Digication Scholars Conversations

In this episode, host Kelly Driscoll continues her conversation with Janet VanLone, an Assistant Professor in the Education Department at Bucknell University. 

They discuss the importance of reflection in teaching and professional development, the value of embracing messy moments and learning from them, and the benefits of creating a portfolio to document growth and experiences in the field of education.

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What is Digication Scholars Conversations?

Digication Scholars Conversations...

Welcome to Digication
Scholars Conversations.

I'm your host, Kelly Driscoll.

In this episode, you'll hear part
two of my conversation with Janet

VanLone, Assistant Professor in the
Education Department and Co-director

in the Center for Social Science
Research at Bucknell University.

More links and information about today's
conversation can be found on Digication's

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Full episodes of Digication Scholars
Conversations can be found on

YouTube or your favorite podcast app.

I love that you're thinking along these
lines of a, of this kind of process

portfolio, and I do think, you know,
as in beginning teaching and in life,

as you mentioned, that there, there
are these moments that are incredibly

important in our learning and development.

That are messy and, and are
still so relevant to who we

are and what we're doing today.

Even though many may not consider it as
something that's kind of the polished

professional version of ourselves that
we're, you know, maybe putting out

into the world and in certain contexts.

But I do think that there's incredible
value in taking the time to reflect on

those experiences, acknowledge them, um,
you know, not every day going into the

classroom is going to go as planned and
the way that you wanted and, and, and, and

what we do with that is very important.

And we learn something about
ourselves and, you know, how we

might approach the next day or next
experience like that differently.

And having some kind of record of that, I
think can make those experiences something

that we can look back on With maybe
less, um, you know, being less hard on

ourselves, but maybe celebrating some of
those experiences because we've been able

to see that growth since that time, you
know, what were the tools that I used?

Who are the people that I reached out to?

What are the tools that I use?

How did I come back from that experience?

And make it something that could
be more positive in the future.

How did it change me?

How did it change my approach to things?

Um, and I do think that it's these
experiences that are also incredibly

valuable when we are in conversations
about potential employment opportunities.

Um, and I do think that many people that
are hiring are starting to ask questions.

Like this because they want there
to be a good fit, you know, they

don't want there to be so much,
you know, attrition happening.

They want to be able to retain people
and know that they have, you know,

the tools to be able to encounter
challenges and, and, and grow from that.

And so, you know, I do think, as you
mentioned, your students have created

these incredibly, um, Beautiful
representations of what they are and,

you know, who they are, what they have
done, the skills that they have, and

it's incredibly valuable to be able
to be in a conversation with someone

when they ask you, you know, have
you done X, Y, Z to not just talk

about, I can show you right here.

Um, but I love that you're also
thinking about how now as an experi...

Now that you've had these few years to
use it in the platform in that kind of

manner and, and see its value there to
be thinking about it as this kind of

space for maybe more introspection and
Reflection on process and, and growth

and, and then they, because they can
kind of move things around, you may

find that some students as part of that
reflective experience create something

in that environment that they do want to
be able to share, but maybe they want to

provide some context around it, right?

It might not be the artifact that
aligns to the teaching standard.

But maybe it is something that's
going to fit into one of those

other areas about their philosophy
or advocacy or why they're doing

the research that they're doing.

So I'm, I'm really excited about that.


Yeah, absolutely.

Um, I, I like what you said about
like the messy moments kind of being.

Oftentimes being what gets us to where
we are, um, but I think sometimes,

you know, as I said, I'm working
with undergraduate, traditionally

undergraduate students who are, you
know, 18 to 22 years old, give or take.

Um, and.

I think they sometimes come in with
this idea that, like, they should,

shouldn't have these messy moments.

That everything should just right.

So, um, I, I always try to model being
very authentic and sharing some of

my own moments where, um, you Like,
I'm, I'm in this position and care so

deeply about their success as early
career teachers because my first year

of teaching, um, my middle school
position was extremely challenging.

Um, and, uh, I, I really struggled
and I closed my door and wondered

if I was the only one because we
weren't really talking about it.


Really having, modeling that for
students and then having them share,

encouraging them to really share those
moments where they, they struggle and,

and letting them know, like, this is
where the growth happens right there,

um, is, is really, really helpful.


And I think.

You know, as you're sharing that, so
many coming into the classroom feeling

like everything is supposed to be going
great and, you know, I think that group

of undergraduates, especially, probably
has not really been in an environment

before that's going to be celebrating.

The, the messiness, right?

Everything has been about doing something
the right way and getting a grade on

it and moving on to the next course.

