Master of Education in Educational Studies (MES)

The MES Newsletter

Fall 2018 Newsletter


MESSAGE FROM DIRECTOR

The biggest news item from the MES each fall is graduation. It is my pleasure to congratulate the 35 graduates from Alberta and 2 from abroad that make up the MES class of 2018. To our MES graduates, recall that it was just over two years ago that you spent three weeks of your summer vacation together with fellow educators to continue your professional learning journey through graduate studies. On November 21, many of you crossed the stage of the Jubilee Auditorium to receive your degree and be acknowledged for your accomplishments.

To those of you not present at graduation, be assured that you were acknowledged in the thoughts of your colleagues and those of us in the MES. Heartfelt congratulations to all of you! To those of you who are in your first online course of the program or in second year conducting your research assignments, best wishes to you as you continue your learning journey in the program.

I would also like to acknowledge Betty and Kathy in the MES office who work with students and instructors on a day-to-day basis. The good work they do helps ensure that we offer you the support you need to study and work at the same time. 

Lastly, I would like to take the time to thank all of the people who teach in the MES program. Your commitment to supporting ongoing professional learning for educators is valued. This year students in year one summer residency worked with one of Katherine Willson, José da Costa, and Noella Steinhauer (Edmonton cohorts), Bonnie Stelmach (Grande Prairie) and Hans Smits (Red Deer). Year two summer residency cohorts were taught by Leonora Macy and Ken Jacknicke. Online instructors, Jim Parsons, Janice Wallace, Sally Brenton-Haden, Julia Ellis, Ken Jacknicke, Landor Liddell, Leonora Macy, Kerry Rose. And of course there are the instructors who guide students through their synthesis papers: Joyce Bainbridge, Ingrid Johnston, Leonora Macy, Jim Parsons, Hans Smits and Katherine Willson. Special thanks to our TAs: Wisam Abdul Jabbar, Jinny Menon and Kerry Rose. As director of the program I would like to thank all of the instructors for their commitment to providing learning experiences that create spaces for teachers to integrate their professional knowledge with academic literature and research. 

Thank you all. And once again, congratulations to the MES Class of 2018.

Elaine Simmt
Associate Dean Graduate Studies & Director M.Ed. in Educational Studies

FIVE ATTRIBUTES OF TEACHER PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

By Dr. Jim Parsons, MES Faculty

The following is taken from Jim Parsons’ essay titled “Work Less, Party More: A Review Essay about Collaborative Teacher Professional Learning,” which is a synthesis of Jim’s research on instructional leadership and teacher professional learning. He offers it to support some of the pedagogical structures found within the MES program. The full article can be found at https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/nwjte/vol11/iss2/1/

“My work suggests that collaborative professional learning focuses on four connected ideas: (1) teachers share with each other; (2) towards building a common vision; (3) with learning as the primary goal; and (4) constantly assess their success. Thus, professional learning is about improving learning and increasing teachers’ and students’ knowledge and power. My research (Parsons & Beauchamp, 2011) suggests that power is best shared; that success is best celebrated; and that dreams are the best goals. As Paulo Freire once noted, the purpose of literacy is to “diminish the distance between dreaming and doing.”

As I consider what I read, those who study professional learning agree on five keys: (1) leaders should support and share leadership; (2) teachers must believe in their collective power to create change; (3) visions and values should be shared; (4) communities must be built; and (5) teaching ideas should be shared. Let me discuss these five attributes briefly.

Key Attribute #1: Supportive and shared leadership

For supportive and shared leadership to emerge, principals must sanction and nurture the entire staff’s development. Principals must share authority, build capacity that helps others work, and participate without dominating. Principals must create an environment where teachers can learn.

Key Attribute #2: Collective Creativity

To build collective creativity, teachers should work together, actively sharing successes and ideas. Expansive patterns of thinking must be nurtured. Teachers must engage in considered and reflective conversation. Teacher research must become standard practice that informs decision-making.

Key Attribute #3: Shared Vision and Values

The goal for collaborative teacher professional learning should never waver from student learning. Teachers should talk together about what they believe should happen. They should converse critically – making the familiar “unfamiliar.” In other words, current practices and visions should be examined with the “common good” as the conversation focus.

