Archive for March, 2011

Zero tolerance on challenging behaviour

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Zero tolerance’ is a phrase increasingly used in response to challenging behaviour – but what are the likely benefits and the possible consequences of such an approach?

While possibly running the risk of raising fixed-term exclusions, and thereby having a negative effect on any formal assessment the school may be faced with (ie, the self-evaluation form and Ofsted), a zero tolerance approach towards unacceptable behaviour can certainly make positive changes to behaviour problems in the classroom and a climate of failure and low expectations.

Given the present working of the system and with the threat of a poor Ofsted assessment hanging over them, schools are increasingly finding ways to avoid excluding pupils by using ‘internal exclusion’ and providing on-site facilities for these pupils. Although they have been successful in reducing exclusion figures, and in many cases have had a positive effect on disruptive behaviour, these measures and style of approach can place intense pressure on school budgets, timetables and staff morale.

Before undertaking a zero tolerance approach, schools have reported that students have reported that the most frustrating part of school was being disrupted by other students’ poor behaviour in the classroom and around the school site. Taking the radical step of introducing a zero tolerance policy can demonstrate that you are serious about student behaviour issues and are in fact putting the interests of the majority before the difficulties of those who push the boundaries.

However, this is an approach which may not suit all. Establishing clearly understood values and communicating them to all stakeholders (including parents and carers) requires the school to identify non-negotiable behaviour expected from all its students. Understanding of non-negotiable behaviour must also be promoted with total consistency by all teaching and non-teaching staff.

Practical Tips

As with all pieces of advice or styles of approach, it is clearly up to individual schools to make careful assessments of their needs and capacity to implement programmes before embarking on such a system, and as with all advice it is there to be discussed and acted on only if it is considered right for the individual school or situation.

Careful consideration should be given to a range of issues, such as:

  • honest and accurate self assessment. (Why is the school considering this approach? How effective are current systems?)
  • staff training to ensure consistency and a thorough understanding of non-negotiable behaviour and how indeed to respond to such behaviour
  • parental understanding, acceptance and support
  • a thorough understanding of roles and responsibilities among teaching and non teaching staff.

Some very practical considerations reported by schools implementing this approach have included:

  • The head teacher and senior leadership teams should identify a clear set of values which should in turn be communicated to staff, pupils and parents in the form of actions and words.
  • Staff should be told how to treat all students – for example, greeting at the start of lessons, speaking calmly instead of shouting, and rewarding and encouraging instead of being negative.
  • In the early weeks of implementing such an approach, there should be a highly visible presence of senior leaders in corridors and classrooms.
  • The immediate focus should be to stabilise behaviour to a point where classrooms were sufficiently calm enough for teachers to teach.

by Dave Stott, has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher. He has worked in mainstream and special schools and Local Authority Behaviour Support Services, and is now a writer, consultant and trainer.

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Four Characteristics of Successful Teachers

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The quest to identify the ingredients, components, and qualities of effective instruction has been a long one. Starting in the 1930s, researchers sought to identify the common characteristics of good teachers. Since then, virtually everybody who might have an opinion has been asked, surveyed, or interviewed. Students have been asked at the beginning, middle, and end of their college careers. Alumni have been asked years after graduating. Colleagues within departments and across them have been asked, as have administrators, from local department heads to college presidents.

Despite this large database, researchers continue to explore this issue and, surprisingly, find new groups to ask and new ways to analyze the results. Even more amazing is how much overlap and consistency there is across these many studies, and the study we’re about to highlight here is no exception. The researchers studied a group of 35 faculty members who had received a Presidential Teaching Award at a public university in the Midwest. To be considered for the award, teachers had to write a 1,500-word essay describing their teaching philosophies and teaching goals. Using a qualitative methodology (hermeneutics), researchers analyzed these statements with the goal of identifying the factors that made these teachers successful. The researchers found four categories of comments characteristic of all these award-winning teachers.

1. Presence – “The term presence for this study is defined as a deeper level of awareness that allows thoughts, feelings, and actions to be known, developed, and harmonized within. Presence is also the essence of a relationship and of interpersonal communication.” (p. 13) Illustrating this particular category were comments in the essays indicating how important it is for teachers to get to know their students. “The classroom should not be a sea of faceless forms,” writes one teacher. (p. 13) Another frequent theme in this category related to the importance of caring for students. “By caring for my students, I mean that I am genuinely interested in my students’ learning and understanding the course material, and in making a significant contribution to the success of their careers.” (p. 14)

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD in Philosophy of Teaching.

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Helping students to manage stress

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Defining stress is quite a difficult and complex process as it can mean different things to different people. Here, Tina Rae gives advice on how to recognise stress in your students, as well as detailing practical approaches at tackling it.

