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.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Professional development for 200 principals and teachers from 30 schools in Haiti: If you're going to dream, dream big.

In one week, our team of 40 educational leaders from Ontario, Quebec, Oklahoma, and Washington will be in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The first Laurier-sponsored Educator and Leadership Institute will be launched!

At this point, we have more than 200 principals and teachers registered from 30 schools from across northern and central Haiti. We don't have a firm number of how many students are represented in those 30 schools but we anticipate that it is approximately 15,000. What this means is that the summer institute has the potential to impact the educational experiences of a massive number of students.

If we can help Haitian teachers and principals provide more effective math and science teaching strategies, equip teachers to support students with special education needs, nourish the abilities of teachers of early learners, enable teachers to engage students in critical literacy, and encourage leaders in effective leadership practices, then we will have changed the learning trajectory of 1,000s of Haitian students.

We have committed to a sustainable model over five years which will gradually engage our Haitian partners in increased leadership within the summer institute to further build their own leadership structures and systems. We have also built a research agenda into the framework of the summer institute so that we can identify effective strategies that we might be able to leverage in other similar contexts. Finally, the investigation of how online tools and resources can be used in fragile states such as Haiti will provide an incredible opportunity to consider contexts such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and how online learning can supplement traditional educational models.

I am nervous about the scale of what we are doing but as one prominent Haitian leader once said to me, "If you're going to dream, dream big."

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Teacher professional development in a fragile state: Haiti

The 2016 Fragile States Index was released recently. This scale, based on 12 criteria areas, ranks the world's countries according to their "fragility". To be #1 in this ranking is not a good thing. It essentially means that your country is in very poor shape.

To see the rankings and the criteria area, click here: The Fund for Peace Fragile State Index 2016

Haiti is ranked 10th, right between Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a very poor showing and consistent with where it has been ranked for years.

This has really made me think: How can we support improved teaching practices, and therefore improved student learning outcomes, when there are so many significant challenges and obstacles?

There are a three key aspects to our work in Haiti that gives me hope:

1. We have deliberately focused on fostering healthy partnerships. We have invested deeply in long-term and trusting relationships with a mindset of reciprocity/resipwosite (Creole).
2.  We have deliberately focused on supporting social and human capital at the local level. We do not provide a North American model of how education should be "done" but work with local Haitian educators to understand how they can implement teaching methods and resources that will engage students to be change agents in their own communities.
3.  We have deliberately focused on building capacity. We are working with school leaders who already have significant capacity and a vision for change in Haiti. We are supporting the equipping of these educators so that they might reach others.

This provides a sustainable and effective model of teacher change. As the outcomes of this model "ripple out" we envision that, over one or two generations, the fragile nature of Haiti will change. It is not a quick fix but it will lead to a better future.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Teacher professional development through online learning in Haiti

In two weeks, the Educator and Leadership Institute will launch in Cap-Haitien, Haiti.

We are excited about the impact that the institute will have on the abilities of teachers to engage students in learning.

There is lots of evidence that teachers in Haiti are committed to their work. This World Bank report provides an overview of the context, and some of the challenges, involved:

World Bank: Why school enrollment is not enough

One of the distinctive features of the institute, which specifically addresses the issue of ineffective teaching methods that the World Bank report highlights, is the use of online learning to support what we do in face-to-face sessions.

In 2016-17, with support from D2L Corporation, we are providing an opportunity for institute participants to gain extra pedagogical support through online resources and forums. Teachers will be able to access French-language materials to help them with mathematics or science. They will be able to engage colleagues in Haiti and in Canada in conversations about challenges they are experiencing in the classroom and ideas for addressing those issues. They will be able to regularly reflect on how they can improve their teaching practices.

Concurrent to the launch of the online platform, which will take place the first week of August at the institute, we are also launching a major research project which will examine the effectiveness of both the face-to-face and online supports. This will help us discern the impact of these interventions in supporting improved teaching practices. Eventually, we want to examine how the summer institute and the online learning actually impacts student learning. If the face-to-face and online learning components can be shown to improve student outcomes, the project has the potential to significantly impact how organizations like UNESCO and the World Bank support educational professional development in fragile and challenging contexts.

This is a significant area of research and the scope of the initiative has potential for shaping policy and practice in Haiti and countries with similar challenges. I will be posting updates on both the ways in which the online learning evolves and the corresponding research project.