Education

What salient aspects of an Asian university and the students that attend do you see as a contradiction?

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(1600 Words)

Abstract

‘Manners maketh the man’ (William of Wykeham, 1350).  Whether you are in the street, in a restaurant or for this case in an Asian university certain etiquette prevails. My observations were done to draw attention to the value of etiquette and also to show the extent of contradiction to normally accepted good manners there are in the university in question. The results showed that the philosophy lecture room in this seat of learning far from being a quiet room of studious individuals was, in fact, a myriad of factors void of study ethics. The conclusion is, that when it comes to study, there is not a universal ideal as the acceptable method.

Introduction

Etiquette is not a new idea and is changing all the time, as we see nowadays with the development of the smart telephone, but propriety still holds to essential tenets.  There are unspoken rules about daily etiquette such as talking loud, jumping queues and generally being aware of others. There certainly can be a lot of daily life that breaches social manners.  In a recent survey, 90% of people thought it would be rude to receive a telephone call at a church which goes to say certain arenas are faux par for telephone use. It is a fact barriers are being crossed.

In a social minefield for new students to their university, one business has recognized what many would not think was needed for learning, and as such, CLM Business Etiquette Consulting in Austin Texas has advised how students should invest in their courses to get them through their time at university. CLM’s study courses highlight factors such as establishing meaningful relationships with your professors and other students to ascertain a co-operative experience.

My observations will show that new students in this certain Asian university need to be shown, taught, and given rules as to how to behave in a lecture room whilst having a clear understanding of other fellow peers’ feelings and education.

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Action Research: “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”

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(411 Words)

‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’ is a seeming generalised way of introducing the subject of Action Research, this may succinctly give an idea of what it is, although as this piece of writing on action research continues I will delve a little deeper into how this research process relates to what the teacher can do to enhance a holistic experience within their classroom. This ‘teacher can do’ approach is echoed by British educational thinker Lawrence Stenhouse who said ‘curriculum research and development ought to belong to the teacher’ (Stenhouse, 1975 p. 142). Stenhouse proposed that the teacher’s work should not be studied; they themselves should be the ones studying it.

Additionally, Wilfred Carr, a Professor of Philosophy of Education, and Stephen Kemiss, Professor of Education, stress ‘since only the practitioner has access to commitment and practical theories which inform praxis, only the practitioner can study praxis. When teaching is looked at from an outside perspective, it can be seen to be difficult. Action Research as a study of praxis must thus be research into one’s own practice (Carr & Kemmis (1986: 191). The focus here is on a world of teaching that is constantly changing and the social situations that teachers find themselves in with their teaching where they can make a social and organisational change. The teacher can then be the one who is in charge of the situation for change whilst with the participation of others, namely the stakeholders, striving for everyone’s well-being in education.

Moreover, Action Research is learning by consulting and daily problem solving and what the teacher can do to improve on the situations that surface through their teaching. Thus, within this daily practice, the teacher has to identify a problem, they have experienced, then imagine how they may change this, thus putting a plan of action together to overcome it. Once this plan has been instigated, it is to evaluate how the plan effectively succeeded or not. Action Research does not stop there as the focus is on cyclical research, so in this process, once the evaluation’s results have been collated, the process can start again where the class is modified on the back of the results. This may well end up as an ongoing process as shown in Stephen Kemmis’ diagram. In short, Action Research can be explained as – identifying the problem, then resolving it, then seeing how successful it was, then if you are not satisfied, do it again.

Functional Skills (Literacy and Numeracy) in 14-19 (Vocational) Education

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(Written 2012)

Teenagers can be ill equipped for challenges in life because they lack skills in English and maths. Young students’ well being and their future prospects are made from them achieving required skills to help them to push forward in their chosen career. As of October 2011 the Functional Skills component, including literacy and numeracy, of vocational courses started to include these vital skills in the new model to take over from the old Key Skills qualification. Equipping students with these vital skills highlighted the Government’s measure for success of five GCSEs for any student which means GCSEs at least at grade A*-C – including Maths and English. Therefore, the provision of functional skills in young students’ vocational subjects is the route to achieving literacy and numeracy; being essential for the Government’s reforms of 14-19 education. Thus, what follows is this written report that will discuss literacy and numeracy which in vocational courses were, as mentioned, called Key Skills and their modern equivalent Functional Skills. The development, difficulties and the future of these skills for students will be discussed showing it to be a pressing problem under debate by past and present governments (and the opposition) with their policies and initiatives. Focus will be put on vocational/technical courses. Mentioned also is a time frame from 2001 to present day. Moreover, I will show that for the future of any student with skills in English and Maths including technical knowledge gained from their vocational course will develop each student to a better future; not only in education but also their career path.  Additionally, a key underlying theme throughout this report acknowledges students ‘achieving economic well-being, making a positive contribution and enjoying and achieving’ that encapsulates Every Citizen Matters initiative to show the value of achieving functional skills. I will also take into account my own role in teaching functional skills that stresses the implementation of English language.

