Archive for November, 2011

The Writing Process: Step-by-Step Approach Curbs Plagiarism, Helps Students Build Confidence in Their Writing Ability

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

I’ve long been an advocate of student-centered learning and approaching material from a variety of perspectives. We hear so many buzzwords describing the ways we should teach or the ways our students learn, and we deal increasingly with issues of plagiarism and academic dishonesty. In a classroom of adult learners who frequently view themselves as consumers, we balance the need to meet their demands with the need for them to meet ours. Getting back to the basics can intrinsically incorporate kinesthetic, collaborative learning, and nearly eliminate plagiarism while promoting critical thinking.

In introductory collegiate writing courses, we teach students the writing process. Some texts and programs I’ve used insist that the process has four steps; others, five. The names may vary, but the steps are all important, and the process is recursive. The five that I talk about with my students are Prewriting/Invention, Drafting, Revising, Editing, and Reflecting. In addition to sharing this process, we ask that our student writers pay careful consideration to purpose, audience, and tone. Point-of-view occasionally makes this elite list, as well.

Demonstrating (modeling) the writing process and guiding students through each step naturally incorporates successful learning strategies while providing a variety of feedback that builds confidence and increases accountability while developing writing and thinking skills. The step-by-step process can be used with any essay length or type and with any research component.

I have students begin prewriting in class by listing potential subjects. I give either a number or time capacity; for example, each student must list ten topics or as many topics as she or he can in three minutes. Specifying the number of items or length of time to write helps counter writer’s block. Each student then selects three of the ten topics, conferring with classmates if needed. Next, for each of those three topics, the student completes a five-minute freewrite. This invention activity can take place in the classroom or at home, but I find that with less motivated students, the immediacy of the classroom produces better results.

During the next class meeting, we hold a full-class workshop. In turn, each student shares her or his three subjects with the rest of the class members, who are encouraged to respond. This incorporation of classmates from the very outset helps the student writer understand the important role of writing to your audience and its interests, and discussions about purpose and tone begin to take root. Student writers ask one another questions. They disagree, they share experiences, and they encourage one another. Their response lets the writer know that the essay has meaning outside of fulfilling an assignment. Each writer notes not only the question she or he has about the subject, but also the questions or concerns of the increasingly apparent audience. As students take ownership of their ideas, the propensity to plagiarize also decreases.

Students frequently cite both procrastination and an underdeveloped understanding of the assignment as their reasons for resorting to plagiarism. If, however, we are both giving the adequate, guided time for the writing process and sufficient feedback on their ideas (as opposed to criticism of their structure, grammar, and mechanics,) then we are eliminating these excuses. I encourage students to answer the questions they generated during the invention phase from wherever they can, focusing on research as a means of “finding out” rather than meeting an arbitrarily set quota of sources. Whether they search academic journals, interview a professional in their field of study, or reach into the recesses of their memories, these student writers are actively engaging in their own learning.

by Carmen Hamlin.

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Teaching methods slant towards females

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Kuala Lumpur: Teaching methods in schools are more in favour of female students.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) deputy vice-chancellor Professor Dr Noraini Idris said teaching methodologies have to cater to both genders to avoid disparity once they reach tertiary education.

“The government must implement a variety of teaching techniques which entails more practical education rather than theoretical.

“The boys are more inclined towards visuals and graphics and our education system is focused more on rote-learning,” she said.

She said that most teachers are also females, and their teaching styles also tend to be more effective for the female students.

“Teachers should understand the psychology of male students and include teaching methods that are more appealing to them.

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Teaching Students Life Skills through Character Education

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Teaching Students Life Skills through Character Education

Recorded history shows that for centuries, societies have acknowledged the need for general education to also develop character in children and young people. Horace Mann, one of the most well-known reformers of education practices in the mid-1800s, advocated that character development in American schools is as important as academic pursuits.

The concept of “it takes a village to raise a child” is never more important than in the context of developing character. Character education has always been a responsibility shared among parents, teachers, and members of the community. Character education teaches children how to live and work together as families, friends, and neighbors, and teaches them how important it is to be a contributing and responsible citizen of the nation and the world. Developing character at a young age helps students to care about and develop core values such as respect, civic awareness, fairness and justice, and responsibility for self and others.

Today’s United States Congress publicly acknowledged the importance of character education, when it authorized the Partnerships in Character Education Program in 1994. In 2001, Congress renewed that emphasis with the No Child Left Behind Act. One of the six stated goals of the Department of Education is to “promote strong character and citizenship among our nation’s youth.” Obviously our society recognizes the importance of character education and has focused planning and resources to help address that need in American schools.

