A fresh take on teaching the teacher: U of R educator receives national honour

By Costa Maragos Posted: November 16, 2017 6:00 a.m.

Dr. Pamela Osmond-Johnson is assistant professor of Education Administration.
Dr. Pamela Osmond-Johnson is assistant professor of Education Administration. U of R Photography

Just back to classroom teaching having completed her Masters of Education at Memorial University, Pamela Osmond-Johnson was ecstatic when a former professor invited her to present one of her papers at a research conference. Her enthusiasm waned, however, when her request for a few days off from teaching in order to travel and attend the conference was denied by the local school board.

“A light bulb went on for me at that very moment: I had received a clear message that my involvement in education research was not perceived as an important part of my work as a teacher.”  

That experience set Osmond-Johnson on a two-fold mission: to improve the quality of professional learning opportunities available to teachers and to promote an ‘activist teaching profession’ that sees teachers engage in collaborative learning, leadership, and decision-making processes in the classroom and beyond.

Empowered Book Cover
Dr. Pamela Osgood-Johnson is the co-author of Empowered Educators in Canada: How High-Performing Systems Shape Teaching Quality
Her collaboration on numerous high-profile research projects is getting noticed; Dr. Osmond Johnson (she received her PhD from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), was recently honoured by the EdCan Network with The Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education.

The prestigious award recognizes the work of emerging researchers – their research contributions, their promise, and their commitment to breaking new ground or revisiting commonly held assumptions in education policy, practice or theory in Canada.

The EdCan Network, an independent national organization with more than 75,000 members, gives a voice to educators working in Canada’s K-12 education.

In announcing the award, the Selection Committee stated that it “was impressed with the relevancy and originality” of Osmond-Johnson’s work.

“Dr. Osmond-Johnson maintains teacher professionalism as a central tenet of student success, and her research revealing the gaps that exist in access to high-quality professional learning underpins a significant avenue for improving quality of teaching and learning,” says Dr. Michele Jacobsen, Professor and Associate Dean at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education, and Chair of the Pat Clifford Award Selection Committee.

“I am hopeful that this award will bring attention to the importance of teacher-led professional learning in Saskatchewan and across the country, reminding those in decision-making positions that teacher learning is a key component in school and student success,” says Osmond-Johnson, Assistant Professor of Education Administration at the U of R.

Dr. Osmond-Johnson’s work to date includes co-author credit for Empowered Educators in Canada, a bestseller in education administration textbooks on Amazon.ca.

She is the co-investigator of The State of Professional Learning in Canada project that involves a research team studying professional development across Canada.

In Saskatchewan, Osmond-Johnson is leading a research project that’s exploring the facilitator community, an initiative where classroom teachers develop professional development for their fellow educators.

Internationally, Dr. Osmond-Johnson has contributed to a comparative study of teacher Professional Development policies and practices in Canada, Finland, China, Singapore, and Australia.

Joining the Faculty of Education at the U of R in 2015, Osmond-Johnson advocates for a shift away from the traditional ‘sit and get’ approach.

“As a university professor, I work heavily with my students – both at the undergraduate and graduate levels – to model what is sometimes called a ‘professional learning community’ or a ‘community of practice,’” she says. “At the undergraduate level, I try to emphasize the importance of teacher as learner. I tell my teacher candidates, ‘If you think that you don’t need to learn something new every single day for the rest of your career, then you’re in the wrong career.’”

Osmond-Johnson’s groundbreaking research and refreshing approach have the potential to redefine the teaching profession.