Archive for July, 2011

The Four Questions Every Assessment Report Should Answer

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Of all the activities that go into educational assessment, ironically two of most rewarding also are two of the most overlooked: 1). sharing the results with stakeholders and 2). using the results to effect change.

After devoting so much time and energy to creating assessments, far too often what happens is someone takes the data that’s been gathered and compiles a dense, statistics-laden report that is difficult to find, read, or understand. Meanwhile everyone else turns their attention to more pressing matters; happy they finally got rid of that annoying pebble in their shoe.

Linda Suskie, a vice president of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and author of Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, sees a better way to extract more meaning from your assessment efforts.

In the recent online seminar, Summarizing and Using Assessment Results, Suskie outlined specific strategies for communicating assessment results to the various internal and external stakeholders, as well as how to use the results to improve teaching and learning.

by Mary Bart.

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The Underbelly of Online Teaching

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

No matter how much we embrace and enjoy online teaching, the human frailties of mistakes, disappointment, anger, frustration, and oversights will come calling each time we teach a class. And when any of these happen we can respond with an emotional and unchecked action—never good—or we can accept that these negatives will always be part of our online teaching efforts and learn how to deal with them in a sensible, appropriate manner. What follows are the most common of the negative issues one will find when teaching online.

Some students will really tick you off. You need to be motivating and positive and nurturing in all correspondence with your students. That is what each school emphasizes—and it is, of course, the right thing to do. But make no mistake: you will have students in every class who really upset you. You will have students who ask the most basic of questions (and leave you wondering how they made it to college). You will have students who just “don’t get it” no matter how many times you explain something. And, yes, you will have students who blame you for their poor performance in class—even though you know it fully rests on them.

You will never have enough time. In a face-to-face class there are set days to teach, but online teaching offers—boasts!—24/7 access, and thus you will constantly be getting student assignments (many on time, but some always late), emails and webmails, and discussion postings. All need be addressed in a fairly short amount of time (and some schools require response within 24 hours). And added to this are weekly and/or daily postings that you need and/or are required to do. Yeah, plan out your day and use all the time management tricks you’d like, but the fact remains that you can’t control the number or timing of emails/webmails, discussion postings, and assignment submissions students make, so know you’ll always be in a time crunch when teaching online.

Not all support staff or supervisors will have your back. In all websites and initial conversations with the “powers that be” at your school, a love fest seems to be taking place when it comes to the promised support and appreciation for your efforts from any professional at the school who comes in contact with you, directly or indirectly. This is not always true. Schools may have folks in positions that impact you directly (e.g., evaluators, supervisors, course schedulers) or indirectly (e.g., IT support, payroll, upper management) who either have no teaching experience or look at you merely as a number filling a teaching slot. These kinds of folks can really reduce your excitement for teaching at the school—but don’t let that happen. Usually—and the operative word here is usually—these individuals are a small portion of the overall school staff, most of whom are competent and supportive of you.

by Errol Craig Sull.

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It’s in the way you say it

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

While there may be a need to improve our pronunciation, there is no need to speak with a different accent.

MALAYSIAN pronunciation and the Malaysian accent are easily recognisable to anyone who has spent any time in the country or dealing with its people.

Whether it’s the wonderful way people here say the word “love” or the often rising intonation at the end of an utterance; pronunciation of certain sounds and Malaysian intonation differ from British or American English.

So, are there any problems when a Malaysian talks to a non- Malaysian in English? Most of the time, they can communicate successfully, without too much strain or misunderstanding (depending on the competency of both speakers of course!). Speaking face to face is much easier because there are visual clues to aid communication. However, when small changes of sound occur, for example, on the phone, a whole host of problems can arise.

How can we improve our pronunciation to overcome such problems? And if not just on the phone, how can we wow our colleagues and bosses with clear and precise pronunciation?

Do I need to get rid of my accent?

To improve your pronunciation, there is no need to lose your “Malaysian-ness”. In fact, a lot of people think that unless they speak with a kind of perfect “BBC English”, they are speaking incorrectly.

Similarly, Malaysians often find difficulty in understanding people with non BBC or Southern English pronunciation. I often hear people complain that they cannot understand the Australian or Scottish person’s “slangs”.

First of all, slang refers to vocabulary and not to pronunciation, so what you mean is “I cannot understand his/her accent”. Secondly, there are lots of accents which are difficult to understand even amongst native speakers — so don’t get too worried. The question is: how can we communicate with our Malaysian English accent across cultures? How can a Malaysian improve areas of his/ her pronunciation in order to communicate more effectively?

