Archive for November, 2012

Three Principles for Cultivating Excellence in Academic Life

Friday, November 30th, 2012

In the October 3rd issue of Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer underscores the idea that faculty need to take care of their instructional health and recognize the importance of emotional rejuvenation. She ends the post by asking readers: What are some things you do when you feel your teaching may be growing “tired?”

I discovered yoga as a powerful antidote to the burnout I was experiencing while working toward my PhD. Yoga, which includes mindfulness or meditation as a corollary, is a vast discipline and embodies an entire philosophy of existence. Interestingly, as time went on, I began to increasingly look to the philosophy of yoga to conceptualize success in academic life. In this article, I draw from this wisdom tradition to address another question that the September 12 issue of Faculty Focus poses: If a new teacher or a new college student asked you what’s most important to know up front, how would you respond? This is a worthy question, and I would like to volunteer a response based on insights drawn from yoga. If a new college student asked me what’s most important to know up front, I would tell them about three principles that foster excellence in academic life.

The “100 Percent” Principle: The first principle of yoga that has profound implications for academic work is the 100 percent principle. That is, giving 100 percent, nothing less. When one puts in one’s full effort into an action, the theory of yoga informs us, it sets us free by pulling us into the present moment which, in turn, bestows tremendous energy and clarity.

Occasionally, at the end of the semester, once the grades have been posted, a student will come up to me wondering why they ended up with a C and not the B which they were expecting. They seem genuinely surprised. Or it may be someone, more rarely though, who is surprised that they made a D instead of a C. After we go over the grade breakdown, I ask them if they put in their 100 percent into the course right from the start. Their answer is invariably an unambiguous NO. They typically report putting in just enough effort which they thought would allow them to make the B or C they wanted on a specific test. In other words, their calculations let them down.

The ones who make an A are generally the ones who give their one hundred percent in the course, right from the start. I often tell students at the beginning of the semester, “If you expect an A and work toward it, you will probably make an A. If you aim for a B and work toward that, you will probably earn a C. And if you are gunning for a C, you will probably end up with a D.” I have found this phenomenon to be empirically true in the case of the foreign language courses that I teach and I imagine that it holds true in other subjects.

The Principle of Long Term Joy: One may opt for short term ease or long term success. The will to face head-on the challenges of difficult projects, pre-class preparations, assignments, and research papers has the potential to make our students grow tremendously if they do the work with sincerity and dedication. The hard work has the potential to yield a rich harvest in the form of academic and professional success later on. By not avoiding the discomfort, a learner overcomes the problems by become bigger than the obstacles and is able to tackle new challenges with much less struggle and stress later on.

The Principle of Unity: The third principle that facilitates excellence is the principle of unity or wholeness. It is about seeing the oneness of things. It’s about seeing the hidden connections. The principle operates at two levels. First, it reminds us of the subtle unity of the intellectual enterprise. It reminds us that knowledge with limited boundaries is incomplete knowledge. If the famous French philosopher and social historian Michel Foucault’s assertion is true that knowledge is power, imagine the power unleashed when one is able to connect the dots across the disciplines.

Second, excellence does not know how to be selective. Excellence strives to be holistic.

by Shanu Nangia, PhD.

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LINUS programme records outstanding success

Friday, November 30th, 2012

KOTA KINABALU: The Literacy and Numeracy Screening (LINUS) programme has recorded a 99.8 per cent success rate for English literacy and 99.9 per cent success rate for numeracy this year.

The exemplary results from the initial LINUS programme have prompted the ministry to introduce LINUS 2.0, which includes Basic Literacy in English in 2013.

Director General of Education Malaysia, Tan Sri Abd Ghafar Mahmud said that LINUS 2.0 was part of the National Education Blueprint 2012, meant to tackle the problems with English literacy among students.

“The progress achieved has also contributed to the economic development and rising living standards, irrespective of race,” he said.

He added that according to UNESCO, every 1 per cent increase in literacy would contribute to an increase of 2.5 per cent of the Gross National Product (GNP).

He also mentioned in his speech that teachers play an important role to ensure the success of the individual and the achievement of national education goals.

“Without teachers who are committed, LINUS facilitators (FasiLINUS) would not be able to record such an excellent achievement in literacy and numeracy,” said Abd Ghafar.

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End-of-Course Evaluations: Making Sense of Student Comments

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

At most colleges, courses are starting to wind down and that means it’s course evaluation time. It’s an activity not always eagerly anticipated by faculty, largely because of those ambiguous comments students write. Just what are they trying to say?