The word is subjective in the sense that it is person specific, similarly to words such as happiness, failure or success. Regardless, experiencing tensional stress is a normal part of everyday life for everyone. It is when young people experience too much stress that they become anxious, exhausted and tired and unable to function appropriately, both in the learning and social context. All of us have an optimum stress-level which allows us to function effectively and efficiently in our daily lives; what is vital is that students learn how to recognise these stress levels, and that they develop coping strategies to fall back on when they experience higher levels of stress. This will enable them to maintain a healthy balance of tension, growth, rest and self-nurturing. Students need to be able to focus and build up reactions that reduce stress alongside understanding, acknowledgement, and coping effectively with the sources of their individual stresses.

Stress symptoms

Students who are experiencing higher levels of stress may exhibit the following behaviours:

  • More aggressive or withdrawn behaviour
  • Feeling tearful
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-harming behaviours
  • School attendance problems
  • Attention needing
  • Dropping performance
  • Lying
  • Heightened aggression

Stephen Murgatroyd (1982) and his colleagues suggests that there are 10 potential stresses or crisis points which are specific to adolescence. It is essential that we acknowledge and understand these, and that in response we support students when developing their own self-help strategies.

The crisis points are described as follows:

  1. A feeling that they are falling short of standards and expectations
  2. Feelings of uncertainty and sometimes a fear of future choices
  3. Feeling fragmented – not feeling that he/she is a ‘whole’ person and yet also not knowing how to achieve such a goal
  4. Feeling too dependent upon others (particularly adults) and feeling unable to break free from such a dependence
  5. An unwillingness to set limits, even those that are known to be needed
  6. Being unsure in the work situation or in the future in a job
  7. Uncertainty regarding sexual roles/behaviour
  8. Difficulties in making and sustaining significant relationships
  9. Difficulties in coping with the range of emotions rising from our consciousness
  10. Finding difficulty in accepting responsibility.

As well as the obvious stressors that occur in school, students may face stressors outside school as well, such as:

  • Family financial problems
  • Family disharmony, especially between parents
  • Family break-up
  • Single parents
  • Bereavements
  • Abuse – physical, emotional and sexual
  • New partners for their parents
  • Moving home
  • Moving school
  • Friends moving away.

The ‘5 looks’

An extremely useful strategy for young people to develop and use is the ‘5 looks’. This is, in effect, a basic summary of effective solution-focused stress management as follows:

1. Look about!

  • Try to measure the level of stress you are coping with.
  • Try to include usual daily hassles and things that you have adapted to recently. Remember – not all changes are negative BUT they may be a drain on your energy.

2. Look to yourself!

  • Try to regularly reflect on your own symptoms – are you getting anxious or irritable?
  • Are you trying to do too much or becoming inactive?
  • Try to identify any changes that may be due to a build up of stress.
  • Try to THINK about the way you think, act and feel.

3. Look forwards!

  • Always try to think about SOLUTIONS and particularly focus on whether the solutions you choose will be useful both in the short and long-term.

4. Look back!

  • Think about what worked before and learn from the most helpful and useful patterns of behaviour and strategies.
  • Try to learn from the less helpful responses – what could you do differently next time?

5. Look after yourself!

  • Pace yourself and try to do one thing e.g. eat, rest, see friends etc without doing other things at the same time.
  • Use LISTS to aid memory and prioritise.
  • Take breaks when the pressure builds up.
  • Use breathing, relaxation and exercise and keep to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
  • Give yourself treats and rewards.
  • Try to reframe negative self-talk and respect yourself.
  • Try to enjoy life and your relationships!

by Tina Rae, a senior educational psychologist in the London Borough of Hillingdon and the emotional literacy co-ordinator for Chantry SEBD school in West Yiewsley. Tina has extensive experience of teaching, research, programme development and consultancy across the country

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Assignment and Assessment Strategies that Keep Students on Track

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Technology enables students to connect with each other, the instructor, and the content. However, distractions—in the form of real-time electronic conversations and a barrage of dozens of commercial and personal interjections—can be omnipresent. Perhaps the online instructor needs to provide his/her own steady stream of engagement that can serve to interrupt (at least temporarily) the flow of extraneous information that competes for both time and focus.

A simple, but often-overlooked solution is to require students to submit work on a daily/weekly basis. Assignments that tie reading to the application of material are a standard part of pedagogy, but far too often we presume that this connection will be made without providing a structure. We assume that college students are mature enough as learners to automatically connect the dots. Certainly some students are, but many—especially those who are first-generation college students—lack the sophistication to employ a holistic approach to their own learning.