Areas of weakness

So what are some of the problem areas for Malaysians when it comes to pronunciation?

Vowel Sounds

Often vowel sounds pose a problem for Malaysian speakers. This can be because of the confusion between long and short vowel sounds like:“dark” (long) and “duck” (short), or simply the fact that some sounds can be fairly similar like: “man” and “men”.

by Alex Cummins.

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‘Schooling’ in hospital

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

THEY may be children afflicted with various medical conditions but their earnestness in wanting to learn and absorb is evident from the way they rush to class at 8am when lessons start only start at 10am.

It is the same during the afternoon session as they turn up in class long before the doors open at 2pm.

Teacher D.H. Mil Jaisa Biok is amazed at their enthusiasm despite their respective illnesses saying: “It is simply surprising that they have the energy and an unwavering spirit in class … this makes us (teachers) even more determined to teach them,” she added.

The children at Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) have been able to attend classes while being warded for medical treatment, thanks to the School in Hospital (Sekolah dalam Hospital) programme.

Initiated by the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman, the programme will be introduced to major hospitals in other states soon.

Its pilot project at HKL was launched by Muhyiddin who is also Education Minister, on Wednesday.

There are currently eight teachers at HKL. Four teachers are now serving at Hospital Serdang and Hospital Ampang respectively.

by Tan Ee Loo.

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Shared Decision-Making

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Shared decision-making (SDM) seems destined to be one of the major reforms of the ’90s. With organizations such as the American Association of School Administrators and the National Education Association pushing for adoption of SDM and the mandating of SDM by some states or school districts educators need to learn as much as possible about SDM’s complexities. One of the first steps to success with SDM is understanding what it is.

What are the Premises and Goals of  SDM?

SDM is an elusive concept to grasp, say Lew Allen and Carl Glickman (1992). It involves fundamental changes in the way schools are managed, and alterations in the roles and relationships of everyone in the school community. SDM is a process of making educational decisions in a collaborative manner at the school level. This process is an ongoing one; SDM “cannot be done once and then forgotten,” says B.J. Meadows (1990).

While SDM takes many forms, it emphasizes several common beliefs or premises, according to Scott Bauer (1992):

  1. Those closest to the children and “where the action is” will make the best decisions about the children’s education.
  2. Teachers, parents, and school staff should have more say about policies and programs affecting their schools and children.
  3. Those responsible for carrying out decisions should have a voice in determining those decisions.
  4. Change is most likely to be effective and lasting when those who implement it feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for the process.

The purpose of SDM is to improve school effectiveness and student learning by increasing staff commitment and ensuring that schools are more responsive to the needs of their students and community (Bauer; John Lange 1993). “Student success and achievement must be kept in the forefront of our thinking as the reason to implement site-based, shared decision making,” says Lange. Using SDM as a means to shift accountability or abolish a “top-heavy central office staff” will simply make SDM another buzzword, Lange cautions. Everyone who helps make decisions must be held accountable for their results.

Do the benefits of SDM outweigh its disadvantages?

SDM has the potential to improve the quality of decisions; increase a decision’s acceptance and implementation; strengthen staff morale, commitment, and teamwork; build trust; help staff and administrators acquire new skills; and increase school effectiveness (Lynn Balster Liontos 1993).

A larger number of alternatives can be generated and analyzed when more people are involved, often resulting in innovative approaches to issues. In a fifteen-month study of six schools that switched to SDM, Lange found that as autonomy was achieved, better decisions were made than would have been under centralized school management. Trust also increased as staff gained understanding of management complexities and principals learned to respect faculty judgment.

However, SDM brings challenges as well. It places new demands on teachers and administrators. All participants must contend with a heavier workload and the frustrations that accompany a slower group process. Increased demands on participants’ time may pose the greatest barrier to implementing and maintaining SDM.

In an SDM environment, teachers, who typically work in isolation from other adults in the “egg-crate organization of schools,” must “engage other adults, negotiate, resolve differences, and come to decisions” concerning issues that have not traditionally fallen within the scope of their duties (Carol Weiss, Joseph Cambone, and Alexander Wyeth 1992). To do this effectively, say these authors, teachers have to “extend themselves into new arenas of expertise.”

How is the Principal’s role challenged in SDM?

SDM does not replace the principal as a decision-maker on all issues, Bauer emphasizes. Instead, the principal becomes “part of a team of decision makers” and will likely make decisions on issues outside the scope of the SDM group or committees. The principal plays a critical role in establishing and maintaining SDM.

