About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Helping teachers develop a global perspective

Part of Laurier's on-going work in Haiti is actually not as much about Haiti as it is about the perspectives of teachers and principals in Canada. By providing an opportunity for new and experienced teachers to engage in service-learning in Haiti, I am hoping that these teachers will translate the service in Haiti to learning in their Canadian classrooms.

As well, the Digital Mentoring Project is not just about nurturing the leadership capacity of Haitian principals but also giving Canadian principals the opportunity to consider an international perspective on education.

Another way that we can nurture the global perspective of teachers in Canada is through professional learning. Recently, I co-wrote an article which examines how a professional development course can enhance teachers' global perspective. The good news from the research is that PD courses can help shape a teacher's global awareness. The abstract of the article can be found here:

Canadian and International Education Journal

or you can access the full article from my Laurier website:

Steve Sider Research Publications

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Too many teachers? Two more pieces (and some more questions) to consider

There has been some good Q and A on Twitter regarding my blog post from this morning. It made me think of some other pieces to this "too many teachers" issue that we should be talking about.

1. Quality of B.Ed. Program - I can't speak to specific programs but it would make sense that some B.Ed. programs are going to be better than others (we recognize this fact with other programs as diverse as engineering and music). Instead of cutting funding at all Faculties of Education, wouldn't it make sense to reward those which are really good (innovative? community-based? evidence-based?) by not cutting funding in those programs? Now, I work in one of the newer (and I would argue, more innovative and evidence-based) programs in Ontario so I obviously am invested in my program and will think it's on the top-end of B.Ed. programs in the province. However, I am sure that a metric could be used to measure the quality of programs in the province (not just a compliance-type accreditation like what is done by the Ontario College of Teachers). If XYZ Faculty of Education demonstrates that it is providing exemplary programming and supporting high-quality graduates, then let's make sure it can continue to do so (and maybe even consider expanding it) instead of simply cutting everyone's funding by equal amounts.

2. Diversity of B.Ed. Program - for the most part, Faculties of Education provide very similar foundational courses (the OCT requires certain courses and program elements). However, the rationale for, and structure of, B.Ed. programs can vary significantly (we often call this the "conceptual framework") and how courses are approached and taught can vary tremendously. For example, our Laurier B.Ed. follows a Professional Development School model. This means that we work in partnership with four local school boards in providing the education program for our teacher candidates. There is consistent communication between school and university. The teacher candidates can engage in school-based research and staff meetings. Teachers and administrators from the local school boards are involved with helping shape the program. Research from faculty at the university helps inform school board policy and practice. This model provides an excellent opportunity to experience teacher preparation in an engaging, synthesized manner.


I am not opposed to two year B.Ed. programs; in fact, I am quite excited about the potential of what can be done in those two years. However, yesterday's announcement of moving to two year B.Ed. programs makes me wonder: If a B.Ed. is of mediocre quality, why would we want to extend it for another year? Conversely, if a B.Ed. is of exemplary quality, and is meeting diverse, localized needs, should we not encourage its growth and health? I'm concerned that the announcement ensures the former and likely does not support the latter.

Too many teachers in Ontario? Another piece to the puzzle which isn't being discussed...

Yesterday, the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities in Ontario announced that Bachelor of Education programs (commonly called "teachers college") would be extended to two years and that the number of student positions in each year would be cut in half (to approximately 4,500).

This has been discussed for a number of years and there have been lots of reports suggesting that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario be extended. It's been interesting to read and listen to the resulting discussion (see Margaret Wente's article in today's Globe and Mail as one example - Overeducated and Underemployed). However, I think only part of the story is being told...

There are certainly some very real challenges to getting a job as a teacher in Ontario and, as a faculty member in a Bachelor of Education program who cares for his students, I certainly want to see each of them get a satisfying job AND contribute to making our education system an excellent one. In fact, I think that providing more practicum opportunities for new teachers is a great idea (being increased from 40 to 80 days). It should be noted that programs such as ours at WLU already do this. I also think that providing more education and support in areas such as special education, mental health, outdoor education, literacy/numeracy, and the arts will be beneficial to children - ultimately, the people we want to make a difference


I find it interesting that the changes are being couched in language such as "better preparing teachers" and "working to decrease the glut of new teachers without jobs" yet no one has addressed that Bachelor of Education programs in Ontario's publicly-funded universities are only one contributing source, albeit the largest, of new teachers in Ontario.

I did a quick search on the Ontario College of Teachers (the regulatory body for teaching in Ontario) and could not find a break-down of the number of teachers being certified from Ontario's publicly funded faculties of education versus private institutions in Ontario, those people certified from out-of-province, and those certified with international training. However, this Globe and Mail article (Ontario moves..) indicates that of the 11,000 teachers certified in Ontario each year, approximately 7,500 come from Ontario faculties of education. So 3,500 teachers are not coming from Ontario faculties of education. This also means that these teachers have no (or limited) training in the Ontario curriculum, no (or limited) classroom experience in an Ontario classroom, and no (or limited) knowledge of educational policy in Ontario.

I have three children in the Waterloo Region District School Board and I would hope that all of their teachers would come to their first day of teaching with a thorough knowledge of the Ontario curriculum, practicum experiences to hone their skills with the Ontario curriculum, and a solid knowledge of the Ontario legal framework (e.g. What are the Ontario expectations regarding Individual Education Plans for students with special needs? What are the Ontario guidelines for discipline and safe schools? What are the Ontario requirements for assessment, evaluation, and reporting? etc).

The changes announced yesterday indicate that we will be limiting those teachers who have a solid knowledge of Ontario curriculum, classrooms, and the legal framework but there is no limitation on those who can be certified who don't have this knowledge. Does this not seem strange?

So why are we not talking about the issue of certification of ALL teachers in Ontario and not just those who graduate from Ontario B.Ed. programs? I suspect that some (many?) of those who will now not be able to get into an Ontario B.Ed. will cross the border to Buffalo, go to Australia, or go to one of the private universities in Ontario to receive their teacher training. So have we really solved the problem of a glut of new teachers in Ontario?

This issue needs to be a part of the conversation and it hasn't been.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Congress 2013 - Victoria BC - Mobile Mentoring Presentation

I presented on the Digital Mentoring Project at the Comparative and International Education Society of Canada (CIESC) annual conference in Victoria, BC earlier this week. The presentation was based on a paper that Gaetane Jean-Marie (University of Oklahoma) and I did for the American Educational Research Association (San Fransisco) in April and which will appear later this year in an educational leadership journal.

The Canadian and International Education Journal coming out next week will also include an article I wrote regarding global perspective building for teachers. I'll post more info on both journal articles when they come out.

CIESC is part of the Congress of Humanities and Social Science annual meeting which brings together some 7,000 academics from across Canada. I always find the presentations stimulating. Sometimes I find myself in a session which I think will have little relevance to my interests and then leave with a new idea for my own research. It's a great way to re-imagine the work I do.

Yesterday, the Governor General was at Congress. It's great to see the support this former president of the University of Waterloo has given to scholarship in Canada.

So, now that I'm on my way home (in Vancouver) right now, I have lots of new ideas and commitment to my scholarship!