Monthly Archives: December 2020

The Purpose of Education – Creating Responsible, Productive Citizens

“The whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards”. – Anatole France

The purpose of education is to create responsible, productive and socially contributing citizens – people who can provide for their own families as well as contribute to their communities. As Toffler says, education in the 21st century should allow people to learn, unlearn and relearn. But I am not sure our schools and colleges are committed to this.

Education is one of the most unscientific human endeavors. You do well in school to get into a good college and earn a good degree. A good degree is supposed to be a passport to a good job. Based on your educational qualifications, you can climb to a reasonably high position without having to demonstrate any exceptional ability.

Beyond that, however, you may have problems. There is no established link between your performance in school and your performance in a job. Even more importantly, there is no link between your performance on the job and your performance in life.

To be true to purpose, education should support a child develop three fundamental capabilities:

1. Discover, develop and continually evolve a vision to become a useful member of society:

Many of us have an advantage – our parents envision our future for us, driving us to work towards achieving this vision. However, this is not as common among the poor. The education system has to step in to help everyone create this vision, and to build even the poor child’s confidence to pursue the vision.

Balaji Sampath, who runs Eureka Child – an NGO committed to improving literacy and math ability in government schools, told us a touching story in this context. Coming back from the US to do something meaningful in education, he immersed himself in local issues by spending a few months in a village. He was in a village classroom when a child asked the teacher whether it was possible to travel to the moon. “You and I cannot fly to the moon,” the teacher answered. “But scientists in the U.S. can…” We must stop robbing our children of goals and dreams.

2. Understand that questions are more important than answers:

Our education system places undue emphasis on providing answers – often to questions that children do not have. In other words, too often we teach children concepts without context; we need to show them why learning is important. We need to focus on awakening kids’ natural curiosity and teaching them to love learning. A good way to do this is to place children in natural experiences or in games where they can ask questions. In these settings, learning is immediate and strong. Learning can be a structured discovery process, offering students varied learning outcomes – just as our situations and decisions later in life offering different outcomes.

For example, an NGO in Mumbai went to schools with an experiment to teach students about water conservation. The pupils measured the amount of water consumed while brushing their teeth with the tap open, and then again with the tap off. Imagine, if we all learn this type of lesson in school, how we can apply the principles to so many other aspects of our home and work later in life.

3. Learning to Learn:

The world is evolving too fast for schools and colleges to keep up. What is being taught is inadequate and outdated, or will be soon. It is important that children are encouraged to discover answers on their own – through the Internet, through experimenting and by having access to experts on the cutting edge of every field.

It is important that students learn the scientific method –

(a) creating a hypothesis based on observations,

(b) designing and conducting experiments to prove or disprove these hypotheses and

(c) arriving at conclusions while recognizing that the conclusions could change with additional information.

With the level of knowledge available in the world today, it is also important to exercise judgment what to learn, and how and when you need to learn it. We need to teach kids when to rely on their own judgments,, and when to rely on the expertise of others. Our children must learn that even when you outsource the effort, you retain responsibility over the result.

What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas about the critical capabilities that our children need? Is our educational system addressing this? Do share your thoughts and experiences with all of us.

Micro-Management: The Case of Education

There are three bases to an institutional effort; educational, commercial and welfare. An educational institution is formal arrangements of educators, children, and parents to create an effective learning environment for children. The educational environment aims to target all aspects of learning; knowledge dissemination, morale improvement, character building, and like. In this paper, we will discuss, briefly, the meaning, source and effects of micro-management on educational institutes. It is our hope that readers will be focused more towards quality way of teaching after perusing this humble effort.

Micro-management in teaching is managing or controlling learners with excessive attention to minor details and providing rapid criticism on mistakes, over and over. Micro-management kills intrinsic motivation of learners; consequently, self-motivated, self-regulated, and self-directed learners are a missing phenomenon of micro-driven setup, unfortunately. Micro-management disregards the significance of cooperation dimension during learning; as a result, the teamwork aspect is dilapidated, eventually. Micro-management fails to respect the self-esteem of every learner of the institute; subsequently, frustration becomes commonplace among students. Last but not the least, micro-management fails to recognize latent talents of learners and focuses on goals only, disregarding means; and so, it fails to address learners’ passion and discipline, properly.