I think part of the reason for the vague feedback is that students don’t believe that the evaluations are taken all that seriously, not to mention they’re in the middle of the usual end-of-semester stress caused by having lots of big assignments due and final exams to face. It’s just not the best time to be asking for feedback and so students dash off a few comments which instructors are left to decipher.

In most end-of-course evaluations, students tend to comment about some of the same aspects of instruction. They frequently address issues of organization, whether students were treated fairly and the challenging aspects of the course. Carol Lauer wondered if faculty and students defined some of these common terms similarly and so she asked a faculty and student cohort to say what they meant when they saw or used the term on course evaluations.

Would you be surprised to learn that faculty and students define the terms differently, or that students themselves don’t agree on definitions? Probably not, I’m thinking. Even so, some of the specifics are interesting. Take “not organized,” for example. Almost a third of the faculty think students use that term when the teacher changes or doesn’t follow the syllabus. Just over 11% of students said that’s what the term meant to them. Seventeen percent of the students equated it with the instructor not being prepared, 15% said they used it when the teacher had no apparent plan for the day and almost 13% equated it with getting student work graded and returned slowly.

“Not fair” refers to problematic grading according to almost 50% of the faculty surveyed, but to just over 2% of the students. To students “not fair” gets written on an evaluation when the teacher plays favorites and doesn’t treat all students the same way. Students and faculty are closer in their understanding of what “challenging” means when it’s applied to a course. It means hard work and lots of it.

The point here isn’t terribly profound but it merits a reminder, especially at the end of courses when teachers are tired. Many of the terms used to describe teaching on rating forms and in student comments are abstractions. “Organized” is something teachers are and deciding whether a teacher is or isn’t depends on what the teacher does. Various behaviors, actions and inaction can be what any given individual sees as the presence or absence organization.

by Maryellen Weimer, PhD.

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Alert over new party drug

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Police are keeping tabs on a new party drug that syndicates are trying to introduce into the market.

Called methaqualone or better known by its street name, MX, the drug is listed as a psychotropic sedative under the Poison Acts.

Federal Narcotics deputy director Datuk Haris Wong Abdullah said police were alerted to this latest menace after a courier from India, was arrested at the Mumbai International Airport on Sunday.

The drugs, weighing 5kg, were concealed in three door mats and in a false compartment at the bottom of a suitcase. The consignment was worth about RM400,000.

The 28-year-old courier was smuggling the drugs into Malaysia.

Haris said this was the first time that an Indian courier had tried to smuggle MX into Malaysia.

“Indian couriers usually try and smuggle ketamine and syabu.

“We suspect this was the first attempt in trying to introduce the party drug at local clubs here.”


SIDMA College Prima Dansa Dance Club Participated the Festival Tari SeBorneo Seri 4 in Pontianak

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

The Management and staff of SIDMA College, UNITAR International University Sabah welcomed our Dance Club – Prima Dansa that participated in the recent dance Festival Senitari Universitas Seluruh Borneo held in Pontianak, Kalimantan Barat on 22 November 2012. The dancers returned to Sabah last Sunday, November 25, 2012.

A total of 13 dance troupes from different universities and colleges in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam and Kalimantan took part in the Festival.

Although our Prima Dansa Club could not capture the overall Champion title in the competition, but their performance was really magnificent that it caught the attention of the Pontianak audience by surprise and that their performance was published in the front page of the Pontianak newspaper the very next day.

SIDMA College dance team headed by Acting CEO, Ms Azizah Khalid Merican, 13 key dancers, several back-up dancers, crew members and 11 SIDMA officials left SIDMA College for Pontianak on 21 November 2012 (Tuesday). While in Pontianak City, the group stayed at Hotel Kapuas Palace, Pontianak.

Prof. Dr. Morni Hj Kambrie (SIDMA Chairman), Puan Azlina Ngatimin (SIDMA Board of Director / Director, Corporate Marketing and Business Development Department), SIDMA Board of Management and staff would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Prima Dansa Dance Club for presenting a magnificent performance and hoped that the club will continue to strive for excellence in the future.

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Test Prep: Getting Your Students to Examine Their Approach

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

I was inspired by Maryellen Weimer’s article on “Teaching Metacognition to Improve Student Learning” and the accompanying article by Kimberly Tanner on “Promoting Student Metacognition.”

Tanner reflected on a comment I have heard many times: “…it’s my job to teach [your discipline or learning outcome goes here], not study strategies.” How often have we heard that our students don’t know how to learn? Regardless of whose fault that is, Weimer’s article shows how relatively easy it is to incorporate practical “meta-learning” strategies into our lesson plans. It’s particularly straightforward for teachers who conduct a structured pre-test review class and a post-test follow-up activity because that is where many of the issues on clarity, confusion, and preparedness can be brought into the light.