Key Attribute #4: Supportive Communities

What are the natures of communities that promote teacher professional learning? Four areas stand out: (1) supportive physical conditions, (2) supportive skills and values, (3) supportive teacher characteristics, and (4) supportive student characteristics. The following physical conditions help support collaborative teacher professional learning. Teachers must have time to meet and talk and must have a space that promotes conversation.

The first value that helps teachers engage in collaborative professional learning is their belief that teaching is interdependent – that is, similar to other teachers’ work. From this belief emerges a willingness to give and accept feedback and the active respect and trust teachers must have for each other. Principals, my research has found, are keys to what happens in schools; and, as noted, principals must be supportive. A principal’s work includes building clear cultural norms that help develop a teaching and learning culture and finding time for collaborative teacher professional learning in the school’s schedule. Principals also support teacher professional learning by transparently working to create open communication. Simply said, teachers must have and know they have administrative support.

In my research experience, the following characteristics promote collaborative teacher professional learning. First, teachers must have strong communication structures. Although principals help create these structures, teachers must engage them. Second, teachers must feel empowered to act upon their beliefs. Teachers who hold positive attitudes toward school, students, and change engage in continuous collective inquiry and avoid cynicism. Teachers who focus on improvement as they work together share a sense of purpose. Such teachers engage in collegial relationships and share in school-based decision-making.

Finally, teachers and principals do not carry the burden for teacher professional learning alone. Students must actively embrace the community. Students must be engaged, which, my research suggests, is best done through “conversational pedagogies” – assessment for learning, problem-based pedagogy, etc. Finally, caring relationships between students, teachers, staff, and parents must be promoted.

Key Attribute #5: Shared Personal Practice

Finally, teachers must share their practices with each other. Teachers can share ideas about how they teach. Teachers can visit each other’s classrooms as peers helping peers. Teachers can share successes and failures and support those who need help, which, interestingly, is sometimes all of us.”

Reference
Parsons, J, & Beauchamp, L (2011). Living Leadership for Learning: Case Studies of Five Alberta Elementary School Principals. Edmonton, Canada: ATA.

THE MES AND THE LEADERSHIP QUALITY STANDARDS 

Following Alberta Education’s release of the new Leadership Quality Standard (LQS) for school leaders, the MES has been working with faculty members from the Educational Administration and Leadership specialization in the Faculty of Education to create programming that will lead to principal certification. We are pleased to announce that the Faculty of Education will pilot courses through the MES.
The first course, Foundations of School Leadership, will be offered in an asynchronous online format in the Winter 2019 term (January 07- April 10). This course is open to graduates of the MES (as special students) and students currently in graduate programs within the Faculty of Education; this pilot is restricted to teachers with an Alberta Teaching Certificate.

Please note: an Alberta teaching certificate is required for principal certification.  

EDU 597 Foundations of School Leadership (3 credits)
Using scholarly and professional research, this course focuses on foundational dimensions of school leadership. This course is partial fulfilment of the requirements for school leader certification through Alberta’s Leadership Quality Standard.

Registration is limited to 18 students. For more information or to register, please contact mesinfo@ualberta.ca.  

TIME MANAGEMENT IN A PROFESSIONAL GRADUATE STUDIES PROGRAM

By Kathy Cocchio, MES Program Coordinator

Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them - work, family, health, friends and spirit - and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit - are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life. (Dyson, 1996) In a study of Master’s level students in the MLIS program at the University of Alberta, Oliphant and Branch-Meuller (2018), found that time management is a significant factor in shaping the post-graduate experience. Part-time students who manage the responsibilities of educational practice, family and friends, personal wellness, and graduate studies face significant time management challenges. Some might say that juggling is the key to time management success; implicit in this metaphor is the notion of controlled chaos and the underlying assumption that there is no single means of ensuring that a ball is never dropped. The juggling metaphor implies being stuck in perpetual motion, with never enough time or resources to help keep all those balls in the air. Hohlbaum (2013) suggests that the underlying framework of this metaphor is “a lack of mentality” that precludes the things that support work/life balance “from entering our lives” (para. 2). Perhaps it is time to change our metaphor.
Peret (n.d.) suggests we operate within an intentional enjoyment metaphor:

