. Though the article focuses on college students, it details needed skills for independent, analytical thinkers of many ages. Grafton and Grossman argue for history, for engagement in research and more so, for helping build habits of mind that will last our learners a lifetime.
The American Scholar, Winter 2015
In Educated in Whiteness: Good Intentions and Diversity in Schools, Angelina Castagno is unapologetically critical of almost every aspect of our common approaches to diversity work. Examining unexamined practices under a spotlight of critical pedagogy, she reports her findings on the question of why schools repeatedly – and often blindly – fail in attempts to right wrongs. She cites white privilege and entrenched unwillingness as responsible for pervasive erosion of better intentions. Additionally, she is clear that outcomes will not improve while our schools overlook the fact that “nice and well-meaning” behaviours create unyielding barriers, often based in white privilege. This book is not intended to be a comfortable read. Castagno uses critical race and whiteness theories of education to examine obstacles to seeing privilege; she also exposes privilege deeply, decisively and in current contexts. While the classroom stories are set in two quite different public high schools, Castagno’s ethnographic research will resonate with anyone living in schools and seeing inequities that are not yet solved, despite good intentions. As for specific solutions, Castagno’s are not lacking, exactly; instead, they are presented as emergent. Solutions need to come from within educators and their schools, and both must set out to seek change.
University Of Minnesota Press, 2014
Is Kindergarten the New First Grade? The Changing Nature of Kindergarten in the Age of Accountability,
by Daphna Bassok and Anna Rorem
This AERA -funded study of the shifting emphasis on academic curriculum in the classrooms of kindergarten children shows educators what has changed. The report also informs, from an open-minded perspective, the discussion of the value of a heightened academic focus for young children. The clarity and accessibility of Bassok and Rorem’s research draws a straightforward picture of marked change. We learn that when kindergarten teachers were asked in 1998, 31% believed that children should learn to read in kindergarten. In 2006, 65% of teachers agreed. In the same time period, exposure to science, music, art, and physical education dropped significantly for kindergartners. Mathematics teaching included an increase in the time spent on skills that were previously deemed too advanced for kindergarten. This study addresses the “academicization” of kindergarten with findings that advanced academic content can improve learning trajectories, and has uniquely strong long-term impacts. The authors leave as an open question for discussion and further research whether a focus on academics needs to be at odds with play. At any rate, this is a careful study, and a salient one for early childhood classrooms and those with interest in what benefits, if any, kindergarten as “the new first grade” has for children.
Ed Policy Works, University of Virginia, January 2014
The Negative Effects of Instability on Child Development: A Research Synthesis, by Sandstrom, H. & Huerta, S., 2013;
The Urban Institute
In this September 2013 report, the Urban Institute synthesizes its economic and social research on the impact of instability on child development, gathering evidence about family upheaval in five areas: family income, parental employment, family structure, housing and the out-of-home contexts of school and child care. In each area, the report defines as unstable a change that is abrupt, involuntary, and/or occurring in a negative direction, and it looks at each in relation to children’s development. This work is part of the Institute’s Low Income Working Families Discussion, yet it constructively spans the effects many children in all income ranges experience when instability enters and alters a family’s trajectory, even temporarily. The findings point directly toward the importance of high-quality learning experiences at home and at school in the early years, parental mental health, and stability at home. Additionally, it advances theories about social practices that alleviate the impact of instability. The paper’s interdisciplinary approach presents evidence and context from developmental psychology, sociology, economics, public policy and family studies. By departing from boundaries in single domain research, it meets us at the critical intersections among schools, families, communities, workplaces and any who seek to support children in times of instability.
Carl Honoré, an articulate champion of Slow, a movement that encompasses not only slow food, but slow medicine, cities, businesses, schools and children’s schedules, takes aim at the quick fix. He questions the bestsellers that promote the 60 second solutions and in-the-blink-of-an-eye timelines. His new book extends his critique of the “ethos of hurry.” He makes the case for valuing collaboration, consensus and patience over multi-tasking and short-term responses. Pressure to move quickly toward answers, he says, usually produces superficial solutions that are unsatisfactory because they do not have a long horizon in view. His examples are international in scope, both familiar and new. In each case, he highlights the importance of finding the real root of a problem, learning from mistakes, consulting with those closest to the issue, and listening. He consistently makes three simple points: slow is not weak, time is not the enemy, and deliberate thinking is not optional. Though occasionally slipping into self-help language, Honoré’s book is in itself a slow fix that requires the hard work of deep reflection. Avoiding the quick fix may produce better, more lasting and more humane solutions that have the added benefit of building the capacity for a more reflective social community.
Random House, 2013
Change will find us, whether or not we seek it. With sometimes little control over the financial, environmental, scientific, and social contexts in which we find ourselves, we can turn to the research on resilience to find insights, explanations, and maybe even hope. Zolli and Healy make such a turn easy. Through engaging examples and critical research, their book draws together – with startling clarity – exactly what is known about the skills of adaptation, shock absorption, and the role of interdependency in resilient people and systems. Concurrently, they tackle several important questions: Why do some bounce back while others become permanently broken? Why do some people, some circumstances, some responses promote rebounding and forward movement? Although this is not a book about education, or aiming for educators as its primary audience, its importance for schools increases when it is seen through the lens of even bigger and, for us, more essential questions: What tools does it take to navigate rapid change and unpredictable circumstances, and are those tools present in our schools?
