Archive for August, 2011

National symbols and emblems

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

National emblem (coat of arms): the 14-pointed star on the emblem represents the equal status of the 13 federation members and the Federal Government together with the crescent, the traditional symbol of Islam. The five kris represent the former non-federated Malay states while the four former federated Malay states are represented by the four centre panels. The shield is guarded by two tigers on each side and a banner at the bottom reads “Unity is Strength” (Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu).

1 – The Malaysian flag: named Jalur Gemilang with effect from Aug 31, 1997, it consists of 14 red and white stripes of equal width, a union of carton of dark blue, a crescent and a star. Islam is symbolised by the crescent and the star with its 14 points symbolising the unity of the 13 states of the federation with
the Federal Government.

2 – National anthem: Negaraku was adopted on Sept 16, 1963 and selected by a special committee headed by first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

3 – National animal: the tiger was chosen as the national symbol of Malaysia and included in the national emblem. It is also known as the Lord of the Jungle.
4 – National flower: hibiscus, known as bunga raya.

5 – National Mosque: designed and supervised by the Federal Public Works Department, the building occupies an area of 2,090 square metres. The mosque
includes a hall, a mausoleum, a library, offices, an open courtyard and a minaret. It is a national symbol.

6 – National Monument: this Malaysian symbol has been dedicated to those who have died in the cause of peace and freedom for the country. Standing on a commanding site at the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, the whole area has been reserved for the national monument. The monument has five principal features: the National Monument itself, a long reflecting pool with fountain, a crescent-shaped pavilion, the cenotaph and ancillary gardens.

7 – National language: Bahasa Melayu, the national language, was established under Article 152 of the Constitution. Used for official purposes, including the federal and state governments, and as defined by the constitutional amendment of 1971 by all authorities and statutory bodies.
8 – National Principle: Rukunegara is the declaration of national philosophy instituted by royal proclamation on Merdeka Day, 1970.

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The outstanding lesson

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Quality of teaching is at the core of school improvement. Dave Weston discusses how schools can get it right and what Ofsted are looking for

‘Great teaching is easy to recognise, but hard to define. The truth is that there are as many great teaching styles as there are great teachers. The effort to find a one-size-fits-all recipe for classroom success is therefore fruitless’ (John C Jeffries, Virginia Law School, 1973).

Every primary school and headteacher hopes that teaching in their school is outstanding and aspires for an ‘outstanding’ judgement from Ofsted. A key factor in achieving outstanding status is the quality of teaching and learning. The Ofsted grade descriptors for outstanding teaching include a focus on pupils making exceptional progress as a result of inspiring teaching, from teachers having excellent subject knowledge and the innovative use of new technology.

Outstanding teaching looks different depending on the circumstances and context. An outstanding KS2 maths lesson on algebra will look very different to an outstanding KS1 PE lesson. However, outstanding teaching and learning underpins every effective school. Research shows that all the best teachers motivate their pupils to work hard and assess them regularly. How teachers use pupil assessments to plan and shape future lessons is an important factor in outstanding teaching. This is one aspect of the culture of outstanding schools.

Whole-school factors contributing to outstanding teaching
Highly effective teaching is usually only consistently seen in schools where there is positive and thoughtful leadership. Two years ago Ofsted identified the characteristics of very effective primary schools in challenging circumstances and these features included the following factors:

  • A structured environment which provides stability and purpose.
  • An environment which develops self-belief and confidence.
    Teaching pupils the things they really need to know (by taking charge of the curriculum) and showing them how to learn for themselves.
  • A place which gives opportunities, responsibility and develops trust (for both pupils and staff).
    A place which listens to pupils and acts on what they say.
    An organisation which builds bridges with parents, families and communities, working in partnership with other professionals.
  • An organisation which has high aspirations, expectations and achievement and has a positive ‘can-do’ culture, where praise and encouragement prevail and self-esteem is high.
  • Ofsted also stressed the crucial role of the quality of leadership: ‘There is no denying the pivotal role of the headteacher in creating the ethos of the school and in exercising strong pedagogical leadership’ (Twenty Successful Primary Schools in Challenging Circumstances, Ofsted, 2009).

