Educational Stuff

Supporting academic facilitators


Thursday, March 15, 2018

9:54:00 AM

Orientation, Co-planning and Co-teaching: A part of action research procedures

In an action research which I conducted on mentoring teachers, the first step of the initial cycle included an orientation on lesson planning which was initially started from a brain storming activity about a “what is a lesson? What is planning? and what is the lesson planning? From the responses of research participants, it was revealed that they were unaware of the general picture of a lesson, planning and lesson planning. They did not provide any response which would show background information for planning a lesson and they could not explain the importance of background information in planning a lesson. That meant that they had no idea of psychological perspectives in educating children (Wolfolk, 2007). There was another problem for novice teachers to sequence their lessons due to a lack of knowledge of the components of a lesson plan particularly students’ practice and application of their new learning as well as overall assessment.

I briefly explained the terms lesson and planning and asked the teachers to define lesson planning. According to Parker, Ndoye and Imig (2009), when novice teachers are supported, they tend to be motivated towards teaching and learning. Then I shared the importance of background information for planning a lesson to be taught in classroom by relating background information with reference to Jean Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories (Wolfolk, 2007) as examples. These small actions helped novice teachers provide relevant examples regarding a lesson and planning. In reflective session, the research participant teachers expressed that the relationship of background information for planning a lesson with psychological perspectives for educating children was a new learning for them. They shared to incorporate such information in their lesson plans afterwards. It was revealed from their statements during reflective sessions or feedback sessions (Flesh, 2005) that they got insights about engaging activities to start an interactive teaching, guided practice and application stages of a lesson plan.
Second step of the cycle one included co-planning where I planned some lessons with research participants as co-planner to find out the challenges faced by them in planning their lessons. Side by side I observed as participant observer (Koch & Appleton, 2007) and filled a checklist to see what extent teachers plan their lessons as Jones (2001) found that the role of a mentor is also assessor.  My reflections on daily sessions and filled checklists revealed that most challenging thing for them was designing an activity to initiate an effective lesson. Another challenge for them was selecting and organizing activities for students’ practice and application of new learning during teaching.
While co-planning, I frequently asked them thought provoking questions regarding how to incorporate activities in lessons to explore students’ prior and current learning. Resta (2001) stated that the mentors benefit by applying cognitive skills such as asking probing questions. I provided them clues and hints regarding incorporating activities for guided practice and application in line with the set objectives. Gradually after many efforts they developed skills to plan activities to start a lesson. Their ideas in reflective sessions and my own reflection on daily sessions revealed that the co-planning sessions were thought provoking and most of the time they were intensively busy in planning their lessons. They said that after planning sessions their classroom teaching improved to some extent (Field note, Dec 5, 2012). In the last sessions of this step the research participants developed warm up activities, guided practice tasks and application task by their own and I provided feedback to improve the planed lessons.
The third step contained co-teaching where I carried out pair teaching with research participants (novice teachers) one by one to teach the lessons which were co-planned in the last step. Rest of them observed and filled observation checklist. I found that while delivering the planned lessons, they did not ask the students the higher order questions to develop their understanding in early sessions. The teachers used resources in classroom needed to be visible and effectively used in classroom. They lacked monitoring students’ work in group, pair and individual tasks during guided practice and application stage of the lesson.
In my pair teaching with the research participants, whenever I found the occasions where the teachers needed to ask relevant thinking questions, I asked higher order questions so that the teachers may learn to ask such occasional questions. While using resources I showed them up in the class and asked the students whether the resources are visible to all of them or not. Then I taught the lesson by using the resource. My intention was to make the teachers learn how to effectively use resources. For monitoring students’ task I went to all the students in groups, pairs and individual students to observe what they are doing. These actions brought about changes among research participants as they started to use resources by making sure that all students can see the resources easily. Filled checklists by observer teachers showed that the use of teaching aids were rated on ‘very good’ (on a scale of Need Improvement, Good, V. Good and Excellent). Teacher’s monitoring improved as they went to students to make sure all students perform their assigned task.
Throughout the three steps of the first cycle of my action research I observed that novice teachers who were my research participants were oriented with basics of lesson planning, their skills of planning and delivering a planned lesson developed. Although some areas still needed to be improved such as time management, elaborating concepts through sharing examples beyond the textbook, effective use of teaching aids and ask relevant higher order questions. Therefore these areas I decided to work on in the next cycle. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

