Archive for August, 2011

Teaching Methods in Education

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

To achieve the goal of teaching, the teacher must adopt effective teaching methods in education. The teacher has many options to choose from different teaching methods designed specifically for teaching and learning.

Writing lesson plans is a foremost thing that a teacher must do before executing any teaching strategy in the class. The teaching method should be adopted on the basis of certain criteria like the knowledge of the students, the environment and the set of learning goals decided in the academic curriculum.

Students respond differently to different methods of teaching. Also, the students have their unique way of demonstrating the knowledge acquired and absorbing the information that is imparted. So, to aid this process of demonstrating the knowledge, the teacher has to adopt a technique that assists the students in retaining the information and increasing their understanding. There are many teaching methods for children like questioning. modeling, demonstrating, collaborating and explaining that have been discussed here.

Teaching Methods and Strategies

We all know about the importance of higher education, so now let us learn some methods of teaching as well. Here are some of the basic teaching methods for higher education as well as for the middle education.

Testing and questioning are always known to be effective teaching methods due to its interactive nature. The questions are asked by the teacher with an intention to know what the student has learnt from earlier discussions and what it helps in deciding what should be taught further.

This can be even vice-verse, students questioning the teachers to clarify the doubts that would enhance their understanding of the subject. The inquisitive instinct of the students evoke them to ask questions and satiate their query.

The teacher should encourage this in a positive way so that the student’s critical thinking is developed. Testing differs in one aspect from questioning. Test in done in order to know about the previous knowledge and already taught things to the student.

Explaining is one of the very important teaching methods in education. It has taken a form of lectures in teaching methods for higher education where the teacher presents the factual information in a direct and a logical way.

Sometimes the experiences can also be shared as a part of knowledge that would work as a source of inspiration for the students. While adopting this method the teacher should give an introduction and a proper summary. Make sure that the information is specific to the audience.

The explanation should be accompanied with suitable examples for the better understanding of the students. It is like a discourse on a particular subject or topic that is for the entire class or public. Explaining can be clubbed with the modeling process to be more effective and to have a long-lasting effect on the pupils.

Modeling is a type of visual aid for teaching as well as learning. It is a known fact that human brain absorbs more and understands better when visual aid facilitates explanation. This method works on three criteria – observing, retaining and replicating. The students learn more by observing the things and acquire it by imitating it time and again.

This is also known as reinforced behavior. This type of learning has very important role to play in the learning process especially during the childhood, though it can happen in any stage of life. This helps the students to visualize the things and, then hypothesize the solution.

With the help of demonstrative teaching methods in education students get an opportunity to explore the various aspects and understand the theory from a different perspective. Demonstration is a step-by-step explanation along with their reasons and significance for the better understanding of the student. It enhances the student’s understanding by practically applying the knowledge and sharpen their skills and hence, they become capable of identifying and organizing the subject matter in a more efficient way. Practical experimentation is a very good method used for demonstrating the subject.

Teamwork is a contemporary form of collaboration. The students are taught to work in a group that makes the instructing easier for the teacher. This method of teaching promotes a sense of mutual responsibility among the students. They learn to put in more effort to research for the topic and apply effective techniques to get the result.

This inculcates patience and develops an ability to critically analyze a subject. It gives an opportunity to the students to solve the problem by a healthy discussion and co-operation. This is what we call ‘group discussions’ which motivates the students to perform in a team, show leadership skills and enhances the presentation capabilities as well. This is one of the best direct instructional methods.

The teaching methods for special education is a little different from the teaching methods and theories for others. The education is imparted to these students based on their strengths and weaknesses. The teachers cater to the special needs of the students like modification in the regular teaching program, use of supplementary aids that allows students to participate in the learning process. Different effective teaching strategies are adopted on the basis of the disabilities. Four kinds of provisions are adopted in special education and they are inclusion, mainstream, segregation and exclusion. Read more on: teaching children with disabilities.

by Megha Tiwari.

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Erikson’s Stages of Development

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Summary: An eight stage theory of identity and psychosocial development

Erik Erikson (1902 -1994), a German-born American psychoanalyst.

Key Terms: Erikson’s stages, psychosocial, development

Erikson’s Stages of Development

Erik Erikson, a German psychoanalyst heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud, explored three aspects of identity: the ego identity (self), personal identity (the personal idiosyncrasies that distinguish a person from another, social/cultural identity (the collection of social roles a person might play).

