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The Conversation: Social media fantasies can demolish confidence, but it’s not all bad

[Woman viewing her cellphone]
Sometimes faking it on Instagram is just fine. (Photo by Bruno Gomiero/Unsplash)

If social media was a person, you’d probably avoid them.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are loaded with pictures of people going to exotic places, looking like they are about to be on the cover of Vogue, and otherwise living a fairy-tale existence. And, like all fairy tales, these narratives feel a lot like fiction.

[The Conversation]When you compare the “projected reality” to your lived experience, it would be easy to conclude that you do not measure up. Research shows that young adults are especially vulnerable to this phenomenon.

We have also studied this trend in graduate students, our next generation of scholars: they too, implicitly compare themselves to their peers, sometimes automatically. We’re socially trained to do this as shown by a litany of research studies exploring our relationships with other’s projected images.

These implicit comparisons can threaten your innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. Not just one of them. ALL OF THEM. And such comparisons have shifted life online towards an unwinnable competition.

We are outnumbered and out-posted by other people and it can make us feel unequivocally terrible if we let it. It’s never been easier to be insecure about ourselves and our achievements thanks to the ever-present torrent of “updates” posted by mostly well-meaning people seeking opportunities for connection and validation.

Where did this come from?

Social media fills our days, but it hasn’t always. In fact, the birth of sites and apps like the micro-blogging platform Tumblr (2007), the bite-sized conversation builder Twitter (2006) and star-studded Instagram (2010) all arrived on the technology scene in tandem with the e-book revolution. And yet, in just over a decade, these tools have exploded across our browsers, into our phones and onto our self-perceptions.

People appear to be spending an hour a day on various social media apps, which doesn’t sound too rough if we assume everyone is only using one app. However, the tendency for younger users to embrace multiple social media apps (and to access their accounts multiple times a day) is increasing.

What that means for many of us is that we are spending hours each day connected and consuming content, from short tweets to beautifully staged #bookstagram images to painstakingly crafted selfies that sometimes make it seem like our friends are living the glamorous life, even when they’re waking up before dawn to take care of their little ones.

Social media presences are not inherently fake, but some people interacting in these spaces feel pressure to perform. And that’s not always bad!

As argued by Amy Cuddy, sometimes it’s helpful to pretend we are who we want to be in order to give ourselves the confidence to grow into our futures. There’s a rich history to “acting as if” in spiritual and growth-oriented spaces. But there’s a line between “fake it till you become it” and spending the afternoon shooting awkward photos to gain more “likes.”

Dark point of the soul

After conducting about 60 interviews and 2,500 surveys across two ongoing studies of post-secondary students, the findings indicate that being constantly compared to other people can demolish our confidence quickly.

For example, one first-year PhD student told us: “I feel like a failure because I don’t have any papers out and I haven’t won a major scholarship like the rest of my lab group.” A first-year student?!

Another commented: “All my peers are better than me, why am I even here?”

These are high-performing thinkers, and yet their confidence is being steamrolled in part because social media does not facilitate fair comparisons.

[Man looking at his cellphone in a restaurant]
Being constantly compared to other people is not good for us. (Photo by PJ Accetturo/Unsplash)

We wish these experiences were unique to certain contexts, but they are ubiquitous. We’ve become so used to seeing the world through social media that we give it false equivalence with our lived experience. We implicitly compare our lives against the sensation of social media and consider it a fair contention.

Of course, the mundane doesn’t measure up to social media. Social media posts need to be epic to be shared.

Hardly anyone posts a “meh” status update; our social media posts are typically at one extreme or another, good or bad, and we are left to compare our individual realities with an exceptional anecdote devoid of context. It’s all of the sugar, with none of the fibre.

It’s not all a pit of despair

Despite this relatively grim picture, the way we’re performing on social media isn’t entirely destructive. For starters, the awareness that we all seem to have about the inauthentic presentations of people’s lives that we consume online (and the painful comparisons that often follow) has also spawned subversively creative acts of satire.

[Woman and her child using a laptop computer on top of a bed]
‘It’s Like They Know Us’ posts stock photos with captions.

One example comes from “It’s Like They Know Us,” a blog/book/parenting subculture that’s built around taking stock images of families and providing captions that poke fun of the impossible standards these images perpetuate. And articles like the recent “How to Become Instagram Famous Experiment” remind us all that behind the carefully cultivated images rests a series of failed attempts and sometimes ridiculous efforts to capture the perfect shot.

