Archive for May, 2012

Reading Skills and Strategies

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.

Reading is one great habit that can truly change your life forever. Reading can entertain you; amuse you, but most of all it will enrich you with knowledge, and experiences narrated. Reading purely for leisure is fun as we all know but there exist certain reading skills and strategies, which if mastered at a nascent stage can help us, be better and far more comprehensive readers.

Although the term reading strategies might sound to mechanical and dry for the ears of a creative book-lover, these strategies can enhance your grasping power and help you get the most out of any book or any text that you lay your eyes on. These skills might not necessarily be learned as rigid theories or rules but if understood well once they can definitely enhance the reading process and increase the quality as well as quantity of output that you get from after reading. Not only can these strategies can be taught to children right from school, but can also be used by any person of any age to help improve their reading process.

Speed reading:

Speed-reading is actually a combination of various reading methods. The aim of speed-reading is basically to increase the reading speed without compromising on the understanding or retention. Some of the strategies used in speed reading are

  • Identifying words without focusing on each letter
  • Not sounding out all words
  • Not sub-vocalizing some phrases
  • Spending less time on some phrases than others
  • Skimming small sections

Speed reading is thus actually not precisely defines by specific guidelines and rules but is actually just a process that increases the speed of reading without compromising on the retention of the content.

Scanning :

Scanning through the text is a reading strategy that can be used if you are particularly looking at the text through a set perspective in mind. You can only scan for portions that interest you. For the highlights or important points you can skim through the summary or the preface of the book or the beginning and the ending chapters.

Active Reading:

There are times when you just cannot afford to skim through or scan through the text but need to get an in-depth understanding of the text that you read and hence you need to make sure you’re actively involved with the text while reading it. There are four important points that you need to keep in mind during active reading which are as follows:

  • Underlining / Highlighting:Identify the most important parts of the text according to your own understanding and highlight or underline them using a pencil or a marker while you are reading. You can even use different colors to highlight diverse aspects of the text.
  • Note Key-words: Jot down the headings as you read and detail using one or two keywords for each point.
  • Questions:Before you start reading prepare for your reading by writing down all the questions you want the material to answer. This helps you to read accordingly and ensures you get the answers to all your questions and don’t get distracted while reading.
  • Summaries:After you’ve read one complete section of the text, summarize that portion in your own words. Later, go through the text again to check how accurate your summary is and modify / upgrade it in case you’ve left out any details.

Structure-Proposition-Evaluation :

This is an interesting reading technique suggested by Mortimer Adler in his book How to Read a Book. The reading technique is mainly for non-fiction genre and elaborates about how a written piece can be read in three passes

  • Studying the structure of the work
  • Studying the logical propositions made and organized into chains of inference
  • Evaluation of the merits of the arguments and conclusions.

This reading method advocates suspended judgment of the work or its arguments until they are fully understood.

Survey-Question-Read-Recite-Review :

This method facilitates a very deep understanding of the matter that you are reading. In fact the system aims to facilitate an understanding so clear that the reader should be able to teach whatever he has learned during the process of reading. Instructors who are preparing to teach material without having to refer to notes during the lecture generally use this reading method. The process involves five different steps, which are as follows

  • Survey: Survey involve getting a quick idea of what the whole writing piece. For example if it is a book, may be the introduction or the summary on the back will suffice.
  • Question: Remember that you are not just reading the words or looking at the words but are actually trying to decipher the meaning that underlies them. Create questions in you mind and hunt for the answers while you are reading the text. In case you are reading the piece for research, it is always advisable that you write these questions and their answers in brief.
  • Read:Read selectively if you are looking for specifics. Learn to find out the portions of the text that are important to you and move over.
  • Recite: Try and answer the questions in your own words, using only the key words or listings that are required to sum up the complete idea.
  • Review: Review of summarize the entire thing in your mind and rest assured that you will never have to memorize it or learn it by heart.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you start reading

  • Identify your aim while reading. Be clear about what you want from the text.
  • Jot down important points, quotes or lines that you might find useful later. Notes taken while reading can come in handy while studying the subject later
  • Even if you are reading fiction, do try and stretch your understanding about the writer’s writing style with regards to elements like language emotion and vocabulary. This will actually make the reading process more enjoyable for you.
  • Every piece of text read gives you some information and enriches your knowledge in some way. Always concentrate and read with concentration. Reading for the sake of it will not yield any fruitful outcome.

by Uttara Manohar.