Erikson’s psychosocial theory of development considers the impact of external factors, parents and society on personality development from childhood to adulthood. According to Erikson’s theory, every person must pass through a series of eight interrelated stages over the entire life cycle.

  1. Infant (Hope) – Basic Trust vs. Mistrust
  2. Toddler (Will) – Autonomy vs. Shame
  3. Preschooler (Purpose) – Initiative vs. Guilt
  4. School-Age Child (Competence) – Industry vs. Inferiority
  5. Adolescent (Fidelity) – Identity vs. Identity Diffusion
  6. Young Adult (Love) – Intimacy vs. Isolation
  7. Middle-aged Adult (Care) – Generativity vs. Self-absorption
  8. Older Adult (Wisdom) – Integrity vs. Despair

These eight stages, spanning from birth to death, are split in general age ranges.

1. Infancy: Birth-18 Months Old

Basic Trust vs. Mistrust – Hope

During the first or second year of life, the major emphasis is on the mother and father’s nurturing ability and care for a child, especially in terms of visual contact and touch.  The child will develop optimism, trust, confidence, and security if properly cared for and handled.  If a child does not experience trust, he or she may develop insecurity, worthlessness, and general mistrust to the world.

2. Toddler / Early Childhood Years: 18 Months to 3 Years

Autonomy vs. Shame – Will

The second stage occurs between 18 months and 3 years.  At this point, the child has an opportunity to build self-esteem and autonomy as he or she learns new skills and right from wrong.  The well-cared for child is sure of himself, carrying himself or herself with pride rather than shame.  During this time of the “terrible twos”,  defiance, temper tantrums, and stubbornness can also appear.  Children tend to be vulnerable during this stage, sometimes feeling shame and and low self-esteem during an inability to learn certain skills.

3. Preschooler: 3 to 5 Years

Initiative vs. Guilt – Purpose

During this period we experience a desire to copy the adults around us and take initiative in creating play situations. We make up stories with Barbie’s and Ken’s, toy phones and miniature cars, playing out roles in a trial universe, experimenting with the blueprint for what we believe it means to be an adult. We also begin to use that wonderful word for exploring the world—”WHY?”

While Erikson was influenced by Freud, he downplays biological sexuality in favor of the psychosocial features of conflict between child and parents. Nevertheless, he said that at this stage we usually become involved in the classic “Oedipal struggle” and resolve this struggle through “social role identification.” If we’re frustrated over natural desires and goals, we may easily experience guilt.

The most significant relationship is with the basic family.

4. School Age Child: 6 to 12 Years

Industry vs. Inferiority – Competence

During this stage, often called the Latency, we are capable of learning, creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge, thus developing a sense of industry. This is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem.

As the world expands a bit, our most significant relationship is with the school and neighborhood. Parents are no longer the complete authorities they once were, although they are still important.

5. Adolescent: 12 to 18 Years

Identity vs. Role Confusion – Fidelity

Up until this fifth stage, development depends on what is done to a person.  At this point, development now depends primarily upon what a person does.  An adolescent must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, while negotiating and struggling with social interactions and “fitting in”, and developing a sense of morality and right from wrong.

Some attempt to delay entrance to adulthood and withdraw from responsibilities (moratorium).  Those unsuccessful with this stage tend to experience role confusion and upheaval.  Adolescents begin to develop a strong affiliation and devotion to ideals, causes, and friends.

6. Young adult: 18 to 35

Intimacy and Solidarity vs. Isolation – Love

At the young adult stage, people tend to seek companions hip and love.  Some also begin to “settle down” and start families, although seems to have been pushed back farther in recent years.

Young adults seek deep intimacy and satisfying relationships, but if unsuccessful, isolation may occur.   Significant relationships at this stage are with marital partners and friends.

7. Middle-aged Adult: 35 to 55 or 65

Generativity vs. Self absorption or Stagnation – Care

Career and work are the most important things at this stage, along with family.  Middle adulthood is also the time when people can take on greater responsibilities and control.

For this stage, working to establish stability and Erikson’s idea of generativity – attempting to produce something that makes a difference to society.  Inactivity and meaninglessness are common fears during this stage.