Indicators of outstanding teaching
In Ofsted terms an outstanding lesson is one with many significant strengths and no areas for improvement. This should also be very closely linked with clear evidence of effective learning and progress for every learner in the class. It is often more important to focus on what the pupils are doing than what the teacher is doing. What the pupils do and learn in a lesson is often a better indicator of the quality of a lesson. The key factors include:

  • Are the pupils highly engaged?
  • Do they move from listening to being positively motivated?
  • Do they learn and make progress?
  • Do they obviously enjoy the lesson and have fun, and are they keen to discuss what they have learned and what they might be doing in the next lesson?
  • Do the pupils ask appropriate (and challenging) questions?
  • Do they show a keen interest in the tasks?
  • Are they proud of their work?
  • Are the pupils involved in deciding any part/content of the next lesson on the topic?

Effective teachers who obtain an outstanding grade from inspectors add value to lessons by using special approaches and features. These are usually on top of the normal good teaching approaches and may include some of the following:

  • subject expertise and flair
  • the involvement of every pupil in the learning process
  • intelligent questioning involving every pupil
  • the use of a wide variety of resources as appropriate including new technology
  • involving pupils in the learning process and developing independent learning.

What makes an outstanding lesson?
Ask an average class teacher and they might say, ‘A lesson which is well planned, has the buzz factor and in which the pupils behave well.’ Ask a pupil and they might say, ‘A lesson which is fun and in which we learn something.’ Ask some headteachers and you may receive the answer, ‘A lesson which carefully follows the school teaching and learning policy and fulfils all the Ofsted grade criteria.’ Ask an inspector, and you might hear, ‘The teacher displays outstanding subject knowledge and challenges and enthuses pupils, and assessment indicates that the whole class have made significant progress.’

This shows how difficult it is to succinctly define the outstanding lesson, but many of these features are found in very effective teaching.

An interesting model on what contributes towards an outstanding lesson can be based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. An outstanding lesson can be described as a lesson where appropriate resources are used by a teacher who is enthusiastic about their subject in delivering a learning experience which takes into account the varying needs of each pupil and inspires them to take risks, make connections and learn while constantly checking that they are meeting high expectations and are becoming independent learners.

Relating this to Maslow’s hierarchy would indicate that the base of the pyramid would include appropriate resources and subject knowledge and enthusiasm. The next layer would include planning and differentiation to ensure personalised learning. The next would relate to communication and motivation and would emphasise learners evaluating their own progress. The apex of the pyramid would include high aspiration and expectation with the overall aim of developing independent and reflective learning. This indicates the varying skills that the highly effective teacher needs to demonstrate to deliver outstanding lessons.

by Dave Weston.

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Observing Online Instruction: View of Instructors and Students

Monday, August 29th, 2011

The tremendous growth of online learning has been spurred by improved student access, the increased rate of degree completion, and the growth of varied and/or professional education1 (Seaman and Allen, 2008). For long-term success in online education , institutions must establish an overall program composed of recruitment, training, scheduling, and mentoring. They also need a system for evaluating and observing faculty to ensure that course standards are maintained and courses are taught within institutional policies.

Park University has developed the faculty online observation (FOO) system that allows for an annual observation of each of the 400+ online adjunct faculty members. The FOO was developed on the basis of research in the area of evaluation and observation, to include Best Practices 2 , the Seven Principles of Effective Teaching 3 , Quality Matters, and Principles of Effective Teaching in the Online Classroom 4 . The FOO allows observers to observe the facilitation of courses and includes five major portions of classroom facilitation: building community in the classroom; discussion, facilitation, and instruction; assessment, grading, and feedback; course climate and online classroom environment; and online instructor response time.

It was important to determine the importance that faculty placed on the areas of the FOO concerning their view of facilitation topics that they are “judged” by. To determine this, the faculty members were surveyed in March – April 2010. There were 268 respondents that responded to 39 items in a Likert style questionnaire. Concerning building community in the classroom, e-mail and discussion threads were very important, as well as new learner concerns. Likewise, instructors placed a high importance on responding to e-mails in a timely manner, while not as much importance was placed on grade book comments. Instructors were not as apt to place a high importance on discussion facilitation and instruction. Only 6 of 10 felt it was very important to provide feedback on homework assignments and term papers. Fewer felt this way concerning threaded discussions, core assessments, and auto-graded assignments, and discussion board submissions’ grade book comments. These are considered critical items of observation and thus it is of some concern that faculty does not place these items as a higher priority. Seven of 10 instructors felt that instructors should grade all assignments in a timely manner, but only five of 10 felt that instructors should provide helpful, individualized, constructive feedback on all graded assignments.

by Michael T. Eskey, PhD in Online Education.