David Stine (1993) describes the principal’s new role as an organizer, adviser, and consensus builder, who takes advantage of the group’s thinking. Bauer calls principals who utilize SDM “internal consultants” who provide the staff with current research and advice. Others emphasize the facilitative aspects, such as finding space and time for staff to meet, helping groups work effectively together, and minimizing distractions and obstacles for SDM participants. The principal helps a school become ready for SDM by promoting a noncompetitive, trusting climate, creating opportunities for staff to express ideas, and placing a priority on professional development.

What factors are important for SDM’s successful implementation?

Several important guidelines have been suggested by SDM pioneers:

  • Start small, go slowly Evidence on the adoption of innovations, say Gene Hall and Gary Galluzzo (1991), suggests that SDM will be most successful if carried out in small steps rather than “wholesale changes” foreign to your school and participants. Analyze your school’s needs, then adapt selected processes that meet your local situation; additional components can be added when the staff is ready.
  • Agree on specifics at the outset There is no single “right” way to do SDM; it depends on what you want from it. Many schools develop one decision-making team or council; others use several groups or committees. Unless mandated, decide who will be involved (Will you include students, parents, community members, and outside consultants?), the size of the group (Stine suggests nine to seventeen members), and how to ensure that the group will be representative. Determine how decisions will be made (majority vote or consensus) and who will make the final decisions on issues.
  • Be clear about procedures, roles, and expectations Lack of clarity leads to lack of progress with SDM. Staff members need to understand what steps and procedures are to be followed before decisions are made. Allen and Glickman learned that “unclear processes created confusion that fragmented people’s actions,” while clear processes empowered participants. Groups also need to understand whether they are a decision-making body or an advisory one; it is demoralizing for groups to think they are making decisions only to have their decisions vetoed. At both her schools, Meadows found it useful to spell out the SDM process in writing.
  • Give everyone a chance to get involved Decisions made by administrative appointees as opposed to elected or volunteer representatives may be perceived as top-down decisions. Volunteer positions or task forces give people the opportunity to participate as much or as little as they want. “The more accessible the process was to all teachers,” say Allen and Glickman, “the more positive feeling they had for the process.”
  • Build trust and support If mistrust and apprehension exist between administrators and teachers, SDM is not easily accepted. Don’t push solutions on the group or override decisions delegated to SDM teams. Lack of hierarchical support can also lead to failure. “If the culture outside the school does not change,” say Hall and Galluzzo, “those inside the school will find it difficult to take charge of decision making.”

by Liontos, Lynn Balster.

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Formal and informal education

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

You need to distinguish between formal and informal education.

Formal education Informal education
What students are taught from the syllabus. Consists of the norms and values acquired from the school environment, such as doing what you are told and acceptance of a hierarchy. Sociologists often call informal education the “hidden curriculum”

You must state and explain the role and purpose of schools. There are two main theoretical explanations to consider;

    • Functionalists argue that schools socialise children into the norms and values of wider society. This enables children to play a useful role within society when they leave school.
    • Marxists believe that schools merely reinforce class distinctions, which enables the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat in a capitalist society. Schools encourage children of the proletariat to accept a passive role within society, taking instructions from (mostly middle-class) teachers.

Whatever your view on education, it is clear that schools are one of the most important agents of secondary socialisation. Peer groups and teachers have a major impact upon the socialisation of schoolchildren. In the case of the former, such groups exert “peer pressure” which influence students to conform to various norms and values. These values often take the form of a subculture within a school. For example, one of the reasons why boys under-perform at school is due to “lad culture” – where it is considered cool to act in a boisterous manner. Boys can sometimes form a subculture which turns the wider norms and values of school on their head.

You also need to know something about the impact of labelling. Teachers often label students in terms of either good or bad, which can result in a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. This occurs in two ways;

  • Students labelled as ‘good’ often perform well at school. They tend to respond well to the high expectations of teachers
  • Students labelled as ‘bad’ may think they have little hope of being seen in a good way. As such, they rebel against the culture of the school and behave in a rude and disruptive manner.

There are various factors that might influence labels, such as ethnicity and social class. For example the sociologist Albert Cohen identified “status frustration” amongst working-class boys. This occurs when boys wish to gain the approval of their friends, rather than the approval of their teachers.