Curiosity and creativity are essential elements of any excellence in human life. The two elements find their groundwork at the individual’s dominant area of thinking or intelligence, for example, some minds excel in logical reasoning, some in emotional/artistic depiction, etc. Generally, every individual is curious and creative by nature. Education is the name of providing knowledge, imparting wisdom and preparing students for practical life. Curiosity is inquisitiveness for knowledge and understanding while creativity is the birthplace of wisdom and innovation. Educational institutions play the role of motivating curiosity and encouraging creativity in students considering their respective intelligence. Presence of micro-management in the system overlooks curiosity of learners, gradually, and suppresses their creativity, ultimately.

The miscarriage in the outcome of expectations of a system can provoke micro-management in the administration or teachers. Failing to discover where the problem truly lies, the supervising bodies begin to reproach students for poor performance and, as a result, find refuge in rigid approach to teaching, such as micro-management. As far as the letdown is concerned, the issue might be in the scheme and structure, and not inside learners. Sometimes, teachers express micro-management, unknowingly, simply due to ignorance of quality education. Either way, it is noteworthy, micro-management can direct, slowly but surely, the system towards corrupt-management – the worst type of management. It is destructive for all; affiliated public, learners and economy.

It is a prerequisite for developing a fruitful environment in class that educators are aware of the true meaning of education and proper way of teaching. Assimilating the path of micro-management leads to alternative or conventional teaching methods. These methods or techniques are not productive, even unfavorable, in the long-run. For instance, knowledge of books is given excessive attention such that concomitant objectives of learning, such as capacity building, physical education, intelligence, and insight are overlooked or postponed. Consequently, students, who are adaptive of their elders’ way of discernment, can disregard the importance of such objectives and activities. Sometimes, rote learning is massively imparted to gain quick results. The incentive to teach in order to gain appreciation from management/parents on account of outstanding class result doesn’t entirely serve the purpose of education. A true teacher understands this and prepares the learners not only for the annual evaluation to come, but also for their practical life.

The disciplinary counselling of students may require, sometimes, timely and comprehensive consulting by teachers/parents, but other missions of an educational institute demand, without exception, absence of micro-management altogether and implementation of quality education. Quality education or teaching aims for the inner gusto of learners, so more and more self-motivated students emanate, undoubtedly. Quality teaching recognizes the importance of cooperation and pays special attention to synergistic learning, now and again. Quality teaching never fails to respect each and every knowledge-seeker and addresses their issues in a timely manner. Lastly, quality teaching approves of the cause-effect duality and focuses on both – goals and means – for proper coaching of learners’ discipline and ambitions. It is noteworthy, the self-regulated, self-directed learners, later on, are likely to become leaders/entrepreneurs of the next generation. Therefore, the success of educational institutes, which is possible by quality way of teaching, is precursor of emergence of innovation and good leadership in any society.

Why Is Hunter Education Important?

Hunter education began in the late 1950’s with a very narrow focus on basic safety. It concentrated on topics related to conservation, knowledge of firearms, safety, ethics, and responsibilities. Since its inception, over ¾ of a million youth and adults have completed the course. Initially, it was voluntary, but in 1979 it became a requirement that all first time hunters successfully complete the course in order to purchase a license. This requirement exists in 49 states and all provinces in Canada. Presentation of a valid Hunter Education Card from one state will allow the purchase of a license or permit in other states, however, there may be additional educational requirements for hunting with archery, a handgun, or muzzle-loading equipment.

This course and other conservation activities are paid for by sportsmen. The Pittman-Robertson Act, also called the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, was signed into law in 1937. The act provided funds for states to acquire hunting land, conduct research, manage wildlife populations and pay for hunter education programs by placing an excise tax on firearms and ammunition.

The course curriculum includes firearm safety which includes shotguns, rifles and handguns. It emphasizes the four primary safety rules that apply to all arms: (1) Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, (2) Treat every gun as if it is loaded, (3) Always be sure of your target and beyond, and (4) Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. The course also places a strong emphasis on being a responsible hunter and on wildlife conservation.

These educational programs have made hunting one of the safest of all the outdoor recreational activities. In Ohio, in a typical year, fewer than 7/100,000 of 1% of Ohio hunters are injured with a gun or bow while actively hunting. In fact, you are at greater risk while traveling in your vehicle to and from your hunting location.