What types of practical, out-of-class assignments are needed? Certainly, some of the work can be rote; there is no substitution for quality repetition. Many texts now come with test banks that can easily be uploaded into Blackboard or course management systems. Quizzes that reinforce vocabulary and principles, once set up, can be required at least once a week.

At least part of the assignments should, however, connect the reading with previously covered material in an analytical way. The idea of creating a thread is not unlike that of online blogs in which a person’s history becomes part of the present context. For maximal learning, this threaded learning should be consistent (daily) and predictable. These threads can be part of a small discussion board or blog group and can contain material that connects assigned reading to classroom activities (lectures, labs, etc.).

The completion and submission of daily assignments seems like such an obvious practical strategy, but many instructors just do not require this. The reasons are obvious: assignments demand assessment, and of course, assessment requires time. The key ingredient, therefore, is to design assignments that are easy to grade (multiple-choice questions can require analytical thinking) but challenging.

by Teresa K. Dail, Ph.D in Online Education.

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Why Smoking Is Especially Bad If You Have Diabetes.

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Diane Macdonald

Smoking is a health hazard for anyone, but for people with diabetes or a high risk of developing the disease, lighting up can contribute to serious health complications.

Researchers have long known that diabetes patients who smoke have higher blood sugar levels, making their disease more difficult to control and putting them at greater danger of developing complications such as blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure and heart problems. Now a new study offers the most definitive evidence why: the nicotine in cigarettes.

Xiao-Chuan Liu, a professor of chemistry at the California State Polytechnic University, presented results from his study of blood samples from diabetic smokers at the American Chemical Society national meeting and exposition. He found that nicotine, when added to human blood samples, raised levels of hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) by as much as 34%.

Hemoglobin A1c — a combination of hemoglobin (which ferries oxygen) and glucose — is a standard indicator of blood sugar content in the body.

Doctors always knew smoking can make diabetes worse, but, Liu says, “now we know why. It’s the nicotine. This study also implies that if you are a smoker, and not diabetic, that your chances of developing diabetes is higher.”

The higher A1c levels rise in the blood, he says, the more likely it is that other protein complexes, which build up in various tissues of the body, from the eyes, heart and blood vessels, can form, leading to blockages in circulation and other complications.

by Alice Park.

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What’s in a name?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The trend of giving unusual names to children is a little worrying.

IN years gone by, children were usually named after relatives. For example, I was named after my grandmother, my brother carries my grandfather’s name, and my four sisters acknowledged a few other relatives when they were christened. This tradition ensured that a family’s ancestry was liberally dotted with people carrying the same name.

However, the generation of children born after me awoke to a wide array of names that bore no connection to their ancestors. Parents tried to be a little more creative and individual, with some children being named after songs, or celebrities or characters from literature. Celebrities themselves began giving their children names that made the rest of us wonder if they’d been on mind-altering drugs during the christening. Like, what induced singer Bob Geldof to call his daughters Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie?

These days, bizarre names are no longer the domain of the rich and famous. For example, take the case of the Egyptian man who named his newborn daughter Facebook to celebrate the successful 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the role social media played in ousting his country’s president. He could also have called her Twitter, but friends might have shortened it to Twit. Either way, he gave his child a name that will probably leave her open to ridicule for the rest of her life, unless she’s allowed to change it when she becomes an adult.

I can imagine Facebook Gamal Ibrahim going through passport control while on an overseas trip. She will watch stoically as the officer in front of her looks at her passport, glances up at her, looks away and smiles. Then she’ll continue watching quietly as he calls a colleague over and, in a foreign language that she’s not supposed to understand, says something like, “Blag ned floo Facebook! Ver neef moron.” They will then chuckle in that blatant manner that many officials adopt when they wish to intimidate you. Also, how is Facebook supposed to create a Facebook account when she turns 13? It will be akin to someone going to Maybank and attempting to open an account in the name of Maybank Wang. She will be escorted out of the building.

Even if she is successful in opening a Facebook account, people will probably mistake her profile for some sort of administrative page and leave her all sorts of messages complaining about their privacy being violated and the site’s poor customer support services.

by Mary Schneider.

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Education UK – Endless possibilities, while discovering a whole new you

Monday, March 28th, 2011

IN TERMS OF reputation, the UK falls into the top three countries in the world when it comes to higher education, whether it’s for “traditional” fields of study like medicine, accountancy, engineering or law, or for more modern fields like advanced technology, science or creative design. A recent survey done amongst Malaysian students and parents to ascertain attitudes towards overseas study showed that the UK is the most desired destination for education, primarily because of its quality and reputation.

