Thursday, September 18, 2008

Local teachers explore new methods


Challenging traditional educational practices for California youth, seven local teachers have re-embarked on their yearly mission to improve local elementary, junior high and high school education through hands-on research in their own classrooms.
Functioning through the Teachers Network Leadership Institute (TNLI), the selected teachers have been given the opportunity through funding sponsored by MetLife to explore alternate methods of instruction for their students.

Their title, MetLife Fellows for 2008-2009, is a prestigious position for teachers nationwide, according to Director of Teacher Programs at the Santa Barbara County Education Office Petti M. Pfau.
“Our teachers are working hard to have teachers’ voices heard around the country,” Pfau said. “They will make sure they effect the policies that come from Washington DC, Sacramento and even locally. Educational practices are brought from state and federal level and have no teacher input at all. This program helps bring in teaching practices that actually work.”
With final positions determined earlier this week, the 2008-2009 MetLife fellows have already begun to collect research for improving learning in their classrooms. Returning participants include Senior Fellows Luke Laurie - El Camino Jr. High School; Mary Post – Foothill School; Linda Edwards – Cold Springs School; Kristin Anderson – Maple High School; and Kristen Burke – Taylor School are returning participants in this educational policy research fellowship. Jodi Miles – Adams School; and Diana VanWinkle – Miller Elementary are new additions to the program.
The TNLI was established to approve student achievement by bringing the teacher’s voice to educational policy making. MetLife Fellows from sites across the nation conduct individual and joint research programs as fellows and subsequently report their findings.
At their meetings, Pfau said the fellows discuss their findings, related journal articles, research educational policy issues and prepare policy papers.
“I have a fellow right now that is doing research on homework logs for mathematics,” Pfau said. “Instead of doing 30 problems a night, students take two problems that they did not do correctly from class, write them down and reflect upon what they did incorrectly. They are able to take ownership of their learning this way and we have found that they learn much faster.”
Although not all of the research proposals have taken shape, other projects include the frontloading of prefix instruction, such as ‘anti-’, ‘poly-’, ‘multi-’, etc. in English instruction to improve science scores and other related instructional improvements. Research for these various research reports are done with the help of UC Santa Barbara, as UCSB Advisor Emily Kang offers research help to the teachers when needed.
“We have a nice relationship with UCSB to work with our brand new teachers in the county and our teachers who are Teachers Network Leadership Institute MetLife fellows,” Pfau said.
With regard to the MetLife Fellows as a whole, Pfau said the body functions with much enthusiasm for discovering new and improved instructional techniques which can be applied in the classroom.
“[The MetLife Fellows] are a very dynamic group,” Pfau explained. “We met this last Saturday for the first time and they felt they needed to start getting information out to the public. This is good sound research that they are doing and it’s going to improve our local schools.”

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