The following are some comments provided to students on  the points and issues of the assignment. The assignment was graded out of 4. About half received a 3/4 and the other half 4/4.

851 assignment 1 feedback

Context of assignment:

You have elaborated on a challenging question that includes cultural issues and a specific curriculum. Very interesting! I wonder if there is a bit of confusion over the actual issues here. On the one hand, you mention that as a biology teacher, you feel it is your responsibility to teach students how their bodies work. While I agree, that in itself is a personal or cultural issue and some may feel, for example, that they are too young, or that this is the responsibility of someone else.

On the other hand, the main issue you discuss is _____________. These issues might not be specifically Biology, but perhaps cross over into other subjects. Where do you as a teacher delineate between your specifics responsibilities and the larger curriculum?

Your discussion of getting the students to see each other as individuals and to appreciate the struggles that individuals face is a great way to show the similarities between people. I wonder how you get them to understand the differences as well? I would not want to gloss the differences in favour of the similarities. In terms of Cushner, this would perhaps not really help students adapt as much as they might. The differences will remain and that is part of the adaptation.

I did appreciate your comments on receiving new faculty into the school. However, I would like to read about some more detailed efforts to work with the homogenous body of students. Also, can you reference one of the readings into your work? How would Cushner’s IDI be measured with students in your school?

I think your approach is quite interesting. Have you tried using texts from other western countries as well? How would issues differ between Canada and the US for example? The US and the UK?

I would also be interested to know how the students respond. Do they seem to grasp the complexities? I understand this was a very short assignment, but for next time, a bit more focus on some of these questions would be great.

I appreciate your reference to diversity as individuals, and not being limited to culture. You are correct to assert that culture is merely the most obvious element of diversity.

I appreciate your references to differentiation as well, as a teaching strategy to support diversity and to help students to explore their own understanding of a topic and then have the ability to share that new understanding with their diverse classmates.


I wonder how well your students would rate on the IDI from Cushner’s article? Can you give that some thought? I would also like to see a sentence or two about how you might blend the eastern need for summative assessments with the western desire to talk and interact in groups. There would be some interesting ways of offering the students a progress check on their development that might suffice for a summative assessment. This would then have a good blend of formative feedback as well.

I think you have touched on a couple of very interesting points. Cushner’s point that students think the world is getting worse while their own personal issues are fine indicates that students do not make connections between their own actions and the world. There is a disconnect there. What do you think?

I think your use of the _________ issue is a great focal point for your writing. Well done! I also liked your references to Cushner. You have referenced the article very well and pulled out the most salient issues.

It is clear and you have articulated a solid argument and understanding of Cushner’s article. You note that some issues are not good or bad, just different. This is interesting because it highlights the notion of evaluation versus assessment. We can assess something by noting the elements of the situation. We then assign a value to it once we have the facts. So, in the context of your example on plagiarism, the notion of plagiarism is generally considered to be bad. How do you reconcile this with the notion of being different?


I would ask that you focus on your writing. You have a very conversational style which makes for a more lengthy and wordy text.

Also, try to be a bit less conversational and more concise. This is very much an issue of academic style, which may be western based, but very international nevertheless.

Also, while you included several articles in your references, you did not actually mention them in your text. You will need to refer to them specifically in the body of the text in order to include them in your references.

You should try to reference one or two readings in your work to give you some focus and provide the reader (me) with a context for your writing. This will be much more important in longer pieces of writing.


This is a compelling piece. Very interesting. Your discussion of gender is very timely and I think that gender within culture often gets overlooked and women’s issues are often lost in the larger mix of cultural discussion. For example, that women in Saudi Arabia can now drive is only one small issue in a much larger gender gap in that country.

The other point is that you talk about being more inclusive although you do not use that term. I strongly encourage you to look up the concept of inclusion with regards to technology and in particular, special needs.

You clearly have given a lot of thought to multiculturalism in your career and you have given a clear, concise and highly articulate accounting of your school, environment and the efforts being made within to explore cultural differences and diversity.


Published in PME 851 - Fall 2017
Monday, 02 October 2017 06:30

832 - Feedback on 'My Connections'

Below are excerpts from my feedback to students on their concept maps regarding community  and curricular connections.

Comment: You have done a great job in the text to highlight the various connections and to relate the readings to the work you are highlighting. This is a great start to a literature review for a project down the road and I encourage you to keep your written work available in a word doc for easy retrieval. There is no issue with reusing some of this work and building upon it.

With your concept map, I would suggest trying to reduce the amount of text and using what text you do have to highlight the concepts involved and to show the interrelatedness and overlapping nature of the various concepts.