And, um, yeah, not really having that
kind of integrative experience where,

you know, they can take something from
here and something from here and, you

know, oh, this mistake I made here.

And then, you know,
trying to create those.

Connections and think about how
it's going to move them forward.

And I imagine many of them may be coming
into this with their own, you know, I just

going back to my undergraduate teaching.

Um, so many didn't.

Really see the value in what they were
doing Sometimes didn't understand the

value of what they were doing outside
of school even though many of them were

had incredible extracurriculars and
volunteering and and also sometimes didn't

see the value in the work that they were
creating in their courses because It

wasn't resonating with how it was going
to connect with maybe what they were

going to be doing in their career later.

So a lot of it was just kind of
building confidence in what they were

doing and helping them recognize that.

You know, what you're doing
right now is important.

You're important, the work that you're
doing is important, and it's all

part of this journey that you're on.

You know, if you just are always looking
at what's next without thinking about

what you're doing now, you can kind of
lose sight on the value of the time.

Right now.

Um, absolutely.


So, um, I imagine your s..., your
undergraduate students maybe in similar

kinds of mindsets, um, but are already
kind of thinking about their careers.

So probably really want things
to be going really well.

Because they have an idea that this
is what they want to do in the future.



They, they of course want
everything to go well.

Um, and I hope that the environment
that we create in our classes in the

education department has set the stage
for, uh, that, you know, not everything's

going to go well all the time.

And that's okay.

That's all part of the process.

That's, that's.

That's a place where we're going to learn.

Um, so by the time they get
to student teaching, um,

they, they are ready for that.

I'm really glad that they, that I
have the students a semester prior to

student teaching so that I can have
that, that relationship with them.

So kind of right off the bat, they
know that, um, you know, I'm not, I'm

not coming in, like, when I come in to
observe them, I'm not coming in with,

like, taking notes with my red pen, right?

Um, right.

Um, it's, it's really like a, a.

We have a shared goal to try to, you
know, individualize support for them

and get them ready for their first year.

So yeah, you care about that success.

You're not just there to critique.

Yeah, absolutely.


That's, that's really important.




I can imagine that.

So, what is it, uh, their
kind of day to day like?

We sometimes get questions at Digication,
um, especially for students that are

involved in experiential learning and
these kind of field work environments,

um, As they're kind of going through
this process of student teaching and

putting materials into various pages,
you know, what kind of, um, maybe

scaffolding or vice or mentorship
do you give them about the kind of

frequency they're putting materials in?

If they're going to be reflecting on
the experience, are they, are they

taking like little bullet points and
then Elaborating on them earlier.

Are they doing any kind of
documentation while they're right in

the classroom, maybe with their phones?

I would love to hear a little bit
about what that process is like.

So, we have, um, a number of our,
our, the structure of our program,

um, leading up to student teaching.

They have a number of courses that
have, like, field components with them.

But Um, in their junior spring, so
junior year, spring semester, um, is

when things really ramp up, I'll say.

And they are out, uh, for two full
days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays,

they spend the whole day in a
classroom, one classroom, they're

paired with a mentor teacher.

And then they have two full
days of classes, um, and

they're taking four courses.

So it's a very busy semester.

So from those For courses, um,
and then from the student, from

the student teaching seminar,
there's like a seminar component.

That's another course that goes along
with the student teaching semester.

I have, I have, and my colleagues who
teach those courses have assignments

that, um, we've identified and
will recommend that they, um, That

they consider for their portfolio.

Um, but one of the things that I haven't
done is given them, I'll let them choose.

So, we've got these competencies
in Pennsylvania, um, Planning and

Preparation, Classroom Environment,
Knowledge of Diverse Learners, Assessment,

um, Professionalism, um, Instruction.

I think that's it.

Hopefully you got them all.

Oh, that's a relatively short list.

There's some states that
I was like, oh my gosh.

Those are the categories, but
then the lists within each

of them are pretty extensive.

Yeah, but they just kind
of go by each category.

So, I might give examples of assignments
that would, um, connect really nicely

to, um, To a certain competency.

So, for example, um, I, I teach a
course in explicit instruction and

structured literacy where they're
doing some lesson plans in there.

Um, they do a training called
reading ready where they're doing

some reading intervention with a
student who might need a little

bit more support in the classroom.

So they might, um, they might like show.

assessment, not actual student data, if
it was, of course, that we would black out

names or anything, but they would show,
like, what they did with Reading Ready.

And I might suggest, like, this
might work for knowledge of diverse

learners, but it might also work
for planning and preparation.

You could talk about it there,
and we kind of talk about that.

So, it's not that I'm dictating that this
thing needs to go into this category.

