Professional Studies Ali Institute of Education
A Well Aligned Course
The foundation on which student learning and our teaching is built is a close concordance between the desired learning outcomes (or course goals), the teaching activities and the assessment of students' work. When this trio of components all work together, students' learning is more efficient and effective, the teachers' work is easier and we say that the course is well 'aligned'.
My department and I at the Ali Institute were approached by HOPE TV, a private channel working in the field of education. Their main objective of these recordings was to record episodes for their educational programming. Initially it sounded strange as I was in the habit of interactive teaching, so I felt that I I will have to understand the idea behind getting my lectures recorded. After getting important information on different websites, I was able to widen my vision of how we misunderstand education. For most of us, education has taken place only in one sphere - in schools, colleges and universities. Learning, meant to stop our other activities, removes us to some distinct place and then for a certain period of time, we dedicate ourselves solely to learning.
We never considered that one day work and learning (especially) and play and learning (to some degree) would converge online. The same site we use to chat with people who share our interests will be the site where we also find our research materials, our examples of best practices, and our online courses and programmes.
After getting over the fear of facing the camera, I firmly believe that educational institutions need to do two things: First, they need to devise mechanisms that will enable their courses to be embedded in the offerings of a portal, and second, they need to equip both staff and students with the mechanics of portal education so that it is not considered as an alien tool for teaching and learning.
I think we need to place a few considerations in order to comply with these digital demands. With respect to the development of online learning materials and support systems, we should not just develop portals just for their own sake, but we need to make them fully functional for our students:
• learn how to develop and deliver learning materials 'on-demand'
• learn how to produce customised or tailored learning programmes/topics/modules for particular individual students(students with specific weaknesses and concerns)
• learn how to provide a completely online learning experience (this includes things such as books, online quizzes, classroom videos, testing and grading tools)
• learn how to promote the authority and trustworthiness of online course offerings
• learn how to partner with other educational institutions offering courses and programmes in the same field.
In a very short time we can master these opportunities and support our teaching practices in a much wider and wiser way.
Are we ready to hear opposing ideas or thoughts from our students? Are we democratic in our teaching, thoughts, ideas, and actions or in our decisions? Are we ready to listen to student queries? I think these are some of the very important questions which we seriously need to ask ourselves as teachers.
Although it is sometimes very difficult for us to hear conflicting or opposing ideas or thoughts from our students, as a teacher I feel we must have good ears. In fact, I feel we should give our students a chance to think and challenge our ideas in order to facilitate their own thinking process.
I personally feel that the most important and beautiful thing is when students challenge our ideas, thoughts and philosophy on certain issues. It means that in fact we have engaged them successfully in active and effective learning, we are helping them in creativity and ultimately we are heading towards a student-centred classroom – it means we have actively engaged them in their learning.
Some people declare that academic writing is a skill. A skill is the ability to do something with a high level of expertise. Fair enough - we are all expected to ‘do’ academic writing with high levels of expertise.
However, a skill is often associated with technique... but achieving expertise is not simply a matter of technique – knowing how to write well by understanding grammar, how to write a paragraph, how to structure a sentence, how to stage an argument and so on. It’s not enough to master the techniques of writing. This is necessary - but not sufficient.
Academic writers also need to know when to use particular writing techniques, and when not to. We need to know our reader’s expectations. We need to know institutional norms, disciplinary conventions and why they exist, what they do, and what might happen if we don’t conform to them. This is more about knowing what - know what to do, why and when.
We do need know how and know what because we don't just write for ourselves. We write for others. Academic writing is always social. It is a social practice. Academic writing helps us to communicate with others and we are judged by them on our writing (and how we are judged!)
Let us see a comparison. An artist isn’t usually judged simply on the basis of his skill with the chosen materials. Judgment is related to the ways in which he or she engages in ongoing conversations - with audiences and with the artistic traditions in which they are working. So it is with academic writers. We academic writers do need to know about audiences, purposes, styles, organisational conventions and genres.
Academic writing is a practice which not only requires both know how and know of what - but also what might be called ‘know-who’. Let us go back to the artist’s example again. Judgments about what constitutes good or great art don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part and parcel of a complex ecology of art dealers, galleries, critics, university departments and so on. The artist may or may not be aware of these, or want to take account of them, or indeed might want to resist, but they are judged - funded, exhibited, purchased, ignored - in this context anyway.
