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Showing posts from 2014

Conducting qualitative research interviews, challenges and responses, Part 2

Students in colleges and universities have to complete some type of research project in order to be awarded a degree. The information presented below reflects my experience in interviewing participants in my research. Students at the tertiary level of the education system may find this information useful.

Every participant in your research will differ in terms of their expectation of the interview process and the resources which they bring to the interview.

First, what are some of the expectations which participants have in terms of the process of the interview?

Some participants may expect that you go directly to the "heart of the matter" as soon as the interview starts. They do not want to deal with preliminary matters such as providing background information about themselves or their organisations. If you had, beforehand, indicated to them that you wanted to discuss a particular matter they come to the interview focused on only discussing that matter. If you deviate just…

Conducting qualitative research interviews, challenges and responses, Part 1

The interview is one method of data collection which some researcher employ in their research in an attempt to gain insight about phenomena. If we do a search of Google Scholar or any educational database with which we are familiar for information on interviewing, we will find much information. 

This information will cover areas such as structuring of interviews, timing of interviews, approaches which are used in the interviewing process, types of interview questions, types of interviews, qualities to be possessed by interviewers, positioning of the interviewer in the exchange with subjects/ respondents/informants/participants, purposes of interviews, among other related themes.
All of this information is useful, especially for the new researcher who has selected this method of data collection as being the ideal one, or one of a combination of methods of collecting data, to build on existing knowledge and understanding of a particular phenomenon.
However, before the actual interview ta…

Teachers teach, students learn. It's as simple as that.

To what extent should teachers be held accountable for students’ performance at school?

It has been the pastime of a number of social commentators in newspaper columns over the years to vilify teachers whom they blame for the poor performance of students in the education system.

And, there are those “experts” in the education Ministry who have drawn heavily on data supplied by researchers elsewhere to categorically state that if the “right” methodology is adopted, if the “right” people are allowed into teacher training institutes, all children will learn.

Teachers, on the other hand, have not been silent. A number of them have voiced the opinion that the expectations that the education Ministry and society at large have of them, where performance of students is concerned, are unrealistic. For example they say, teachers who teach the lower streams – on a numerical scale, say streams four or five on a five point scale, or streams seven and eight on an eight point scale – are being given…

Theorising students’ performance

A theory may loosely be described as an idea which provides an explanation or understanding of a phenomenon. (Many more sophisticated definitions abound). A number of scholars have expressed the view that for a “construction” to be referred to as a theory it must meet certain criteria. For example, Eva Jablonka and Christer Bergsten in their article, Theorising in mathematics education research: differences in modes and quality (2010) have presented a detailed discussion of the issue of theorising while presenting the criteria which they believe a theory should encompass. In spite of the focus of the article, the view of Jablonka and Bergsten on theorising may have some resonance with those scholars doing research in areas other than Mathematics. My purpose in this article is not to present an exposition of theory but to invite us as teachers to do some unorthodox theorising about the performance of our students in the education setting in which we find ourselves. Later, we may want t…

Mission Statements

The school environment in many countries is continually being made business-like. One of the features of this business-like environment is the adoption by schools of mission statements. These statements are terse pronouncements as to the goal of these organisations. Even individual managers within the school seem to have seen it fit to create their own mission statements. I met one individual who was just taking up a position as canteen manager of a school. She proudly showed me her mission statement and passionately explained its importance to her and its application to her new role. So these statements seem to, or ought to, give direction to those who take them seriously.
To what extent do schools seriously take mission statements? It depends on the commitment of the leadership of each school. For the effect of these mission statements to be felt by the stakeholders of schools, the leadership of the school must be committed to them.
I perceive that many schools adopt mission statemen…

The mind and learning

The mind is that part of our being which allows us to perceive sense stimuli and to make sense of them. It is the centre of our intellect. It allows us to think. It allows us to learn. It is the essence of our being. It has been the subject of intellectual studies throughout the ages, yet not fully comprehended.
I am going to proffer my commonsensical notion of the mind and learning in this article. This notion has come out of my observations of human behaviour in the classroom and in other settings.
When it comes to learning I believe that there are two types of minds. There is one which is quietly receptive of whatever to which it is introduced. It is suited to the traditional conceptualisation of education. The teacher is the possessor of all knowledge relevant to a particular subject. The teacher imparts this knowledge via the traditional lecture method. The mind absorbs the knowledge and later reproduces it as given. That is, the minds which care about the information which the te…

Interacting with education policies

Educational policies are “blueprints” or intended plans of actions which government has devised with the aid of experts to solve perceived problems in the education sector of the society. These perceived problems may be related, for example, to improving literacy and numeracy among everyone in the society, improving the educational performance of students at the different levels of the education system, creating a link between the education system and the world of work, using the education system as a tool to develop a national identity among other such noble goals. We get a very general idea of government’s policy direction for the sectors of society by reading the manifesto which they usually unveil during their campaign for political office.