I recall the first time I taught a math course (first and second semester courses) to first-year Trades and Technology students. They were from a diverse mix of age groups, work and school experiences, and cultural and family backgrounds, so variety was critical in everything I did. I was convinced I had used all the correct strategies leading up to the first test — conducting a short review, promptly marking and returning homework problem sets, and so on. Then I got the results. They were less than spectacular. Although motivation and commitment might have been part of the issue, I knew I had to evaluate, and perhaps change my methods.

One strategy that worked was to ask the students prior to the review session, a series of questions in class. This took place approximately one week before the first big test, for which there was observable anxiety.

  • How do you prepare for a test?
  • What do you do (or not do) the night before a test?
  • What has helped you in the past?
  • What should be avoided before a test?

The comments were insightful, sincere, and sometimes sobering and humorous. Some also gave me practical ideas on how I could revise my teaching strategies. I received more than 90 comments from the two classes, which I summarized and posted on my faculty webpage for other students to reflect upon.

by Greg Cooper.

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Teaching Short Stories in the High School English Classroom

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
Teaching short stories as pieces of literature in high school can get boring very quickly. Keep it exciting with these tips.

Teaching short stories in the high school English classroom can be very difficult. They are such short pieces of literature that it sometimes seems there is just nothing left to be said about the piece after about an hour of discussion. However, there are actually a lot of ways you can get your students engaged in these short pieces of literature, and you can keep them interested throughout the unit.


One way to build interest in short stories is to organize them by theme and explore those common themes in each of the stories you choose to tackle in class. If you spend a lot of time teaching the structure of short stories – plot, setting, mood, tone, characters, dialogs, etc. – this can get boring very quickly. Students grasp these concepts in no time. However, when you entice them to get into a story with a theme they care about and can relate to, you’re more likely to hold their attention. For example, if you read, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “A Pair of Tickets” by Amy Tan, “Desirée’s Baby” by Kate Chopin, and “Eveline” by James Joyce, and “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner etc. You can focus on the common themes in these stories such as women’s roles throughout history, the function of families, love and loss, the function of communities, and the idea of home. Students will have personal connections to all of these themes, and will therefore be able to connect with the stories and synthesize their personal experiences with the text at hand.

Anticipation Builders

Before you’re reading a short story, especially if you are focusing on a particular theme, it is a good idea to get students thinking about their personal ideas. This creates anticipation for the story. If the students think they can connect to the work of literature, they will be more likely to enjoy reading it, and the information will be more likely to stick with them. A quick anticipation builder is having the students write journal entries that ask the students to reflect on something that relates to some aspect of the story. Be sure to have students share their journals in class if they feel comfortable. It’s good for other students to hear what the journals are all about.

Stop and Write

If you have to read an entire story in class rather than sending it home to be read for homework, ‘Stop and Write’ is a great idea for an activity to be sure students are on track. ‘Stop and Write’ is exactly what it sounds like: you read the story aloud with the students, and at certain points in the text, you stop and ask them a question. Instead of discussing the answer, though, they have to write their answers down. This is also a great way to be sure even the shy students are participating and understanding what is going on in the text. Even if a student doesn’t want to share his or her answer aloud, they can write it down for you to read later. This also works really well to keep students on track while reading.


Students love to write creatively. It is easier for them than writing an analytical paper.

by Buzzle Staff.

Teaching Children Respect

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
When you hear the word respect, visions of Aretha Franklin singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” come to mind for those of us old enough to remember the song. However, the message in the song is appropriate today as it was when she recorded the song back in the 70’s.

Everyone needs respect. In a world where the current mantra seems to be “it’s all about me” there seems to be a loss of respect in many different areas-loss of self-respect, respect for property, and respect for others. If this is the situation from an adult perspective, then how do we teach children to have an attitude of respect?

Most of the schools across America have been implementing what they call “character education.” While this is a good approach to teaching children different good character traits, I believe the teaching of these begins and home and continues long after the curriculum has been taught. The character education curriculum is comprised teaching children many different aspects of character-trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, and respect just to name a few. In the teaching manual on respect, they list six components:

Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
Be courteous and polite.
Listen to what other people have to say.
Don’t insult people, or make fun of them, or call them names.
Don’t bully or pick on others.
Don’t judge people before you get to know them.

These seem to be very basic tenets of being an all around good person. But how do you teach a child respect? There are several ways.

1. Modeling. This is the simplest way children learn. If a child hears your opinion about not liking other races, for example, the child will begin to emulate that, as well. On the flipside, if a parent exhibits a kindness towards people who are different, the child will begin to see the world as an opportunity to learn from different types of people.

