Posted on: Nov 2nd 2012 Greek text
Mosaiko.gr met with Dr. Samaras and Dr. Morfidis recently and discussed their Fulbright program experiences, their current research program and future plans. Dr. Anastasia Samaras is a 2012-2013 U.S. Fulbright Specialist based at George Mason University, College of Education and Human Development. Dr Eleni Morfidi is a 2011-2012 Greek Fulbright scholar; she is an assistant professor at the University of Ioannina, Department of Primary Education. She is also the host of Dr. Anastasia Samaras as they complete together a research project.
Dr. Samaras, you are a 2012-2013 U.S. Fulbright Specialist at the University of Ioannina. What is your project on? Can you briefly describe the program?
Anastasia: My scholarship is self-study teacher research is a postmodern research methodology for enhancing teacher professional development and student learning with peer support and review. While at the University of Ioannina (UOI), I worked to encourage students and teachers to collaborate and support each other’s efforts in studying their teaching. Teachers play an essential role in the Greek educational system yet face incredible challenges, especially in current economically difficult times. Dialogue and collaboration with peers are two important components for teacher professional development as teachers contemplate the changes they can make in their practice and delve below the surface to confront deep puzzlements encountered in their teaching. Being able to construct and develop mutual knowledge with colleagues can also help avoid misconceptions and stereotypes often associated with topics of differentiation, culture, and diversity.
With Dr. Morfidi, my Fulbright host and a Fulbright scholar herself, I had the professional opportunity to speak with many faculty and university administration at UOI. For our collaborative research, we designed and enacted a cross-cultural study examining special education teachers’ experiences of co-teaching with regular teachers. Our analysis is underway and we will continue to work across countries as we strive to better understand the complex and important work of special education teachers.
I came to this Fulbright experience as a Greek-American; an outsider and an insider but found that there I was not in-betweenness in my work as a teacher. I was reminded that despite differences of culture, as teachers our work is the same. Looking into the eyes of students when I presented at UOI reminded me that teaching is noble, passionate, and it is with great purpose. I am so very grateful to Fulbright for this personal and professional experience where I proudly witnessed the spirit of determination and persistence that is Greece; the “philotimo” and wisdom of its people who love life and learning.
Dr. Morfidi, you were a Greek Fulbright alumna at the University of Houston during the summer of 2012. What was your scholarship on? Can you briefly describe the program?
Eleni: My scholarship is on literacy development and children’s difficulties in oral language and print. I study cognitive and linguistic factors associated with it. Recently, I have become interested in teaching practices that may influence literacy acquisition. The school is changing and more kids with special educational needs are included in the regular classes. That presents challenges for the teachers who are not prepared for it. My future efforts will incorporate Anastasia’s ideas on self-study with special education teachers as it encourages teachers to be agents of their learning and professional development and thus improve their work with students and advance education reform.
We are most thankful to the Fulbright Foundation in Greece which allowed this initiative to take place. Professional collaboration across countries and institutions allowed us as professors of teacher education to share our expertise and experience, gain alternative perspectives, and work collectively to improve education for all students. I have been enriched by the experience on multiple levels; as a host for Fulbright Scholars at the University of Ioannina and as a Fulbright Scholar myself at the University of Houston. My understandings about special education and teacher education have been enriched through these multiple professional exchanges.
My work at the University of Houston allowed me to interact with senior scholars in my field on issues of common interest. The University of Houston has a rich research culture, a circle of regular seminars and activities which constitute a great source for inspiration. I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity.
Dr. Morfidi, how was your overall experience in the U.S.? What are some of the things you took back with you/learned?
Eleni: I returned with enthusiasm for the new developments in the field, and ideas that I am going to share with my students. It is really difficult to describe the feeling of satisfaction when surrounded by experts in your field, and an opportunity to learn from them.
Dr. Samaras and Dr. Morfidi, you recently completed the self-study teacher research project, which was presented last month at the ACS in Athens. Can you briefly describe this program?
Eleni: It is not really a program. The inquiry of Self-Study of Teaching encapsulates Dr. Samaras’ work in the United States for some years now. She has provided other scholars the opportunity to get familiar with her work and consider the possibility of utilizing her research into practice in a new setting.
Anastasia: I was invited to speak at the American Community School in Athens where I met educators dedicated to providing a quality education for all children. The school community has already seeded teacher professional communities and my work hopefully propelled them to be bold and study their role and impact in the changes they planned.
Dr. Samaras and Dr. Morfidi, what is next for you?
Eleni: We envision working with teachers in their schools in Greece regarding the use of self- study as a vehicle to improve their work and professional development.
Anastasia: Dr. Morfidi and I have joined each other as professional educators and now as dear friends with a continued commitment to the essential work of teachers and their students. The possibilities are endless. We hope and pray for bright and promising futures for children and their teachers. We thank each of them for the way they inspire us to continue our work.