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What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership?

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Laissez-faire leadership, also known as delegative leadership, is a type of leadership style in which leaders are hands-off and allow group members to make the decisions. Researchers have found that this is generally the leadership style that leads to the lowest productivity among group members.

Characteristic of Laissez-Faire Leadership:

Laissez-faire leadership is characterized by:

  • Very little guidance from leaders
  • Complete freedom for followers to make decisions
  • Leaders provide the tools and resources needed
  • Group members are expected to solve problems on their own

Benefits of Laissez – Faire Leadership:

Laissez-faire leadership can be effective in situations where group members are highly skilled, motivated and capable of working on their own. While the conventional term for this style is ‘laissez-faire’ and implies a completely hands-off approach, many leaders still remain open and available to group members for consultation and feedback.

Downsides of Laissez – Faire Leadership:

Laissez-faire leadership is not ideal in situations where group members lack the knowledge or experience they need to complete tasks and make decisions. Some people are not good at setting their own deadlines, managing their own projects and solving problems on their own. In such situations, projects can go off-track and deadlines can be missed when team members do not get enough guidance or feedback from leaders.

by Kendra Cherry.

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More US grads to teach in Malaysia

Friday, May 25th, 2012

PORT DICKSON: The number of American graduates who will teach Malaysian students English will be increased to 75 next year.

US ambassador to Malaysia Datuk Paul W. Jones said the programme, which began with 50 Fulbright English teaching assistants (ETAs) being sent to several states in January, was a success.

“There wasn’t even a single complaint from the ETAs,” he said. “In fact, they are enjoying themselves and want to return and serve as administrators and trainers for the new batch next January.”

The ETAs were sent to Johor, Pahang and Terengganu for a 10-month stint to help in the learning and teaching of English in secondary schools.

Among other things, their role is to help organise extra-curricular activities in English to help the students grasp the language.

The programme followed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s request to US president Barack Obama to expand “people-to-people exchange programmes” between the countries.

Terengganu introduced the programme in 2006 with 12 ETAs. The state government did this on its own initiative.

by Sarban Singh.

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Merdeka Award briefs interested applicants on the Merdeka Award Grant

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

The Merdeka Award Secretariat held a briefing last Wednesday, May 16, 2012 on the recently-announced Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment, which was attended by those interested in applying for this unique award as well as representatives of several institutions of higher learning and non-governmental organisations across a myriad of disciplines.

Over 28 organisations and institutions were represented at the briefing held at the PETRONAS Twin Towers, demonstrating the keen interest generated by the Merdeka Award Grant.

The briefing aimed to explain in further details the aims and objectives of the Grant, the application process and the significance of the opportunity it offers for to an outstanding, young Malaysian.  And it also provided a platform for those interested in the Grant programme to pose questions for clarification, and to gain insight into what it would take to be selected.

The briefing kicked off with a short introduction to the Merdeka Award and the Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment.

The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment is designed to identify and recognise outstanding young Malaysians, who personify the Spirit of Merdeka, and those who, in their own areas of expertise, and in their own way, demonstrate a commitment to excellence and a contribution to society. They are individuals who are making a difference to Malaysia and the lives of Malaysians.

The aim of this attachment is for the Recipient to establish contact and working relationship with other experts in his or her area of interest, share knowledge and expertise, and on returning to Malaysia, utilise the relationships and shared knowledge to further build on his or her body of work.