There’s a perverse kind of creativity that our image-saturated web presence has spawned. And as often as we fall into the destructive cycle of comparing our messy, authentic lives to the snapshots of perfection that we see online, we just as often step back and laugh at how silly it all is.

Perhaps we’re merely playing along; isn’t it fun to think, just for a moment, that somewhere out there, someone is really living their best life? And maybe, just maybe, if we arrange our books in an artful composition or capture a stunning selfie on the 10th attempt, maybe we will be able to see the beauty that exists in each of our imperfectly messy, chaotic, authentic realities beyond the picture.

Maybe it’s good for us to “act as if,” as long as we remember that the content we share and engage with online is only a fraction of our real stories. Remember, even fairy tales have a grain of truth.The Conversation

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Eleftherios Soleas is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University. Jen McConnel is a  PhD Student in the Faculty of Education at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: How analyzing patterns helps students spot deceptive media

[Demographics graphic]
All demographics of people are susceptible to being deceived. (shutterstock.com)

With the current pervasive use of online media for personal and academic reasons, it’s necessary for students to have skills to confidently filter and decipher what they’re reading.

As such, educators have called for a new approach to teach students how to analyze digital media and some tech and media organizations are getting involved.

Education policy-makers have added new media modules to recently revamped curricula that aims to help students become better-informed and critical future citizens.

But the questions explored in public school media units are also important for people of all ages to consider. Recent studies have shown all demographics of people are susceptible to being deceived.

Showing students how to determine source credibility, and to analyze tone, bias and motive, is a great way to help them with their media literacy. Another helpful way to teach students to think critically about media is to teach them to examine media formats and media patterns.

What exactly does that mean and how do patterns work to manipulate viewers?

Patterns structure our expectations

People have become familiar with, and expect, specific patterns within specific genres of media. Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously argued that “the medium is the message:” the media format or genre (including its patterns), can influence people’s thoughts and beliefs.

Each genre has a unique set of characteristics — for example, a haiku poem’s three lines have a particular number of syllables (five, seven, five).

[Haiku poem]
Haiku form: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. (shutterstock.com)

The genre of documentary film often includes suspenseful music, interviews with specialists and recorded footage or re-enactments.

Or consider the television news broadcast: there are often two anchors, and the colours blue, red and white are seen alongside an animated globe or map.

Even the news music itself has a common pattern. The “Six O’Clock Soundtrack” episode of the podcast Every Little Thing by Gimlet Media documented how news music is a global genre, and is difficult to create.

Yet news music composers from Israel, India, England and the U.S. all agree news music has three common patterns:

  1. The music starts by grabbing the attention of the viewer, and is usually quite catchy.

  2. The rhythm is constant, which often provides a feeling of reliability for the viewer.

  3. The tone of the music conveys a sense of urgency and importance, but at the same time, allows the viewer to feel things are still under control. The music, while tense, still provides a safe and authoritative feeling.

In my research, I have found that specific media forms and patterns can impact viewers’ understanding of important issues. Further, I have begun exploring how the success of deceptive media relies on manipulating viewers’ understanding of patterns. “Deceptive media” encompasses all forms of media that persuades or dupes, including fake news in all its possible formats (for example, print or video or other electronic content).

For example: Hollywood films can easily mimic such iconic aural or visual patterns of news to create a representation of reality which almost instantaneously invites particular viewer expectations. A movie like Anchorman is funny because it creates a satirical story based on viewers’ existing knowledge of news.

[Generic Breaking news logo]
Patterns associated with news: red, blue, white and a globe.

Producers of deceptive media use such representational patterning techniques to deliberately stimulate the viewer’s expectation that they are delivering factually-based news — even when they’re not.

Patterns plus personal experiences

In some instances, drawing upon people’s expectations of patterns in particular media formats, plus their lived experiences can make deception possible.

For example, Orson Welles’s The War of the Worlds radio play, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s book broadcast by CBS on Oct. 30, 1938 mimics an interruption of a radio broadcast: it starts with information about the weather, and later plays ballroom music, which is then abruptly interrupted by the events of an alien invasion of Earth.

The opening of Welles’s play actually explained to listeners that the broadcast is an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel.

Yet there were instances when some listeners believed the broadcast to be true.

Media scholars Jefferson Pooley and Michael J. Socolow have determined most of the so-called hysteria was exaggerated. Researchers have found it was immediately fuelled by some newspaper journalists’ efforts to discredit broadcast media; later, the event’s legacy was amplified by a questionable academic study on psychological panic.