To begin with, looking over a period from 2001, the British Government has tried to instil literacy and numeracy into students. In 2001, for the Labour Government’s ‘Skills For Life’ strategy, there was an impetus at improving literacy and numeracy. In 2007 and having had an expenditure of £5 billion results still showed a large demographic with an inability to read or write simple sentences  or a basic knowledge of mathematics (House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, 2008, pg. 3). For example, in 2006–07, 51,000 school leavers left without Level 1 Maths and 39,000 without level 1 English (House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, 2008, pg. 5). Targets have now been set for the Government’s World skills in literacy and numeracy for 2020 which were agreed in July, 2007 to make the UK a world leader. The value of acquiring these skills cannot be underestimated. The advancement beyond the basic measure of success in literacy and numeracy skills can be shown to be strategic for students. For example, Alison Wolf reported that advanced level 3 is a valuable qualification and helps in the progression of work while she described the level 2 (minimum measure of 4-5 CSE grade A* to C) as “the staple offer for between a quarter and a third of the post-16 cohort is a diet of low-level vocational qualifications, most of which have little to no labour market value” (Wolf, 2011, pg. 7). From the Wolf Report these are contradictory goals for future students. The major goal of any student is that he or she wants a job after their two years when completing an equivalence of at least 5 GCSE A* – C (Level 2) in their vocational course of choosing. The Wolf Report states that level 1 and 2 vocational awards offers poor or even negative returns (Alison Wolf, 2011, pg. 31). Furthermore, the Wolf Report worryingly recognised that less than 50% of school leaving sixteen year old students failed to achieve English and Maths GCSEs grade A* to C (Alison Wolf, 2011, pg. 8). This is where the need for functional skills is that it is for those who do not possess those GCSEs at grade A* – C. There has to be hope that students have the initiative to get these required (literacy and numeracy) skills and pass their vocational course and subsequently go further in education.

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Inclusive Learning with Multiple Intelligences: we are all unique in our own way

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(1567 Words)

‘Every child matter’ was the bold statement that put out a strong message for all teachers: a fact that subsequently continue to reverberate through inclusive learning and differentiation in the classroom in the modern day classroom. The child-focused initiative launched by the then British Labour Government in a green paper to be followed by the Children’s Act 2004 highlights that the classroom is full of individuals all with their learning abilities, methods, and idiosyncrasies. Improving and progressing, the all-inclusive learning experience for students developed further with the ‘Developing and Embedding Inclusive Policy and Practice of Higher Education’ which was launched in 2007. One example of this 2007 policy’s holistic outlook focuses on the courses that are being studied, and that the approach by teachers could be obstructing the learning of the students that do not include all individuals. Thus, teachers adapting the classes to all complements each student. This would demonstrate that inclusive learning and differentiation are paramount and are a dominant force for change that tries to give empowering success in every student. This brings forth, and the focus of this piece of writing, the ideas of the American psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences, from his book Frames of Mind (1983): looking after the needs of all students and their unique learning and performing methods in the classroom. Basically stated one student could work better by using their practical knowledge while another by their theoretical knowledge; recognising the fact that these two students are learning the same subject matter. I will further discuss the attributes of Multiple Intelligences highlighting first that individuals have cognitive nuances and hidden abilities, moving onto an example of a kinesthetic model that has the students actively working on the subject matter. I will then talk about creating interest for the students through their understanding of the lesson and also onto the actual students’ intelligence and the teacher underestimating them. I will finally discuss going beyond the norm for teachers and them not taking classes or the individual students for granted.

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Problem-posing education

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So, imagining the classroom as more of an environment where all are involved and books and worksheets are in the background just as supplementary materials, we need to have the students as active participants. We need them to express themselves and see how relative topics affect them that generate opinions. We need to challenge them and let them all be part of the class that relates to them as individuals and as part of a group. Pairwork, groupwork and class debates help all involved. We need these students to have a voice that makes them feel part of the group; that empowers them to be creative.

Or should the teacher just lecture at the front?

What we need is problem-posing education.  The students need lessons, exercises and dialogue that bring thought and opinion to the fore that makes them think about the world differently. On this theme, Paulo Freire in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed mentions that ‘in problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation (Freire, 1970: 64). He also says ‘problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality; thereby responding to the vocation of persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation (Freire, 1970: 65).

This is handy reading when thinking about your lesson plan and all the work you may put into getting it right, but you may be avoiding your best asset: the students and their input.