The Grant is open to qualified Malaysians between the ages of 22 and 35, in select disciplines – Education & Community, Environment as well as Health, Science & Technology, mirroring the categories in which the Merdeka Award itself is accorded.  These categories have been carefully selected because of their importance to the progress of the nation.

The broad categories include areas such as visual and performing arts, heritage and social work, sports; traditional disciplines like economics and finance, scientific disciplines, and areas related to the environment such as climate change, biodiversity and the protection and conservation of the environment.

Recipients of the Grant will engage in short-term (up to three months), collaborative projects at selected, internationally-recognised host institutions abroad in these areas of research.

The recipient will have to complete the attachment within a year of the Grant being awarded.   During this time, he or she will be required to share his or her experiences in preparing for and during the attachment itself by maintaining a personal blog, while also sharing updates on social media.  The recipient will also be required to undertake a number of speaking engagements upon his or her return.

This will allow other young Malaysians, especially those aspiring to be future Merdeka Award Grant recipients, to learn about what the attachment entails, what is expected from them, and to draw from the knowledge and exposure of the Grant recipient.  It will also help inspire the Post-Merdeka Generation to pursue excellence.

One Grant will be offered in 2012, with two every subsequent year.  All applications are required to be submitted via the Merdeka Award website.

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What Is Autocratic Leadership?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style characterized by individual control over all decisions and little input from group members. Autocratic leaders typically make choices based on their own ideas and judgments and rarely accept advice from followers. Autocratic leadership involves absolute, authoritarian control over a group.

Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership:

Some of the primary characteristics of autocratic leadership include:

  • Little or no input from group members
  • Leaders make the decisions
  • Group leaders dictate all the work methods and processes
  • Group members are rarely trusted with decisions or important tasks

Benefits of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership can be beneficial in some instances, such as when decisions need to be made quickly without consulting with a large : group of people. Some projects require strong leadership in order to get things accomplished quickly and efficiently.

Have you ever worked with a group of students or co-workers on a project that got derailed by poor organization, a lack of leadership and an inability to set deadlines? If so, chances are that your grade or job performance suffered as a result. In such situations, a strong leader who utilizes an autocratic style can take charge of the group, assign tasks to different members and establish solid deadlines for projects to be finished.

In situations that are particularly stressful, such as during military conflicts, group members may actually prefer an autocratic style. It allows members of the group to focus on performing specific tasks without worrying about making complex decisions. This also allows group members to become highly skilled at performing certain duties, which can be beneficial to the group.

Downsides of Autocratic Leadership:

While autocratic leadership can be beneficial at times, there are also many instances where this leadership style can be problematic. People who abuse an autocratic leadership style are often viewed as bossy, controlling and dictatorial, which can lead to resentment among group members.

Because autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting the group, people in the group may dislike that they are unable to contribute ideas. Researchers have also found that autocratic leadership leads to a lack of creative solutions to problems, which can ultimately hurt the performance of the group.

While autocratic leadership does have some potential pitfalls, leaders can learn to use elements of this style wisely. For example, an autocratic style can be used effectively in situations where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group or has access to information that other members of the group do not.

by Kendra Cherry.

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Effective Teaching: Reading Comprehension Strategies

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Reading comprehension is defined as the level of by understanding of a passage or text. Reading at the rate of 200 to 220 words per minute is considered as a normal speed of reading. For normal reading rates, 75% is an acceptable level of comprehension. That means if a child can understand the meaning of at least 75% of the total text given, then it is regarded as acceptable limits for reading comprehension.

Various methods are used to improve reading comprehension that include training the ability to self assess comprehension, actively test comprehension using a set of questions and by improving metacognition. Theoretical teaching (teaching conceptual) and a better knowledge of language can also prove of immense help. Practice plays more pivotal part in development and honing the skills of reading comprehension. Self-assessment with the help of elaborate interrogation and summarizing also helps.