Still, because Welles followed the representational patterns of a radio broadcast, and drew upon people’s realities of surviving the First World War and being on the brink of the Second World War, Welles’s broadcast successfully convinced at least a portion of his audience the events were authentic.

Considerations for the classroom

A number of online resources offer ways for educators to help students detect deceptive media. Some provide checklists of characteristics to explore. PBS offers lesson plans on teaching students about fake news.

Such resources may be helpful, but coaching students to consider patterns in genre, and to look for representational patterns is also relevant.

I would like to thank collaborative researcher Ernesto Peña, with whom I have led workshops about genre and representational patterns in the Faculty of Education at UBC, and with teachers and teacher librarians in the Vancouver School Board.The Conversation

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Claire Ahn is an Assistant Professor of Multiliteracies inf the faculty of Education at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

The Conversation: Culturally-responsive teaching in a globalized world

In increasingly diverse societies, teaching must recognize the importance of affirming students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

 

[Elementary school students in a classroom]
Culturally-responsive student assessment and evaluation is key to student success in diverse, globalized societies. (Photo by Neonbrand/Unsplash)

Classrooms in many parts of the world are increasingly diverse. International migration patterns have significantly changed the cultural make-up of many industrialized societies and, by extension, their school-aged populations.

Such changes are particularly seen in traditional destination countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In this increasingly globalized landscape, schools face significant challenges. Researchers have documented lower educational outcomes such as student achievement and graduation rates for immigrant students in the majority of countries around the world.

In response to these outcomes, more research is being devoted to understanding and supporting conditions for equitable learning. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is one idea to support these conditions. CRT is concerned with teaching methods and practices that recognize the importance of including students’ cultural backgrounds in all aspects of learning.

To date, much focus in the field of CRT draws attention to the need for a greater diversity of role models and learning experiences in the classroom, and an expansion of teachers’ capacities to truly support and affirm diverse students.

As education researchers who have worked with teachers in training, and teachers in K-12 schools as well as teacher educators in Australasia, Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, U.K. and the U.S., we argue that more attention needs to be paid to an overlooked aspect of CRT: both education systems and individual teachers must develop culturally responsive assessment and evaluation practices to boost student success.

How to recruit and prepare teachers?

CRT is sometimes also called culturally relevant teaching. This mode of teaching aims to be aware of how culture, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic status, language, gender identity and religious background may impact students’ learning experiences.

In many school contexts, student diversity far exceeds the diversity of teachers. Such an imbalance means students do not always encounter educator role models who reflect diverse cultural backgrounds throughout their schooling.

Thus, one aspect of promoting CRT is increasing efforts to attract a more representative demographic of teachers.

Recent analysis from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that in most OECD countries the typical person who expects a career in teaching at age 15 is a female with no immigrant background.

The findings are based on a question to 15-year-olds on 2006 and 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment surveys: “What kind of job do you expect to have when you are about 30 years old?” (4.5 per cent of non-immigrant respondents said teaching; only 3.1 per cent of immigrant respondents said teaching).

The OECD survey did not capture racialized identity. But more fine-grain analyses within the traditional Western destination countries suggest racialized people and Indigenous groups are particularly underrepresented among teachers.

For example, Canada’s largest and most diverse province (Ontario) has a significant teacher diversity gap as evidenced by fairly recent demographic data.

Racialized people represent 26 per cent of the provincial population, yet comprise only nine per cent of the 117,905 elementary school and kindergarten teachers and 10 per cent of 70,520 secondary school teachers.

Targeted teacher recruitment efforts are one strategy to improve racialized teacher diversity. Enrolment targets or quota admissions are others.

[Student in library]
When teachers don’t represent society’s diversity, students miss the opportunity to encounter educator role models reflecting diverse cultural backgrounds. (Photo by Elliot Reyna/Unsplash)

Specialized programs for Indigenous peoples such as the teacher program focused on Aboriginal Education at Brock University or Maori Medium Teacher Education in New Zealand demonstrate efforts to grow the number of Indigenous peoples in teaching.

But strategies such as as diversified recruiting, quotas or specialized programs would take time and will likely struggle to keep up with changing student demographics.

Hence, providing relevant cultural training and professional development for aspiring and experienced teachers becomes even more important.

Such training needs to extend beyond traditional multicultural education approaches, or what has been called a “tourist” curriculum characterized by occasional or “highlight” additions.

Instead, training for teachers must model a multi-dimensional approach that includes integrating content from diverse cultures and experiences, and critically examining how cultural identity impacts learning.

