Archive for May, 2011

Students Who Are Chronically Late to Class

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Students who display a passive-aggressive personality style may do so in a variety of ways … from chronic tardiness to sleeping in class. Let’s look at the student who’s always running late.

As you know, some students are late to class on a regular basis, and in doing so are probably displaying a form of resistance or defiance—and it is wise to see it as such.

When questioned about their habitual lateness, students are apt to justify or excuse it on the grounds that they have other tasks to attend to, such as child care or job responsibilities that preempt punctual class attendance. Many instructors are thus made to feel guilty and are thereby disarmed by such reasons or excuses. They allow students to talk them into considering these excuses as authentic extenuations.

If this sounds familiar to you, here are a few opinions on the subject to consider.

  1. Arriving to class punctually is an important responsibility borne entirely by the student, not the instructor.
  2. Although child care or job responsibilities are clearly time consuming, and when combined with the demands connected with attending college can be downright overwhelming, it is again largely the responsibility of the student, not the instructor, to decide which takes priority — one’s job, one’s child care responsibilities, or punctually attending classes.
  3. Lateness is often a rude and disruptive form of behavior, especially when it is accompanied by doors opening and shutting, loud noises, and students distractingly passing in front of the instructor to get to their seats.
  4. Habitual lateness to class, much like when friends or family members habitually arrive late for social gatherings and usually infuriate us because of their thoughtlessness, is typically a sign of devaluation of and contempt for instructors and other students who have arrived to class punctually. Even more important, it is most likely a sign of devaluation and contempt for one’s own education, albeit unconscious, since the student’s habitual lateness will necessarily curtail his or her time in class and cause the student to forfeit important opportunities for learning.
  5. Instructors who habitually arrive late to class themselves are poor models for their students and should find any reasonable means possible to correct this form of unprofessional behavior.

by Bonnie Snyder.

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Times Make Teaching More Challenging

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: The qualities of a great teacher are apparent through speech and expression.

Asnah Mansor, 58, is an example of an excellent educator. She did not celebrate Teachers’ Day in school this year since she retired one month before. But inside of her, the teaching spirit lives on.

Asnah recalled the celebration for her retirement at the last school she served as a teacher, Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Midah 2.

Students from pre-school to Standard Six gathered together for the celebration. Some performed skits especially for their beloved teacher. The most memorable moment was when her students lined up to give her farewell presents.

To a teacher, the ability to impart knowledge and nurture her students is a gift in itself. She thought that she would miss their innocent little faces, as well as her colleagues.

Loopholes in the Education System.

Asnah’s dedication and spirit for teaching is, indeed, an example for young teachers today.

However, she understands that the roles of today’s teachers have changed and have become more challenging. In addition to that, teachers today also have to deal with a sometimes less-than-pleasant attitude from parents.

“Indeed, the world of education today has changed a lot, and the challenges faced by teachers today are far greater compared to their predecessors. In addition, students today are more ‘advanced’ than their teachers and some have no respect for their elders,” said Asnah, who had gone through multiple phases on the national education system.

Asnah said that, as a teacher, she saw loopholes in the national education system. Although each policy change was meant to improve the system, she claimed that some were not particularly relevant.

“As a primary school teacher, I find that the system underexposes children to the world outside, be they from urban or rural areas. I find that the teaching method and system also seems to hamper the ability and creativity of children who have benefited from studying overseas,” she said.

She said that the common perception that the national education system was too examination-oriented was true. As a result, students easily become unmotivated.

She believed that if the students were given the chance to be more hands-on in their learning, they would be more proactive and would likely improve their skills.

“Take, for example, Kemahiran Hidup. It’s a subject taught since Standard Four, but when students enter Form One, you’ll find that many still don’t know how to hammer a nail in. It’s as if those three years spent studying the subject were pointless, since they had to relearn the same basic principle in Form One.”

“I think it’s good to let the children focus on what they’re interested in since primary school. We observe their development and interests in Year 1-3, and by Year 4-6, they would know where their skills lie.”

Asnah recommended that children should be exposed to career options from the primary school level.

Too Exam-Oriented:

She said that too much focus on scoring well on examinations could cause teachers to neglect students who will not be undergoing major examinations during the year.

She claimed that this was usually the case in secondary school, where many teachers focus on Form Three and Form Five students, who are considered to be in ‘crucial years’.

However, they failed to realise that Form One students also need extra guidance to adapt to the new schooling environment.

Parents, meanwhile, dwell on the erroneous belief that if their children scored 4A’s or 5A’s in their UPSR examinations, they would continue scoring high throughout secondary school, too.

