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Friday, August 30, 2013

Using Google+ for Education

Image from www.teachthought.com
Last November, I was invited by Google Business Group - Cebu to speak about Using Google+ for Education at the Google+ Workshop at the University of the Visayas New School of Media and Design. It was a privilege to speak and share my passion for the integration of technology into education and the revolutionary ideas in classroom instruction.

The crowd was not composed of mainly educators and/or parents who might be able to make use of the ideas I presented but I was sure enough that those people have been using Social Media and considering such, everyone is said to have educated in a way or two through their networks in different social media platforms. I started my talk by citing the impact of social media to the modern landscape of the education field. I also reiterated the basic characteristics of 21st Century Education in an effort to establish connections between these characteristics and the social media platforms and their possible impacts. However, the main focus was on the use of Google+ for Education highlighting different applications that, if enhanced and properly used, will help the students learn better. The next few paragraphs will help you identify the different applications of Google+ in education. In a way, this is the transcript of my talk but I added more ideas to help us understand better what is Google+ and how it can be used in education.

What is Google+?
Although I started my talk by citing the impact of social media to the present landscape of education, it would be an understatement to say that Google+ is just another social media platform. According to Martin Shervington, Google+ is a phenomenal tool for human communication, and much more. ...It is bringing people together within the context of many of Google’s services. It is, quite simply, something to be experienced for yourself. Think of all the Google tools and applications and sum them up -- they're all in one roof for ease of use and expand one's technological horizon.

Using Google+ for Education
Considering that Google+ is an aggregate of all Google services, this technology can be helpful in enriching classroom instruction by making use of various Google tools as learning platform. Here are some of the applications that can be effectively used to enhance our students' learning experiences.

Google Hangout. Established to replace Google talk, Hangouts are simply sitting with your students   while engaged in a meaningful discussion about a particular topic.  There will be times wherein, as much as you would like to talk more about a certain topic in your classroom, time would not permit. For enrichment, you can schedule a hangout where you can entertain more questions from your students or simply device a presentation wherein your students can interact with you just like you're in the same classroom. Click HERE for an awesome guide to Google Hangout. 

Google Circles. You want to add your students in your network but there are some posts that might not be appropriate for them or you want to post an announcement on Google+ specifically for your students. Google Circles is the answer. Through Circles, you can organize your networks into different groups. What are circles? Here's a great VIDEO you can learn from.

Google Plus Communities. Create communities -- specifically, learning communities through Google Plus Communities. G+ communities allow one to communicate with the members of the community, share ideas and collaborate on a particular learning activity. Posting updates and information helpful for the learners has never been a hassle with Google Plus Communities. 

YouTube. I would call this application or tool infamous for legends were started through the platform. Infamous as it is, there are hundreds of videos on YouTube that every teacher can make use in the classroom. As free video-sharing community, the tool can be utilized  to upload instructional videos or even simply learning from the available instructional videos of various topics. I learned from a former colleague that a YouTube video on bullying she shared in her Values Education class inspired her students to take action against bullying. 

Google Drive. Replacing Google Docs, Google Drive revolutionizes file sharing as it integrates cloud backup for learning files. To minimize paper usage in my classroom, I usually advise my students to send their works through Google Drive. The advantage is not only environmental -- it also allows me to provide immediate feedback to my students as I easily evaluate their works as soon as they upload it and. If they happen to be online, they can even work on the corrections real time. The feature also encourages collaboration.

I am sure that aside from the applications that I have mentioned, there are still a number of other applications. However, I indicated only the tools that I am fond of using. I hope you find this helpful.    



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Experimental Research Design in Education

Photo from Ocean Portal - Educator's Corner
www.ocean.si.edu/for-educators
As defined by Davis (1997), experimental research is a research design which seeks to establish cause-and-effect laws by isolating causal variables. Davis’ definition has been supported by Costales and Zulueta (2003) as they defined experimental research as a type of research that seeks to answer about causation. Definitely, experimental research answers to life’s profound questions, “What is the cause?” and “What would be the effect?”