Our experiences with teachers and teacher education programs globally reaffirm research findings about recognized practices in teacher education that impact student success.

For example, teachers programs should help teacher candidates critically consider their own identities in relationship to societal inequities and prejudice; optimally, with growth and maturity, they learn how to model deep inclusion.

Assessment literacy: The missing link

We also want to draw attention to an area that has been neglected in broader discussions of CRT – namely, assessment and evaluation strategies.

Most educators now accept that student assessment is the beginning point for instruction, not simply the end. That means assessment can be a powerful support when used throughout learning stages to provide meaningful feedback to students. Teachers need to carefully consider assessment and evaluation before they begin a lesson or unit of study and to use assessment to monitor students’ learning.

However, assessment continues to operate in more traditional ways: it continues to be used primarily as a measure of students’ final learning in courses through tests and exams or through large-scale provincial, state or national testing programs.

Teachers’ competency in using assessment to support student learning and to accurately report on it is called “assessment literacy” — so named for the ability to “read” a class to develop fair, relevant and supportive assessment.

Teachers must learn culturally responsive frameworks to develop fair practices for obtaining accurate information about students’ learning. Our research suggests competency in developing assessment can be enhanced through effective professional development.

The issue of fair assessment also raises questions about system-wide standardized testing, often used for accountability purposes. Standardized testing can be biased, for example reflecting foremost the experiences of white middle-class students.

Thus we acknowledge the need to combine the dual movements of CRT as focused in teacher recruiting and training with greater attention to responsive assessment.

Unless that happens, CRT will only find limited success in creating classrooms that ensure learning and achievement is attainable for all.

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The ConversationLouis Volante, Professor of Education, Brock University; Christopher DeLuca, Associate Professor in Classroom Assessment and Acting Associate Dean, Graduate Studies & Reserch, Faculty of Education, Queen's University, and Don A. Klinger, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Te Kura Toi Tangata Division of Education; Professor of Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation, University of Waikato.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Virtual exhibit examines the digital future

Showcasing innovative Queen's technology projects that could change the way we live.

Close-up of hands using computer (courtesy of Glenn Cartens Peters, Unsplash)

Last fall, experts and audience members gathered at Queen’s University to discuss the future of research, knowledge sharing, and the student learning experience in the digital age at the first-ever Principal’s Symposium.

Hosted by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and emceed by CBC Radio’s Nora Young, the symposium examined advances in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data governance, as well as how ongoing digital transformation is influencing post-secondary students, Indigenous communities, and people in developed and developing countries.

“The speakers and panelists at our symposium shared a broad and detailed picture of how digital innovation is reshaping learning and discovery both here in Canada and abroad,” says Principal Woolf. “With their insights in mind, as well as those being revealed by researchers and students at Queen’s, we can build upon our institution’s digital framework and take advantage of the opportunities future technologies will surely present.”

The symposium also marked the launch of a supporting virtual exhibit – Imagining Our Digital Future – to highlight digital planning initiatives currently underway at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.

“For decades, Queen’s faculty and students have been leveraging technologies to advance learning and research,” says Principal Woolf. “Technological innovation will continue to change how we live, so our ongoing exploration of this new frontier is not only important, but essential to the future of knowledge, truth, and healthy societal progress. Sharing our ideas and efforts across disciplines will help us stay concerted in our efforts to create an open, inclusive, collaborative, and innovative digital future.”

The virtual exhibit features over 40 digital technology projects happening at Queen’s and in Kingston that have the potential to impact our daily lives, and create previously unimaginable learning and research opportunities across the disciplines – with plans to showcase new projects on an ongoing basis.

Currently, featured projects include everything from “smart” surgical instruments that will help doctors more efficiently remove cancerous tumours and state-of-the-art camera technology used for analyzing human movement, to online database technology used to help preserve Indigenous heritage and art or reunite communities with their history. There are also projects focused on augmented reality and VR simulators, ambient and artificial intelligence, astroparticle physics research, archaeology, surveillance, and more.

Faculty, staff, students, and Kingston community members engaged in interesting digital initiatives are welcomed to submit their project for possible inclusion in the virtual exhibit. Contact the virtual exhibit curators using the online form.

An education in reconciliation

Queen’s Faculty of Education stepping up Indigenous education programming to support teacher candidates.

Education students participate in a KAIROS Blanket Exercise
A facilitator leads Queen's teacher candidates through a KAIROS Blanket exercise.

Teacher candidates at Queen’s University took part in exercises this week aimed at supporting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada. As of September, students in the Faculty of Education became required to complete Indigenous education programming as part of their overall training.

