The Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) welcomes visiting scholar Christine Rubie-Davies, a professor in Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. For the next two and a half months, Rubie-Davies will connect with people, present research ideas, and hopes to gain insight in how research at CASTL is conducted and implemented. ‘’I’m very excited to be here. The researchers at CASTL are very well regarded back home and I’m happy for the opportunity to work with them.’’
Rubie-Davies’ expertise is in the field of class level teacher expectations: The notions teachers hold about all students’ long- and short-term performance, and beliefs teachers hold about what students are capable of achieving on a daily and long-term basis. A meeting with the Dean of the Curry School of Education and founder of CASTL, Bob Pianta, led to her visiting UVA.
‘’In 2013 I organized an international conference on the social psychology of the classroom in New Zealand and Bob Pianta was one of the key note speakers. We talked about the possibility of me visiting CASTL and I was very interested. That has resulted in me being here.’’
Rubie-Davies is most interested in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) and MyTeachingPartner (MTP), both developed at CASTL. The CLASS is an observational instrument to assess classroom quality in PK-12 classrooms and MTP is a professional development tool that focuses on teacher-student interactions.
‘’When it comes to my field of expertise, teacher expectations, these are very useful tools. I’m here to learn as much as I can about the CLASS and MTP and will try to adapt it for use in New-Zealand.’’
Just copying the programs and implementing them in New Zealand isn’t an option. ‘’It’s not that simple. Our educational system is very different than the one in the United States. For example, teachers enjoy a lot of freedom in their teaching. They decide what to teach, when and how. Textbooks are rarely used. Another big difference is that in the United States testing is the way to go. Up until a few years ago, children in New Zealand didn’t take a single compulsory standardized test in school until 10th grade. That has changed a little, but is still very different than the US.’’
Last, there are big cultural differences that make it difficult to use the CLASS and MTP as is. ‘’One of them, is that every teacher in New Zealand has to teach Te reo Māori, an official language in New Zealand. That means that the use of CLASS and MTP needs to be adapted with cultural differences in mind. My task is to come up with a framework to use the research in the best way possible.’’
Maori was almost a dying language several decades ago, Rubie-Davies explains. ‘’Kids in school actually got strapped in the early 1900s when they tried to speak it. Thankfully, the government realized that the language needed saving.’’
For the moment, Rubie-Davies is fully enjoying her stay at the University of Virginia and is exploring all Charlottesville and surroundings have to offer. ‘’I’m meeting with lots of people within CASTL and I’m sitting in on several meetings. My husband and I have also started exploring the city and have taken a day trip to Wintergreen.’’
By the end of April, Rubie-Davies hopes to have a thorough understanding of the CLASS and MTP and how to make those tools work in New Zealand.
After her stay at CASTL, Rubie-Davies will be travelling to California, where she’ll be a visiting scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and then Berkeley.
(By Richard Alblas)