Academic writers also operate in a complex ecology of disciplines, institutions, commercial and non-commercial publishers, reviewers and funders. How our writing is perceived – whether it is judged as being of ‘quality’ - is not simply about whether we have acquired both the necessary know how and know what – but also what is made of that by others, the know who. Understanding the invisible gaze(s) to which we are subject, allows us to make better-informed decisions about whether to conform, resist, trouble or exceed expectations.
So to recap - writing a paper or thesis is never simply about know-how. It requires the know-what and know-who as well. This means, I think, becoming a “student” of your field, as well as in your field. Understanding the academic field you work in leads to an academic writer not only in control of their text, but also more in control of what they write, when, how and for whom.
What have you found out lately about your know-what and know-who?
Role-playing is an unrehearsed dramatisation in which students improvise behaviours to illustrate how they think their assigned character would speak and act in a realistic or hypothetical situation. I have been using role play in my classroom management sessions. Students are found deeply involved in thinking about how they would react in real-world situations. However I have experienced that one of the pitfalls of using role-plays is that they can become ‘entertaining ends in themselves’, rather than vehicles for learning. So I would suggest that you keep the learning outcomes in mind before using them.
Answering Students' Queries
MC Keache is right in saying that “every class gives us a new challenge." Questions help the instructor to get prompt feedback from the students on what they are learning. However, in my opinion it is both interesting and challenging when we encourage our students to ask questions in our classes. A good teacher encourages students to ask questions and this means that sometimes we can face some very thought-provoking questions.
A good question not only helps other students to clarify their understanding but it also helps to reinforce the content as well. Good questions sometimes open new research dimensions for the course instructor also. In my teaching career I have learnt a lot from my students in different ways. A good question in a class not only promotes critical thinking but also encourages research among students. We teachers also learn from students' questions as this forces us to re-learn.
Coping with exam stress
Last week I saw my students gathering around in the corners of the institute, discussing some issues quietly, some were sitting in the cafe with a dead look on their faces as if they had no point in living anymore, but still some managed to smile back at me. I soon figured out that the cause of all this emotion was the exam schedule that had just been announced. I knew that everything had been properly scheduled so what was all the fuss about? I discovered the cause. One reason is family pressure on the students to succeed in exams and the students can begin to feel a little overwhelmed by it all. Surprisingly, students who are actually good at coping with all these pressures start feeling nervous also, just because they are part of the same group. Another cause of ‘exam stress’ comes from students imposing on each other - sharing and explaining notes, coaching through problem areas, collaborative study. The impact of this on those not experiencing anxiety is that they also begin to experience anxiety. Unfortunately, we don't have a magic wand that can make exams go away, but I would like to share some tips that will help any student teacher stay well, focused and prepared for exams.
The three vital things your body needs to keep well are food, water and sleep.
Keeping hydrated is important for brain function, distributing nutrients around the body and removing what we no longer need. If possible, carry a water bottle to the exam hall to rehydrate.
Say NO to dieting during exams! Don’t be afraid of the extra pounds that you might put on – I promise they will go away after the exams. Fuel your body and mind with lots of greens, fruit, nuts and seeds as healthy energy boosting snacks and make sure you have a balanced diet of three meals a day. If you don't feed yourself properly your regular tummy rumbles will make it incredibly hard for you to concentrate. Try and eat as naturally as possible and stay away from refined sugars - found in sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate. Yes they'll give you a boost initially but very quickly you'll notice a slump, leaving you feeling sleepy.
Sleep is so important; it's your body's healing time, when the cells repair and your brain archives the millions of thoughts that have raced through your mind during the day. If you find that you have started dreaming a lot, it's because there has been a lot playing on your mind during the day.
To help you get into that sleepy zone, give yourself 30 minutes to wind down - that means no TV and no smart phone! Pick up your course book which will help your eyelids drop immediately. :-)
Keep yourself focused
When you wake each morning don't rush to the nearest set of notes or textbook. Sit and think what targets you want to achieve today, think of a time line and get started.
Let it pressure go
Accept the things that you can't change. Your exams are coming, they will happen and then they will be over. Instead of leaking energy on worrying about them, create solutions and focus on what you can control.
Using TED Talks in School
TED Talks are “Ideas worth spreading”. Let me first explain the idea of what TED Talks are all about. They are relatively short and deal with the most pressing issues of the day, packed with interesting ideas containing information to be shared. It’s no wonder that they’re embraced by all kinds of learners in every stage of life across the world. Just explore the net and you can find them on almost every possible area of learning. TED Talks can make teachers think differently and can encourage the same in their students. Good TED Talks make us laugh, touch our hearts or even inspire us.