Global recognition for UK qualifications and consequently, the high marketability of its graduates; a high-quality, established education system with a long tradition of academic excellence; and a conducive learning environment were among the key factors for the respondents’ favourable attitude towards studying in the UK. They also cited the wide exposure to culture, multiple experiences and learning opportunities, leading to a holistic, multi-dimensional learning experience, to be other important reasons for choosing to study in the UK.

These are, indeed, important points to consider in making the decision to study in any part of the world. The UK offers all of these, plus the advantage of cutting-edge technological advancements in many different fields in both the arts and the sciences and a diverse range of options in non-traditional fields such as digital animation, mobile communications, fashion design, cinematics and a host of others.

But it’s not just the academic factors that exert a pull on those aspiring to study in the UK. It’s also the attractiveness of the country’s cosmopolitan nature, its numerous historical and cultural attractions and the opportunity for travel, given its close proximity to a whole new continent – Europe. Oh, and the pubs and football, of course. What would a sojourn in the UK be without these bastions of its culture? Couple this with the fact that students benefit from scores of student discounts in retail outlets, food, travel and entertainment and you will find that studying in the UK is very attractive indeed.

Malaysian student numbers in the UK remain high, with currently over 13,500 undertaking undergraduate and post-graduate programmes there. Malaysia ranks third in terms of non-European Union students in the UK, after China and India. Generally, there was a noticeable increase last year in applications for non-traditional courses such as design studies, actuarial science, hospitality & tourism, and psychology. The figures suggest that Malaysian students are moving away from traditional courses as their awareness of evolving employment trends and requirements and the new areas to be tapped improves.

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Pioneer school for stateless kids

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: A pioneer national curriculum-based education centre for undocumented children in Sabah has been set up in Kg Numbak, Menggatal, near here.

The Ministry project is a first-of-its-kind initiative by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) in collaboration with the Sabah Special Task Force Sabah and Labuan, and Malaysian Teacher’s Foundation.

Deputy Education Minister, Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, said the Centre would implement alternative education for children with no documents, incomplete documents and non-citizens.

“The Centre in Kg Numbak enables 250-300 children to learn basic education that focuses on the 3M concept – reading, writing and arithmetic.

The children will also acquire knowledge on Islamic education, moral education and Malaysian nationalism.

“This positive move will not only eradicate illiteracy in the country but is also an effort to produce quality human capital with good morals and a high spirit of patriotism,” he said, when opening the Educare Centre, Saturday.

Under this alternative education, he said the Ministry would act as a coordinating agency, while other organisations and government agencies like the Education Department, private sector and non-governmental organisations are allowed to implement the alternative education by complying with certain requirements set by the ministry.

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Teachers need more professional training: East Asia Council

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Kota Kinabalu: The Government needs to seriously look into providing more professional training for teachers in the country for better teaching and education performance.

East Asia Regional Council of Schools (Earcos) Executive Director, Dick Krajczar, said all teachers who like teaching would of course want to be better in what they do in their career.

“And to ensure that teachers from urban and rural schools develop at all times, it is the Government’s and the school’s responsibility to provide funds for the development of teachers,” he said, Saturday.

Teachers, he stated, should be given the chance to learn from experts as they are very important groups of people who affect the lives of the young for the rest of their lives.

He explained that Earcos is an organisation of a total of 116 member international schools with more than 93,000 students from East Asia and all over the world, and has organised conferences here on four occasions.

The conferences are held among international school teachers and headmasters to help them understand their job better, to share experiences and knowledge on how to be better and help them develop in line with global changes and advancement.

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Malaysia, UK Teachers In Physical Education Exchange Programme

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Twenty-one teachers from Perak and Sabah are currently on an exchange programme in the United Kingdom (UK) to share ideas and impart knowledge on developing physical education training.

Under the same programme, 20 teachers from UK were teaching physical education at schools in the two states, said Education Ministry director-general Datuk Abdul Ghafar Mahmud.

He said the programme was launched last year, and borne from a pledge in 2005 by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Singapore to connect young people across the globe to the power of sports.

“This is a new dimension to sports in schools whereby, the teaching of sports has been enriched with new innovative ways, thus enabling students to participate more actively.

“This will come into physical education to teach students how to play sports well,” he told reporters after opening the International Inspiration Celebrating Success here Thursday.

Abdul Ghafar said Malaysia was one of the 15 countries chosen by UK under the programme, and hoped it would enhance the ‘One Student, One Sport’ policy that would be launched in July for all schools in Malaysia.

“We are confident the policy, which is to get all students involved in sports all-year round, could be further enhanced by the programme,” he said.


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