Monday, September 24, 2018

Leading Research on PBLA’s Impact

As many of you already know, Yuliya Desyatova is taking one for the team by devoting her PhD studies to researching the impact of Portfolio-based Language Assessment (PBLA) on our lives, our classrooms, our morale, our job satisfaction, our ability to be effective, and on our students' learning experience.

She has completed some analysis of the first tier of data gathered and has begun writing articles and giving presentations. In May of 2018, she was at the BC TEAL conference. The title of her presentation was Constraining Learning Spaces. Yuliya did a great job explaining the breakdown of responses from teachers, administrators and leads to her survey. She had a good data pool with 322 participants. Of these respondents, 72% had a somewhat unfavourable or very unfavourable view of PBLA.

Some emerging recommendations at that time included:
  • suspending mandatory implementation
  • engaging all stakeholders in an open and constructive dialogue under non-threatening conditions

In June of 2018, Yuliya spoke to the International Society for Language Studies at their conference at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. The title of this talk was When Inquiry is seen as Resistance to Change. Yuliya included the original document "The Change Cycle," which was used in early training at the top of the PBLA implementation chain and which includes the suggestion that those who do not get on board with the new way are "laggards" who "may need to be fired." She quoted many of the surveyed teachers, bringing light to the "dramatic increase in teacher stress" and "unpaid teacher workload."

Yuliya is not yet ready to make slides from these talks public, as she is still strengthening parts of her study and the recommendations that flow from it. There are still opportunities to hear Yuliya speak about her findings, though.

On October 3, 2018, Yuliya will be the keynote speaker at TESL London's annual wine and cheese event. She will be sharing results of her research.

Yuliya will be presenting a paper at the upcoming TESL Ontario Conference on Friday, November 2, 2018 from 11:20 to 12:20. If I am able to be at the conference this year, I will absolutely be one of the first in line to hear more about her findings and analysis of same.
F3J Teacher Learning in PBLA: a critical analysis Yuliya Desyatova - University of Toronto: Drawing on policy documents and empirical data from a larger project, the paper analyses how teacher learning is conceptualized and enacted in PBLA implementation. As suggested by the data, PBLA teacher training demonstrates a strong reliance on behaviourist and cognitive understandings while neglecting the sociocultural complexity of teacher learning. Category: Paper Level: Adult ESL/LINC,College/University, Elementary, ELT/SLT, Secondary Focus: Research Audience: All Participants

Yuliya's contact information is:

Yuliya Desyatova
PhD Student
Centre for Educational Research on Languages and Literacies
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning | OISE
RM 10-229, 252 Bloor St W | Toronto, ON | M5S 1V6

Twitter: @YuliyaESL

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Season

For everything there is a season,.... Ecclesiastes 3:1

The blogger is IN.

Ok, I don’t mean to get all heavy by starting with a Biblical quote. In fact, I’m feeling lighter than ever after a sweet, very relaxing summer. It was the most restorative break I’ve had in my eight years of teaching English. I didn’t participate in any PD. I didn’t go up to my workplace with jugs of vinegar to clean the water boiler that’s the centre of my hospitality station. I can do that next week.

Everything work-related went on hold. Self-nurturing came to the fore.

But now I’m back and believe that such a complete vacation is to thank for my current fresh attitude and excitement about the blank canvas before me.

I’ve always been a fan of summer. It’s not that I love muggy days more than crisp fall days. I think it’s because summer reminds me of childhood summers—the only time of year when I was permitted and it was socially acceptable to give myself long blocks of time away from other humans. At the age of nine I would hide up in a tree. Today my apartment is hidden among the boughs of two tall maples.

But fall has it’s own deliciousness, doesn’t it? This is a season of transition, nicely symbolized by the transitional wardrobe drying on my clothesline on this warm late summer day.

As a teacher, I appreciate this time of year for the opportunity it offers us to reinvent our classroom practice. The freedom from stress I experienced over the summer has made me realize that I can do so much better in the area of self-care, mental well-being, and work-life balance. I am even starting to believe that I can be a more effective teacher without devoting such an insane amount of time to planning and prep.

What does this mean for me as the administrator of and this blog? I’m not certain yet where I’m headed with it, but I can tell you what is calling to me and what isn’t.

For one, I have returned to my job feeling that life is too short for me to spend a lot of psychic energy on the BS. I want to continue to make time for my hobbies, such as linoblock printing and sewing.

I am still committed to supporting Yuliya Desyatova and anyone else who strives to bring more critical thinking and common sense to this whole national fiasco known as PBLA. You can expect me to post updates and summaries from her field work, publications, and conference circuit. My goal is to begin that next weekend.

But mostly I would like to corral and contain my advocacy work in order to make room once again for the things in ESL teaching that bring me joy, such as discovering a promising language teaching approach or reading a pedagogical book or article that makes me look forward to Monday when I get to share the ideas with colleagues and try them with students.
I have recently found such a teaching approach and received a nice thick book to read about it, so watch this space.

It’s good to be back.