Once the policy direction for the education sector has been agreed on experts are tasked with devising programmes which will give effect to these policies. That is, the government believes that these specific programmes of action which they have…

Sharing information: One of the key components of organisational success

Being in a position of leadership in an organisation is being in a group, an “in-group”, that is, a group which some of those on the outside perceive as being desirable, one that they would give anything to be a part of, one whose status is elevated.

While some of those on the outside of this group, that is the “out-group” are longing to take their place in this “in-group”, many of those who have found themselves in this group keep on devising ways to maintain their position and to keep subordinates firmly in their subordinate position.
The problem with this behaviour is that the goals of the organisation will not be fully met if there is a gap in the organisation which subordinates perceive is being deliberately constructed by leadership in order to keep the two groups from developing any sort of group identity. This is a problem which is compounded by the animosity towards and distrust of leadership which usually ensue in situations like these. Since all members in the organisation …

Teachers: the major cause of poor performance of students in schools?

It is a great honour to be considered an “expert” at anything. We often see in the media where persons who have been invited to panels to talk about or (analyse?) issues are introduced as experts in their fields. Any field may have many experts as we would have discovered. In education, for example, there are experts in curriculum, experts in assessments, experts in teaching, experts in inspection and experts in education itself, all types of experts.
A number of these experts are convinced (as a result of their presumed expertise on the matter) that teachers are the major impediments to students’ optimal performance in the classroom. They seem to derive this conclusion by cursorily examining high performing schools which share similar characteristics with low performing schools. Some of these high performing schools have large classes, for example. Yet their students learn, they argue, as opposed to students in the same situation in low performing schools. Class size, therefore, is no…

Education in a changing world - what should it look like?

The world is changing and has always been.

Proponents of a critical pedagogy to be used in the teaching/learning process from Paulo Freire in his work Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968) to more recent academics such as Joe Kincheloe and Peter McLaren, among others, have put forward cogent arguments for its use. They believe that if educators employ a critical pedagogy in the classroom they will be contributing to the liberation of students from oppressive influences. This is possible because in employing this critical pedagogy, teachers will be providing students with the tools to interrogate and challenge any facet of life which they believe is oppressive. The proponents of the use of critical pedagogy in the teaching/learning process believe that doing so is necessary for students to become critical thinkers. And critical thinkers have the tools to change their world to a state which they deem to be desirable. And this desirable state is one in which democratic principles are fostered.

Personality types, impeding or progressing performance in public sector organisations (Part 2)

The previous article mentioned the work which psychologists have done on personality and stated that their findings have been used by businesses to fit the “right” types of personalities with the “right” jobs. This article will explore the issue of whether or not personality impacts the performance in the public sector and how. It will specifically focus on the legacy of slavery and how this legacy has shaped personalities.

Slavery is a period of history characterised by lack. There was a lack of autonomy on the part of the slaves. The slaves lacked power. They lacked material things which their masters took for granted. The rulers during that period controlled all power – economic, educational, political, among the other sources of power. They were the examples which the slaves used to measure success. To achieve any measure of power the slaves perceived that education was key.
As such, this message has been passed on to subsequent generations. And there has since then been a determine…

Personality types, impeding or progressing performance in public sector organisations

A number of scholars who are affiliated with the field of Psychology have done empirical research on the concept, personality (Do a cursory online search or consult any management text to interrogate their findings). Much of this research have been applied to the world of business organisations and work as it is believed that personality type is a good predictor of performance on the job.

It has been reported in the literature on management that, as a result of the work done by scholars in the area of personality, personality tests have been developed which have been used by a number of business corporations to screen potential staff. The research has indicated that there may be a link between personality and job fit. So to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in the work place these businesses are attempting to match personality types with ideal jobs. What are the personality types which have been isolated by these scholars? The Myers-Biggs Type Indicator (MBTI) shows us sixteen pers…

You can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

There is a saying that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. To what extent is this saying applicable to teachers who have been in the education system for many, many years?

The educational landscape is continually changing as a result of changes in the wider environment. Let us briefly examine three changes in the educational landscape here.
First, the educational landscape is changing in terms of modes of disciplining students. This is a major change in some educational systems. There was a time when teachers, mostly in the primary schools, would punish misbehaving, inattentive students by issuing corporal punishment. Some teachers swear by the efficacy of this punishment in getting students to display the desired behaviour in the classroom.
Corporal punishment, today, is deemed by the experts to be cruel and inhumane punishment. Instead, these experts suggest that teachers use positive reinforcement to get the desired behaviour from students. However, it seems that for many students b…

One size fits all?

Scholars and politicians in developing societies often complain that multilateral agencies have a tendency to devise “one size fits all” policies to overcome the challenges to development which these societies face. These scholars and politicians argue that the challenges which developing countries face are often unique to them. Therefore, these countries require individual prescriptions, they say.
However, the governments in relation to their responsibility to the different sectors within these countries continue to develop “broad-based”, “one size fits all” policies to correct the maladies they identify in different areas within the sectors of society.
Take the schools for example. There are different types of schools. Each type of school has students with different abilities, academic or otherwise. Each type of school or each individual school has its own problems which, oftentimes, are unique to it.
Oftentimes, the Ministry of Education (MOE) “discovers” a “problem” in a school or s…