In public schools, character education must be developed using a comprehensive approach that provides multiple opportunities for students to understand, develop, and discuss positive social behaviors. To successfully implement a successful character education program, schools should concentrate on several important goals:

Bring people together to gather ideas and develop a strategy. Include staff, parents, students, and interested members of the community in helping to identify and define the character elements that should be most strongly emphasized in any character development program. Having a strong partnership between parents and teachers is vital to the success of the program, so that students hear a consistent message from all people involved in their lives.

Give students examples to follow. Train teachers and other school staff on how to integrate character education into other areas of the school and learning experiences. Provide opportunities for adults to serve as role models of exemplary character traits and social behaviors.

Be committed. Take a leadership role in ensuring that the entire community is involved in designing and implementing a character development program. Everyone must work together and remain committed to making character education an integral part of all educational agendas.

by Janet Peterson.

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Ability Grouping Pros and Cons

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Every approach in teaching has its pros and cons. In the similar manner, the concept of ability grouping had certain advantages and disadvantages. But, before we go over the ability grouping pros and cons, let’s have a look at the concept of ability grouping.

As the name suggests, ability grouping is a concept where teachers, group together students having the same ability. The ability grouping is usually done by the teachers on the basis of the aptitudes of the students, that is if a certain number of students show a good aptitude for mathematics, then these students are grouped together for fine tuning and enhancing their skills as mathematicians. Though, this methodology has proved to be very successful in many cases, advocates of equality in education have staunchly opposed the method of ability grouping.

Pros and Cons of Ability Grouping
The debate between the advocates of ability grouping and the people who staunchly oppose ability grouping, is almost never-ending, due to the fact that ability grouping is not at all a wrong method, but it certainly goes against the principles of equality. Critics of this methodology have wasted no time in raising a question mark against the ‘appropriateness’, of this methodology. As mentioned above, there are certain ability grouping pros and cons.

The ability grouping is basically aimed at enhancing the capability of a particular group of students who show aptitude towards a subject or skill. The basic advantage of grouping these students together is that these students are able to ‘fly’ in their own subjects. This not only trains students in the subjects of their aptitude, but the students also develop capabilities and become the would-be experts in their fields. Their choice of career also gets decided at a young age and their capabilities get polished in the right manner. Indirectly, this method does the nation a great favor, by making the students experts on the subjects that they have an aptitude for.

Masters and masterpieces can thus be created and by the time, these students pass out from the educational system, they have a huge amount of knowledge that is certainly greater and more accurate than an average human being of the same age, who has studied the same subject. The earlier educational systems that used this technique have managed to influence the minds of people who became legends, Beethoven, Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci and many others. All of them started receiving early knowledge, as their abilities were recognized.

As every coin has two sides, there are also some negative aspects or cons of ability grouping. The first and most noticed con of ability grouping is that it breaches the principle of equality. The students with greater ability at a particular subject, go on to obtain more knowledge on the subject, while the regular students may not be able to get the same amount of knowledge. There is a risk of lack of motivation in students, in such cases. The second disadvantage is that there is a strong possibility of students getting permanently grouped. This might eventually lead to a series of quarrels and problems within the class. Another drawback is that ability grouping increases the responsibility of a teacher. To know more about the different ability, IQ, and aptitude, you may also read more on:

The debate whether ability grouping is a positive teaching method or a negative one, cannot be concluded by assessing the pros and cons of ability grouping.

by Scholasticus K.

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Expose your kids to germs to boost their immune system

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Parents are constantly looking for that one pill or supplement that will help boost their child’s immunity.

Now, consultant ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Dr Lim Wye Keat says it’s better to expose your children to germs to help them build up a natural immunity to bacteria and viruses.

He thinks it’s counterproductive to protect your children from the common cold by using face masks and preventing them from going to school.

“In my opinion, it will be a disadvantage as infection with the otherwise harmless common cold virus only serves to boost the child’s immunity,” he says.

“How does one expect to have a strong immunity? Vaccines? That’s artificial. Vitamins? Waste of money. Nothing truly replaces real-life training!” he emphasises.

It has been observed by epidemiologists that allergic rhinitis and other allergic diseases have increased in incidence over the last few decades. One theory, he says, is the hygiene hypothesis that has been put forth to explain the dramatic rise in incidences. In fact, this theory is a favourite of Dr Lim’s.