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Educational Philosophy

Friday, July 29th, 2011

When we carefully think about the many teachers and professors that we have encountered in our lives, we begin to see a stark difference in everyone’s educational philosophy. Every teacher has their own unique way of delivering learning and teachings to their pupils, and this affects the intensity with which these teachings are accepted, and the fondness with which these teachers are remembered. We all have that one special teacher that we will always remember, and this is solely dependent on that individuals educational philosophy.

The philosophy of education of a teacher is a statement of purpose of sorts, which outlines this persons views on the manner in which education is supposed to be delivered. It can also be termed as a vision statement of the person, and what he/she aims to instill in the students in order to develop them on all levels. Every person will have their own individualistic style of teaching their students, and it is their philosophy in education that determines how they intend to go about it. Read about the importance of education to youths.

Educational Philosophy Statements
When an individual is preparing to become a teacher, he/she is asked to pen down their personal educational philosophy statement. This document serves as a guideline for them during the course of their teaching career, and it should also be a reference for them to stick to their principles. They need to write down what education is in their opinion, and how they plan to go about spreading education in an efficient manner.

These statements of educational philosophy should serve as a guiding light for the rest of that persons teaching career, and it should specify their broad goals and purposes of being a teacher. No matter what happens, they should always stick to their philosophy. Education is not an easy gift to impart as it involves many intricacies, and the least that is expected of teachers is to have a clear vision and purpose for doing what they do. Read more on the importance of education.

Here are some of the questions that an educational philosophy should commonly answer.

  • What is the purpose of education in a broader sense, as related to the community and society on a whole?
  • What is, in your opinion, the role of a teacher in a classroom?
  • What are your goals and ambitions for the students you are teaching?
  • What methods do you think facilitate the learning process most effectively?
  • Are you convinced that all students can learn something new everyday?
  • Lastly, what qualities should a good teacher possess?

If one can manage to answer all these questions and pen them down convincingly, then this qualifies as a successful educational philosophy blueprint that one should stick to for the rest of their teaching career. Read more on the best educational practices.

Educational Philosophy Examples
An individuals philosophy and education must go hand in hand with each other, and this is reflected in the statement that they create when they are applying for a teachers job. This is more than just a written page of one’s beliefs, because if the institution where one is applying is run the right way, they will definitely scrutinize one’s educational philosophy very carefully. Here are some small examples of some paragraphs of educational philosophy statements.

I believe that each student is unique and has a lot to offer and learn. What he/she needs is an amicable and encouraging environment, where they are not condemned for speaking their mind, but applauded. They should be uplifted right from the moment they step into the classroom through various ways that hold their interest. Making use of real life and related examples to explain a concept is the best way one can enable them to truly grasp a subject.

A teacher is a mere facilitator in the learning process, and should leave all prejudice and discrimination outside the classroom. They should embark on a journey with their students, and be open to learning new things as well. Ultimately, it should be the students who should enable the teacher to learn something new. Along with being humble and patient, a good teacher must know when to take the backseat and let the student develop a curiosity that enables him to explore the answers for himself. Also read about educational psychology.

This is the tone that an educational philosophy statement must take, and it should accurately depict what the teacher genuinely feels and aims to achieve.

Educational Philosophy Quotes
Here are some interesting quotes regarding educational philosophy that should inspire those who aspire to be great teachers.

We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by the truth. – Lucretia Mott

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. – Theodore Roosevelt

Ten geographers who think the world is flat will tend to reinforce each others errors. Only a sailor can set them straight. – John Ralston Saul

Those who do nothing are never wrong. – Theodore de Bouville

My education was a prolonged and concerted attack on my individuality. – Neil Crofts

I go to school but I never learn what I want to know. – Calvin and Hobbes

There are two reasons why people learn; one because someone said you can’t, and the other because someone said you can. – Howard Wilson

by Rahul Thadani.

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Perspectives in Understanding Online Teaching and Learning Strategies for First-Year Generation Y Students

Friday, July 29th, 2011

There is an overwhelming amount of literature that addresses strategies to develop and facilitate teaching and learning in the online classroom as a way to engage and retain first-year students. Students and faculty in the online classroom are faced with a unique situation: classes without a physical classroom. Professors are also faced with a unique situation: creating a unified class that is engaged and well informed on the structure of the course in order to create a total learning environment (Quitadamo and Brown 2001).