The same with other educational research designs, experimental research as applied in education considers the different types of variables. On a note, variables affect the result of the study by taking on different values, thus, changing the course of the research. The following types of variables need to be considered in experimental research:

1. Independent Variable (IV) It is the variable that the experimenter changes or enacts in order to do the experiment. It has levels, conditions, or treatments. It is also the hypothesized cause. For example, if you are   going to conduct an experimental research on the effectiveness of cooperative learning in learning Mathematics, you would hypothesize that cooperative learning is not effective in learning Mathematics and to prove your hypothesis you would, for example, apply cooperative learning to a particular group of learners while using a traditional strategy to another group of learners. This way, you enact cooperative learning in one group of students to do the experiment.
2. Dependent Variable (DV) It is the one affected by the independent variable. DV changes when the IV changes - the dependent variable depends on the outcome of the independent variable. In the case of studying the effectiveness of cooperative learning in learning Mathematics, your dependent variable could be the learners' level of comprehension of the mathematical concepts being studied using and without using cooperative learning strategy. If you would try to intuitively look at the situation, you would see that it would vary as you apply or suppress you independent variable which is cooperative learning.   

3. Controlled Variable It is anything else that could influence the dependent variable aside from the independent variable. Controlled variables are usually held constant by the researcher to eliminate them as potentials causes. For example, as you do the experimental research on the effectiveness of cooperative learning in learning Mathematics, you would foresee that other factors would affect the dependent variable 
  
4. Random Variable This type of variable is allowed to vary freely in order to eliminate them as potential causes (e.g., age, gender).

5. Confounding Variable This variable vary systematically with the independent variable and may also be a cause. Experimenters should eliminate them if possible. Confounding variable can be further classified Intervening Variable which is easier to control and Extraneous Variable which is, at times, difficult and, sometimes, impossible to control. 

For any type of experimental research, internal validity is always taken with utmost consideration. Internal Validity is simply translated as the accuracy of the study or the truth-value. When checking for internal validity, one needs to ask the questions: "Does the research design lead to true statement?" or "Did the independent variable cause the effects in the dependent variable?" External Validity, on the other hand, is the generality of the result. It simply answers the question, "Can the result be applied in another setting or to another population of research participants?"

Key Terms in Experimental Research
Key to understanding experimental research are the terms commonly used throughout the study. These terms include:
1. control group – the group that does not receive treatment (independent variable)
2. experimental group – the group that receives treatment (dependent variable)
3. new treatment/unusual treatment – a new theory/practice/method applied to a group of individuals (experimental group)
4. usual treatment/control treatment – a traditional/usual practice continuously applied among a group of individuals (control group)
5. pretest – an assessment conducted before a treatment is being applied
6. posttest – an assessment conducted after a treatment has been applied
7. randomization – indiscriminate way of selecting and assigning subjects to group

Types of Experimental Research
Experimental Research is classified into different types which include Pre-Experimental, Quasi-Experimental, and True ExperimentalPre-experimental designs follow basic experimental steps but fail to include a control group. In other words, a single group is often studied but no comparison between an equivalent non-treatment group is made. The following are pre-experimental research designs:

1. One-Shot Case Study. The subjects are presented with some type of treatment and then the outcome measure is applied. 

Advantage: There is a possibility of real-world exploration.
Limitations:
a. There is no comparison group (control group) making it impossible to determine if the outcome is higher that those who do not receive the treatment. 
b. There is no pretest; therefore, it is impossible to determine if any change within the group has taken place.

3. One Group Pretest Posttest Study. The subjects are given pretest before some type of treatment is presented. After the treatment, a posttest follows in order to determine if there is any change brought by the treatment.
Advantage: There is a comparison between performances by the same subjects.
Limitation:
Because there is no control group, it’s difficult to determine whether the change is brought by the treatment (independent variable) or other factors (intervening variable) like maturation and family/peer support.

4. Static Group Comparison Study. Two groups are chosen, one of which receives the treatment and the other does not. A posttest score is then determined to measure the difference, after treatment, between the two groups.
Advantage: It can provide group comparisons to evaluate a program after it is completed.
Limitation:
There is no pretest and therefore any difference between two groups (control and experimental) prior to the study is unknown.

A quasi-experimental design is quite better than pre-experimental research design for it employs means to compare groups which the later fails to do so. However, this type of experimental design still fails one important aspect of an experiment, which is RANDOMIZATION. The following are quasi-experimental research designs:

1. Nonequivalent Control Group Design. Both a control group and an experimental group is compared, however, the groups are chosen and assigned out of convenience rather than through randomization.