“Basically, its premise is that a child’s immune system needs real-life germs to fight, meaning viruses and bacteria. Our society is now cleanliness-obsessed, with a million cleaning agents to kill 99.99% of germs. This overzealous approach has then denied the child’s immune system of the real-life encounters it needs. I stress once again, nothing beats real-life training. The child’s immune system consequently turns on otherwise harmless antigens like dust mite and animal hair. In other words, we are making an enemy of something that would not have harmed us in the first place,” he says.

Dr Lim says parents who want to prevent allergy should let their children run around barefoot and use a little less cleaning agents!

by Shamala Velu.

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Grammar as a guiding rule

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Knowing formal categories such as the Classes and Parts of Speech will give learners clues as to how words are used correctly.

FOR years, words and word groups that perform a similar function or role in the English language have been placed together into distinct categories that are often referred to as Classes of Speech. While this has also been an academic pursuit, the outcome has been that people have been able to communicate with greater accuracy and understanding.

The most important categories or classes are called Parts of Speech. In English, there are eight traditional Parts of Speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction and interjection.

Words belonging to these different Parts of Speech categories all perform the same, distinct role that usually can be readily distinguished. For example, when a word is the name of someone or something, it is easily recognised as a noun. Other words that depict an action are classed as verbs.

Other Classes of Speech and grammatical terminology that will be encountered in this column series include: affix, anagram, antonym, article, auxiliary, case, clause, connective, demonstrative, descriptive, determiner, exclamation, gerund, infix, mood, particle, participle, phrase, prefix, proverb, punctuation, suffix, synonym, tense and voice.

Consideration is also given to the fact that many of the various Classes of Speech can be further defined into sub-categories that are more specific and exacting in grouping words according to their special characteristics or more precise purpose.

For example, nouns can be put into the sub-categories of proper nouns, common nouns, collective nouns and abstract nouns. They can also be distinguished according to their gender and number.

A general characteristic of the English language is that words can be related. From a grammatical aspect, this “relationship” pertains mainly to their function and their meaning.

Having a detailed, practical knowledge of the Classes of Speech – especially the eight traditional Parts of Speech – is advantageous particularly when one is endeavouring to use alternative words and phrases to raise the quality or significance of a comment.

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

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What Is Sociology

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Sociology is the systematic study of human social life, groups and societies. Sociology is a member of Social Sciences which includes Anthropology, Economics, Human Geography and Political Science.

The purpose of sociological study is to gain knowledge and understanding the changes that took place in human societies in the past decades and on what is happening in our current modern world such as in the area of globalism, urbanism, religious changes and world politics that is continually shaping the face of our modern social world.

Sociologist try to understand this by studying our culture, socialization, life cycle, conformity, deviance, gender, sexuality, power, class structure, ethnicity, race, politics, government, kinship, marriage, family, war, military, education, communication, media, religion, work, social change, urbanism, revolutions, social movements, population, health, aging and much more.

There are many ways theoretical approaches sociologist uses in trying to answer sociological questions. Among the popular approaches includes functionalism, structuralism, symbolic interactionism and Marxism. Important figures in sociological studies include Aguste Comte, Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber. Their sociological perspectives and ideology holds an important place in modern sociology study.

Sociologist investigate the social life by asking distinct questions and try to find answer to it by formulating systematic research. The questions used may be factual, comparative, developmental or theoretical.

Sociological research involves the use of reliable approach for analyzing a particular social phenomena. For example, the sociologist use proper

  1. research strategy which involves the planning of the research,

  2. research methodology which involves the logics and principles of research,

  3. research method which is concerned with how the research is carried out i.e. survey, participant observation etc.

The sociologist also understand the difference between intended and unintended results of human actions. This means, sociologist detach themselves away from their own preconceived notion about social life and study it objectively which brings out reasonably acceptable conclusions from studies conducted.

Modern Sociologist consider Sociology as a scientific field because it uses systematic methods of investigations and evaluation of theories in the light of evidence and logical arguments just like modern scientific research. However, sociology cannot be compared directly with natural science due to the difference of studying the natural world and human behavior.

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Study: Only 25% of public spaces disabled-friendly

Friday, November 25th, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Only 25% of public spaces and buildings in the country are disabled-friendly.

A study conducted in 16 locations nationwide found that only four were between “moderate” to “satisfactory” in terms of accessibility for disabled persons.