Major life shifts can occur during this stage.  For example, children leave the household, careers can change, and so on.  Some may struggle with finding purpose.  Significant relationships are those within the family, workplace, local church and other communities.

8. Late Adult: 55 or 65 to Death

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Distributed Cognition (DCog)

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Summary: Distributed cognition is a branch of cognitive science that proposes cognition and knowledge are not confined to an individual; rather, it is distributed across objects, individuals, artefacts, and tools in the environment.

Originators: Edwin Hutchins in the 1990s.

Key Terms: Cognition in the Wild, mind in the world, artefacts, environment, representational media

Distributed Cognition (DCog)

Edwin Hutchins, a cognitive psychologist and anthropologist, studied how navigation is coordinated on US navy ships around San Diego. From his observations, he posited that the mind is in the world (as opposed to the world being in the mind). That is, the necessary knowledge and cognition to operate a naval vessel do not exist solely within one’s head; knowledge and cognition is distributed across objects, individuals, artefacts, and tools in the environment. The goal of Distributed Cognition is to describe how distributed units are coordinated by analyzing the interactions between individuals, the representational media used, and the environment within which the activity takes place. The unit of analysis can therefore be described as systems that dynamically reconfigure their sub-systems to accomplish functions individuals, artifacts, their relations to each other (e.g. bridge of a ship, airplane cockpit, air traffic control). Distributed Cognition is about defining mechanisms of cognitive processes: e.g. memory in a cockpit encompasses internal processes, physical manipulation of objects, and the creation/exchange of external representations.

Distributed Cognition, which often makes use of ethnographically collected data, is not so much a method; more accurately, it is a useful descriptive framework that describes human work systems in informational and computational terms. It is useful for analyzing situations that involve problem-solving. As it helps provide an understanding of the role and function of representational media, it has implications for the design of technology in the mediation of the activity, because the system designers will have a stronger, clearer model of the work. Thus, it is an important theory for such fields as CSCL, CSCW, HCI, instructional design, and distance learning.

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Actor-Network Theory (ANT)

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Summary: Actor-Network Theory is a framework and systematic way to consider the infrastructure surrounding technological achievements. Assigns agency to both human and non-human actors (e.g. artifacts)

Originator: Michel Callon (1991) and Bruno Latour (1992); John Law; others.

Key Terms: actor, network, generalized symmetry, equal agency

Actor-Network Theory (ANT)

Originally created by French scholars Latour and Callon as an attempt to understand processes of technological innovation and scientific knowledge-creation, Actor-Network Theory (ANT) can be contrasted with “heroic” accounts of scientific advance. For example, rather than saying Newton “founded” the theory of gravitation seemingly as though he were alone in a vacuum, Actor-Network Theory emphasizes and considers all surrounding factors — no one acts alone. Galileo’s past experiences, his colleagues, his connections with the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, his use of Euclidean geometry, Kepler’s astronomy, Galileo’s mechanics, his tools, the details of his lab, cultural factors and restrictions placed upon him in his environment, and various other technical and non-technical elements would all be described and considered in his actor-network.

Actor-Network Theory does not typically attempt to explain why a network exists; it is more interested in the infrastructure of actor-networks, how they are formed, how they can fall apart, etc.

Actor-Network Theory incorporates what is known as a principle of generalized symmetry; that is, what is human and non-human (e.g. artifacts, organization structures) should be integrated into the same conceptual framework and assigned equal amounts of agency. In this way, one gains a detailed description of the concrete mechanisms at work that hold the network together, while allowing an impartial treatment of the actors.

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Key to better English

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Ten ways how we can re-introduce the language to key areas in the education system and raise standards.

IT’S really quite obvious why there has been a steady decline in the standard of English in the country over the years – basically, it has been replaced by Bahasa Malaysia, Manda­rin, and to a far lesser extent, Tamil, as a medium of instruction in primary schools.

Even in secondary schools, colleges and universities owned by the Government, Bahasa Malaysia is the predominant medium of instruction. In almost direct proportion to the improvement in standards of Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin, one must expect a decline in English standards after decades of replacing English as the medium of instruction.

Simply put, English standards have declined simply because English is so little used among some sections of the country, and especially among rural folk. The only way to improve English standards is to improve usage.