2.Time-Series Design. Time series designs refer to the pretesting and posttesting of one group of subjects at different intervals. The purpose might be to determine long term effect of treatment and therefore the number of pre- and posttests can vary from one each to many.Sometimes there is an interruption between tests in order to assess the strength of treatment over an extended time period. When such a design is employed, the posttest is referred to as follow-up.
Advantages:
a. Can be used to study variables that can’t be studied in any other way.
b. Since there is no control group, the experiment might be repeated in many different places by different researchers to gain external validity.
           Disadvantage:
         It is not capable at controlling effects of history (e.g., events occurring between two measurements) and this design typically extends over long periods of time.

3. Counterbalanced Design. This design is used when we want to compare two groups that are likely to be different even before the study begins. In other words, if we want to see how a new treatment affects people with different psychological disorders, the disorders themselves would create two or more nonequivalent groups. Once again, the number of pretests and post tests can vary from one each to many.

True experimental designs employ both a control group and a means to measure the change that occurs in both groups. In this sense, the researcher attempts to control for all confounding variables, or at least consider their impact, while attempting to determine if the treatment is what truly caused the change. The true experiment is often thought of as the only research method that can adequately measure the cause and effect relationship. The following are true experimental research designs:

1. Pretest-Posttest Control Group. This design holds a degree of randomization, uses control group, and therefore has greater internal validity.
Principal Use:
It is used to assess the impact of an intervention or treatment to two randomized group, one control and one experimental.
Advantages:
a. change in behavior and outcomes after intervention can be determined
b. chances of confounding due to other factors can be decreased
c. can be expanded to include more than one treatment
d. it can allow for many comparisons (i.e. between groups, pretest and posttest)
e. confidence in establishing cause-and-effect (i.e. confidence that the difference between groups is due to the intervention)Posttest Only Control Group Design. Only one group receives treatment and both groups undergo posttest.Design assumes groups are equivalent due to random assignment.
Advantages:
a. easy design to implement
b. used in instances when a pretest is too costly or inappropriate or impossible
c. eliminates interaction effect of combined pretest -treatment from the group comparison
d. optimal design for applying the t-test or analysis of variance.

           Limitations
a. requires care in selection of a posttest instrument which is truly sensitive to changes caused by the treatment.
b. can’t measure change
c. will not allow as powerful statistical tests as is permitted by the standard pretest-posttest control group design 

4. Solomon Four-Group Design. Controls for the effect of the pretest.
Advantages:
a. control threats to external validity inherent in the standard design, e.g., possibility of pretest sensitizing groups to the treatment.
b. assess more accurately effects of pretest alone, the treatment alone, and the interaction of pretesting and treatment.
c. If we disregard pretests, analysis of variance procedures are possible.
d. Alternatively, by using pretest as a covariate, analysis of covariance procedures is possible.
           Limitations: Difficulty in arranging the logistics of the design

Steps in Conducting Experimental Research
Like performing a regular experiment in Science classes, Experimental Research in education involves steps that need to be followed. The first step involved is the selection and definition of a problem. For example, if you are interested at doing an experimental research on the effectiveness of a new teaching strategy, such topic can be selected as the "problem" and can further be defined before executing the experiment.

The second step is the selection of subjects for the study. This process will highly depend on the type of experimental research one is interested to conduct. If it's pre-experiemental research, on experimental group can be assigned. If it's quasi-experimental, two groups can be assigned but individuals are not randomly chosen. For a true experimental research, the researcher can randomly assign individuals in two different groups.

The third steps involves the selection of measuring instruments for the research based on the chosen problem.  It is followed by the selection of a design then the execution of procedure. Data analysis follows and then the formulation of conclusion.

References:
All Psych Online: The Virtual Psychology Classroom. (2004). Research Methods (Chapter 5: Experimental Design). Retrieved February 3, 2009 from http://allpsych.com/researchmethods/experimentaldesign.html

Davis, John, PhD (1997). Experimental Research Methods. Retrieved February 1, 2009 from http://clem.mscd.edu/~davisj/prm2/exper1.html

Krishnan, Edward Roy, Ph.D. Experimental Research. Course handout in Research Methods in Educational Administration, St. Theresa Inti College, BangkokThailand.