There are several ways in which the sport of hunting benefits our society. First, the license fees, self-imposed taxes, and hunting permits and stamps finance many wildlife management activities. Second, wildlife has benefitted from regulated hunting and habitat protection, resulting in more species of wildlife than ever before. And finally, there are the benefits to the hunter himself. For some, it is the solitude or the appreciation of nature, while for others it may be time shared with family or friends. Others may enjoy the challenge presented in outwitting a particular species.

As shown in this article, the Hunter Education Course not only provides instruction leading to safe hunting practices, it also funds wildlife protection, habitat, and management. It provides new hunters with the knowledge to challenge the great outdoors and the skills to do it safely.

How to Get Financial Aid for College Education for Single Mothers

Single mothers and mothers in the US can provide their family and children with a better future by securing a higher paid job. Well, this is possible only with the right kind of degree in hand earned at colleges. However, the road to success through education is quite tough as the costs associated with the higher studies at colleges are quite high, forcing many single mothers in the US to drop their higher studies in midway. High expenses apart, the additional crises of debt burden are there too, making college education an out of reach substance for single moms and mothers. Yet, there is a hope as the Obama administration has revamped grant programs for women, especially for single mothers or moms. This initiative has been taken towards empowering women and single mothers in the US so as to find them a better opportunity and make their lives better, leaving past the adversities behind.

The Obama Single Mother Grant is one of the best ways to help with college bills to avoid financial crises. Single mothers or mothers from low-income or no-income households can receive up to $5,000 as an educational benefit through The Federal Pell Grant program, also known as the Single Mother Grant. The US Department of Education monitors the entire program and pays out the financial assistance for higher studies for mothers through state-run organizations, participating colleges, action community agencies, charitable organizations and non-profit organizations. Always remember that female participants can easily receive free financial assistance through Obama approved government grant compared to male participants.

Considering Pell Grant, it is a need-based program; hence, it always aims at favoring the needs of single mothers. The federal Pell Grant offers you a great opportunity to escape the higher repayment rates of loans. Besides, it does not have to be repaid like loans. Earlier known as Basic Education Opportunity Grants (BEOGs), Pell Grant offers around $5,500 to the eligible single mothers for college tuition fees, as well as study materials and housing expenses.

How to Apply for the Federal Pell Grant

Remember, you are not entitled to receiving the Pell Grant for more than one college you want to pursue your higher studies. In order to receive the financial assistance, it is essential to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or (FAFSA). A proper application process is not complete without the filing of FAFSA. Once the FAFSA is filed, your financial needs are evaluated based on the information provided on the FAFSA. After the FAFSA gets processed, you are likely to receive a Student Aid Report, containing your eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant.

If you are interested, you can contact your state agency to apply for the Pell Grant or visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/options.htm to apply online. Though it is a time-consuming process, benefits for college education earned through Pell grant is matchless.

Is the Carrot and Stick Method Useful in Higher Education?

Consider how the process of learning begins for students. As a general perceptual rule, when students begin their degree programs they hope to obtain good grades, useful skills, and relevant knowledge. The tuition paid assures placement in a class and there are implied results that students expect as a product of their involvement in that class. In contrast, instructors expect that students will obey the academic rules, perform to the best of their abilities, and comply with specific class requirements that include deadlines for completion of learning activities.

For students, grades serve as an indicator of their progress in class, a symbol of their accomplishments and failures, and a record of their standing in a degree program. I have heard many students state that their primary goal for the class was to earn what they refer to as “good grades” – even though they may not be fully aware of what constitutes a good grade for them. When students aren’t achieving good grades, or the minimum expected by instructors and/or the school, instructors may try to nudge them on – either through positive motivational methods such as coaching and mentoring, or negative motivational methods that include threats and a demeaning disposition.

I found that many educators dangle a carrot in front of their students through indirect methods, such as the potential to earn a better grade, as an “A” in an indicator of the ultimate achievement in school. There may be incentives given to prompt better performance, including additional time or a resubmission allowance for a written assignment, as a means of encouraging students to perform better.