Here are 10 ways to re-introduce English to key areas in the education system and to improve English standards generally.

1. Stress the importance of English. A recent survey by a networking group called Jaringan Me-layu Malaysia said that 55% of some 15,000 parents of school-going children in rural areas prefer Maths and Science to be taught in English in schools. Only 32% felt that teaching of the two subjects should go back to Bahasa Malaysia while 66% felt their children would be able to build a better future if the two subjects were taught in English. It’s clear that even the general populace now feels English is important.

It is time for the Government and its officials to recognise this, stress the importance of English and take concrete measures to ensure its rightful place in the curriculum.

2. Realise that it’s easier to keep up with knowledge using English. English is now the undisputed de facto language of knowledge in the world. Even those from other countries who have a history of strong know-how, publish their work in English. You need to know English to get to the primary source of information. It is impossible to translate this knowledge into Bahasa Malaysia or Mandarin.

3. Prepare to overcome objections from some quarters. When a change is proposed to reflect the importance of English in the educational system, it will only be natural that language champions will oppose these changes. But the overriding decision criteria should be whether such a change is beneficial to students and the country. It is strange how many language champions send their own children to international schools.

4. Don’t pander to parochial issues. We must avoid pandering to the voices of a vocal minority at the expense of the majority who are now prepared to see the usage of English widened by teaching some subjects in English.

Some pressure groups are notorious for turning the most innocuous issues into emotional ones. The Government must not fall into the trap they lay and be unwavering in its stance.

5. Have a uniform system for English education. It will be better that whatever system is used for improving English applies across the board to all schools whether national, religious or vernacular. That will avoid further polarisation of a fragmented education system which is posing serious questions over national unity.

6. Teach some core subjects in English. The best and easiest way to improve usage of English is to teach some core subjects in English starting with science and maths. This can be increased to more subjects such as economics, commerce, accounting and other specialised and technical subjects at a later stage.

7. Have the majority of tertiary courses in government universities taught in English. It should be a given from the change in the secondary school system that the science and mathematics courses in universities should be in English straight off. But serious consideration should be given to having more courses in English and making this the norm for post-graduate courses. That will make it easier for us to link with the worldwide knowledge diaspora.

by P. Gunasegaram.

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Is Technology Destroying More Jobs Than it is Creating?

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

We now have technological innovations that have gone as far as creating robots you can interact with and give orders to. If I am not wrong, you can now even get yourself a robot girlfriend if you have failed to find your perfect woman. Do you remember the cartoon show ‘The Jetsons’? Well, then you must certainly remember the flying cars and Rosie, the robot, from this futuristic animated kids’ show! That’s the world of future that Hanna-Barbera wittingly portrayed in this show. Everything becomes automated. Sounds so exciting but is technology becoming your new rival to score a job? It could be.

Machines may be very well replacing humans and creating a wider rift between the number of job positions available and the number of applicable candidates for it. Humans created machines and now machines are threatening their jobs. They were supposed to make life easier for you. But, apparently they are making life for your employers so easy that they don’t need much human resources now.
Is Technology Ruining Employment Opportunities?
The world is quickly industrializing and globalizing everywhere. All countries have been influenced by the new technology available at hand. And every single day, we are only trying to outdo ourselves by creating the kind of technology you would have never imagined to be possible 10 years ago. The accelerating technology in our new automated world is quickly becoming the number one reason of the rising rate of unemployment around the world. Or maybe it already is. Take this scenario for instance:

In the 1950s, automobile industry was a flourishing industry in city X and provided employment to most of the residents including African-Americans. The jobs in this industry were respectable, paid well and even provided perks. However, all of this changed after the development of new technology that led to the automation of assembly line. This resulted in the displacement of many workers in the industry and this phenomenon spread like wildfire among all other cities, home to automobile factories, around the country. This is a story of a city that was once ranked amongst the top five largest cities of its country that housed more than 2 million people. This is the story of the “Motor City”, Detroit.

Outsourcing to technology reduces the scope for human error to almost zero. Add to that, the advantage that machines don’t complain of fatigue and take leaves. It’s efficient and reduces training costs, employee retention costs and increases the pace of work multifariously. Don’t you know, technology is soon becoming the new BFF of all profit-aiming companies. Industries predicted to follow this trend are agriculture, food processing, education, oil-refining and public sector holdings.