Zulueta, Francisco M. and Costales, Nestor Edilberto B., Jr. (2003). Methods of Research, Thesis-Writing and Applied Statistics. Mandaluyong CityPhilippines: National Book Store

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Voice of Esa

Photo from www.goodwillnmi.org
Esa (not her real name) was one of my students during my first year of teaching in Thailand. She was under my Grade 1 English as Foreign Language (EFL) class when I first taught at a government school. Like the other kids, Esa had a very little grasp of English language but her physical features, which are apparently different from the other children in the class, made me wonder why it's difficult for her to speak in English. At first glance, you would notice that she's not Thai at all and I learned later that she's half British and half Thai.

She was still under my class when she was in Grade 2 that's why I was able to personally observe her progress in using English in communication although her being shy was still obvious. From her little grasp of English vocabulary, she gradually widened her skills as I have seen how her confidence in speaking in English in front of the class has improved the following year.

As part of our lesson in Grade 2, after having them master the basic vocabulary and simple sentence structures related to family, which was our focus that time, I asked them to draw a simple picture about their family. After that, I instructed them to use the vocabulary and basic structures learned in telling something about the picture they have drawn. Most of the students were eager to present their works in front and the feeling of fulfillment for being able to tell something in English about their family were evident in the faces of the innocents except for Esa.

When it was Esa's turn, she slowly walked towards the center of the platform in front but unlike the other children, she was hesitant to show her drawing. As her teacher, I approached her and sooner I noticed that her drawing had only two persons which is not a case of typical family. In her artwork, I saw a young girl which was obviously her and an old woman holding the young girl. That time, I knew what she was feeling deep within as I saw how gloomy her face had become. As her teacher, I still encouraged her to present her drawing by showing genuine appreciation to what she has done. She was convinced but when she started to show her drawing, mixed emotions started to conquer the learning-enhancing atmosphere of the classroom. To make Esa's presentation worthwhile like the previous presentations, I asked the children to pay attention to what Esa would present. However, before Esa could tell something about her drawing, tears started to fell into her cheeks. I knew what was happening so I immediately consoled her. Esa, with her demure look, slowly told me that the persons in her drawing were her self and her grandmother. I did not ask anymore where her parents were. Instead, with my broken Thai, I told her that she's so lucky to have a grandmother who loves her so much and she should be proud of it. I thought Esa got what I wanted to say as she threw back a fancy smile.

Later, I learned that Esa's parents left her to her grandmother since she was only four. I could not imagine how could they abandon a lovely and beautiful daughter like Esa. But still, Esa's very lucky to have a very caring grandmother who even asked me for an individualized English lesson with Esa after school hours.
Esa is just one of the learners who carries heavy loads in their hearts - they all need a caring teacher who would help them ascertain the best of themselves amidst their burdens. They need teachers who would inspire them and help them grow. I hope that many teachers would answer Esa's call. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Total Quality Management: From Industry to Education

Theories and practices in Educational Management as a field of study were derived from management principles originally applied in the industry (Sergiovanni and Starratt, 2007; Bush, 2003; Oliva and Paulas, 1999; Hoy and Miskel, 1991). This is because educational administration, as a field of scholarly endeavor, developed later than related fields, such as business administration and public administration (Kimbrough and Nunnery, 1976). These theories and principles were carefully modified in order to fit in the educational setting. Hence, in order to fully understand the underlying concepts in a particular theory and practice in education administration, it is important to explore its origin and impacts in the industry – where it came from.

As TQM derived its language, concepts, and methodology from industry (Sallis, 2002), it is therefore important to investigate how TQM started in the industry. This way, we will gain better understanding on how it permeated in the educational setting. Moreover, the distinction between product-oriented industries and service-oriented educational institutions can be established when there is thorough understanding on how TQM gained popularity in the industry and then in education.

TQM had its first success in Japan during the post-World War II rehabilitation. It was introduced by an American statistician, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, who first visited Japan in the late 1940s to work in their post-war census (Sallis, 2002). The idea was embraced by the Japanese where they started applying it in the manufacturing of goods and then followed by service industries. From then on, Japanese industries became popular icons in the world when it comes to product quality. Few of the companies which applied Deming’s management principle include Ford Motor Company, Phillips Semiconductor, SGL Carbon, Motorola and Toyota Motor Company (Gilbert, 1992 as cited by Hashmi, 2000–2009). Dr. W. Edwards Deming is now celebrated in Japan as the “American father of Japanese industry” wherein the Deming Prize, established in 1950s, became Japan’s most prestigious industrial award (Schomoker and Wilson, 1993). It was only after Japan achieved tremendous success in the world industry that America realized that they also have to focus on quality as Japan started to dominate the world market.