Effective reading comprehension is the culmination of mastering vocabulary, phonics, fluency and reading comprehension skills. Person having good comprehension skills is considered as active reader, with an ability to interact with the words by understanding its complete meaning and the concept behind it. Thus skill of reading comprehension distinguishes an active reader from a passive reader who just read the text without getting its meaning.

Aims of Teaching Reading Comprehension

  • To get better grasping of the context, sequence and the characters narrated in text.
  • Certain parts of the text can confuse readers. Reading comprehension skills works on this aspect to get a clear idea of the meaning of the text.
  • Helps to create the questionnaire based on the text about its theme or idea. It often helps in better understanding of the said paragraph.
  • It helps to link the event of narration with our previous experiences and predict the next probable event in the course based on the information given in the narration.

Testing comprehension reading has always proved a great tool in the assessment of the student’s abilities as it provides a feedback on his progress. It also enhances the self ability to judge ourselves, provided such tests are carefully designed. The carefully designed comprehension test is a cleverly constructed set of questions targeted at the summary, overall meaning of text including most important meanings of words. The questionnaire can be of different types like open-ended question, closed formats or multiple choice questions.

Informal Reading Inventory (IRI)

In 1930, the need for the protocol of reading assessment gave rise to Legacy Reading Assessment. This assessment is principally targeted at the identification and solution for the particular inhibition to the process of acceleration in comprehension reading by student. This gave a kind of template through which teachers can assess student’s progress in reading. These learning readers are known as Basal readers.

Thus came into being the Informal Reading Inventory (IRI), which is a classroom based lesson directing and monitoring the progress system. However, because of its laborious construction, another format is constructed known as criterion based Informal Reading Inventory.

An IRI provides a good description of three levels of comprehension reading progress of immense importance.

  1. Frustration Level or Inability Level where word decoding accuracy is just below 90% with comprehension accuracy below 70%.
  2. Instructional Level or ability supported with guidance where word decoding accuracy is around 90% with comprehension accuracy around 75%.
  3. Independent Level where a student doesn’t require the assistance anymore having word decoding accuracy well above 97% with comprehension accuracy below 90%.

Initially IRI provided the frame for recording responses to the posed questions, to be analyzed later to find out the strong and gray areas of student. However, nowadays it also offers many add-ons to get a much elaborate picture of its progress.

Informal Reading-Thinking Inventory (IR-TI)

In addition, in 1995, Manzo and McKenna developed an innovation as Informal Reading-Thinking Inventory, which is aimed at other related areas like thinking development of student besides his word decoding and comprehension accuracy power. It has a format which facilitates additional measuring tool of higher cognitive progress and comprehension. It measures the progress on three levels – how good the student is in reading lines, reading between the lines and reading beyond the lines (recognition, inference and its interpretation and application). The most significant aspect of the IR-TI is the separate judgment it makes of basic comprehension and separately of critical-constructive comprehension.

by Jayashree Pakhare.

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Making sense of history

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

If the decision to make history a compulsory pass for the SPM from next year is final, at least ensure that the curriculum is done right.

THE other day I ran into an old friend. Such off-chance meetings are nice and give you the chance to recollect some things together. For those with children, inevitably it leads to talk about what the children are doing.

Her child is 16 now and studying in Form Four. And yes, history is a compulsory subject in school and from next year, you need to get at least a pass in it to obtain your Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate, our equivalent of the O-Levels.

All right, I knew about that one. The Educa­tion Minister had announced that in 2010 after an Umno annual general assembly. But here is the shocker, her son was told by his school that there will a three-hour practical for history.

I was flabbergasted. No kidding, I said.

What are they going to do for the practical, I asked. This is unheard of. I have not managed to get independent confirmation yet, but if it is, imagine the possibilities.

Now what kind of practical would it be? Can we build a time machine and go into the past and ask Hang Tuah whether he really existed and whether all those tales they told about him and Jebat were true even though tall? The mind boggles.

But for now, the idea of a practical exam for history has to be mere conjecture unless the ministry chooses to clarify. Perhaps it is not a practical, maybe just a project.

