How do you define “teacher quality”?

First grade reading - small group breakoutToday I’ve read two articles that make me curious about the way “teacher quality” is being defined and measured these days.

First, I read a New York Times article about a school in Tennessee where the principal is so busy with paperwork and unnecessary observations that he’s lost touch with many of the things happening in the school. The title of the article neatly summarizes their feeling for the way that Race to the Top has led to a redefinition of “teacher quality” at their school: In Tennessee, Following the Rules for Evaluations Off a Cliff.

Then, I read Six Questions for Better Professional Development on the Edutopia Deeper Learning Blog Carnival, and wondered about how different the assumptions about “teacher quality” were compared to those in the Times article. The author talks about quality teaching (and professional development) as collaborative, organic, and reflective. It involves “cultivating a healthy professional community,” and that school in Tennessee seems to be on a track where they are able to do anything BUT support professional growth and “teacher quality.”

Maybe it can be partially attributed to the language that’s used, but the Edutopia blog seems to posit “teacher quality” as something that you nurture and encourage while the the Times article seems to describe a scenario where “teacher quality” is something you have to badger people into developing or revealing.

I understand the desire and need for ways to measure “teacher quality.” I’m just not sure of the right way to go about it. How do you think “teacher quality” should be defined? I’d love to hear some real teachers talking about the issue.

Cross-posted as a Discussion Question in the Verizon Thinkfinity 101 Community on the Thinkfinity Community site.

Time for Summer Reading: Bits Flashback for June 5

Summer reading listIt’s that time when many of us size up the list of texts we’ve been thinking of all year and choose the few that we’ll try to get through during the all-too-short summer months.

If you’re struggling a bit with your choices, take a look at Lifehacker’s How to Create an Awesome Summer Reading List for some tips on where to find books, ways to track your progress, and recommendations from other bookworms.

While you’re looking for great texts to read, be sure you’ve read the great ideas for the classroom or professional development in these Bedford Bits posts from last week:

A Few Extra Links

For regular updates from Bedford Bits, be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Have a great week!

[Photo: Summer reading list by soundfromwayout, on Flickr]


Cake! Bits Flashback for April 3

Chocolate cake sliceThe solution to writer’s block is cake! A round-up of Tips for Fighting Writer’s Block, from the Inside Higher Ed’s University of Venus blog, includes everything from setting rigid deadlines to sitting down for some cake and coffee.

Cake may not be the answer to every problem, but it can’t hurt to give it a try. My suggestion for curing writer’s block? Why not take a break and read one of the new entries posted on Bedford Bits last week?

  • Holly Pappas discusses her techniques to foster a sense of curiosity, inquiry, and wonder in Learning to Ask the Questions.
  • A picture might be worth a thousand words. But words paired with pictures? That’s worth even more! Andrea Lunsford discusses Words . . . and Images, and teaching graphic novels.
  • What role does the Writing Center play in Writing-About-Writing? Blogger Doug Downs explores how tutors contribute to the pedagogical approach in WAWriting Center.
  • What kind of progress students can make in one semester? Barclay Barrios shares another student paper and his comments in More Sample Work: Student Progress.
  • High School Bits blogger Jodi Rice asks why people read literature and what reading will look like in the digital age in Storytelling 2.0.
  • Where does the military get names for their operations? Reflecting on the Operation Odyssey Dawn, Traci Gardner talks about Naming and the Rhetoric of War.
  • Susan Naomi Bernstein reflects on classroom assignments and her own writing in Writing for the Catastrophic Moment.

A Few Extra Reminders

We’re still looking for suggestions. Tell me what you want to know about teaching writing or about using digital tools in the composition classroom by leaving a comment. Your response will help shape upcoming posts.

[Photo: Chocolate cake slice by alexanderward12, on Flickr]

OMG! LOL! Bits Flashback for March 28

photo of the Oxford English Dictionary, opened to the page libraryLast week, the OED announced a new batch of words that have been added to the dictionary. Among this year’s inductees are OMG, short for “Oh My God,” and LOL, short for “Laughing Out Loud.”

My favorite part of the announcement is the background on the word LOL: “the letters LOL had a previous life, starting in 1960, denoting an elderly woman (or ‘little old lady’; see LOL n./1).” Other fun new words include ego-surfing, smack talk, meep, and muffin top.

OMG! It’s hard to compete with all these new words, but I’ll try. LOL! Here’s a run-down on the new entries posted on Bedford Bits last week.

A Few Extra Reminders

Finally, let me hear what you want to know about teaching writing or about using digital tools in the composition classroom by leaving a comment. Your suggestions will shape upcoming posts.

—Traci Gardner

[Photo: 15 by Cofrin Library, on Flickr]

Week in Review: January 24—30

Having posted daily headlines for over a year now, I wanted to try a weekly round-up of the key stories from the previous week. This is the first effort in that project. My goal is to identify the key stories that a college educator should know about, and occasionally to pass along some “assorted extras” that might be useful or amusing to teachers and students.

Academic Freedom

The AAUP announced this week that they’ve begun a new publication, The AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, to focus on the significant questions of what we can teach, when and how we can teach it, and what difference our teaching and research decisions make upon our careers (ProfHacker).

At the same time, students in Culpepper, Virginia are denied the chance to read the newest edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, due to the “sexually explicit material and homosexual themes” (Washington Post). Also facing censorship, students at work on the newspaper at L.A. City College have found administrators attempting to control the topics they cover and information they publish (LA Times).


A campus-wide understanding of how students are learning and how each campus contributes to a national snapshot of educational outcomes was the focus of discussion recently at the annual conference of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s annual forum (Inside Higher Ed).

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development is developing discipline-specific tests to measure learning outcomes and cross-institutional comparisons, with the participation of the U.S. government (Inside Higher Ed).

Improving instruction and student achievement may rely greatly on eliminating obstacles and motivating faculty, according to commentary at the annual conference of the Association of American Colleges and
Universities (Chroncile of Higher Ed).


President Obama’s State of the Union address proposed changes to financial aid and support for lowering the high cost of a college education. Meanwhile Jill Biden stressed the presidential administration’s support for community colleges. Congressional Reps. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Michael Castle (R-Del.) introduced legislation to help identify and eliminate diploma and accredidation mills.

Tablet Computing

Predictions ran wild early on (Inside Higher Ed) about Apple’s much anticipated tablet PC this week, but turned to criticism as the iPad was introduced with a conceivably ill-chosen name (PCWorld) and an all-white male introductory video. Tablets are a hot topic of discussion in educational circles (Chronicle of Higher Ed) because of their potential effect on collaboration and electronic textbook use.


Assorted Extras