“Canada is a diverse country of many voices and perspectives that all have a place within the structures of learning,” says Peter Chin, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Faculty of Education. “As educators, we always encourage an inclusive and equitable approach that creates safe and caring environments for students from all backgrounds. We want our teacher candidates to leave Queen’s with the skills needed to create respectful, insightful, and open environments in their future classrooms.”

The training is broken into a three-part cultural safety workshop that starts with a KAIROS blanket exercise – an interactive learning experience designed to teach Indigenous rights history – followed by a debrief discussion with the Faculty of Education’s Elder-in-Residence, Deb St. Amant. Students then learn from representatives from the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre and various school faculties about Indigenous paradigms, relationship building, and reconciliation.

Since becoming a mandatory part of teacher candidate training in September 2018, these cultural safety courses have been completed by more than 300 students, with another 300 scheduled to complete it by the end of the academic year.

“Originally, we only had an Indigenous education course as part of a student’s final semester of the two-year program, but after talking with teacher candidates we added this additional training earlier, as they thought perspectives on reconciliation helped provide a better lens through which to view all of their studies,” says Dr. Chin.

In addition to the new training, the Faculty of Education has a wide variety of Indigenous education initiatives already in place for teacher candidates. There is a sacred medicine garden, and weekly smudging events open to all teacher candidates, as well as guest lectures from Indigenous education speakers. Opening and closing ceremonies for the education program include an Indigenous welcome, and there are even Anishinaabe interpretive depictions of the Ontario College of Teachers Standards of Practice plaque-mounted on campus.

“This is a great step for the Faculty of Education and for Queen’s, as it further bolsters culturally relevant learning opportunities and efforts toward reconciliation,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “Incorporating Indigenous perspectives right into the curriculum in this way will prepare Queen’s students for their future roles as educators, and tomorrow’s champions of a more fair and inclusive Canada.”

Efforts toward reconciliation have stretched beyond campus into the community as well. Recently, Queen’s Faculty of Education staff members Kate Freeman and Lindsay Morcom partnered with Shawn McDonald of Algonquin & Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, and the EdCan Network to create an infographic designed to help teachers integrate Truth and reconciliation in their classrooms.

Grade 11 student, Kristian Murphy's illustration "Let Justice Speak" on display at Queen's University's Faculty of Education.
An illustration titled "Let Justice Speak" by local Grade 11 student Kristian Murphy on display at the Faculty of Education's "Imagine a Canada" exhibit.

The Faculty of Education is also supporting the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation’s “Imagine a Canada” initiative to encourage young people to share their own vision of what Reconciliation in Canada can look like. On November 26, Queen’s University’s West Campus hosted the opening of a gallery exhibit featuring art by local Kingston elementary and high school students depicting how they can help lead our nation through Reconciliation. The exhibition can be viewed at The Studio (B144) in Duncan McArthur Hall until Friday, Jan. 11.

Queen’s University offers a variety of Indigenous initiatives and supports across campus, and continues to implement strategies recommended by the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force.

Entering the U.S. market

Continuing Teacher Education Office at Queen's University now offers courses for teachers in the United States.

A leader in online professional development for teachers in Ontario for more than 20 years, and more recently in British Columbia, the Continuing Teacher Education Office at Queen’s University is now expanding into the United States market.

With many states requiring teachers to complete Continuing Teacher and Leadership Education (CTLE) courses to maintain their licenses, the Continuing Teacher Education Office at Queen's University sees a great opportunity for growth. (Photo by neonbrand/Unsplash)

It is increasingly mandatory in many states for teachers to complete Continuing Teacher and Leadership Education (CTLE) courses to maintain their licenses. Seeing a massive opportunity for growth, the CTE Office created courses with the United States teacher in mind, based around what is known as Common Core Standards. The CTE Office is now an approved CTLE sponsor in New York state.

As with the Ontario and B.C. programming, these new courses make use of the Faculty of Education’s instructional strengths and leadership in research, while providing an online platform that allows users to develop new skills, collect valuable resources, share ideas, and collaborate with a community of learners. Many comparable programs utilize Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), says Nathan Cheney, Business Developer in the Professional Studies Office. These courses provide the required content and, once complete, a certificate is awarded. In contrast, all Queen’s courses are instructor-led. The courses are supported by current research but also based in practice, designed with the working teacher in mind.