However, the movement of total quality in education is of more recent origin as there were only few references in the literature before the late 1980s (Sallis, 2002). Sallis (2002) clearly narrated the beginning of TQM in education in the USA and the UK. He divulged, “Much of the pioneering work on TQM was carried out in the USA and by further education colleges in the UK. The US initiatives developed somewhat before those in Britain, but in both countries the surge of interest occurred from 1990 onwards.”

TQM was first applied in the higher education level but it then gained prominence in the entire levels of education specifically in the basic education level where schools, especially in the USA, became after of quality awards in education. However, even if TQM is proven to be applicable in education institutions, extra cautions must still be observed when applying concepts and practices from industry to education. In relation to this, Law and Glover (200) inscribe, ”While we need to recognize that a number of ‘commercial’ concepts may be applicable to educational scenarios as it becomes market-driven, it is clear that there is no ready-made or universally applicable theories we can simply pull off from the shelves.”

Defining TQM in Education

Plenty of definitions of TQM which exist in literatures define TQM as it is applied in business and industry. Although some of them are applicable in the field of education, others still need to be modified in order to fit into the needs of the education sector. In an attempt to define TQM in the educational context, Murgatroyd and Morgan (1993) defined TQM as a systematic management of an organization’s customer-supplier relationships in such a way as to ensure sustainable, steep-slope improvement in quality performance.

Ross (1994), Besterfield et al. (1995), Murgatroyd and Morgan (1993) and Mukopadhyay (2005) argue that TQM has to be viewed in a holistic manner. Mokupadhyay (2005) contends that a partisan or fragmented way of looking at quality in any organization is neither desirable, nor feasible, for an action in one area sets out a chain of reactions in several other areas of management of an educational institution. TQM provides an important opportunity to look at quality in a holistic fashion and also provides instrumentalities for managing quality.

Convinced that TQM is not an agenda of only the top management as opposed to other hierarchical management principles, Sallis (2002) inscribed, “The total in TQM dictates that everything and everybody in the organization is involved in the enterprise of continuous improvement. The management in TQM likewise means everyone, because everyone in the institution, whatever their status, position or role, is the manager of their own responsibilities.”
  
Underlying Concepts of TQM

Understanding the origin and impact of TQM in the industry and its transmission in education is not enough to fully comprehend what TQM really is all about. It has to be, first, understood that TQM is a management principle composed of many underlying concepts. Barry (1991), as cited by Binkley (1994), notes that TQM is a natural evolution of all the effective management techniques that are currently being applied by excellent organization.

Murgatroyd and Morgan (1993) argue that “the key word in TQM is management. Quality performance does not occur by happenchance or accident, it occurs because it is designed into the way the organization works; it permeates all aspects of the organization.”  Their statement has been supported by Sadgrove (1995) who believes that TQM is really just another word for good management.

Central to every TQM-driven organization is its focus on continuous improvement ( Rao et al., 1996; Schomoker & Wilson, 1993; Ross, 1994; Besterfield et al., 1995).  Ross (1994) contends that TQM is the integration of all functions and processes within an organization to achieve continuous improvement of the quality of goods and services. Besterfield et al. (1995) put the definition of TQM this way: “TQM is defined as both philosophy and a set of guiding principles that represent a foundation of a continuously improving organization. It is the application of quantitative methods and human resources to improve all the processes within an organization and exceed customer needs now and in the future.”

            Customer-satisfaction is a focus of every endeavor in a TQM organization (Sadgrove, 1995; Sashkin, 1993). Sadgrove (1995) points out that TQM means satisfying the customers first time, every time.



References:
Besterfield, D. et al. (1995). Total quality management. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Binkley, B. (1994). Total quality management and its impact on higher education with emphasis on academic libraries. Unpublished master’s thesis, Tennessee State University, Tennessee

Murgatroyd, S. & Morgan, C. (1993). Total quality management and the school. Buckingham: Open University Press


Mokupadhyay, M. (2005). Total quality management in education. New Delhi: Sage Publications

Sadgrove, K. (1995). Making TQM work. London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Sallis, E. (2002). Total quality management in education. London: Kogan Page Ltd.