Back to more serious stuff – this decision to make history not just a compulsory subject for the SPM but to require that from next year you need at least a pass in it to get the SPM certificate.

The only other subject that enjoys such a requirement is Bahasa Malaysia and up to now calls to make English a compulsory pass have not been implemented.

The Education Minister had cited lack of patriotism and lack of knowledge of the Federal Constitution as part of the reasons for the decision.

A committee was subsequently appointed to deal with the syllabus and curriculum in the wake of allegations that the history curriculum has changed over the years to place a lot more emphasis on Islamic civilisation and downplayed the achievements of non-Malays in contributing towards the nation and economy.

It is inevitable therefore that there will be lingering questions over what will constitute the history curriculum and what will be decided as facts and how the facts will be presented in a balanced manner to give a true and fair view of how events actually happened.

It is an unfortunate fact that our education system is highly politicised.

Take, for instance, the flip-flop over using English to teach Science and Maths. This was reversed after some five years and it is back to the old status quo.

And now history is to be made a compulsory pass for SPM.

That is a rather strange decision. It would have been adequate just to have made it a compulsory subject for the SPM instead of requiring that every student gets a pass in that subject to get the SPM.

Two questions arise over this issue.

First, is it really necessary to make a pass in history compulsory to ensure better understanding of how this country developed?

Two, who is going to ensure that the history that is taught in schools will be a real reflection of what happened shorn of all considerations?

The answer to the first question must surely be no because what politicians feel the public should feel about the way a country developed is seldom in touch with reality.

Students should not be forced to accept everything at face value without a healthy scepticism as to whether the so-called facts are right not.

by P. Gunasegaram.

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Speed Reading Techniques

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

By learning some speed reading techniques one can master the art of reducing the amount of time taken to read a page. There are many advantages of being able to read pages faster, however, many people feel that if a person can speed read then he/she can’t really comprehend what is written. This is as far from the truth as possible, as speed reading works only when there is full comprehension of the material.

Now, you do not have to be an autistic ‘Rainman’ like character to be able to apply these speed reading techniques, as anyone can learn how to do it. But at the end of the day, you must realize that not everyone can manage to read through 3-4 pages per minute. Some people have to read slower by nature, and this should not discourage them in any way. The whole point is to strive to increase one’s reading speed without losing track of what one is reading. Applying some easy speed reading techniques can be a major help for some, whereas pointless for others.

Using the Hand
Here is one method that may enable you to read faster. Use your dominant hand to scan through the various lines on a page, and as your hand moves across the page follow it with your eyes. Keep the movement of your hand slow and steady and do not rush it. Go from line to line and soon, you’ll find a way to perfect this technique. You’ll also soon be able to develop a method where you won’t have to read every single word, but you cannot start skipping words from the very beginning of your efforts to acquire this skill. The best speed reading techniques are those which enable you to actually anticipate the next words that are to come, and using your fingers to run through the page can greatly help you in this task.

Using the Card
This is a method that does not work for many people, but if it suits you, it can be extremely effective tool. Use a card of sorts or a folded piece of paper for this technique. The idea is to read a line and then cover it up using the card or the folded piece of paper. This is one of the best speed reading techniques used by people who are known to read extremely fast. As you read a line, you may notice that you re-read the same line more than once. Covering up the line, after you have read it, prevents this from happening and also makes you read the line faster and pay more attention the first time that you read it. Run the card or the piece of paper down the page at a pace faster than you think you would read, and over time it will make you read faster. Do not force the issue though, as this method can sometimes hamper one’s reading ability as well.

Using the Zigzag or the Loop
This is a method that can be used for material that does not require heavy reading, or the reading comprehension of every single word. The trick is to move your hand diagonally across lines and get a basic idea of the main words used and what they are trying to imply. For example, you start reading a line and midway through the line you jump to the end of the 3rd or 4th line. Then you quickly scan the lines in between in a loop instead of reading the entire line in a uniform manner. Again, keep in mind that this speed reading technique cannot work for all kinds of material, and it most certainly cannot work for every single person. With time and practice, you will be able to master this trick properly, and you will also find other speed reading techniques easy to pick up.