For example, instead of writing "Social action is an important part of the curriculum", which we see in the reading materials, just say 'social action' and then try to show where else in the activities there is an overlap or relation to social action.

Comment:  Try to make some of the connections between the elements more explicit. For example, you have one node that highlights 'communicating with others' and another node that shows 'modes of communication'. Can you indicate which modes would be most suitable for which types of communication? This might be an interesting exercise for you and your classmates.

If you look at some of the other areas as well, you might see some efficiencies in your map.

Try to use an online mapping tool that can use collapsible nodes. This makes reading much easier and you will find that you can edit and share much easier.

Comment:  Very nice work! I would suggest trying to order the elements to reflect their relationships. Perhaps a more circular design instead of a linear hierarchy might help with showing connections. For example, you have curriculum and then students which is of course a connection. However, the curriculum is often designed by the school, board or community and then enacted by teachers for the students. How might you reflect that connection in your map?

Similarly, the technology has its own node whereas it might be better used as a facilitating tool and be interspersed throughout the map to show where technology can support the great work you are doing. For example, what technology are they using to question and analyse? What tools do they use to collect data, record experiences for reflection and the demonstrate their competency with a particular skill for assessment purposes?

Your text is also well written. I would argue that the point you make in the second paragraph about students wanting to know the purpose of their studies is of paramount importance and that this could be the introductory paragraph. We are talking about "Making Connections"!

Comment:  I always wonder about the idea of letting students set the curriculum. Of course, this is tempered with curriculum issues that filter in from society, boards and other ministries that have a stake in what our children learn. 

How do you manage the demands of a 'state' curriculum with the needs and desires of the students and maintain a level of robustness and rigour in the learning?

Another question that arises from this is the issue of students meeting those from similar backgrounds. I wonder about the idea of meeting people from different backgrounds so that we can increase and improve our ability to appreciate those that are different from your own experiences? What do you think about that?

Comment:  It was interesting to read about the need to be explicit about the concepts and to highlight exactly what they were doing. I think this is essential for everyone and perhaps your students are just being more open about their needs.

There is a concept called "tolerance for ambiguity" that I have examined at length in the past. Language teachers in particular should be familiar with this concept. It speaks about the ability of individuals to function without all relevant information. For example, with language learners, how well can they understand a communication even though they do not understand all of the words and expressions being used.

Comment:  This is a wonderful piece of work. You have really captured the range of elements needed to make a curriculum and activities as your outline come to life and work for students.

In reference to your classmate's comment, I would like to ask you to reflect a bit further on the issue of student led curriculum and how that can be aligned with what I am sure is a rigorous curriculum.

How do you maintain rigour in such a curriculum in order to ensure that students meet assessment requirements? 

Comment:  Perhaps instead of the questions, I wonder if a sequence of actions that highlight your process might smooth the connections and provide a greater ability to make those connections? Maybe not, but I am just thinking 'out loud'.

Then, the extra text around the map might be incorporated into the written accompaniment and that whole thing might be just a bit more concise. Your work is excellent, but I am just trying to find a way to make it more accessible.

I would also suggest bringing out the connection between the content and the application and understanding of the content in a holistic sense. You highlight the issue of getting the parents' buy in in order to lessen the expectations of memorizing content. However you do need to have the content and the activities you are suggesting make the content more relevant. You do capture this in section 3 of the map, but I would argue that this is the central motivation for all of your work. Make it stand out!

Published in PME 832 - Fall 2017

The following are excerpts from the feedback I gave to students about their video on "My Growth So Far", as part of their final reflections in the course.

growth wordle 200

Comments about Trust

You discuss breaking down barriers and I guess that gets to the issue of trust, which has been a big topic of discussion in many module 5 reports. There is no easy way to establish trust, as many of your classmates have commented, but I hope that you find some strategies that will work for you among the many proposed by your classmates.

I thought you also gave some great comments about encouraging risk and inspiring trust among the participants. You have to have a degree of trust before you start to take risks in the community. By risks, I am thinking of perhaps, sharing a new or dissonant idea? Disagreeing with someone? I would like to see some examples of risk.

That was a great video. I liked your comments about social presence as the force to create trust, highlighted by the literal process of reviewing your partners’ social presence online. It’s always interesting to Google yourself!

In your video, you talk about accountability. That is an aspect of trust in that we need to believe that our work is being valued and that we are working with those who will reward our own work. I do not believe that is a selfish issue, but rather one of equity.

I think using the term ‘idiosyncrasy’ with collaborative inquiry is a great adjective. There are so many factors – as many as there are personalities.

I liked the phrase “many and varied complex processes” involved in PLCs. Yes, that about sums them up! When you are dealing with people in the heart of their work, PD, you will get along of emotion and a lot of social interaction.