Schomoker, M. & Wilson, R. (1993). Total quality education: Profiles of schools that demonstrate the power of Deming’s management principles. Bloomington: Phi Delta Kappa




Saturday, June 19, 2010

Teacher Complacency

I could still remember those days when I was still in a teacher-training institution preparing myself for my future teaching endeavors. When I was in fourth year and about to graduate, I was exposed to the real teaching atmosphere by having me attend a daily observation and participation session in our college's laboratory high school. I observed and assisted my cooperating teacher's high school Math classes for four months. At the same time, I learned to prepare those teaching materials like lesson plans, teaching reflections, assessment and feedback forms and others. That time, the importance of those materials in assisting the learners' need was clearly introduced to us that's why, as future teachers, we adhered on making the best possible output because we believed that those things were not just mere chores but a huge help to our learners as well. 


When I had my teaching practicum during the second semester, I passionately prepared my lessons and promptly did all those paperworks considering that they were of great importance for the learning of my students. I used to enter my classes carrying loads of visual aids and full of enthusiasm to teach. I have observed that the same attitude could also be observed from other student-teachers. All of us were very enthusiastic to teach and we loved to share our teaching experiences every time we go back to our college. Personally, when I had my off-campus teaching practicum in a government high school 72 kilometers away from the college I was attending, I took bundles of references with me. I had my portfolio, professional articles, notes and a variety of Mathematics book which guided me throughout my near-independent teaching practicum.


With all the enthusiasm I and my fellow student-teachers had during our practicum, a sense of confusion struck my head when I saw how 'experienced teachers' had become in their profession. Most, if not all, of them had become complacent in their respective fields. The enthusiasm that we had, could hardly be seen to these experienced teachers. Unlike the passionate sharing of teaching experiences evident in every student-teacher, professional conversation could hardly be heard in the faculty room where these experienced teachers stay during their free time. These teachers normally have complaints against their students and the tasks which they were mandated to do. It's very sad because those things directly affect the learners. 


Why do teachers tend to become complacent during their service years? What are the factors that demotivate teachers to pursue their passion in teaching? 


Like other professions, teachers need support in order to grow professionally. Everybody needs constant motivation to sustain one's passion. However, we know that teachers are the least paid professionals and most of the times very little support is given by the management of the school to meet the professional needs of the teachers. Professional development trainings are provided but they are not actually given to those teachers who need them. Instead, those who already have the potential and the passion for teaching get the best support from the administration. Aside from that, teachers are not considered as collaborators in the planning stage. Plans are usually done by those who are on the top and teachers are just asked to implement what has been planned. 


For instance, if there are changes which need to be implemented in the classroom, teachers are usually asked to implement the changes without enough information that would help them understand the urgency and the importance of the implementation. Changes in school forms and giving of additional loads to teachers are ordinarily given without considering the impact of such change to the teachers who directly influence the learners. Some of those forms and paperworks are just additional loads for teachers and they do not even contribute to students' learning. Instead of focusing on the support that every teacher could possibly give to the learners, much focus is given on asking teachers to provide unneeded reports and documents and sad to say, these reports are not even read by anyone--they're just kept as a files. Most of the times, it leads to teacher burn-out as teachers would eventually find out that they spend much of their time making those unnecessary reports than finding fulfillment through helping the students out in the learning process.


I hope that administrators would be awakened and would realize how the current surge of the system negatively affects the teachers. Teachers need support and encouragement to reinvent their teaching and be motivated with the help they are providing to the students. I hope everybody would realize such thing before it's too late. One day, we might witness a huge number of dedicated teachers shifting careers for they do not find fulfillment and happiness in what they are doing anymore. After all, it's the desire of every human being to find fulfillment at what he/she is doing and I believe that such fulfillment can only be achieved if we see impact of our efforts. Such impact can be seen in the number of lives we have touched and not in the bundle of irrelevant files we have finished.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FUN WITH COOPERATIVE LEARNING


Before the second semester started, as part of my long-term plan, I decided to incorporate cooperative learning strategies in my Mathematics classes to enhance the learners’ learning of Mathematical concepts and the contextual uses of the English language. Provided that it would be properly implemented, I believe it would help both the average and the fast learners in the classroom.


Through cooperative learning, the learners’ social skills could be enhanced as they work with their teammates in ensuring both individual and group success. In addition to, I found this strategy to be very interesting because learning usually happens in a very natural way wherein everyone could get support from every member of the group. Other advantages of cooperative learning strategies include a greater chance of developing the learners’ social skills, oral communication skills, self esteem and most of all their academic achievement regardless of their academic background.