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Three Tips for Handling Disruptive Online Students

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Disruptive students, in any teaching and learning environment, are a challenge to manage, but they can be particularly so online. And it may take longer for an instructor to realize that a student is actually being disruptive online, since online communications can be ambiguous and one always wants to give students the benefit of the doubt.

In those cases in which a student is openly abusive to the instructor or other students, it is essential for the instructor to immediately refer the issue to administrative authority. But there are many students whose disruptiveness, if skillfully handled by instructors at the start of such behavior, can be forestalled from reaching the extremes.

Posting a code of conduct in the class can certainly help set the tone for the class, but there are a few other general techniques that seem to be effective:

  • Assume a tone of formality when handling a problem—formality in online classrooms signifies seriousness and firmness, especially when contrasting with an otherwise more casual instructor tone.
  • If the student has made his or her issue publicly known by posting something inappropriate in the class forum, handle the issue by using both private email communications and a public clarification.
    The latter should not address the disruptive student but the class as a whole by calmly reminding the students about the course requirements, restating objectives or purpose, or referring students to resources for solving problems, as the case may require. Meanwhile, a private email to the student can allow whatever personal communication seems appropriate.
  • Do not allow yourself to argue on the level of the student or get too caught up in one student’s drama. Remember that the other students are equally deserving of your attention.

by Susan Ko, PhD in Online Education.

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The way to go with English

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

THE recent statement by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who is also the Education Minister, that he wants to know why students are unable to master English after 13 years in schools, should be taken seriously.

Amongst the factors that will be looked into are the curriculum, teachers’ proficiency and adequacy, and the textbooks used. We need to be mindful that the proposed approach is not one that is totally new. Over the last few decades, many curricular changes, pedagogical innovations, recruitment of more teachers (even native speakers of the language) and textbook overhauls had been implemented and executed.

Every one of the programmes was conceived by experts in the subject and carried out with single-mindedness, mainly to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and delivery of the teaching of English to students.

Why haven’t these programmes borne the desired fruits? Will another programme initiated with a similar objective make any significant difference?

I feel that the present practices are sufficiently adequate. We have been through “worst” pedagogical approaches in earlier years, and yet our students then had managed to master the language.

Perhaps, a key factor to look into is the “devotion” of students today in learning the language. How much time and “pain” are students today prepared to commit to learning English?

Learning the language demands persistence and hard work from the students themselves. It is not a matter of plain spoon-feeding.

Perhaps it is time for our students to know the ground rules and truly understand the simple axiom “no pain, no gain”.

The teachers, textbooks and the software before them (for those privileged to be learning in a language lab), are sufficient.

What needs to be intensified and improved upon is their commitment to master English.

by Liong Kam Cheong.

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Delivering sizzling speeches

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

A speaker should not only know his content but also gauge his audience before he addresses them.

A FRIEND of mine recently asked me to give her some advice on presenting a speech at a conference. She was to introduce the keynote speaker at the conference.

I asked her to jot down some ideas on paper and show them to me. She came back 20 minutes with the paper where she had scribbled: “A very good morning ladies and gentlemen …”

When I asked her if there was more to the speech apart from the introductory line, she shook her head saying there was none.

“If it was a presentation, I would know what to say … I could show some slides and talk the audience through the beginning, the middle and the end.”

But a speech isn’t a presentation. There are usually no powerpoint slides to fall back on which means that you, your words, and the way you deliver them are the focus of attention.

Most people who are asked to prepare speeches at short notice tend to start writing the script from the beginning to the end. Rather than waste your time writing the introduction which starts with “good morning ladies and gentlemen …” on a piece of paper, you should first set out your objectives.

Imagine that you are delivering the speech to introduce a keynote speaker (similar to what my friend had to say at the conference), and imagine that the conference is about the “The changing role of women in the Asian workplace”, what would you do?

What would you want your audience to know in your speech? What do you expect them to do and how do you expect them to feel and even react after your speech? Remember that you are introducing the keynote speaker.