“It’s actually during the early days in secondary school that we need to pay attention to. We tend to overlook this, and it is why many students slip off as soon as they enter secondary school.”

As a teacher with experience in teaching primary level Bahasa Malaysia, Asnah said it once had been a subject that could be used to shape a student’s character.

“For example, a teacher can inculcate moral values in the class before lessons start. Throughout the lessons, there are opportunities for teachers to continue instilling good values in students,” said Asnah, who has won the title Guru Pakar Bahasa Malaysia (Bahasa Malaysia Specialist Teacher) and Guru Cemerlang 1Malaysia (1Malaysia Excellent Teacher).


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Lessons Learned When Classes Don’t Go As Planned

Monday, May 30th, 2011

When things don’t go well in a class, it never generates good feelings. It takes courage to address the reasons why. What if the teacher discovers it’s her fault? It takes even more courage to explore with a colleague what happened and the most courage of all to share in print the tale of a class gone awry. I have a small but growing resource list of just such public disclosures—they attest to how much an instructor can learn by facing what happened and how much others can learn by reading these accounts. I have a new article to add to that collection.

It is especially disconcerting when you expect a class to go well and then it doesn’t. That’s what happened to Cheryl Albers, a sociology professor at Buffalo State College. The class in question was an upper-level honors social science seminar that Albers had volunteered to teach. “I spent months excitedly designing a course I believed would be both challenging and engaging for the most select students on campus.” (p. 270)

Her syllabus for the course is included in an appendix, and it looks like a course any of us would love to take or teach. She started the semester with 17 students. After the second week when the first graded essays were returned, two students dropped. By the third week Albers was concerned enough to initiate a discussion of how the course was going. “To my bewilderment a third of the class expressed dissatisfaction with the grounding of the class in student directed learning. They wanted a more teacher directed experience—clearly not the reaction I anticipated while I was enthusiastically designing the class.” (p. 270-271)

What Albers had planned for the course was “a classroom environment focused on knowledge creation rather than the transmission of information where students felt part of an intellectual community that balanced support and control.” (p. 270) More specifically, students wrote essays (that were graded) and wrote letters to classmates commenting on the essays of classmates (and those were graded). They participated in what Albers called “open-ended seminars” where students led the discussion and brought to it questions prepared in response to class material, as well as in research/writing groups, with each team determining the focus of their study and methods of analysis. Does any of this seem out of line for an upper-level honors seminar?

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD in Faculty Development.

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Stage Theory of Cognitive Development (Piaget)

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Summary: Piaget’s Stage Theory of Cognitive Development is a description of cognitive development as four distinct stages in children: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, and formal.

Originator: Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

Key Terms: Sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete, formal, accommodation, assimilation.

Piaget’s Stage Theory of Cognitive Development

Swiss biologist and psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) observed his children (and their process of making sense of the world around them) and eventually developed a four-stage model of how the mind processes new information encountered. He posited that children progress through 4 stages and that they all do so in the same order. These four stages are:

  • Sensorimotor stage (Birth to 2 years old). The infant builds an understanding of himself or herself and reality (and how things work) through interactions with the environment. It is able to differentiate between itself and other objects. Learning takes place via assimilation (the organization of information and absorbing it into existing schema) and accommodation (when an object cannot be assimilated and the schemata have to be modified to include the object.
  • Preoperational stage (ages 2 to 4). The child is not yet able to conceptualize abstractly and needs concrete physical situations. Objects are classified in simple ways, especially by important features.
  • Concrete operations (ages 7 to 11). As physical experience accumulates, accomodation is increased. The child begins to think abstractly and conceptualize, creating logical structures that explain his or her physical experiences.
  • Formal operations (beginning at ages 11 to 15). Cognition reaches its final form. By this stage, the person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements. He or she is capable of deductive and hypothetical reasoning. His or her ability for abstract thinking is very similar to an adult.

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Principal Mentoring

Monday, May 30th, 2011

To help their new principals succeed, more school districts are capitalizing on the expertise of their senior administrators by adding mentor programs to the mix of practical training programs for beginning principals.

School boards and district officials recognize that formal preparation for the principalship must include a practical component that can impart real-life skills. This part of principal training is usually termed an apprenticeship or internship, and its success, or lack of success, resides in myriad factors. The effectiveness of this hands-on training has become more important as the growing shortage of school leaders threatens the quality of education in the United States.