I really want them to think
about what it meant for them.

Yeah, and to have a lot of leeway
with that, but they have a number

of assignments that they can use.

And then during student teaching,
like, there are just so many things

beyond even what we do in somi...

in our student teaching seminar that they
would be able to Um, so like, you know,

for professionalism, um, I often recommend
that they attend a school board meeting.

Um, so, you know, find out what, what
the community is like, find out what

the issues are going on at a, what, what
the talk is at a school board meeting.

Um, and, and what are
your thoughts on that?

So, you know, and that, that.

Artifact could be something as simple
as, like, them standing in front of the

school the night of the school board
meeting and then reflecting on that

experience and why, how does that help
them to, um, to be a professional in

the field, like understanding their
community and the needs of the school

board and that kind of higher level
picture of local policy that's happening.

Um, yeah, so.

I don't know if I answered your question
because I'm not, I don't know if I'm okay.


You got it.


And, um, so as part of that process,
so they're thinking through, they have

some suggestions about what areas may
have, may align to specific outcomes

or how it was designed to align to
some of those, um, teaching standards.

Um, but they can really make
a choice if they feel like

there's alignment in other areas.


Reflection seems to really point that
out, you know, if they feel like it's

aligned with more, um, Absolutely.

And we do have, like I have, we have
in our handbook, we have a student

teaching handbook or field experience
handbook, and we have guidance for, um,

there reflections So we give prompts,
um, just some things that they can

think about, ideas for, um, things to
think about within each competency.

Um, and I'll also just share that one of
One of the things that we do at the end of

the semester, we actually do this twice,
but at the very end of the semester, we

invite all of the, uh, our mentor teachers
that have been their hosts in their,

in their student teaching placements.

To campus.

And we invite some other
pre service teachers.

So those that are kind of coming up to
student teaching for a portfolio night

and our students, yeah, our students, um,
share their portfolios and, you know, we

kind of do, it's very, it's informal, but
they sit at a table and people just kind

of like go around, Oh, what did you do?

And they show, you know, go through
their portfolios and talk about

their student teaching semester.

The faculty from our department and all.

All attend as well.

Um, and it really is an opportunity for
them to share all the work that they've

done and feel really proud of it and get
some really nice feedback for all that

they've done and and have a chance to
talk about it, um, to kind of go through

each thing and go back and talk about, um.

What each artifact meant, and, um, they
get a lot of good questions as well.

Um, and then we do that again.

Actually, the, the Center for
Social Science Research here,

we host an, a, an event for the
social sciences that we have.

Both poster presentations, like
traditional research poster

presentations and portfolios, um, and
our students, our teacher education

students share their portfolios there.

And we also have in our department,
um, students who are working towards a

bachelor's in education, but they are not
getting a certification and those students

do an internship their senior year.

Um, so, so they share their work as
well, um, within their internship.

Oh, nice.


And so what, how, what's the kind
of feedback that you hear from maybe

some of the people that aren't part of
the education program that are seeing

the results of what they've done?

Oh, well, I think, um, One of the things
that I think is nice for me as, you

know, their supervisor and professor
is for folks outside of education to

understand all of the hard work that
goes into it, um, and seeing it and not

just hearing about it, being able to,
like, just When you're, you're seeing a

picture of all that goes into a lesson,
um, and then the student work and the

kind of feedback that, um, our student,
you know, teachers provide and, um, it

within all of these different areas,
um, and they're able to ask questions.

I just think it really highlights.

For our students, um, just that they
are going into a field where they are

going to be making a difference, where
they're going to be working hard, and

that that's being acknowledged and
recognized, I think is really important.



And that reminds me of some of the other
kinds of advocacy work that you're doing.

The students are, I don't know if
you've been able to pick it back up

since the pandemic, but you're, you
had some trips out to DC to meet with

policy makers and I was wanting for you
to share a little bit about that and

why that's an important part of what
you're trying to show to your students.

Oh, yes, absolutely.

Um, well, I think one of the things
that I learned as a classroom teacher

is, um, you are the recipient of policy
and sometimes it's hard to figure

out, like, where's this coming from?

Um, and how am I supposed to do this?

These people don't know my students.

This wouldn't work for, you know, how
do you have a voice in this field?

Um, and it's so important for teachers
to have a voice because they are the

people who are on the front lines and the
people who are kind of making the policy,

um, you know, they have very, very well
intent intentions for really making a

big difference for kids in classrooms,
but they need to know the realities of

what it's like on the, on the ground.



Um, and when you kind of.

Peek behind the curtain and are
able to see that as a pre service

teacher, like what goes on?