In this case, do you want the audience to know the credentials of the speaker who is going to speak?

Would you want the audience to be prepared to listen attentively to the speaker?

Lastly, you would want the audience to feel confident in the ability of the person that they are about to listen to.

Once you have decided on your objectives, you need to brainstorm the content of the speech. This will stop you from trying to write the script from beginning to end.

In this case, you would need to get details of the possible content for your introduction to the keynote speaker. This may include: publications that he has written, his greatest achievements, words to describe the speaker or even some other details about his background.

When you brainstorm, you must not put the content of your speech in any order. In fact, you will notice that as you write the introduction for the keynote speaker, you can play around with the order of the content so as to add impact. Once you have done this, check that each of the points you have brainstormed is compatible with the objectives you have listed.

Creating impact

Great speeches use words to create impact. Here are a few tips to make your speeches sizzle.

Why not use an image to add flavour to your speech? Many great speeches use metaphors which repeat throughout the speech. Take this example. Although not known for his rhetorical genius, George W. Bush’s speech writers often used metaphors:

“… and as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it. By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well — a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”

Here the metaphor of fire is used repeatedly to illustrate the point. Of course, you might not be delivering political speeches, but you can still use metaphor to spice up your speeches and give them more flavour.

Antithesis in a speech is where you deliberately put contrasting ideas together to add effect to your message usually in one clause.

For example:“They promised freedom and provided slavery”. This is a great way to grab attention and make your speech more memorable.

Repetition of a grammatical unit: the same word, phrase, sentence structure, or even paragraph structure is a popular stylistic tool used in speeches. Perhaps the most famous example of this is used in the I have a dream speech by Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr, the famed American civil rights leader in Washington DC.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

The repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of a line in a sentence of a speech can make your language more memorable.

by Alex Commins.

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Effective Teaching Strategies

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

Make learning fun? I know, easier said than done. But just think back to your school days, of how you’d tune out when certain teachers droned on and on… That, obviously, is not the teacher you want to be. Here are some effective teaching strategies, that will help your classroom come alive:

Practical Examples
An effective teaching strategy that needs to be used more frequently is the use of practical examples. They can help students link theory to practical application, which results in more productive learning. While a sound theoretical base is important, it would not be effective without the understanding of practical application. Practical examples not only help enhance the theories taught in the classroom, but are also a useful tool in illustrating and explaining new material. By using these examples, educators are able to show students that what they are learning has practical applications and also teach them how to apply basic principles to real life problems. It is a good idea to use contemporary themes that students take an interest in. For example, the cost of concert tickets to the ‘Jonas Brothers’, to explain a math problem.

Show and Tell
The concept of “Show and Tell” is one that most teachers are familiar with. While it may came across as an interesting activity, its utility goes much deeper. One of the best aspects of show and tell is that it can be used for students in any age group. One of the primary objectives show and tell achieves is, of reversing the role of the student to teacher. In order to explain a concept to someone else, a student must first truly understand the concept himself / herself. This requires them to understand and analyze the selected subject deeply, and establish a clear line of thinking, to be able to explain the phenomena to their peers.

Case Studies
A case study is a combination of the above two strategies for effective teaching, since cases are a compilation of “real-life” activity, in which theories have been put to practical use. As finding a case that fits the class material may be challenging, a teacher may provide students with case material or leave it up to them to find and develop. If the case material is provided, then students are expected to go through it and be prepared to answer questions about various aspects of the case. If students are expected to develop a case, their work load will increase significantly, and must be balanced out with fewer other assignments. Students are usually required to work in groups while preparing, presenting the case and fielding questions. As a teacher, one is required to guide the discussion, keeping in mind the goal of the case.

Open-Ended Quizzes
Among the effective teaching strategies or effective teaching methods, this one is my favorite. Open-ended quizzes really challenge students to think and come up with their own solutions and methods. The objective of this quiz is in direct opposition to normal quizzes that require students to memorize and reproduce. An interesting method employed is to provide the students with take-home exam sheets which they can give in after a period of a few weeks. Now this is the interesting part: students who produce straightforward answers will receive a minimum passing grade. Higher grades would be awarded to those who display a deeper understanding of the material, the ability to apply techniques from other disciplines and the ability to evaluate.