Comments about Professional development

I was intrigued by your comment that teachers might see their profession as something separate from themselves. That gives rise to a different view of development. We always talk about 'leaving the office at the office', but PD always seems to span the two worlds.

I noted your comments about ‘value-added’ PD. I think that is a crucial element. I have been to so many sessions and activities where the PD was great for the presenter, but not so great for the recipients. I think that is where a PLC is a good answer in that they help to keep the PD relevant to the teachers.

Your comment about vulnerability is also crucial. Another of our students comments similarly that the emotional aspect of being in a PLC is not to be toyed with and that teachers might see the PD as an object or thing separate from themselves. This may help to address issues of seeming or admitting to not already being good enough.

Comments about inquiry within Collaborative Inquiry

I also liked your comments about 'happenstance' versus intentional collaboration. I think opportunistic collaboration is great, but I have found a bit of intention goes a long way.

You have touched on a very important point. Collaboration will be more rewarding if you have some intention (goals, focus, etc) in your interactions. That is what drives any community. Katz (2013) talks about doing the “right work”.

I liked your example at the end about the unfortunate deletion of work. That they came back for more shows that the work itself was intentional and driven by purpose.

You noted that teachers often felt powerless to effect change in their work or professional lives, but that through PLCs they can begin to share and help each other in ways that are responsive to their needs.

I think you are correct to describe it as a fluid activity. There are so many factors to consider, not least of which is leadership as you mention. How do we keep the PLC focused and moving forward with good leadership, but leadership that does not overwhelm or subsume teachers’ own goals?

I think you are spot on when you discuss that many people like to think that collaboration is somehow an organic interaction, whereas in reality you simply don’t get very far organically. A bit of structure and purpose goes a long way.

You are correct to note that established goals need to be negotiated and to ensure understanding. Otherwise, finding out that you have gone off on a tangent is almost more demoralizing than not having a clear goal in the first place.

You comment that it is the inquiry, as opposed to the collaboration, that is the secret to this work. In a community of inquiry for example, as espoused by Garrison and Anderson et. al., the inquiry is what gives guidance and focus to the community.

You commented about being in a PLC as a participant. That highlights the benefits of reading the ‘Facilitator’s’ guide to PLC. From the other side, you can really appreciate the fine balance of keeping people motivated and focused on their work.

You discussed appropriate problems. This speaks to the need to a clear focus on the inquiry aspect of collaboration. You go on to mention intentional choices. That is another form of having a good focus on the inquiry and the process of conducting the inquiry.

Comments about Personal Growth

I was pleased to read your comments about becoming a lifelong learner. I have always felt that one way to be a good teacher is to continue to be a student.

Thanks for your honest appraisal of your work. I was pleased to hear that you feel you have progressed and are able to manage the process and contribute more meaningfully now. Much of facilitation, if not all, is really about process.

Comments about the use of technology

I loved your comment about using technology to help break down some barriers to collaborating. As several people commented in the Module 5 work, working face to face is not without challenges and often some technological intervention can really help a community move along towards common goals.

I liked your comments about using technology to remove barriers. Several of your classmates have noted similar points and I think that is an important element to share with those who might be resistant to collaboration due to similar barriers.

I liked your reflections on using technology. While I think that being in a room together is the best way, I also think that technology opens a world of possibilities that simply are magic to me. The possibilities of social justice in the sense of how many people can benefit through the use of technology to enhance their learning is a great thing. 

Have a look at to really be inspired!

As I have mentioned to others, technology is a great tool for social justice. It allows many of us to access education and resources that otherwise would forever be out of reach. Regardless of your location in the world, technology can open so many doors to education and the enrichment of our lives.

Comments about the nature of teaching and learning

As teachers, we still need to know our stuff – the content. But what we really do, is help others interact with that content and do something with it. In our knowledge economy, we are not expected, nor can we be fonts of knowledge anymore.

I thought your discussion of the post-Gutenberg readings were very insightful. I wonder if children really do think in more complex ways. I think they do because the tools at their disposal give them the chance to access information and combine and recombine it in ways that we never could before through reading. I think of the British term for doing an under-graduate. They would say that someone was ‘reading at Oxford’ to say that they were doing their degree there. That is no longer the case.

I thought your reference to your classmates’ work was very revealing that your valued their input and learned from them. I hope they know that!

Your comments about cognitive dissonance were very much appreciated. I think that the comments from some of the readings which state that we work best with like-minded individuals are true. However, I also think that this is not a setting that will encourage growth because there will be less cognitive dissonance. That is good when you just want to get something done, but not so good when you want to develop your skills and knowledge.