Free Press, 2012
In his new book, Trusting What You’re Told: How Children Learn From Others, Harvard Education Professor Paul Harris challenges what many educators hold as a universal truth – that the child is a “little scientist,” able to learn most when exploring the world through hands-on discovery. Harris acknowledges that self-learning is important, but believes that research points to another vitally important truth: most of what we know, we learned from others. Harris’ research demonstrates that very young children have a remarkable capacity for deeply meaningful questioning. A child who spends one hour a day from the age of two with an adult who is talking, listening, interacting and answering, will have asked, by the age of five, 40,000 questions in which they are seeking some kind of explanation. Harris believes current educational practice for young children undervalues this question/answer dialogue that is central to becoming a sophisticated learner. More than an ode to childhood curiosity, Harris’ scholarly analysis gives us reason to see in children’s questions their urgent need to know what is real and what to trust. Making affordances for this learning in our schools is imperative.
Harvard University Press, 2012
Reading Thinking in Numbers: How Maths Illuminate Our Lives is a stretch of the perfect sort. It is a rigorous and inspiring climb into the world of numbers, and not at all a defeating one. British author Daniel Tammet takes a subject every school teaches and addresses why it matters so much and so richly in all our lives. A non-fiction book that is a clear exception to the genre’s usual defining qualities, it makes no apology for the poetry of its style or the constancy of the literary, historical and sociological contexts it inhabits comfortably. Tammet is the ultimate connector of disciplines, seeing in math the infinite capacity to answer both “Why?” and “What if?” across many subjects and periods. The 24 essays in the book, include “Shakespeare’s Zero”, “Poetry of the Primes”, “All Things are Created Unequal” and “Proverbs and Times Tables”, each an invitation to take the elegance of Math seriously while becoming more cognizant of its long and necessary reach into our imaginations and our education. It is a book to savour as an educator and one to inspire thinking about thinking.
Hodder and Stoughton, 2012
Cathy Davidson, Professor at Duke University, has polarized public opinion on more than one occasion and her most recent book is likely to do the same. Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn focuses on her expertise and strong opinions on cognition and the science of attention in the digital age. She made news in 2003 when, as Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, she gave every freshman student an iPod. She invited and expected innovative learning and collaboration strategies to follow. Although some derided this untested digital largesse, public opinion began to shift toward her bold experiment as the results became evident. Her newest book outlines why she is optimistic about the digital age in education but also why she believes we are in peril if we do not become aware of how our attention actually functions and how multi-tasking in the internet age works for learners. Davidson is co-founder of the virtual organization HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), an international organization open to everyone and dedicated to rethinking the future of digital learning. To read her work may help us to stop being afraid that digital life erodes attention and begin to effectively reconcile the potential of digital learning with changing educational paradigms.
Viking Press, Winter 2012
Paula Marantz Cohen is frank in her assessment that for nearly three decades her method of teaching could have been called the “endurance test” approach. Distinguished professor of English at Drexel University, Cohen used to subscribe to the ways that she had been taught. Her recent article is a narrative account of what led to her shift in practice and pedagogy. She details the reasons for her current belief that without a different measurement of student engagement, her long reading lists, her assignments, her rubrics and her notion that good students would keep up with her comprehensive coverage were false indicators of student buy-in. She began the change process with a determination to see the material to be taught through the eyes of her students. This led to abandoning a prescribed syllabus for one that emerged in response to student discussion, interest, capacity and commitment. As she engaged in listening to her students, Cohen found that after a term of rich discussion and short papers on a regular basis, much had changed including an unexpected outcome: no one asked for a higher final grade. She posits that “students focus on grades when they believe that this is all they can get out of a course. When they feel they have learned something, the grade becomes less important.” There is a convincing honesty to this writer’s account of lessons learned in the process of exploring what students think about what we teach.
The American Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa Magazine, Winter 2011
David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (Oxford University Press), is now pondering whether there is a cure for meanness. In his New York Times article, Fighting Bullying with Babies, Bornstein examines the research on a unique social innovation curriculum in schools that is offering an unexpected answer. Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based classroom program that has shown dramatic effect in reducing levels of aggression among schoolchildren by raising social/emotional competence and increasing empathy. A baby in a parent’s arms comes to the classroom once a month throughout a school year and the students gather around to watch, ask questions, comfort, sing and make a tiny human being comfortable. Around babies, tough kids smile, disruptive kids focus, and shy kids open up. The baby, lying on a green blanket, invites a simple caring and a complex perspective taking combination that is effecting change in behavior and seeing outcomes maintained three years after the program ends. That change is more kindness and less bullying. All in a day’s work for the youngest of teachers.
The New York Times, November 2010
Race Still Matters
Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century
Helen Markus and Paula Moya
In this landmark collection of essays on race and ethnicity, co-editors Hazel Markus, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and Paula Moya, a professor of English, also at Stanford, have focused their science and scholarship on what race and ethnicity are, how they work, and why they matter. Everyday experiences and commonplace interactions like watching television, voting, shopping, going to the doctor or listening to music, are used to expose persistent misunderstandings, identifying some of the foundations for assumptions and misinformation in our public discourse. The book debunks and challenges, exposes and provides evidence that we are not at all in a “post-race” world, but rather one in which race and ethnicity are powerful organizers of modern society. Though it is not targeted only at educators, Doing Race is highly relevant to an understanding of how our schools display their values, and how we teach in intentional or unintentional ways about what we care about, whom we trust, who counts, and whom we include. A strong asset of the book is its interdisciplinary range, using perspectives from psychology, history, anthropology and sociology to broaden and ground the message.