Spanning Boundaries Together
Spanning Boundaries is a project whose goal is to continue to bridge the academic-practitioner divide. It is an attempt to curate and create knowledge and deliver it to a broad audience of individuals interested in creating a better American education system.
Organized by Month and Year
If there is a unifying theme among these articles, it is an examination of purpose and practice. The first two papers highlight the limitations and consequences of poorly designed and enacted school policy and practice while the third provides a theoretical approach that might ground conversations in school transformation. The Diamond & Lewis article shows how Black and Brown populations experience the same discipline policy in very different ways. Thompson’s article presents a strategy to transform professional learning communities (PLCs)—a frequent yet often unproductive setting for teacher collaboration. In the third article, Biesta explores the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. The three papers are:
Diamond, J. B., Lewis, A. E. (2019). Race and discipline at a racially mixed high school: Status, capital, and the practice of organizational routines. (6), 831-859. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085918814581
Thompson, J. J., Hagenah, S., McDonald, S., Barchenger, C. (2019). Toward a practice-based theory of how professional learning communities engage in the improvement of tools and practices for scientific modeling. (6), 1423-1455. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21547
Biesta, G. (2008). Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. , 33-46. https://doi.org/10/1007/s11092-008-9064-9
Race and Discipline explores the distinction between the ostensive and performative nature of discipline policy at a diverse suburban high school. Diamond and Lewis suggest that the actual enactment of school policy diverges from its stated intention. This results in racialized discipline disparities that disproportionately impact Black and Brown students. An examination of the intent vs. the enforcement of a school or district policy might help address disparities in outcomes. Use this activity to help you do that.
Toward a Practice-Based Theory of PLCs examines how a commonly used tool can act to both enhance teacher collaboration during a PLC and improve student achievement through the application of that tool. The tool served as a central object of critique—teachers used it to challenge each other’s pedagogical choices as well as the decisions they themselves made in their classrooms. This article provides a potential strategy to transform PLCs in order to make them more productive adult learning environments.
Good Education in an Age of Measurement has significantly informed the way I think about the role of data in the K12 space. Data-informed decision making (explored in an article in the first Leadership newsletter) can be a useful practice, yet it must be grounded in a clear purpose. Biesta suggests that this purpose is often missing or misguided. To address this, school and district leaders should critically examine “the why” of their choices and reflect on the values symbolized by those decisions. This process can expose underlying value judgements and encourage practitioners to reconsider and reconnect with the question of purpose in education.
The second issue of the SB Teacher Newsletter combines relevant and practical research with strong theoretical foundations. The TPACK framework in the first article can support the integration of technology into the K12 learning environment; the second suggests that the skill of reflective praxis is critical to a successful teaching practice; the third explores how teachers can infuse political conversations into their classrooms. The second and third papers can be used together. The mediational means of reflective practice described in the Lampert-Shepel and Murphy article can be also be applied to students, providing them critical tools to reflect on controversial political topics. The three papers are:
Mishra, P., Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. (6), 1017-1054. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9620.2006.00684.x
Lampert-Shepel, E., & Murphy, C. (2018). Learning to reflect: Teachers’ mastery and development of mediational means and psychological tools of reflective practice. (3), 278-299. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1945-89184.108.40.2068
McAvoy, P., & Hess, D. (2013). Classroom deliberation in an era of political polarization. (1), 14-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/curi.12000
TPACK (full-text linked here) builds upon the Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) article from the first SB newsletter to provide educators yet another lens to consider how best to utilize technology in a Covid and post-Covid world. Mishra and Koehler’s 2006 article—cited more than 10,000 times and iterated upon by the original authors and other academics—does not represent a “silver bullet” for teachers. You will not find a quick strategy to use Google Docs in a writing class or Khan Academy in a Math class. Instead, you are provided template to reflect and act upon (1) the benefits and limitations of technology; (2) the relationship between technology and content and technology and pedagogy; and (3) your philosophy on the use of classroom technologies. Use this activity to help with this process.
In Learning to Reflect (full-text possibly linked here), Lampert-Shepel and Murphy build upon the work of Lev Vygostky, Paolo Freire, and Barbara Larrivee to show that reflective practice is a much more robust activity than the traditional forms of “reflection” most educators are asked to engage in. It is instead a complex higher psychological function that requires constant practice and refinement. Lampert-Shepel and Murphy explore how teachers in the US and Russia theoretically and practically conceptualize the practice of reflection and provide a set of six mediational means (tools) that teachers can use to develop reflective practice.
The research that informed Classroom Deliberation in an Era of Political Polarization (and expanded on in The Political Classroom) was conducted from 2005 to 2009. It is hard to argue that political polarization has decreased since that time—levels of polarization might be even higher now. McAvoy and Hess provide in-depth theory to suggest that classroom deliberation in the K12 space might lower the temperature and act as a critical ingredient to the success of a thriving democracy. Their findings and recommendations can be used by teachers and school leaders interested in creating opportunities for students to engage in democratic practices and discuss controversial issues that impact them both as adolescents and future adults.