It sounds counterintuitive, but you’ll find that you will waste less time if you reintroduce the things that give you pleasure into your schedule: taking a yoga class, reading a novel or Skyping with friends and family overseas. When you don’t intentionally make time in your day for things that you value, you tend to waste time doing other things (downloading movies, reading updates on Facebook, and playing ‘Angry Birds’) that are neither important…nor enjoyable. (para. 4)
Like Peret, McNeil (2014) notes the importance of intentionality in academic success: “establishing a regular pattern for study is critical for working students, requiring them to ring-fence time on a weekly basis that is non-negotiable” (p. 47). Similarly, the University of British Columbia’s Graduate School urges students to reflect on their personal energy cycles and schedule complex tasks for their high energy periods: Our personal energy cycles influence our alertness and productivity at different times of the day. We can often get twice as much done in an hour when we’re alert and productive than when our energy is at an ebb. (para. 3)
Being productive produces a rush, a burst of enjoyment energy. In addition to making time for the things you enjoy, ring-fencing weekly study time, and working with your personal energy cycles, here are some additional time management tips:
  • Integrate a double duty approach where appropriate. For instance, do homework at the same time and in the same place as your kids are doing their homework, consider listening to some articles while you’re puttering in the garden, or sketch out a paper outline while sitting in your doctor’s waiting room or waiting for your child’s hockey game to start.
  • Say no or not now. Be honest with the people in your life: they want you to succeed. Help them to understand how they can assist.
  • Say yes with a caveat: Yes, I can drive you to your friend’s house but you need to arrange a ride home or Yes, let’s enjoy a glass of wine and our favourite TV show, but after that I need to do some reading.
  • Delegate responsibilities. Let your colleagues, family, and friends know that you need their support and be specific about how they can help.
  • Get enough sleep. Research shows that adults who consistently get fewer that 7-9 hours of sleep a night have difficulties with complex mental tasks (Olsen, 2016, para. 3).
Do you have time management tips that you would like to share with your peers? Please send them to mesinfo@ualberta.ca and we’ll share them in the next issue!

References

Dyson, B. G. (1991, September 30). Coca Cola CEO's secret formula for success: Vision, confidence and luck. The Georgia Tech Whistle, 17(27), p. 2. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.markturner.net/2015/05/10/text-of-brian-dysons-commencement-speech-at-georgia-tech-sept-1991/

Hohlbaum, C. L. (2013, December 18). The universal law of abundance. In Psychology Today. Retrieved November 8, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-slow/201312/the-universal-law-abundance

Time management. (n.d.). In The University of British Columbia: Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from https://www.grad.ubc.ca/handbook-graduate-supervision/time-management

McNeil, B. (2014). Time and the working online learner. In P. Reimann & E. Barbara, Assessment and Evaluation of Time Factors in Online Teaching and Learning. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=650555&site=eds-live&scope=site

Oliphant, T., & Branch-Mueller, J. (2018). “Doing the Courses without Stopping My Life”: Time in a Professional Master’s Program. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4), 191–207. Retrieved from http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1192331&site=eds-live&scope=site

Olsen, E. J. (2016, April 6). How many hours of sleep are enough for good health?. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved November 13, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898

Perret, N. (n.d.). Time management tips for graduate stsudents. In University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/gradlife/Pages/Time-Management-Tips-for-Graduate-Students.aspx

Time management. (n.d.). In The University of British Columbia: Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Retrieved November 7, 2018, from https://www.grad.ubc.ca/handbook-graduate-supervision/time-management


SPRING 2019 ELECTIVES 

Pending sufficient enrollment, MES will offer the following courses in May 2019:

To register, please contact mesinfo@ualberta.ca or 780-492-0998.

Please contact us in January to find out the availability of other courses that are in development.

MES WEBINARS

If you’re thinking about applying for 2019 admission to the MES program, we’d love to chat! Join us for a brief overview of the MES and conversation. Sessions are typically 45 minutes long. If you’re interested in attending, please contact mesinfo@ualberta.ca and we will send you the link to the meeting.

  • November 28, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • December 18, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • January 23, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. MST
  • February 25, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. MST