9:40:00 AM

Methods of determining reliability of a test

Test-Retest Reliability

The test is administered twice on the same group to assess the consistency of a test scores over a period of time. The two tests are similar but not the same. Then the correlation between two sets of scores obtained by test and retest is found using Pearson product moment “r”. Test-retest reliability is best used for things that are stable over time, for example intelligence. Generally, reliability will be higher when little time has passed between two tests (Kubiszyne & Borich 2003).
Equivalent /Parallel-Forms method
In parallel-forms method of determining reliability, the reliability is estimated by comparing two different tests that were created using the same content, difficulty, format and length at the same test. The two tests are administered to the same group within a short interval of time. Then the test scores of two tests are correlated. This correlation provides an index of equivalence. For example, in intermediate or secondary board examinations, two questions paper for a particular subject are constructed and named as paper A or paper B and sometimes paper C is prepared which show equivalent forms tests (Linn & Gronlund, 2000).
Internal Consistency method
The consistency of test results across items on the same test is determined in this method of determining reliability of a test. Test items are compared with each other that measure the same construct to determine the test’s internal consistency. Questions are similar and designed to measure the same thing, the test taker should answer the same for both questions, which would indicate that the test has internal consistency (Swain et al, 2000). Three methods to find the internal consistency of a test known as split-half method and Kuder Richardson 21 formula and inter-rater internal consistency are given below.
Split-half method
Linn and Gronlund (2000) shares that the split-half method of determining internal consistency employs single administration of an even-number test on a sample of pupils. The test is divided into two equivalent halves and correlation for these half test scores is found. The test is divided into even numbered items such as 2,4,6…, in one half and odd numbers such as1,3,5,…., in another half. Then the scores of both the halves are correlated by using spearman brown formula. The formula is given below.
                                                              r2    = 2 (r2/1+ r1)
                                        Where            r2 = reliability coefficient on full test
                                                               r1= correlation of coefficient between half tests
Kuder-Richardson formula 21method
Linn & Gronlund (2003) stated that it is another method of determining reliability using single administration of a test. It is known to provide conservative estimate of the split-half type of reliability. The procedure is based on the consistency of an individual’s performance from item to item and on the standard deviation of the test such that the reliability coefficient obtained denotes internal consistency of the test. Internal consistency here means the degree to which the items of a test measure a common attribute of the testee.
Inter-rater Reliability
In this method two or more independent judges score the test. The scores are then compared to determine the consistency of the raters’ estimates. One way to test inter-rater reliability is to assign each rater score each test. For example, each rater might score items on a scale from 1 to 10. Then the correlation between the two ratings is found to determine the level of inter-rater reliability. Another means of testing inter-rater reliability is to have raters determine which category each observation falls into and then calculate the percentage of agreement between the raters. So, if the raters agree 8 out of 10 times, the test has an 80% inter-rater reliability rate (Swain et al, 2000).
Kubiszyne, T., & Borich, G. (2003). Educational testing and measurement: Classroom application      
               and practice (7thed.). New York: John Wiley & sons. 
Linn, R. L., & Gronlund, N. E. (2000). Measurement and assessment in teaching (8thed.). Delhi:                         Pearson Education.
Swain, S. K., Pradhan, C., & Khotoi, S. P. K. (2000). Educational measurement: Statistics and  
                guidance. Ludhiana: Kalyani.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

9:35:00 AM

Improving professional practices through action research

The process of action research starts with a general idea of improving the situation and ends at an interactive independent professional practice by research participants. During the research process, significant insights are obtained to plan learning activities on the basis of reflection on findings in the situation. Action research provides enough flexibility to allow unclear beginnings while progressing towards the precise ending. The cyclical process also provides an opportunity to learn from the experiences which are gained from the reflection on the process and its outcomes. Queries related to the teaching and learning process are focused during the action research. Burns (2000) was of the opinion that during the process of action research, questions are raised due to the observation in a specific social setting.
The unique feature of action research is the researcher’s direct participation in the research by planning, implementing, observing and reflecting on the process (Burns, 2000; Gay & Airasian, 2003). The researcher is an integral part of the change process during the action research playing multiple roles of planner, executor, observer and reflective practitioner throughout the process of action research. Resultantly, a change is brought about in the situation and an understanding of the complex nature of change as a process is developed.
The entire process of action research revolves around the critical reflections of the practitioners regarding their practices and these reflections contribute towards the development of the situation (Gay & Airasian, 2003). During the action research process, reflective practice is carried out regarding the process and product through reviewing the academic stuff developed by the research participants followed by feedback and the learning while improving the reviewed academic stuff is applied by the participants which improves the situation. 
Action research as a process takes time to introduce a change through planning, implementing, observing and reflecting. The participants need to know this characteristic of action research and make a commitment to take part in the research project throughout the process (Gay & Airasian, 2003). When the process of action research starts, the researcher needs to inform the research participants about the action research process and they participate in the process throughout the research study willingly and voluntarily.