Ironically, education itself does not seem to be the limiting factor in the principal shortage, since nearly half of the nation’s public school teachers have earned advanced degrees. But relatively few of these teachers-the natural pool for future leaders-have expressed interest in becoming principals. This lack of interest, combined with U.S. Department of Labor projections that 40 percent of the country’s 93,200 principals are nearing retirement, highlights the need to call on the graying generation of school leaders to become mentors to those who will be entrusted with our schools (Blackman and Fenwick 2000).

This Digest examines the nature of mentorships and discusses how these relationships can prepare principals for the next stage of their careers.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring takes its name from Homer’s Odyssey. Ulysseus, before departing for Troy, entrusts his son to a wise friend, Mentor. Mentor serves not only as a counselor to the prince during Ulysseus’ twenty-year absence, but also as guardian and guide. Most important, Mentor does not replace Ulysseus in the parental role; rather, Mentor, with the help of the goddess Athena, helps the young prince to understand and embrace the difficulties that lie before him.

The task of the mentor, then, is to define a unique relationship with his or her protege and fulfill a need unmet by any other relationship (Samier 2000). The best mentors are teacher/sages who act to the best of their ability within plain sight of the protege and who engage in a compassionate and mutual search for wisdom (Bell 1996).

Although mentoring has existed for thousands of years, it is only in the last thirty years that mentor-protege relationships have received increasing academic and professional interest. Much of this research initially focused on “classical mentoring,” in which a protege, more by chance than by merit, found a mentor willing to serve as guide and counselor. Although valuable in the relationships that it fostered and the leaders that it produced, such mentoring tended toward “like producing like,” which meant that women and minorities frequently fell to the wayside. Formalized mentoring programs helped correct these inequities, but these artificial unions usually lacked organizational support and even engendered resentment among mentors who had little or no say in choosing their proteges (Samier 2000).

Increasing evidence suggests that matching an intern to the appropriate school and to the right mentor are critical components of the intern’s education. Districts must therefore be ready to work closely with these programs to ensure that their schools benefit from an appropriate match (Cordeiro and Smith-Sloan 1995).

Although advanced university education will continue to dominate preparatory requirements, such training must be combined with in situ practice-of the right length, at the right place, with the right mentor-to help new principals acquire the practical knowledge and characteristic behaviors that typify successful principals.

What are some examples of Principal-Mentoring Programs?

Numerous school systems have begun principal-preparation programs that produce effective leaders. For example, Albuquerque Public Schools’ Extra Support for Principals (ESP) program originated in 1994 when a group of elementary, middle, and high school principals examined how best to develop a support system for new principals. The resulting program features a coordinator who examines beginning principals’ backgrounds, asks them to supply a list of experienced principals with whom they would like to work, and then matches them with veteran leaders. Results indicate that new principals, as well as their mentors, benefit significantly from ESP (Weingartner 2001).

Another program, established by the Southern Regional Education Board’s Leadership Academy, focuses on developing effective leadership styles that will have a direct impact on schools. An important component of the academy is the mentoring program, which assigns an external peer coach to each district team. The coach, who is a skilled leader in education, provides technical assistance and collects information from participants to help them develop as leaders (Crews and Weakley 1996).

Many school systems such as Albuquerque’s have looked within to establish mentoring programs. The key to any approach is for educational leaders to recognize the uniqueness of their circumstances and to establish a program that reflects their community’s needs.

For example, the shortage of qualified candidates for school-leadership positions led Santa Cruz County to gather local experts to come up with a solution to this problem. These gatherings, entitled “Growing Our Own,” arose in part from dissatisfaction over the traditional role played by assistant principals, who were usually assigned a narrow range of responsibilities. Santa Cruz educators decided to reinvent the principal/assistant-principal relationship by establishing a mentor-apprentice agreement that committed the parties to shared outcomes. This program emphasizes teamwork while pursuing the stated goal of producing future school leaders who have the skills, attitudes, behaviors, and courage to lead public schools (Bloom and Krovetz 2001).

What are the Challenges in forming Mentor-Protege relations?

Artificially constructed mentor-protege relationships can create difficulties. Researchers have long recognized that not all persons make suitable mentors and that the best mentors display certain traits, such as their ability to coach, to sponsor, and to serve as a role model. But even the most accomplished mentors can fail to connect with a protege, resulting in a neutral-effect relationship, at best.

Race and gender issues further complicate the formation of mentor-protege relationships. Ninety-six percent of the nation’s public-school superintendents, over 80 percent of school-board presidents, and 60 percent of all principals are white males, whereas more than 73 percent of all teachers (and future leaders) are women (Blackman and Fenwick). Informal mentoring relationships could form easily when most school leaders were white and male.