Has Technology Increased Employment?
The counteracting point of view is that advancement in technology has helped increase the level of output, requiring more labor to produce goods and service at such high levels. This has significantly improved levels of employment. This theory dismisses any authentic correlation between technology and unemployment. According to the supporters of this theory, technology may cause a structural change in the composition of employment, however it does not cause any negative effects and leads to absorption of workers in other industries. Citing a proof to it, is the example of the telecommunications industry. It comprises of cellphone manufacturing, network services and the Internet. The telecommunications industry provided 1 million jobs to skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled American labor in 2008, even in the face of the then ongoing situation of recession.

Structural Change
Post Industrial Revolution, the Luddite movement began as a mass protest against the automation of the textiles industry. Skilled artisans and weavers were replaced with machines to produce textiles, that were operated with unskilled labor. Although, the technological advancement with mechanization of work did lead to employment opportunities, it simultaneously took away the means of livelihood of several people employed in the art of textile making. If these people were to take up these jobs as machine loom operators, it created significant reduction in their income with less pay. Such a phenomenon of shift in employment, despite possessing specialized knowledge or skills, is often seen in many industries and is called structural unemployment.

Technology and Unemployment
Let me make this even more simpler for you to think over. Did you pay attention to the background story of the movie/novel “Up in the Air”? George Clooney is a corporate down-sizer whose job is to fire people. Ironically, he loses his job after he is replaced by video-conferencing! Umm… yah, the company discovered that they don’t have to pay for his traveling and hotel stay expenses, plus they will save up on his salary and cut down costs too if they start firing people over video-conferencing. It’s not just you on your treadmill, companies have tightened up their belts and are losing the flab too, the smart way… err… by firing people.

Frankenstein was a warning to all mankind about the impending consequences of technology. Constant evolution in the world of technology is quickly ending the game for most people with manual labor jobs or average jobs that have no significant contribution to the development and financial progress of companies. Even non-corporate jobs are under fire. Word of advice, better buckle up now and become an important part of your company that it cannot do without before it disposes you more unexpectedly than the next price hike. You may soon not see any cashiers in supermarkets and waiters or waitresses in restaurants with the advent of new technological innovations, for billing and placing orders respectively, that will replace the need for employment of human resources at these places.

by Urvashi Pokharna.

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Types of Unemployment

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Unemployment is an economic condition where an individual or individuals seeking jobs remain un-hired. The level of unemployment differs with economic conditions and other market forces. Basically there are five types of unemployment.

Frictional Unemployment: Frictional unemployment is a temporary condition. This unemployment occurs when an individual is out of his current job and looking for another job. The time period of shifting between two jobs is known as frictional unemployment. The probability of getting a job is high in a developed economy and this lowers the probability of frictional unemployment. There are employment insurance programs to tide over frictional unemployment

Structural Unemployment: Structural unemployment occurs due to the structural changes within an economy. This type of unemployment occurs when there is a mismatch of skilled workers in the labor market. Some of the causes of the structural unemployment are geographical immobility (difficulty in moving to a new work location), occupational immobility (difficulty in learning a new skill) and technological change (introduction of new techniques and technologies that need less labor force). Structural unemployment depends on the growth rate of an economy and also on the structure of an industry.

Classical Unemployment: Classical unemployment is also known as the real wage unemployment or disequilibrium unemployment. This type of unemployment occurs when trade unions and labor organization bargain for higher wages, which leads to fall in the demand for labor.

Cyclical Unemployment: Cyclic unemployment when there is a recession. When there is a downturn in an economy, the aggregate demand for goods and services decreases and demand for labor decreases. At the time of recession, unskilled and surplus labors become unemployed. Read about causes of economic recession.

Seasonal Unemployment: A type of unemployment that occurs due to the seasonal nature of the job is known as seasonal unemployment. The industries that are affected by seasonal unemployment are hospitality and tourism industries and also the fruit picking and catering industries.

Causes of Unemployment

Recession and the gap in the demand and supply are the causes of unemployment. An unemployment situation occurs as long as the demand-supply gap persists. Another cause of unemployment is financial crisis and economic depression.