However, in order to accomplish tremendous success in this strategy, as teachers, we need to fully understand how cooperative learning works best in the classroom. We need to effectively communicate to the learners that through this strategy, no one of the team members could be considered loser for every member gain from each other’s efforts. Instead, we have to make sure that the learners fully understand how every member share a common fate, thus, how one’s performance could positively or negatively affect other members.

TEAM BUILDING
Before fully implementing the strategy in the classroom, learners need to completely understand the importance of each member in a team. At this point, they need to understand that they would not only be working with those students they like or the ones who are good. Instead, they need to recognize their individual responsibility in helping one another in order to succeed in every learning endeavor.

In my all-boy class, I related a learning team to a football team. In every game, one or two players would always stand out but that is not important at all because what is more important, is that, they won the game as a team and no good player could win without the support of other team members and the same is true in a learning team. One might be good in one area and the others might be good in another area. As a team, they could use their differences as a tool to learn from one another.

And to personally build their respective teams, I gave time to my students to creatively think of a name that would best describe their team as learners of Mathematics. I gave them enough time to discuss and decide for it and in the end they were able to coin interesting names which they cheered as I read them. Some of the teams came with names like MathMatrix, The Absolute, Math Boys, Super Math and Math Rangers and they all justified why they came up with such names for their teams. Teams could also create their team logo or team tag to keep the spirit of their teams alive.


TEAM LEARNING
After building their respective teams, we are now confident to move to the next level which is the heart of this learning strategy. Of course, we didn’t just divide the class into teams for the sake of doing it. The very reason why learners are with their respective teams is for them to maximize learning on the subject matter.

This is the very reason why we encourage heterogeneous type of grouping because we want learners of different levels and abilities to help each other in achieving common learning goal. In my class, I always emphasize to every group that they need to consult every member of their team if they have any idea about the lesson and I also encourage them to be as resourceful as possible. I tell my students to make their teacher as their last resource so they could practice doing appropriate actions when problems occur during the learning process. As teachers, we have to be extra careful in entertaining simple questions which sometimes lead to the answer and in helping a group because when other teams will see that you are spending much time with one group, they would also ask for your help and the domino effect goes on. When that happens, dividing the class into teams do not make any sense at all because what a teacher would usually do is move from one group to another teaching the concepts.

During the group learning process, the responsibility of the teacher is to facilitate the activity by monitoring each group. We need to observe each group and keep a record of the students’ behavior and level of participation in the activity. We also have to constantly provide immediate feedback to each team so that they would know how to improve in the following activities.

TEAM TOURNAMENT
To make the class livelier and to keep every team’s spirit alive, have each team participate in a team tournament. Show which group is excelling and monitor each team’s standing from time to time so that every team will be encouraged to participate. The score of each team could be taken from the score each member earned during individual assessment and group assessment. Authentic assessment is highly encouraged in cooperative learning. Assessment should be anchored upon the learning objectives specified before the introduction of the subject matter. Constantly communicate these objectives so that it would become a goal for each team.

TEAM CELEBRATION
After working so hard for the achievement of their goals, it’s always good to end it up with a rewarding team celebration. As teachers, we need to recognize both individual and group efforts of our students.

In my class, I am awarding certificates and other prizes to the best performing team at the end of the semester. I also give special awards to add more fun during the awarding day. However, this reward is a long-term reward and this could not contribute to the present learning needs of the students. To keep each team’s enthusiasm, I do give constant rewards in the form of simple recognition every time a team does something worthy of recognition.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Total Quality Management (TQM) and Thailand's English Program (EP)

In the course of a decade, the world has tremendously experienced rapid change in various aspects which eventually led to the globalization of economy and the transformation of society. Competition became a cliché in all aspects from economy to education and others.

Realizing the current condition of the world, the National Education Act of 1999, which is the blueprint of the modern Thai educational system, has profoundly expressed, “The urgently needed reform will undoubtedly redeem the country from the downward spiral, so that Thailand will rise in the immediate future as a nation of wealth, stability and dignity, capable of competing with others in this age of globalization” (ONEC, 2007).