As recently as 1988, only 2 percent of principals were women, meaning that principals who sought a role model did not have to contend with the complications presented by race and gender (Blackman and Fenwick). In recent years, the composition of the principalship has changed dramatically, with 35 percent of all principals now being women. Many of these women are younger principals who need mentors but cannot rely on traditional avenues for forming such relationships. This same challenge faces the 13 percent of principals who belong to minority groups.

Clearly, school boards, district officials, and universities must work together to help principals, those just beginning and those who have sat in the principal’s chair for a number of years, to draw on the accumulated wisdom from which all can benefit.

by Malone, Robert J.

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English at home

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

To help your children improve their English, use the language constantly and share the joy of reading.

While many of the e-mails I receive in response to Exploring English come from teachers, tutors and students, in recent times I have received quite a number of e-mails from parents who are keen to help their children improve their English.

My daughter Alison, who has a PhD in Early Childhood Education (ECE) and is a senior university lecturer in Australia, once told me that the most important people in the world are mothers and pre-school teachers as they have the most significant and profound influence on a child’s education potential.

While she is biased being both a mother and an ECE teacher, there is obvious merit in her contention. As an educator, I appreciate the importance of parents having knowledge that will equip them to better assist their children in their education journey.

I am also aware that many teachers and tutors, as well as some older students, are parents themselves, and that some of the techniques that apply to education in the home are also applicable to the classroom. I hope the columns that will be run over the next few weeks will be of interest to most readers.

Reading together

Reading is often one of the six macro English skills that parents seem to focus on, and for that reason, this column shall begin with that skill.

It is important that parents regularly read and tell stories to their young children. Share the joy of reading with them while using expression to emphasise the characters, their roles and feelings. Stories come alive this way and children can learn that the potential of books is limited only by their imagination.

There is value in the everyday interaction and enjoyment that accompanies reading together. Parents should use the “lap-reading” approach to make early reading very personal and pleasurable.

Moreover, adopting the practice of letting your children choose the book they want you to read to them – even if it is the same one night after night – has its benefits.

Some other worthwhile suggestions:

● Borrow or buy books about topics and characters your children are interested in;

● Echo-read a story, that is, as your child reads, you say the words a fraction of time after them;

● Read and re-read your children’s favourite stories as many times as they choose.

● Encourage your children to retell a story you have read to them;

● Encourage your child to use the pictures in a book to predict the focus of the story;

● Encourage your child to hypothesise or imagine what the text might say, i.e. what the story in a new book is about from the cover, the title and other illustrations and pictures;

● Encourage your child to look through and read supermarket and retailer brochures, menus, fliers, leaflets and advertising material, as well as colourful, picture magazines. As they read, talk to them and ask about the products they find, e.g. naming the fruit, household goods, different food items and products that are pictured. Also, have them find logos and symbols;

by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S) — a modern, innovative and proven method of accelerating the learning of English.

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Innovation – the new currency

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

A new kind of thinking is required for generating ideas, solving problems and challenging assumptions that have been taken for granted.

LIKE innovation, thinking is another misunderstood word. The Malaysian experience shows that our education system has largely replaced thinking with the regurgitation of facts and information.

Schools impart information, not how to use the information to create a better society and world for us all. Schools teach children to be reactive – the student has to react to what is put in front of him.

He doesn’t have to create or become a creative individual. All of this unfortunately, has resulted in a society that is loath to think.

Have you not encountered bureaucratic government processes that are laughable but are held on to religiously by the officials? Doesn’t it also appear that thinking is in fact, discouraged when political leaders tell us not to question their judgements or decisions?

The statistics show it too – the number of patents filed by Malaysians and the quality of books written by locals are not of high standards.

Innovation requires the exact opposite – the ability to create something novel out of existing materials that are available. It involves looking at different ways of combining information or dissecting it to get an alternative view.

Innovation requires us to understand that the ability to repeat information is not the same as the process of thinking. The new currency is innovation, not information. Information alone is not enough – if it was, then all librarians would be rich!

Outdated information

In today’s fast-moving environment, information is a commodity and gets outdated quickly. Even academic qualifications stay current for only seven years as new information replaces the old.

The secret of the considerable mismatch between our local graduates and the industry is out. Speak to anyone who hires knowledge workers and you will hear that local graduates have limited problem-solving skills, are unable to communicate even though they possess the information, lack persuasion skills and are not innovative in their approach.

by Kamal Jit Singh.

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Another egg, another issue

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

SALTED and century eggs are not quite safe to eat, claims the Malaysian Association of Standards Users.