Burns, R. B. (2000). Introduction to research methods (4th ed.). Melbourne: Longman. 

Gay, L. R., & Airasian, P. (2003). Educational research: Competencies for analysis
and applications ( 7th ed.). New Jersey: Merrill prentice Hall. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

7:25:00 AM

Learning Communities in Schools

Teachers discuss during a learning activity

Usually, in many workplaces, the workers work in isolation leading to a competitive culture in which they reluctantly share their strengths and fear admitting weaknesses. However, the learning communities if formed there may provide time and opportunities for the workers to develop collaboration and share freely their successes and failures. Schools as learning communities focus on what is learnt not on what is taught. The teachers observe each other’s classes, collect data and identify need improvement areas and collectively find solutions to problems. The focus is not on what teachers plan to do but on what the teachers actually do. 
Educational institutions as learning communities focus on broader community relationships and networks for developing students’ abilities to play their role in the society and creating productive citizens. Economic progress and students’ academic and social achievement may be ensured in schools as learning communities. Educational institutions as learning communities encourage ways to reduce isolation and thus developing collaboration, curriculum integration, up-to-date approaches to academic pursuits for the improvement of students’ learning.
 The effectiveness of learning communities may be enhanced through creating a professional culture. A professional culture within educational institutions involves educational development and a sense of openness to enhance communicating knowledge. Through an inquiry, effective decision making and providing feedback, the benefits of learning communities can be increased. Trust building is a condition of collaboration among the staff for applying new ideas and reflecting on practices.
The education system in Pakistan particularly and in developing countries generally lacks a collaborative culture and the professionals mainly work in isolation. Enquiry, dialogue and discussion among the staff promote a collaborative culture in which professional learning takes place.  An on-going exploring culture needs to be created in a school which develops the skills of problem solving among the teachers through analyzing, evaluating and synthesizing information. Partnerships across educational institutions can support to create a mutually supportive environment in educational institutions. Teachers need improvement in teaching and learning process through collaboration for creating learning communities in schools.
A traditional bureaucratic view has substantially influenced education in Pakistan used during colonial period in South Asia long ago. The model of learning communities can replace the traditional features of bureaucracy, accountability, inspection, strict rules and procedures in education through collaborative professional learning.

Monday, February 19, 2018

8:41:00 AM

Collective Creativity: A characteristic of professional learning communities

The schools which function as professional learning communities have a characteristic that teachers from diverse backgrounds and experiences collaboratively work for maximizing their abilities to create new patterns of learning for themselves and for the students. A reflective dialogue as highlighted by Louis and Kruse (as cited in Hord, 1997), in a school is a form of collaborative creativity where teachers discuss issues regarding teaching and learning process and seek solutions. Miller (2000) added that the diversity of patterns and ideas relevant to learning in schools encourages openness to experimentation, innovation and flexibility which teachers need to demonstrate in the teaching and learning process.
In Hargreaves’s (2003) case study, teachers had the diverse backgrounds and experiences.  Many had joined the school from other fields of life namely radio broadcasting, communications consulting, steel work and the automobile industry. Through which, a set of diverse experiences and a strong source of outside learning were brought into teaching.  Hargreaves found that teachers explored that opportunities for taking responsibility, problem solving, decision making and planning were the ways to achieve their personal visions of students-centered teaching and learning process. By collective creativity, teachers were enthusiastic while interacting with their colleagues, involving in risk taking tasks and experimentation in teaching to develop a variety of ways to engage students in learning. Many teachers experienced an enhanced professional growth in the school where they internalized new ways of working and thinking. A school that functions as a professional learning community described by Carver (as cited in Goldstein, 2004) as it provides a safe environment for teachers under collective creativity share their practice to their peers and freely discuss issues and concerns, successes and failures.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

9:24:00 AM

Shared vision in schools as professional learning communities

In schools as exemplified by professional learning communities, the purpose of sharing vision and goals by the principal is not only to get approved by the staff but to enable and encourage them to realize what is important for them and for the school. Staff members of the school are involved in the process of developing a vision in order to use