Another fun and effective teaching technique, brainstorming engages students and forces participation. There are many different ways to brainstorm with your class. One can provide the entire class with a topic to discuss and each student is required to contribute at least one idea. Alternately, students may contribute ideas as and when they think of them, though this can lead to unequal participation. One may also split the class into small groups, which can discuss and present their idea after a given amount of time.

by Marian K.

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PAGE wants to meet Cabinet over PPSMI policy

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

PETALING JAYA: The Parent Action Group For Education Malaysia (PAGE) has called for a meeting with the Cabinet on the issue of teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, better known as PPSMI.

Its chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the meeting was important as its purpose was to find a lasting solution.

“Parents do not want to have to go to the streets to be heard. We want to be heard in a civilised setting.

“Once fair input has been presented and a decision is then made, we will abide by the ruling made by the elected government of the day,” she said in a statement yesterday in response to a news report.

Noor Azimah said a precedent should be set for disputes on national issues to be resolved through the Cabinet as it was the “ultimate channel”.

The PPSMI advocate said she had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Thursday when PAGE members were invited to attend the Women’s Day celebrations at the Putra World Trade Centre.

She was able to pass him a formal request for a “face to face” meeting on the issue.

In the letter, which was read on the spot by Najib, she said PAGE members were worried that a deputy education minister seemed intent on ending the PPSMI policy despite a statement three days earlier from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that the Government was keeping its options open on Mathematics and Science being taught in both Bahasa Malaysia and English.

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New Condition For Poor, Rural Students To Enter Fully Residential Schools

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry has set a new condition for pupils from poor families to score 3As and 2Bs in the Ujian Peperiksaan Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and 4As and 1B for rural pupils in order to enter Form One in fully residential schools, beginning next year.

Its minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the new condition was to facilitate the entry of the two categories of students into fully residential schools and receive a more complete education.

“The goal is for them to excel at the highest level and be able to give their families a better life in future,” he said in a statement today.

Among the criteria for entry into fully residential schools before this were scoring 5As in the UPSR and being active in co-curricular activities.


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How not to bring up racists

Friday, August 26th, 2011

With Merdeka and Malaysia Day just around the corner, we thought what better time to tackle the topic of racism. It’s not an easy topic to cover – nobody wants to talk about it; people are generally afraid that talking about it will result in a heated argument.

Racism exists, not only in Malaysia, but even in the most developed of nations. Sometimes it is more obvious like beating people up or even murder. At other times, it is so subtle that we don’t even realise we’re making a racist comment.

Industrial/organisational psychologist Dr Priyadarshini Srinivasan explains that even highlighting a person’s race is a form of racism, regardless if it’s a compliment or insult.

“When you start identifying that a person is from a particular race, that is a form of racism. You are segregating by race,” she says.

Dr Priya explains that even if you say, for example, the Eurasians are good at cooking, there is the implication that they are bad at something else.

Dr Priya comes from Chennai, India, and has been working in Malaysia for five years as a lecturer. In India, there isn’t racism per se but there is the caste system – perhaps not so much in the cities, but rather in the rural areas.

She says that even in developed countries there is racism and it is often based on skin colour.

According to her, a racist is someone who believes that their race is superior and they are prejudiced towards the other races. They believe their culture and values are very unique and they don’t like it to get mixed up with others. They just want to be with those of their own race.

Family influence

Dr Priya believes that people become racists because of their families.

“It is a vicious cycle. More than society, I say it is the family that influences children. The family might not even realise it. They might mention something when they are talking or watching TV and that is what the child picks up.”

Dr Priya: ’It is up to parents to help children accept and appreciate the differences of the races.’

She says that parents have a big role to play in ensuring their children are not racists.

“If you want to bring up a society that is not racist, parents have to be very careful. That is not to say that you don’t talk about races at all. If you don’t mention the races at all you are just making the child blind. It’s not going to help.

“Parents can discuss race issues but start when the child is young. Don’t wait until they are ready for college. It’s already too late then and they won’t be able to change much at that age.

“From young, try to make sure the child doesn’t make any negative comments about people of other races or even their own race. If the family is making negative comments about a particular race, the child will pick it up from them. Parents should show the child that they are living in a multiracial country and they need to appreciate and accept the differences. Each race has its own virtues and vices. They have their own myths, which might or might not be true.

by Brigitte Rozario.

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