If an unemployment situation continues for a long period of time, it is called as long-term unemployment. During this period, an unemployed individual could apply for unemployment compensation. The main objective of unemployment compensation is to provide partial and temporary wages to involuntarily unemployed workers who were recently laid off. Another aim of unemployment compensation is to stabilize the economy at the time of recession.

Are you aware of unemployment insurance programs? Unemployment insurance programs were introduced immediately after the Great Depression of 1930s. The main aim of unemployment insurance is to provide temporary income to an unemployed individual and his dependents to tide over the period of unemployment. Unemployment insurance programs help cushion the impact of the downturn of an economy at the time of recession.

by Maya Pillai.

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Ethical Issues in Education

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another. ~ G. K. Chesterton

Indeed, education is an ongoing process. We are always receiving and passing it on, adding something in the process, sometimes even taking certain things, impertinent from time to time, away from it while passing it on further. However, the industry of education is a serious one, requiring well defined ethics and values, well bound in visible legal outlines to regulate its exchange and distribution. Let us take a brief look at some of the most common ethical issues in education.

List of Ethical Issues in Education

Following are some of the most common moral, legal and ethical issues in education that are most often faced by the givers and receivers of education, along with the education institutes, management thereof and, sometimes, parents and guardians of students.

Educational Resources With Respect to Special Education: The passing of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975 by the Federal Government marked the first milestone in special education of children with disabilities. Prior to this act, handicapped children had no other recourse but to attend general public schools and curriculum which were not appropriate given their special requirements. Post this act, funds were given to states for the development of educational curricula for children with disabilities and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, 1975, made available to all handicapped children between 3 years and 21 years of age the right to a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Choice of Teacher: The eternal contention between a principal and the parents regarding which teacher the child in question should be assigned to the following year is one of the major moral and ethical issues in education. There are two, very predictable outcomes to this debate – either the principal uneasily resigns to parental logic or the former evade the latter’s request by making a blanket statement saying it is not in school policy to honor parents’ opinion as far as choice of teaching faculty goes.

School Uniforms – Should They be Made Compulsory?: As is generic to every controversy, this one also has two sides to it – a “for” side and an “against” side. Arguments in favor of imposing uniforms observe what the lack of a uniform dress code has done to school campuses nationwide – immodest piercings, provocative or too casual attire, outrageous hair colors and styles, etc. etc. Advocates against imposing school uniform argue that clothing has no effect, whatsoever, on education and what one wears to school has no bearing on what is taught at school. Also, state the latter, it is not necessary that all students are able to afford a uniform – would they be denied education for want of a uniform? A happy mid path between these two school uniform debates could be to enlist a strict dress code, enumerating what NOT to wear at school, failing to follow which would invite fine or suspension. This is better than either imposing a complete compulsion of school uniforms in public schools or holding a way too liberal stance on what to wear at school.

Discipline Issues: To put it in short, it is the age old zero tolerance policy vs. give-em-another chance policy. Both policies should work side-by-side in all educational or other institutes. Zero tolerance policies should be imposed upon aggressive and anti-social and behavioral in-disciplinary actions such as bullying and carrying firearms to institutes. Second-chance policies may be used to encourage better academic performance and instill the habit to try harder the next time. The opportunities, however, should not be kept unlimited for the same default by the same individual. Giving second chances does not translate into spare-the-rod-and-spoil-the-child attitude!

Addressing Diversity: With students from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds seeking admissions in schools today, the issue of whether or not to address diversity poses a serious question. Racial inequality and ethnic differences have been an issue in public schools since the time public schools were founded. The foremost step towards addressing diversity in schools should come from the curriculum itself. Involving different ethnic sports and multicultural festivals at schools would mark the beginning of an attempt to combine students from diverse backgrounds into a bond of institutional unity. Moreover, including prominent historical annals derived from different ethnicity as part of a collective study of world history would encourage students to get familiar with each others’ racial, cultural and ethnic differences. Rather than letting diversity come in the way of education, the importance of diversity should be upheld.

by Ishani Chatterjee Shukla.

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Questions in the classroom

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

There are many ways to engage with your students, and asking them questions may be the most underrated one.

TO BE an effective teacher, one must master a range of skills relating to the delivery and assessment of information. Coupled with this requirement is the need to also be cognisant of how different individuals may acquire their knowledge and understanding.