My question is whether the focus of teaching in higher education should be on the carrot we dangle in front of students to perform better or should there be more of a focus on what motivates each individual student to perform to the best of their abilities? In other words, do we need to be dangling something in front of students to serve as a source of motivation?

What is the Carrot and Stick Method?

I believe that most people understand the meaning of dangling a carrot in front of students to motivate them. The phrase is actually based upon a tale about a method of motivating a donkey and while the carrot is dangling in front of it, the stick is used to prod the animal along. The carrot serves as a reward and the stick is used as a form of reinforcement and punishment for non-compliance.

This approach is still used in the workplace, even subconsciously by managers, as a method of motivating employees. The carrot or incentives may include a promotion, pay increase, different assignments, and the list continues. The stick that is used, or the punishment for not reaching specific goals or performance levels, may include demotion or a job loss. A threat of that nature can serve as a powerful motivator, even if the essence of this approach is negative and stressful.

The Carrot and Stick Approach in Higher Education

If you are uncertain about the use of this approach in higher education, consider the following example. You are providing feedback for a written assignment and it is now the halfway point in the class. For one particular student, you believe they have not met the criteria for the assignment and more importantly, they have either not put in enough effort, they did not perform to your expectations, or they did not live up to their full potential.

It is worth mentioning that your beliefs about students are shaped by how you view them and their potential. In other words, I try to see my students as individuals who have varying levels of performance and that means some will be further along than others. In contrast, instructors who believe they do not have enough time to get to know their students as individuals may view the class as a whole and set an expectation regarding the overall performance level that all students should be at for this particular point in the class.

Returning to the example provided, my question to you is this: Do you reward the attempt made by the student or do you penalize that student for what you perceive to be a lack of effort? As a faculty trainer, I have interacted with many faculty who believe that all students should be high performers and earning top grades, regardless of their background and prior classes. When students fail to meet that expectation, there is a perception that students either do not care, they are not trying, or they are not reading and applying the feedback provided. The instructor’s response then is to dangle a carrot (incentive) and use the stick to try to change the necessary student behaviors.

Relevance for Adult Learning

There is a perception held by many educators, especially those who teach in traditional college classes, that the instructors are in control and students must comply. This reinforces a belief within students that they do not have control over their outcomes and that is why many believe grades are beyond their control. I have seen many students stop trying by the time they were enrolled in a class I was teaching simply because they could not make a connection between the effort they have made to the outcomes or grades received. In other words, while they believed they were doing everything “right” – they were still getting poor grades.

At the heart of the adult learning process is motivation. There are as many degrees of motivation as there are types of students and it is not realistic to expect that all students will be performing at the same level. I’ve learned through time and practice that adult student behaviors do not or will not permanently change as a result of forced compliance. However, behaviors will change in time when an instructor has built a connection with their students and established a sense of rapport with them. I encourage instructors to think beyond dangling a carrot and try to influence behavior, and not always through the use of rewards.

From a Carrot to a Connection

It is important for instructors to create a climate and classroom conditions that are conducive to engaging students, while becoming aware of (and recognizing) that all students have a capacity to learn and some gradually reach their potential while others develop much more quickly. My instructional approach has shifted early on from a rewards or carrot focus to a student focus. I want to build connections with students and nurture productive relationships with them, even when I am teaching an online class and have the distance factor to consider. I encourage students to make an effort and I welcome creative risks. I teach students to embrace what they call their failures as valuable learning lessons. I encourage their involvement in the learning process, prompt their original thinking during class discussions, and I teach them that their efforts do influence the outcomes received.

I recognize that this type of approach is not always easy to implement when classroom management is time consuming, and this is especially true for adjunct instructors. However, at a very minimum it can become an attitude and part of an engaging instructional practice. I encourage instructors to include it as part of their underlying teaching philosophy so they recognize and work to implement it. Every educator should have a well-thought out teaching philosophy as it guides how they act and react to students and classroom conditions. A student focus, rather than a carrot and stick focus, creates a shift in perspective from looking first at the deficits of students and seeing their strengths – along with their potential. It is an attitude of looking away from lack and looking towards meaning in the learning process, and a shift from seeing an entire class to viewing students individually. My hope is that this inspires you to re-evaluate and re-examine how teach your students and consider new methods of prompting their best performance.