“We found the other 12 locations were not designed to cater for the disabled,” International Islamic University Malaysia deputy dean (postgraduate, research and consultancy) Prof Dr Asiah Abdul Rahim said after the “Accessibility of Disabled Persons to Buildings and Public Amenities” seminar yesterday.

Dr Asiah said the 2009 study looked at commercial buildings, museums, waterfronts and other public spaces.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Senator Datuk Heng Seai Kie, who opened the seminar, said much more was needed to be done to improve accessibility for disabled persons.

“At least 15% of the community consists of disabled persons. They are not a minority,” she said.

Welfare advisor to the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Dr Zaliha Omar said the development of disabled-friendly facilities was hampered by poor coordination between related authorities.

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Government To Enhance Day School Capacity

Friday, November 25th, 2011

BANDAR BAHARU (KEDAH):  The government is focusing on efforts to enhance the day school capacity rather than building more boarding schools, said Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin.

The deputy prime minister said it would be costly to build more boarding schools whereas even without facilities like hostels, the day school capacity could be improved.

Muhyiddin, who is also the education minister, said many day schools categorised as high performing schools were not even boarding schools.

“It is the Education Ministry policy to make all schools excel in academics,” he told reporters after attending the 1Malaysia feast at the Serdang Square here today.

Muhyiddin said the construction of boarding schools was now seen from the aspect of catering the needs of students from poor families staying far away from schools.

“We may build two or three boarding schools annually. We want to encourage children to enrol in day schools. Day schools also posted excellent results. This is the approach I take,” he said.

He said the assumption that boarding schools were elite schools no longer hold true as day schools could be highly esteemed schools if they attained par excellence results.


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How to solve the problem of truancy?

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

group of school girls out on the street

Group of school girls out on the street. It’s now harder to just miss a single lesson, so pupils take the whole day off Photograph: Bubbles Photolibrary /Alamy

“I had a Welsh speaking test. I’d had to memorise a paragraph and speak in front of the whole class. I just couldn’t do it,” says 13-year-old Hayley from Cardiff. “I pretended to be ill.” But Hayley did not enjoy her day off. “I watched TV all day – it was boring. I wished I had gone to school.”

Hayley’s story is not unusual. According to the latest government figures, pupil absences are rising, despite schools taking a hard line on truancy.

Philippa James, a PhD researcher at Cardiff University’s school of social sciences, thinks she knows why: “The more schools improve methods of detection, the more children work out better methods of deception.”

James has researched student truancy for several years and is about to publish a year-long study of 60 teenagers, aged 13 and 14, including Hayley, in which she checked to see whether the teenagers were truanting, for how long, and why. James says her findings reveal many of the assumptions that underpin government policy on school absenteeism are false.

The scale of the problem is significant. Absence and truancy rates are calculated by the number of half-days of school missed. In the autumn term of 2008 and the spring term of this year, pupils in state primary and secondary schools missed 1.03% of possible half-days without permission, figures released last month from the Department for Children, Schools and Families show. This compares with 0.97% of half-days missed for the same period the year before.

But James believes her study, though on a much smaller scale, proves such figures are “relatively meaningless”.

“The statistics are unhelpful,” she says. “Students are very good at ‘hidden’ absences – things like hiding in the toilets, or leaving a lesson after being marked present. Those won’t be included in the figures. It’s more important to look at the reasons for truanting.”

More radically, her research shows very little evidence of a correlation between truancy and socio-economic background, or criminal activity. “The main social concern about absences from school is about what young people are doing when not in lessons. My findings suggest it’s not fair to say that truancy causes crime,” she says.

“Over the year, I noted a very low level of crime – it was mainly smoking. So many people truant that some will always engage in crime, but they do so outside of school time too – the act of truancy doesn’t cause it.”

James challenges the idea that truants are non-conformist pupils, or less academically able. The teenagers in her study were from three Cardiff comprehensives with different socio-economic catchments. “Skipping school was a common coping strategy, evident in each school,” she says. “Mostly it was occasional, but widespread. It certainly wasn’t carried out only by pupils in lower socio-economic groups.”

Trying to gauge the reasons for bunking off was not always easy. James mainly contacted her subjects via instant messenger, which allowed her “almost daily contact”. It also enabled her to separate herself from teachers and other figures of authority. Through online conversations and face-to-face interviews, she discovered that most truancy was “a response to factors within the school”. Students complained of supply teachers who failed to engage them, and of “boring” lessons.

by Lucy Tobin.

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