Today, a vast number of first-year students come from the Millennial Generation, otherwise known as Generation Y, an age group born between 1982 and 2002. Despite myths of laziness, this generation is highly comfortable with the Internet and other technologies, thrive on quick (not too detailed) information, are multi-taskers and visual learners who prefer graphics before text such as hypertext, function best when networked, and demand instant gratification and feedback (Howe and Strauss 2000). Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks (2000) suggested that faculty are pressed with the task of integrating technology into their teaching philosophies, and that technology should be incorporated to engage the millennial first-year student as a means to learn content and support student retention.

First-year students from the Generation Y age group call for utilizing technology in ways such as online quizzes and tests that provide immediate feedback to the students on their performance, discussion boards, embedded media such as YouTube and Twitter feeds, Whiteboards, Podcasts, and automatic graded homework (Wilson 2004). If instructors do not work such strategies into their pedagogy they run the risk of student attrition.

Research suggests that Generation Y first-year students have a high attrition rate as a result of their level of expectations and enthusiasm for the college experience, which often leads to disillusionment. According to Education Dynamics’ November 2008 survey by California State University-Northridge, reasons online students drop out include financial challenges (41%), life events (32%), health issues (23%), lack of personal motivation (21%), and lack of faculty interaction (21%). Among online students who dropped out of their degree or certificate programs, 40% percent failed to seek any help or resources before abandoning their programs. Nearly half (47%) of students who dropped out did so before completing one online course.

by Loren Kleinmen.

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Fostering Student Interaction in the Online Classroom

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

When you first start teaching online, there’s the temptation to put on your Superman cape and try be ultra responsive and ever-present. So intent on ensuring that each and every student has a successful learning experience in your class, you answer student emails at any hour of the day or night, respond to every discussion board post, and design elaborate assignments that take advantage of all the latest technology tools available.

Unfortunately, this approach leaves instructors exhausted, frustrated and burned out; vowing to never teach an online class again. Meanwhile, the students wait passively for the instructor to spoon feed them every step of the way; never learning how to take an active role in their learning, solve problems or forge a bond with others in the class.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. With proper planning and course design, online instructors can be more efficient and effective with their time, while implementing learner-centered activities that keep students involved and engaged.

In How to Balance Instructor Workload and Learner Needs Tammy Stuart Peery, assistant professor and English department chair at Montgomery College in Germantown, Md., and Samantha Streamer-Veneruso, an associate professor and English department chair at Montgomery College in Rockville, Md., provided strategies for establishing what they call “an invisible presence” in your online courses.

“I’m still present in the class – students know I’m there, they know I’m answering questions – but at the same time I’m not the whole course,” said Peery. “The students know that they are responsible for their learning; that they are responsible for themselves as well as for each other. That takes the maintenance load off me and allows me to focus on providing substantive feedback about the content of the course … and I don’t have to be in my class 24×7.”

Striking the right balance between instructor workload and student needs is a three-phase process that requires adapting course materials and assignments, fostering student-to-student interaction, and managing instructor presence. During the seminar, Peery and Streamer-Veneruso provided detailed guidelines for accomplishing each phase.

by Mary Bart.

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Muhyiddin Launches School In Hospital Programme

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR:  Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin launched the “school in hospital” programme today to allow children, who are hospitalised for a long time, access to formal education.

The initiative is the brainchild of Muhyiddin’s wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman, the patron of the programme, and a collaborative effort involving Yayasan Nurul Yaqeen, Education Ministry and the Health Ministry.

It aims to provide formal and structured education programme to students and children who are being warded for an extended period of time.

In his speech, Muhyiddin, who is Education Minister said through the programme, parents need no longer worry about how their children could attend classes during hospitalisation.

“As a father, I can relate to the concern faced by parents whose children are in hospital for a long time because that would mean missing formal education; this is especially worrying for those whose children are sitting for the public examination.

The “school in hospital” is an educational programme which differs from the regular school as it is based on a “fun learning” approach.

Muhyiddin said a calm, interesting and colourful environment was a natural therapy for students and children in hospital.

The deputy prime minister also said that the implementation of the “school in hospital” programme was unique as it took only six months to be fully operational on July 18 with 16 teachers and four assistants.

“I’m giving not just my 100 per cent support but more than 200 per cent, not because the idea was mooted by my wife but because it is part of our responsibility to prepare children for the future,” he said.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, expressed gratitude to the teachers for their willingness to get out of their comfort zones and to be deployed to the school in hospital.

In his media conference, Muhyiddin also said that the programme would be expanded to all general hospitals nationwide, especially those with a paediatric unit.

He said that at present, only three hospitals were chosen for the implementation of the programme, namely Kuala Lumpur Hospital, Ampang Hospital and Serdang Hospital.


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