“This offers an opportunity to be different from a lot of the other professional development courses. All of our courses have up-to-date research that is written by experts in the field,” Cheney says.  “Our courses are written by teachers for teachers. These aren’t courses that are designed to give you overarching theory only. They are designed to be directly applicable to something the teachers can use in the classroom, which is an important feature.”

The first courses – Teaching Mathematics in Elementary Schools and Teaching English Language Learners – started being offered Nov. 12.

Another important component is that the Queen’s courses also create a “community of learners,” through open discussions with instructors as well as fellow teachers.

“In my opinion, the best thing about these courses is the discussion component. We’ll have 15 or 20 teachers in a class and in doing so they must interact with each other, which means they are setting up a community of learners, they are setting up a resource group,” Cheney says. “The courses are designed so that participants are sharing their resources as part of the discussion board. So not only are you walking away with the resources you get from the expert instructor, you are walking away with resources from all these other instructors who are in the class with you.”

As seen in the Ontario and B.C. courses these networks can continue long after the course is complete. The interactive nature of the courses also allows variety of perspectives to be voiced, says Jessica Della-Latta, Executive Director of Professional and Non-Credit Programs at the Faculty of Education.

“What’s great about the courses being online is you can get so many perspectives. You can have a seasoned inner city teacher and a new rural teacher sharing their point of view and experiences,” she says. “You get the richness of all these perspectives which creates the opportunity for problem-solving, creativity and new outlooks to challenges. In the Ontario and B.C. courses professional friendships develop and the mutual support that is so important within the course continues long after the course ends. It’s not only setting up an expert level course that is written and designed for them, it’s setting up an opportunity for them to have colleagues from across the country that they can lean on throughout their careers.”

For more information or to register, visit the CTE website

Opening doors to lifelong learning

Ever Scholar, offered by the Professional Studies Unit at the Queen’s Faculty of Education, provides opportunities to explore topics in the arts, science, and the humanities.

Ever Scholar, a new program offered by the Professional Studies Unit at the Queen’s Faculty of Education, opens up learning opportunities for retirees and seniors in the Kingston area.

[Ever Scholar]
Ever Scholar is a lifelong learning program providing opportunities to explore topics in the arts, science, and the humanities. (University Communications)

Ever Scholar is an open-enrollment course series for anyone in the Kingston and surrounding area. Designed as a lifelong-learning program, Ever Scholar provides opportunities to explore topics in the arts, science, and the humanities.

The program got its start when Jessica Della-Latta, Executive Director of Professional and Non-Credit Programs at the Faculty of Education, took part in the Foundational Leadership course offered by Queen’s Human Resources. She had just received an enquiry regarding Queen’s offerings for third-age learners. The enquiry was for something more than a lecture but not as intensive as a course for credit. To set the program up for success, Della-Latta’s Foundational Leadership project team polled Kingston community members and alumni and met with potential partners such as ESU, community organizations, and senior administrators at Queen’s.

They discovered that while programming for third-age learners is abundant in the Kingston area through local community groups, none specifically met the immersive course experience that many retirees and seniors were looking for. Seeing a win-win opportunity, Della-Latta and her project team moved the project forward.

Meeting with all stakeholder groups including Queen’s University Institute for Lifelong Learning (QUILL), Later Life Learning, Kingston Seniors Centre, Retirees Association of Queen’s (RAQ), and the Enrichment Studies Unit confirmed the need. 

“I met with all those groups because I didn’t want to redo what was already being done well. I wanted to identify the gap and fill it. I wanted this to be a collaboration,” Della-Latta says. “So we formed an advisory board with members from each of those groups to help shape and guide – they came up with the name Ever Scholar – what our focus and subject areas will be.  It is an important collaboration.  We all cross-promote our programs in the spirit of learning for all.”

The Faculty of Education was a natural place for such a program.

“As educators, we believe that education continues beyond formal schooling. Ever Scholar is an opportunity for us to share our wealth of knowledge and research with the community and offer accessible lifelong learning opportunities for everyone” says Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean of the Faculty of Education.

The first six-week course, entitled First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Studies, started on Wednesday, Oct. 10 and is hosted primarily at Duncan McArthur Hall, along with field trips to locations such as the Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre.

The courses are being developed by graduate students from the Faculty of Education.

The programming is also being developed with cost-effectiveness in mind, not only for the university but for the students as well. For example, parking is covered by the registration fee.

Another key for Ever Scholar, points out Nathan Cheney, Business Developer in the Professional Studies Office, is building positive relationships between the university and the community

“We wanted to try and remove as many barriers for people as possible while maintaining the quality of learning that we are proud to offer at Queen’s University," he says. "One of the things that Queen’s focuses on is the community aspect and the community experience of the campus. We decided to host this on Queen’s campus so learners experience all Queen’s has to offer."