Using the Hop
This method teaches you to hop on a line using your fingertips, after every 3-5 words. The idea is to not read each and every single word, but to gather information from a few set of words here and there. When you start reading a line, use your fingertips and make them ‘hop’ at regular intervals. Depending on the size of the page, you can hop 2-4 times per line. It’s important to remember not to overdo the hopping bit as that can lead to missing out on some important information, but there are certain phrases and words that can be easily skipped. These easy speed reading techniques are meant to enhance the reading speed of an individual and increase their comprehension of the words they read, and if, one feels that these methods are hampering their understanding of the words, then they must not continue using these techniques.

by Rahul Thadani

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Teachers make the difference

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Educationists have to be innovative with their pupils to achieve both the practical and ethical purposes in life.

LESS than a week ago, the Education Minister announced that 24,053 teachers would have the opportunity to be promoted to higher positions.

This is indeed welcome news for those serving in one of the biggest professions in Malaysia.

Apart from other benefits enjoyed by teachers in recent years, including salary increments and creation of new positions and schemes, this recent development pleases others since almost no one can detach themselves from teachers in one way or another.

The decision reflects a concerted effort by the Government to put teachers in their rightful place that commensurates with their invaluable contributions in building the important foundation for the future generations of the nation.

The primary role of teachers in society is beyond doubt. They have been very influential not only in educating children but also society in general, becoming the point of reference on various issues whether in a small kampung or in a big city.

They have been appointed as leaders in many organisations due to their credentials.

Some of them such as Abdul Hadi Hassan, Buyong Adil and Tan Sri Aziz Stapa were teachers who actively lead the people in their fight for the independence of Malaya.

Similarly, teaching institutions such as the Sultan Idris University of Education have produced many leaders of great calibre from among the teachers. In other words, they are the real transformers of society.

In Islam, teachers are accorded a noble position mainly due to their role as bearers and conveyors of knowledge which is regarded as one of the highest virtues due to a number of reasons:

First, the Quran and the many sayings of the Prophet continuously emphasise the importance of knowledge and those who contribute in spreading it.

So significant is knowledge to man that God raises the position of believers and those who gain knowledge at many levels.

A strong reminder on the importance of knowledge in the Quran comes in the form of a question, “Are they equal those who know and those who do not know?”

Another verse relates to knowledge with true piety to God, “Indeed, the one who fears Allah are among the knowledgeable persons.”

Emphasising the same concern, a hadith of the Prophet places knowledge as something obligatory to every Muslim, man and woman.

Imam Shafi’ie, one of the renowned Imams in Islamic jurisprudence, in his famous poetry, says that, “Knowledge is light and the light of God will not penetrate the heart which is full of sins.”

Secondly, knowledge as elaborated by al-Ghazali, serves two purposes, the pragmatic and the ethical.

Through pragmatism, knowledge can be a means to an end, while through ethics, it can be an end by itself.

by Dr. Mohd Farid Mohd Shahran.

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Academic Integrity at MIT: Expected of All Students

Monday, May 21st, 2012

As an MIT student, you are a member of “the academy”—students, teachers, scientists, humanists, and engineers working together to fulfill the Institute’s mission “to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”  Being a member of this community bestows great privilege—and great responsibility.

MIT expects all students to uphold high standards of academic honesty and personal conduct. Please bookmark and review the MIT Academic Integrity Handbook now so that you can easily refer to it when questions arise.

What is academic integrity?

The Center for Academic Integrity offers the following concise definition of academic integrity: “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to five fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility… that enable academic communities to translate ideals to action.”1 As an MIT student, you are required to understand the principles of academic integrity and why it is important. This section will help you accomplish that task and learn how to maintain academic integrity throughout your studies at MIT.


1. The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. The Center for Academic Integrity, October 1999. Available online at

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