Heeding the latest national education reform which calls for competency among Thai citizens in the global arena, the Ministry of Education spearheaded the transformation of the education system through a strategy based around enhancing moral and ethical values together with a core program of enhancing the quality of education in which the transformation of language learning is one of the focuses. The learning of English language has been given main focus through English Program which aimed at providing full Thai curriculum subjects in English (Thailand MOE, 2004).

However, as an emergent practice in the field of basic education, a plethora of problems has stricken the operation of the program and has caused several impediments in achieving the nation’s goal for its citizens. These problems include difficulty in finding textbooks that would match the Ministry of Education’s curriculum, hiring qualified teachers to teach the subject matter in English, low level of students’ conception over the subject matter, lack of motivation to learn the subject matter in English among students, internal conflicts among teachers and school administrators resulting to low level of teachers retention, lack of awareness of the program’s vision, mission, goals and objectives among most of the stakeholders and dissatisfaction of some parents over the operation of the program. Beyond the school organization, there is a pungent competition among the basic education institutions offering English Program.

The abovementioned problems are supported by an array of local researches and literatures which reveals the current status of language education in Thailand especially in the English Program. As pointed out by Wiriyachitra (2007), with all the efforts to enhance English language teaching and learning, Thailand is still facing many problems that inhibit her from standing tall in the “Knowledge” societies. She further revealed that one of the factors that inhibit Thailand’s capability to be in the “Knowledge” society is that foreign teachers in the English program are less qualified. Hence the students, on average, do not excel in mathematics and science.
Furthermore, a study of attitudes and problems in teaching and learning English in Islamic religious schools in Yala conducted by Rattnanayart, Charumanee and Chiramanee in 2006 has revealed the following results:

1. English teachers in the three school sizes perceive English teaching problems mostly at a critical level. These problems, ranked in order of seriousness, are those concerning teaching and learning materials, evaluation and testing, students, and workload.
2. All administrators agree that they have not yet succeeded in their management; they want to improve the quality of teaching and learning English to make it more effective.
3. School administrators face similar problems concerning financial support from the government, students, English teachers, curriculum, the environment, teaching and learning facilities, and assistance from the educational authority in charge.

The problems cited in the previous paragraphs are few of the dilemmas which can be addressed by a well-implemented TQM Program. However, even if TQM can be a panacea of the various problems facing the English Program in basic education institutions, it has to be understood that TQM is not a solution which ordinarily comes out of the blue. As mentioned by Sallis (2003) in his book Total Quality Management in Education, "TQM is not an imposition. It is not something which can be done by somebody for you and for the others. TQM needs to be implemented by individuals who are of utmost commitment in achieving the customer-focused vision of the program."

TQM, in general, could be an answer to Thailand’s dream to redeem itself from the downward spiral and become a country capable of competing with others in this age of globalization. As pointed out by Fitzgerald (2004), “Now that the technologies of transportation and communication have replaced national economic systems with a global economy, nations and businesses that do not practice TQM can become globally non-competitive rather rapidly.” He further divulged, “This march towards non-competitiveness can be avoided if citizens are helped to become TQM practitioners.”

References:

Fitzgerald, Ron (2004). Total quality management in education. Minuteman career and technical high school. Retrieved December 18, 2008 from http://www.minuteman.org/topics/tqm.html

Rattnanayart, W., Charumanee, N., & Chiramanee, N. (2007). A study of attitudes and problems in teaching and learning English in Islamic religious schools in Yala. ThaiTESOL Bulletin, 20 (1-2), 73–100

Ministry of Education(2004). The education system in Thailand. Towards a learning society in Thailand (pamphlet of the Bureau of International Cooperation). Retrieved January 26, 2009 from http://www.bic.moe.go.th/fileadmin/BIC_Document/book/MOEleaflet/Thai-ed-system.pdf

Office of the Education Council (2007). National Education Act of B.E. 2542 (1999). Office of the Education Council. Retrieved January 26, 2009 from http://www.onec.go.th/publication/law2542/index_law2542.html

Sallis, Edward. Total quality management in education. Kogan Page Ltd. London: 2002

Tan, Hedda (2009). English language teaching in Thailand: where do Filipinos fit in? Filipinos in Thailand: Filipinos living, working, traveling in Thailand blog. Retrieved February 20, 2009 from http://www.filipinosinthailand.com/english-language-teaching-in-thailand-where-do-filipinos-fit-in/

Wiriyachittra, Arunee (2007). The present perfect for the future perfect. ThaiTESOL Bulletin, 20 (1-2), 101–110