How do you talk to people?

Um, it's empowering.

Uh, you can kind of learn when I am, um.

Struggling with something and when
something isn't quite making sense

that I can use my voice and how do
I do that in a way that's effective?

So, um, with my first couple of groups,
we took trips to, um, to Washington, D.


and met with, like, our, our
state senators and, um, uh,

you know, local people here.

Um, that group also met.

Jahana Hayes, who was the 2016 Teacher
of the Year, which was really exciting.

Um, and then we've also
taken trips to Harrisburg.

I also am the faculty advisor for
our student PSEA group, which is the

Pennsylvania State Educators Association.

Um, and they do a lot of work around, um,
Helping pre service teachers get connected

in the field and advocacy and really
understanding how to use, use their voice.

And that's really the, the key part, uh,
here, like, what do I do when something

needs to change so that I'm not just
sitting there feeling frustrated.

I know that I can use my voice
and make a call or send an email.

So, yeah, continuing that being
seen, being heard and being

recognized out in the field.




Sharing what you're doing.

Keep telling people where there are
challenges and absolutely, absolutely.

Well, I know we're getting close to
the end of our time today, Janet,

and I just want to thank you again
so much for joining me to, to share

your, your story and all the great work
that you're doing with your students.

Um, I did want to close out with the
last couple of minutes that we have here.

Um, you mentioned a little earlier in the
conversation that there's um, You know,

kind of the importance of setting out
expectations for the students as they're

beginning this process and that you do
have a rubric that you share with them.

One of the questions that we
often receive is how students are

assessed in doing this kind of work.

Would you mind sharing
a little bit about that?

We do have a rubric.

It's part of our, um, handbook,
uh, so, and it's, you know, it's.

Evaluates each competency and
whether or not the students have,

um, met the competency or not.

Um, so, yeah, we, we lay out expectations
and, and talk about what a good

reflection, what a good artifact is,
what a good reflection is, and then

that is all a part of our rubric.

And I think it's also really important
to share good models of, um, of.

Previous students who have put
together really solid portfolios.

Um, and why explain why this
was a good reflection and

why this competency was met.

Um, and another thing that we.

use these portfolios for is
our department assessment.

So we actually go into
all of our portfolios.

Um, you know, we have to just
assess whether or not our department

is, we have departmental goals
for our, for our students.

We want to make sure that
they're meeting those goals.

And we use the portfolios as a way to
assess kind of our department in meeting

our departmental goals for our students.

That's wonderful.



So what is that like?

Do the students, um, submit
their portfolios to you and then

does the whole group kind of get
together and pull them up or?

Yeah, that's kind of what it looks like.

Um, we, we sort of divvy them up,
um, but we definitely have more than

one set of eyes on each portfolio.

And then we have a discussion with our,
our partner, uh, who's also looking at

the same portfolio about that portfolio
and the competencies and, um, come to

an agreement on whether or not the comp,
the, our departmental goals were met.

Um, So, yeah, it's, it's a useful tool
for that as well that we're able to

think about, um, our performance, right?


So, we're setting expectations
for ourselves and, um, how do we

know if, if they've been met and,
and this is one good way, um, to.

To assess that.

Yeah, I remember even in the kind
of early days of, uh, creating these

tools, one of the useful things in,
uh, evaluating the students portfolios

is very often seeing which, um,
teaching standards were, seemed to be

highlighted more often than some others.

So some curriculum adjustments
could be made to be sure that, you

know, adequate time was being spent.

On some standards that may not have gotten
the same light shed on them as before.

And without having those reflections,
you know, I think it may have been,

may not have been addressed as quickly.

So absolutely.



And, and a chance for us to have
conversations about our goals and the

competencies and how, where is this
happening and how is it happening?

So, yeah.



And have you used any of that at
all for any kind of departmental,

um, accreditations or, or
program kind of accreditations?

Are there plans for that?

I don't know how often
they may roll around there.


Um, I don't think that we have at
this point, but that's not a bad idea.

I'm sure if they, if that comes
around soon, um, that will be,

uh, Part of the plan . So, yeah.

Well, they can be incredible records
of that, uh, for, for that purpose.

And, um, there's some nice ways that
they could be, uh, kind of collected

and presented to, um, accreditation
teams so that they kind of Absolutely.

You, um.

And tools that they might be able
to use to, to, to review them.

So we might have to stay
in touch on that point.

That sounds good.

Well, well, thank you so much
again for joining me today.

It was so lovely speaking to you
and I'm really excited to, to share

your story with our listeners.

Well, thank you so much for having me.

It was really fun.

Good, good.

Take good care.

Thank you.