2. Start at the very beginning of your child’s life. When children are old enough to play and share, it is important to teach children how to take care of their toys. This is one aspect of teaching respect for property. Teaching children how to share is also a component of respect.

3. Teach your children how to talk with people (not to people). Asking how someone’s day is going, complimenting a person on what they are wearing, etc., being concerned about something that person may be experiencing are ways of teaching your child to respect other people.

4. Expose your child to different things. Take your child to a cultural festival so they can see and experience cultural differences. Unusual foods, interesting customs, different types of music and dances can be a way a child develops interest in and acceptance of people of different races/cultures. Cultural differences abound in this country. Rather than look down on people who are different, look at cultural differences as an opportunity to learn and experience something different than your own.

5. Demonstrate respect. Do something kind. Make it a goal for you and your child (or children) to do something kind for someone at least once a month. Give your children choices and help them decide what they want to do. It may be taking used clothing to a shelter, selling lemonade on the corner and giving those proceeds to an organization that helps children, or going to your local shelter to serve a meal to the homeless.

6. Teach your child to say no. Say no to drugs, premarital sex, inappropriate touches, unwanted behavior, cigarettes, etc.-anything that would have a bearing on their development physically, socially, and psychologically. One of the more difficult challenges is to teach a child respect for themselves, but in order for a child to exhibit respect to others, they have to learn how to respect themselves. This means teaching your child that some things are just unacceptable. The bottom line is that everybody is worthy of being treated with respect-even the individual!

by Buzzle Staff.

37,000 teachers to benefit from English up-skilling course.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

PUTRAJAYA: The Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT) programme has been rolled out to train and improve the language proficiency of teachers nationwide.

Under the programme, approximately 37,000 English Language option teachers will be trained in phases.

It is a programme aimed at helping to strengthen the teachers’ grasp in the language so that students can also attain proficiency.

Education Ministry Teaching Professionalism Development deputy director Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said the programme had been introduced earlier this month and by January, there would be 2,270 teachers participating in the programme.

“For the initial stage, the ministry is planning to train 5,000 English Language option teachers. The programme has since been introduced in Kelantan, Malacca and Pahang and the ministry has received positive response from the participants.

“It will be introduced in Kedah and Terengganu in January,” he said during a briefing on the programme yesterday.

He added that phase two of the programme would involve 2,730 teachers and would begin in February next year, in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Perlis, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Sabah and Sarawak.

Khair said teachers who were currently undergoing the programme would come under the the B1 and B2 (independent user) bands, which meant that the teachers were able to participate independently in higher level of language interaction.

However, he said teachers who were under the A1 and A2 (basic user) bands, would not go through the programme as they were normally the non-optional English Language teachers in schools.

Instead, he said they would be redeployed to teach the subjects they had opted to teach initially.

“Prior to their selection to participate in the programme, the teachers will go through a language proficiency test and it is conducted through the administration of the Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) for all the English language teachers nationwide.

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Get Visual: A Technique for Improving Student Writing

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

One of the ongoing challenges for my composition students is the task of narrowing a broad, generalized topic into a more particular, focused topic for a short research essay. To help them develop this skill, I now prescribe a broad topic for everyone to use in the first research essay. Over several class sessions, we work collaboratively to explore the general topic, identify more particular subtopics, and develop research strategies to investigate these subtopics as possible subject matter.

This semester I required all of the students to write about our city, Anderson, Indiana. In addition to all of the other “process” assignments I use to teach my students inquiry, research strategies and drafting techniques, I recently added an art project to the mix. The assignment was simple: create a poster that gives a “face” to the city of Anderson. I told the students to be creative in their design and to represent visually the key discoveries they’ve made about their specialized topics. I also encouraged them to suggest the focus and purpose for their essay through the content or design of the poster. I promised to give each student 30 seconds to offer comments about his or her poster to the class.

In “Design Principles for Visual Communication,” Maneesh Agrawala, Wilmot Li and Floraine Berthouzoz insist that communication through visual images is “fundamental to the process of exploring concepts and disseminating information.” Because I teach writing, I tend to be preoccupied primarily with discovery and communication through language. However, the liberal arts academy in which I teach reminds me that the relationship between the humanities, the sciences and the arts is intimate and profound. “The most effective visualizations capitalize on the human facility for processing visual information, thereby improving comprehension, memory, and inference” (Agrawala, Li and Floraine 60). That’s exactly what I was trying to accomplish with my students: capitalize on their ability to “comprehend” their own discoveries and to communicate those discoveries and rhetorical ambitions to an audience clearly.

by Deborah Miller Fox.

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