What Jeopardy! teaches us about learning styles

It’s important for schools to have a knowledge-rich curriculum that sequentially builds on knowledge year by year. Alex Trebek taught us that

What Jeopardy! teaches us about learning stylesCanadians were saddened to learn that longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek passed away recently from pancreatic cancer. For more than 35 years, Trebek was a familiar face in our homes. There was no better way of testing your general knowledge than seeing how many Jeopardy! questions you could correctly answer. The outpouring of emotion over…

Why traditional schooling fosters better results

Most students learn best in a structured and orderly school environment that’s directed by a good teacher

Why traditional schooling fosters better resultsPicture a school in an underprivileged part of north London, England.  One-third of nearby families live in poverty, a significant percentage are visible minorities, and the neighbourhood crime rate is twice the national average. What kind of academic results would you expect from this school? If you expected this school to score below average, think…

Don’t be too hasty to rename schools

Instead of renaming schools, we should educate students about the legacy behind their current names – good and bad

Don’t be too hasty to rename schoolsIf some petitioners get their way, Cecil Rhodes School will be no more. The Winnipeg school would still exist, but under a new name. No doubt most Canadians who hear about this have one burning question: Who is Cecil Rhodes? Rhodes was a 19th-century British politician who served as prime minister of Cape Colony, a…

Canadian students need a return to regular classes this fall

Students learn best when they develop strong personal connections with their teachers. We need to stop dwelling on worst-case scenarios

Canadian students need a return to regular classes this fallOne thing we’ve learned this year is that global pandemics have a big impact on teaching and learning. In mid-March, regular kindergarten-to-Grade-12 classes across Canada were suspended and instruction moved online. While schools in some provinces partially reopened in June, this doesn’t mean things are back to normal just yet. Students gained limited access to…

Let’s be realistic about physical distancing in schools

It’s absurd to think that physical distancing in schools will look like it does in grocery stores

Let’s be realistic about physical distancing in schoolsThese days, grocery shopping looks a little different than usual. People wait patiently outside the store in long, spaced out, lineups. Direction arrows show customers where to move next. Customers stand at least six feet apart in the checkout lines. Cashiers carefully disinfect their terminals before the next customer arrives. These measures are designed to…

Rigid focus on seniority hurts teachers and students

Rigid focus on seniority hurts teachers and studentsImagine you are a public school principal. You need to hire a teacher and you have two applicants who meet the basic job requirements. The first applicant has 10 years of teaching experience and regularly scores outstanding performance reviews. The second has 15 years of experience but receives only satisfactory performance reviews. Which teacher would…

Education faculties fail to prepare young teachers to be effective

Education schools often tilt from one useless fad to another with little practical use in actual classrooms

Education faculties fail to prepare young teachers to be effectiveIn 1933, the retiring president of Harvard University, Lawrence Lowell, famously stated that his university’s school of education was “a kitten that ought to be drowned.” Of course, university presidents wouldn’t talk like this today. But Lowell was far from the only scholar to hold education schools in such low repute – and for good…

Basic subject knowledge best way to improve reading skills

Reading is not just about decoding individual words. In order to read effectively, you must also understand what you’re reading

Basic subject knowledge best way to improve reading skillsLast year, Newfoundland and Labrador’s government published a roadmap to better government in the future, with the title The Way Forward. This ambitious document outlines how the government plans to modernize the public sector, build its economy for a sustainable future, and improve educational outcomes. Earlier this year, the provincial government released its Education Action…

Teacher competence in the subject they teach critical to learning

Despite what trendy education gurus say, a teacher's competence in their subject makes a noticeable difference to student achievement

Teacher competence in the subject they teach critical to learning“Teachers – don’t worry if you don’t have the knowledge or skill set. You are the lead learner. Inquire not lecture.” This was an actual tweet from a prominent education guru. Sadly, this message is far from isolated. There’s a common belief in education circles that teacher subject-matter expertise doesn’t matter a whole lot. The…

Tests help improve student achievement

P.E.I. introduced standardized testing and student achievement substantially improved. Other provinces should take note

Tests help improve student achievementThe latest test results from the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) reveal that Prince Edward Island students scored among the highest in the country. It’s impressive, but even more so when we remember that a decade ago P.E.I. scored at the bottom of Canadian provinces. One shouldn’t read too much into the results of one assessment,…

Unions can help teachers resist pointless education fads

Being on the front lines, teachers must implement the latest fads. Then they get blamed when the fads crash and burn

Unions can help teachers resist pointless education fadsThe primary responsibility of teachers’ unions is to represent their members. This includes advocating for better wages, opposing unfair working conditions and ensuring that all teachers receive due process when their jobs are in jeopardy. Obviously, these are the very basic issues. Unions can do something else that would be of immense benefit to their…

Market principles offer solutions to teacher shortage

One way to increase the applicants is to make the job more desirable, particularly by paying more

Market principles offer solutions to teacher shortageNova Scotia doesn’t have enough substitute teachers. The shortage is so severe that school boards are hiring people without teacher’s certificates to fill substitute positions. In many cases, regular teachers must use prep time to cover for absent colleagues. To make things worse, there’s an ongoing shortage of specialty teachers, particularly in French immersion. In…

Reading comprehension depends on content knowledge

A student may be able to decode every single word in an article but still be clueless about the meaning since they know virtually nothing about the subject

Reading comprehension depends on content knowledgeWalk into an elementary school classroom and you’ll probably see a lot of books on the shelf. Take a closer look and you’ll often find a coloured dot, a number or a letter on each book’s spine. Those dots, numbers and letters show the reading level of each book. Books are assigned levels so students…

Don’t judge historic figures without knowledge of our history

Canadian curriculums fail students when it comes to teaching the content necessary to have informed, intelligent debate

Don’t judge historic figures without knowledge of our historyLast fall, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario demanded that Sir John A. Macdonald’s name be stricken from all public schools in the province. More recently, Halifax city council voted to remove the Edward Cornwallis statue that had stood downtown since 1931. Both decisions were vigorously debated and public opinion remains sharply divided. These are…

Breaching the fine line between teaching and brainwashing

Being a teacher means making sure your students are exposed to more than one perspective

Breaching the fine line between teaching and brainwashingThere’s a fine line between teaching and brainwashing. Teaching informs students about the world around them and helps them become critical thinkers. In contrast, brainwashing provides students with heavily skewed information that leads to one predetermined conclusion. It’s easy to mix these two things up if we aren’t careful. People who work in schools are…