How can teachers use TED Talks to their full advantage? Let’s take a look at a few creative ways I’ve used to do just that. I find that using TED Talks to convey an important message or spark creativity to be more effective in teaching students than giving a lecture or presentation.
To Spark Conversations
The most obvious way to use TED Talks in the classroom is to show talks that relate in some way to the subject material you’re currently covering. They can be used to capture student attention, reframe understanding, and spark a high calibre discussion amongst students which won’t be quickly forgotten.
Love the TED-Ed Platform
TED is well aware of its potential utility to the world of education — so aware, in fact, that it has an entire website, ed.ted.com, devoted to using TED in the classroom. TED-Ed is a powerful platform that helps you create entire lessons around specific TED Talks, so do go through these websites and learn the art of TED.
Make Your Own TED-Ed Club
It’s not just adults that have good ideas; in fact, if you browse through any number of TED Talks, they often hold up young people, who see fewer limits than adults do, as the creative ideal. So why not feature student ideas by giving them a platform of their own in your school?
Have Students Give Subject-Specific TED Talks
So far, we’ve discussed the ways students can benefit from hearing or discussing big ideas in the most general sense. But there’s no reason you can’t use the TED Talk model as inspiration for more specific curriculum activities. Let’s say, for example, that you are a history teacher and you’re currently focusing on the Mughal Dynasty. Why not have each student pitch their own big theory about this famous dynastic family? Certainly this would beat the typical presentation style!
No matter what route you take, the idea here is to take the TED Talk format and apply it specifically to whatever subject or unit you’re currently teaching.
In Short TED Talks make for a great base for so many different kinds of educational experiences. Whether you’re simply using a talk to spark discussion or you’re creating a TED series of your own, TED Talks make a creative, exciting, and rewarding teaching lens.
This time I have been given a course on “Teaching of Islamiat’. I wanted to make it somehow interesting and challenging for my trainees. In the beginning they are supposed to study different religions. As a term paper I asked them to work on the following task:
• Try to follow Buddhist’s Eight Fold Path for 48 hours.
• Blog your results. Did you make it through? If so, was it tough? If not, what made it challenging?
Trainees are coming to me saying that although it is very challenging, they feel very “different” doing this activity.
Using ice breakers and team building activities
Team-building activities are a great way for teachers to get to know their colleagues on a more personal level and, this can work in many different ways but here I will talk about our recent experience on the faculty retreat.We started off with an activity of answering different questions according to the candy we had selected. This icebreaker not only got us as all talking to each other, but it also got us to work with each other. It was also quite simple as well: selecting three candies and chocolates each one of a different type can excite any age and gender. The leader posed some questions on a piece of chart which made us talk all about ourselves in different teaching situations
This icebreaking activity can also be extended by issuing one situation for the entire group or allocating a different situation to each team member, or pair, to work on. Depending on the situation chosen, the activity can be a lot fun.
Those candies and chocolates excited all of us; hence I am posting another idea using our favourite candies called M&M’s
The M&M Game
Pass around a bag of M&Ms and have each person take as many as they want. For each colour of M&M have a question they can answer. For instance,
Red: Name a campus resource.
Blue: Mention one thing you would like to change about the school
Why Is Research Important for Teachers?
I have heard people saying that experience is the best teacher. Your own experiences and experiences that other teachers, administrators, and experts share with you will make you a better teacher. We all get a great deal of knowledge from personal experience. We ‘generalise’ from what we observe and frequently turn memorable encounters into lifetime conclusions. But how valid are these conclusions? Sometimes we misinterpret what we see and hear. We cannot be totally objective. We may become a victim of bias. One way to clarify any situation is to research into it. Research is a valuable source of information about the teaching and learning process.
I remember when I entered my first elementary classroom. I felt as if I had returned home after a long absence. So much was familiar. The soft boards still displayed “students’ work”; bells still interrupted the lessons to announce that the lesson was over; the dusty odour of chalk still filled the air. The familiarity of these sights, sounds, and smells made me feel very comfortable and at ease; rather, it made me think that it was
Pre-school learning can be nurtured if children are provided with an environment that fulfills their demands. Hence, enabling environments play a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning. Such environments persuade young children to play because they feel relaxed, content and happy with their surroundings. When children feel emotionally safe and secure they are able to explore; they can observe, experience and manipulate.
As a teacher, I believe that we have some professional obligations. As a beginner teacher in your first years of teaching, you will be in a unique position. As a professional, you have an obligation to provide the best educational services to your students that you know, but on the other hand as a beginning teacher, the experiential basis for your actions is limited compared to those with twelve or fifteen years of experience and