Questions are a vital part of the classroom, especially when used as tools for testing, revision, reinforcement and for connecting what has been taught to future lesson planning.

Asking questions in the classroom can serve multiple purposes, such as to focus initial attention on a specific aspect at the beginning of a course or lesson, or to encourage learners to think about particular issues or related concepts.

Questioning your students also acts as revision or reinforcement on what has been taught, and enables teachers to then plan future lessons if there are seen to be some gaps in the students’ knowledge.

The challenge faced by the teacher is to ask the appropriate question that will draw the desired response, reaction and information. Achieving this objective requires planning, purpose and precision as well as practice.

There are six traditional types of questions that are categorised by their purpose and function.

(a) The direct question is one that is directly aimed at an individual learner, e.g. “Thomas, how many syllables does the word Edinburgh have?” Direct questions can be open or closed and are used to check an individual’s understanding of a topic.

(b) The indirect question is used in with groups. It is posed as a general question, e.g. “Who can think of a ‘double o’ word that rhymes with ‘flood’?”

(c) The specific or closed question is one that seeks a specific, accurate answer and is generally used to check the progress of individuals. e.g. “Which is the odd word? Chop, cheese, chef, or chance?”

(d) The open question seeks a multi-word answer, not just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, e.g. “How many words can you think of that begin with “war”?

(e) The attitude or explanatory question is one that endeavours to elicit a personal opinion or belief, e.g. “Why do you think some people can speak well but can’t write well?”

(f) The reflective or revisiting question is also “personal” but seeks an explanation to an individual’s past action or comment, e.g. “So why did you decide to study French instead of Spanish?”

Different learning styles

It is important in a teaching environment to remember that course participants can differ in the way they acquire knowledge and understanding.

There are three main methods that all learners engage in their personal learning process with different and varying levels of emphasis, priority and combination: auditory, visual, and kinaesthetic.

by Keith Wright, the author and creator of the 4S Approach To Literacy and Language (4S).

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How to Create Effective Activities for Online Teaching

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

We’ve all used them, first as students and now as online instructors: activities in a class meant to highlight, spotlight, underline, enhance, or explain some aspect of the subject we are teaching. Too often, not much thought or effort is given to these activities, resulting in outdated and unsuccessful activities. With the right approaches and a bit of knowledge, online instructors can create activities that are dynamic, effective, and interesting.

Here’s how …

The best activities are “reality-based” activities. The more a student can relate to a learning activity, the easier it is for that student to get involved in it—and employ the purpose of the activity beyond the course. In creating activities for your online course—whether from scratch or by tweaking other activities to fit your class—be sure they reach into the real world. And that real world can include pieces of history or other events, people’s stories, or really just about any other item that is interesting, unusual, or humorous enough to hold students’ attention, no matter what the subject.

Be certain the activities are up to date. Using outdated activities will likely lead to low student interest (and leave an impression that the instructor is out of touch and/or just doing the “same old, same old”). If a dated activity is still fresh because it is interesting or its “datedness” is precisely why it is being used, fine; but if neither of these is the case, change the wording so it reflects a more current time frame (and certainly one that is relevant to your students).

Be on the lookout for existing or potential activities that can be morphed to fit your class. From textbooks that include activities to cartoons to daily events to newspaper and magazine articles to conferences and conversations to Listservs and blogs to TV shows and movies to everyday life experiences—each of these (and others) presents you with a gold mine from which to unearth new and exciting activities for your course.

Develop any new activities with students in mind, never you. Whether you are form-fitting an existing activity to your class or creating one from scratch, it must be designed to fit all aspects of your students (and your class)—not just you and your creative bent. Too many activities have failed in their efforts to keep students engaged; to successfully highlight or spotlight an idea, formula, theory, fact, or philosophy; or to lead students to new discoveries and insights simply because the instructor failed to keep students in mind.

Keep all activities short and easy to understand. Activities are, by their very nature, not meant to be treatises, dissertations, essays, or theses; they must be short to hold students’ attention and to fit as a component of a larger lesson, and they must use vocabulary and concepts students can readily understand on first reading.

Don’t hesitate to use humor in the activities.

Make certain all activities fall under your school’s umbrella of acceptability.

Make use of the newest online technology.

Be sure to give credit when applicable.

by Errol Craig Sull.

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