It tested samples frommost of the common brands available in hypermarkets and supermarkets and found high levels of the banned Sudan I red dye — a suspected carcinogen — in most of them.
Malaysian Association of Standards Users chief executive officer Ratna Devi Nadarajan said century and salted eggs sold to hypermarkets and supermarkets in the Klang Valley by two of the three main companies were found to contain the dye. Ratna Devi said the Sudan 1 red dye is used to obtain a red or bright orange colour for the yolk.

“The dye is banned in Malaysia and is a suspected carcinogen.
“Other substances such as chilli powder can be used to get the red coloured yolk.” She said century and salted eggs are best sold when the egg yolks are red or orange. “The problem happens when some farmers add colours or dyes to the animal feed so that the yolk of duck and chicken eggs produced have red, orange or darker hues to attract consumer s.” She said the Sudan I dye is banned under the Food Regulations 1985 as it is not listed under Tables I and II of the regulations which prescribe the colouring that can be used in food.
Under international standards, however, the limit for this dye is one parts per million (ppm), or not more than one milligramme per kilogramme of the product tested.

The test results showed there was 30 per cent more dye in the salted eggs manufactured and supplied by one comp a ny than the maxi mumamount stipulated, while the salted and century eggs supplied by another company contained 80 and 21 per cent more dye respectively than the maximum all owed .

by Sonia Ramachandran.

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Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Summary: Elaboration theory is an instructional design theory that argues that content to be learned should be organized from simple to complex order, while providing a meaningful context in which subsequent ideas can be integrated.

Originators: Charles Reigeluth (Indiana University) and his colleagues in the late 1970s.

Key Terms: conceptual elaboration sequence, theoretical elaboration sequence, simplifying conditions sequence

Elaboration Theory (Reigeluth)

The paradigm shift from teacher-centric instruction to learner-centered instruction has caused “new needs for ways to sequence instruction” (Reigeluth, 1999). Charles Reigeluth of Indiana University posited Elaboration Theory, an instructional design model that aims to help select and sequence content in a way that will optimize attainment of learning goals. Proponents feel the use of motivators, analogies, summaries and syntheses leads to effective learning. While the theory does not address primarily affective content, it is intended for medium to complex kinds of cognitive and psychomotor learning.

According to Reigeluth (1999), Elaboration Theory has the following values:

  • It values a sequence of instruction that is as holistic as possible, to foster meaning-making and motivation
  • It allows learners to make many scope and sequence decisions on their own during the learning process
  • It is an approach that facilitates rapid protolyping in the instructional development process
  • It integrates viable approaches to scope and sequence into a coherent design theory

There are three major approaches: (1) Conceptual Elaboration Sequence (used when there are many related concepts to be learned), (2) Theoretical Elaboration Sequence (used when there are many related principles to be learned), and (3) Simplifying Conditions Sequence (used when a task of at least moderate complexity is to be learned).

The simplest version of the concept, principle or task should be taught first. Teach broader, more inclusive concepts, principles, or tasks before the narrower, more detailed ones that elaborate upon them. One should use either a topical or a spiral approach to this elaboration. Teach “supporting” content such as principles, procedures, information, higher-order thinking skills, or attitudes together with the concepts to which they are most closely related. Group concepts, principles, or steps and their supporting content into “learning episodes” of a useful size (not too small or large). Finally, allow students to choose which concepts, principles, or versions of the task to elaborate upon or learn first (or next).

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Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer)

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Summary: A cognitive theory of multimedia learning based on three main assumptions: there are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information; there is limited channel capacity; and that learning is an active process of filtering, selecting, organizing, and integrating information.

Originator: Richard Mayer

Key terms: dual-channel, limited capacity, sensory, working, long-term memory

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Mayer)

The principle known as the “multimedia principle” states that “people learn more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone” (Mayer, p. 47).  However, simply adding words to pictures is not an effective way to achieve multimedia learning.  The goal is to  instructional media in the light of how human mind works.  This is the basis for Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning.  This theory proposes three main assumptions when it comes to learning with multimedia:

  1. There are two separate channels (auditory and visual) for processing information (sometimes referred to as Dual-Coding theory);
  2. Each channel has a limited (finite) capacity (similar to Sweller’s notion of Cognitive Load);
  3. Learning is an active process of filtering, selecting, organizing, and integrating information based upon prior knowledge.

Humans can only process a finite amount of information in a channel at a time, and they make sense of incoming information by actively creating mental representations.   Mayer also discusses the role of three memory stores: sensory (which receives stimuli and stores it for a very short time), working (where we actively process information to create mental constructs (or ‘schema’), and long-term (the repository of all things learned).

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