The second course, which will focus on health sciences, will be offered in May.

If you have an idea for an Ever Scholar course, Della-Latta is open to suggestions from all faculties.

For more information about Ever Scholar, visit the Professional Studies website.

Beauty of research resonates on campus

  • Art of Research photo exhibit
    Photos from the Art of Research contest are featured in a travelling, pop-up photo exhibit currently being held on the first floor of Stauffer Library.
  • Art of Research building banner
    New building banners highlighting Queen's research were recently placed on prominent buildings, including Stauffer Library and Grant Hall.
  • Art of Research light post pennants
    A series of four pennants, featuring photos from the Art of Research contest, adorn the light posts along University Avenue.

Every day impactful, cutting-edge research is being conducted at Queen’s and the university wants everyone to know about it.

Enter a new multi-faceted campaign on campus aimed at promoting and celebrating the groundbreaking work of the university’s researchers.

“Research is core to the foundation of Queen’s as an institution, yet much of the work takes place where it isn’t easily accessible to the public – in labs, archives, and in the field,” says Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives. “While many of our research promotion initiatives are aimed at external stakeholders, the goal of this campaign is to showcase the breadth and impact of our research to the Queen’s and Kingston communities, while at the same time adding a little more beauty to campus.”

CELEBRATIONS
Other building banners and light pole pennants around campus are highlighting a pair of celebrations – the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Education and the 125th anniversary of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

At the heart of Queen’s, building banners celebrating award-winning research don Grant Hall and Stauffer library. Pole pennants have also been installed on the light posts along University Avenue, featuring images from the Art of Research photo contest. Each year the popular photo contest provides faculty, students, alumni, and staff the opportunity to showcase their research, scholarly, and artistic work. It also provides many amazing photos.

Together, the new banners cover a wide array of research – from arts and humanities to physics to cancer and health sciences to biodiversity and climate change.

The first image, Santa Fina, was taken by Una D’Elia, a faculty member in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation, at Musei Civici in San Gimignano, Italy. The striking image shows a marble bust of a saint by sculptor Pietro Torrigiani, a competitor of Michelangelo.

The second image, Leaving Home, features a spheroid of cancer cells embedded in a 3D protein matrix as seen through a microscope. Taken by Eric  Lian, a PhD  student in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, individual cells can be seen radiating away on all sides.

The third image, Razorbill, was captured by Brody Crosby, a Master’s student in the Department of Biology during fieldwork on seabirds in Witless Bay, Nfld. Mistakenly assuming the approaching researchers were its parents, the razorbill chick is captured as it begs for a meal.

The fourth image is a rendition of the universe, and captures the work of researchers elucidating the fundamental building blocks of the universe, shedding light on things we cannot see.

The Art of Research is also being featured in a travelling, pop-up photo exhibit currently being held on the first floor of Stauffer Library. Offering a large selection of photos from the last three years of the contest, the exhibit highlights the diversity of research happening across campus.

The photo exhibit will subsequently be on display in Grant Hall for Homecoming, Oct. 19-21, and then in the Lederman Law Library, Oct. 22-Nov. 5.

The exhibit is also available to campus partners throughout the year for events and display purposes.

For more information on research at Queen’s or the Art of Research photo contest, visit the website.

A member of the prestigious U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, Queen’s has a long history of unmistakable discovery and innovation that has shaped our knowledge and helped address some of the world’s deepest mysteries and most pressing questions

The Conversation: We all put too much emphasis on test scores

[School test]
Language tests are an important factor in determining whether international students are admitted to universities (Photo by Ben Mullins/Unsplash)

We live in testing times. We also live in a time of globalization, immigration and the internationalization of schools and universities around the world. Our current obsession with school accountability and student learning outcomes has resulted in the increased use and abuse of test scores — in particular language test scores.

Language test scores are now an admission ticket for post-secondary education and for skilled immigrants trying to gain entry into new countries. Test scores serve as the key to learning opportunities and professional success, impacting millions of lives. They also play a crucial role in political, social and educational policies.

Despite the considerable consequences of language testing, what exactly do test scores indicate? What can we tell about someone and their achievement or professional capability from a single test score? What are the implications when bureaucrats and education officials misinterpret test scores when making policy decisions on immigration or attracting more international students?

[The Conversation]In my role as director of the Assessment and Evaluation Group in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University, I’ve been involved in research on how students are tested for language proficiency and the consequences of such testing.

Second language is essential

It’s an important topic because evidence shows that an ability to speak a second language can determine so many things about an immigrant’s future, including economic success, social integration and their overall ability to contribute to society. My research looks at the prevalence and impact of language testing. A key issue is how test scores are used or misused by policy makers.

We should not be using a single test score to make decisions that can have a huge impact on someone’s life. However, governments and organizations tend to do this because it is cheaper and they believe it offers a more clean-cut case on immigration, university entrance and professional certification.

According to the latest census data, Canada has more than 7.5 million foreign-born individuals who arrived as immigrants. That represents about 22 per cent of the population.

All skilled workers and professionals who wish to immigrate to Canada need to demonstrate their English or French language ability via a language test, no matter where in the world they come from. The results of their test scores determine whether they are permitted to settle and to practise as recertified professionals in Canada.

Increase in international students

There has been a rapid increase in the number of international students who wish to study at Canadian universities. The latest federal government data shows Canada had roughly 500,000 international students at the end of 2017. Canada’s international student population has nearly tripled over the past decade and now ranks fourth behind the United States, the United Kingdom and China. Canada retains many of these international students as skilled workers through Express Entry.

All international students are required to take a language test as part of the application process and their scores must meet the entrance requirements for Canadian universities.

It’s natural to assume anyone taking those tests would be nervous, anxious or even frustrated. That is what we call high-stakes testing, which affects the lives of millions of people, all over the world, every day.

An incomplete picture

For example, when the stakes are high, research suggests that test-takers’ motivation and anxiety are significant factors associated with their test performance. Judging someone’s test score without taking those factors into account presents an incomplete picture of the person taking the test.

Successfully evaluating someone’s English- or French-language abilities through various language tests has a direct impact on millions of lives of people who come to Canada to study and settle.

Education and government decision-makers should not rely solely on test scores when making decisions about admitting people to schools or the country. That’s why test validation — ensuring accurate uses and interpretations of the test scores — has become so important and has grown into a major field of research.

Our research at Queen’s is intended to raise public awareness of the intended and unintended consequences of how test scores are used and to make the case that policy-makers need better training on how to properly interpret scores.The Conversation

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Liying Cheng is professor and director of the Assessment and Evaluation Group (AEG) at the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University. Her primary research interests are the impact of large-scale testing on instruction, the relationships between assessment and instruction, and the academic and professional acculturation of international and new immigrant students, workers, and professionals to Canada.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Making Aboriginal education accessible

A Métis student has created an online resource to help teachers learn about Aboriginal education.

[Queen's University Olivia Rondeau Faculty of Education reconciliation]
Olivia Rondeau created a website to support grade school teachers looking to educate their students about Indigenous Peoples. (Supplied Photo)

Grade school teachers in Canada may wish to educate their students about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, but might be unsure where to start. Recognizing this gap, Queen’s student Olivia Rondeau recently launched a new website to support Canadian educators looking to delve deeper into Indigenous matters.

Teaching Aboriginal Education, or TAE for short, is a free online resource, which offers lesson plans, community resources, and a blog to support educators and foster reconciliation.

“Teaching Aboriginal education is so important to the reconciliation and healing process of so many students and their family members,” says Ms. Rondeau. “As teacher candidates, we learn so much about the importance of teaching First Nations, Métis, and Inuit curriculum, but I found that many people were unsure of the resources and community supports available to assist them. So, I created an Aboriginal education website to make it more accessible to teachers.”

Ms. Rondeau hopes that teachers use the materials on the site as a resource to create culturally relevant curriculum in their classrooms so that Aboriginal students can feel represented, valued, and safe in classroom and school communities. While the site was originally created as part of a class project, she intends to continue updating the site throughout the year.

“As someone who is Métis and a teacher candidate, this project was special because I recognize the importance of teaching Aboriginal perspectives, experiences, and initiatives both as a student and as a future teacher,” she says.

The project also gets top marks from the Faculty of Education. Lindsay Morcom, a professor in the Faculty of Education, says Ms. Rondeau has done an “outstanding job”.

“I am constantly impressed by Liv’s commitment to creating positive change and presenting learning opportunities to others,” she says. “In this resource, and in all she does, Liv shows us that the path toward reconciliation will be guided by brilliant young Indigenous leaders.”

Ms. Rondeau’s site can be found at teachingaboriginaleducation.weebly.com.

This story originally appeared on the Faculty of Education’s website.

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