I just saw this photo, and thought it was really cool… and has education implications. :) ie. DON’T PLAGIARISE!!!

Of course, by saying don’t plagiarise, I am using an image by someone who used (modified) a copyrighted image, probably without permission. Hmmm. The irony is stark. I could get sued for a message about honesty.

Comes from: http://cheezburger.com/6296473600

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I’ve much to say about Zotero… the free/open-source online bibliography-citation manager which I’ve been experimenting with over the past week. I’m loving it… but also coming to the stage where I am starting to see some of its limitations and the need for “workarounds.” One such issue is related to importing references to Zotero from Google Scholar.

For those who know Google Scholar, you may be interested to know that in the settings of the page, you can choose to enable the “import citation” field… to allow a small link that enables citation to be imported in various citation formats. If Zotero is installed (in Firefox), then you can choose the “important to Endnote” option.

Magically (that’s the best word to describe Zotero, and I’m afraid I’ll keep saying it), you can get the citations of articles (and books) from the web in ONE CLICK! If you choose the “import to Endnote” option in the Google Scholar settings, it will automatically import to Zotero (after a one-time (“do not ask again”) access to Zotero).

Problem: However, this “magic” suddenly stopped working for me today… and everytime I clicked to import a citation, Firefox asked me to “download” the Endnote .enw file. I could import the Endnote (enw) citation file, but I much prefered the one-click solution.

Solution: I discovered that if you have the Zotero “Standalone” application opened… then you cannot simply import the Endnote citation from Google Scholar. To allow the one-click import to Zotero, you have to close the Standalone Zotero. Then, it works like “magic!” :)

Like I said, I’m loving Zotero. And will hopefully talk more about its use in the academic/education setting. For now, I hope this “help” is helpful.

Today was a focus on change; especially how institutions deal with large-scale changes, especially keeping in mind the political nature of curriculum formation. The session then concluded with a period of questions and assessment.

The concept of change was taught through the perspective of Salerno and Brock’s The Change Cycle. Keeping in mind, feelings, thoughts, and behaviour that are affected during the change process, we went through several tasks that was geared to help institutions identify significant potential change events occurring in the near future (for SAIACS it was the Mysore accreditation of MTh programme).  Using the primary change, we identified factors of fear/discontent during the change process, and we identified several strategies we could use to help address the change-factors.

This session was quite good, especially in view of the tasks. Of course more time could have helped… but it was much better to focus on tasks rather than simply lectures to deal with aspects/problems of change.

When we moved to the assessment section, it was good to have plenty of time for review. That was commendable. Personally I would have preferred a learning task as a proof that we have indeed learned something. For instance, we could each institution identify questions/comments about curriculum… and other seminaries look to provide a comment/assistance to those questions… that would help us to prove that we indeed learned something.

This public assessment was then moved to a private (without GATE facilitators) assessment… that helped raise specific critique of the workshop.

An important point was the lack of contextual analysis… an intentional attempt to see the relation to Indian context. It’s not enough to say that “you” do the context and we do content. That’s a fundamental error of education if it is not defined by context… and importantly we need to improve in modelling contextual learning.

Summary: it was a week that was well-worth the effort, though with room for improvement. Definitely, such initiatives help institutions, such as SAIACS, improve, to be better effective to do their mission.

Today’s session at the GATE workshop left me with mixed feelings. The structure, especially the early part… allowed for a lot of institutional engagement. For the first time, it actually felt like a workshop. However, it was a process that could have been significantly improved.

The morning began with each seminary working on a description of the ideal graduate for their respective seminary degree programmes. In particular, they were to identify the character and skill goals (expectations). These were developed in conjunction with one of the facilitators.We spent close to 2 hours… working on this.

So what was the problem? We had already done it the previous year, and yet there was no mention of the previous exercise… no relation to the difference between the past and present activity. Worse… many seminaries / participants didn’t even remember that they had done it. So in effect, neither the facilitators nor the participants added to the knowledge gained from the previous year. It was almost as if the last year didn’t need to happen.

Only after this concern was raised… the relation between past and present was addressed (late in the evening, last session). Which already suggested that within the context of adult learning… determining prior knowledge is of crucial importance.

Similarly, by the afternoon session, the input sessions dominated and once again there was no time for tasks… nor the workshop method. So the gains of the morning could not be extended.

Finally, however, right at the end, the SAIACS group had the opportunity to work through a “curriculum matrix” an interesting diagnostic tool. The activity engaged our table and also was quite significant in helping us related the “Theory” of curriculum to our actual application. Such activities, I feel, should have been the focus rather than just an add-on.

Nevertheless… some positive gains today. But tiredness and some disappointment has set in. Is it even possible to achieve the ideals of good education, good teaching?

Today we made the transition, from Year 3 to Year 4. Which is to say: we shifted our focus from “Leadership and Transformation in Education,” to “Curriculum Development.” For some of the participants, this was about time… as we all felt that we were supposed to be focussing on education all along. Personally, while I could understand the importance of leadership and governance issues for education, the facilitators did not make the education application/implications overt enough.

Nevertheless, it was a breath of fresh air, with the sessions being more engaging and diverse.

The input session of conflict management (morning session) had some interesting thoughts. I felt it could have been done better, especially, as I have said earlier, kept “tasks” as more central to the process than teaching. We were dealing with so many biblical models of reconciliation… but we could have spent more time in seeing how to improve conflict resolution practices personally or corporately (in the seminary context). Nevertheless some of the ideas were actually helpful: for eg, Duane Elmer’s ideas of cross cultural conflict resolution (like keeping the preservation of relationship as the paramount focus of any confrontation).

An important education lesson occurred as soon as the facilitator finished his session and began the next topic. We were dealing with heavy issues of conflict and reconciliation, and then, when that session ended, we moved immediately to curriculum development. Suddenly the facilitator stopped and admitted that transition was too soon, and he paused for prayer.. and gave us a break… and then re=began the new session on curriculum development. A good example of a teacher admitting mistake and recovering.

The afternoon session continued the discussion method… and the focus was also on curriculum development; this time on the assumptions that were evident (or needed to be explicit) in the development of curriculum. Now here, as expected, there were excellent pedagogical models. For instance, for a case-study discussion, the facilitator split the groups (shook comfort zones) and made us discuss. Also, every group’s results were given equal attention (and not hastily summarised). Then, the facilitator affirmed the group by showing that his own observations about assumptions were less than the whole assumptions noted by the groups. While most of us were critical of the central character in the case-study, then the facilitor urged us to think differently by identifying positives. Another helpful exercise.

However, here is when it fell away… when back in our college groups, we ran out of time… and were not able to have enough time to apply the lessons of assumptions on our own curriculum. In fact, even before we identified all our assumptions (no time to critique/evaluate them)… we had to move to the next topic.  Once again, the importance of keeping the main-thing, the main-thing was felt. I felt that the exercise of discussion is really good… however, the cost is time. So perhaps the discussions should be reserved to what really needs to be discussed… like how organisations see themselves… and we can rush the setup. (but this can have other sides… so it’s more a personal feeling).

The session concluded with another “input” session where developing curriculum was the focus. Again, the weakness of the input method was made explicit, even by the facilitator, but he pressed on. To his credit, there was the freedom to ask questions at anytime (in fact all input sessions allowed good question opportunities). However the predominant Input method just made questions feel like interruptions rather than the genuine addition to collective wisdom.

Anyway… I had a much better time today… and felt there were helpful ideas related to teaching/education to watch out for or incorporate.

Here’s an interesting site that I hope to get my teeth on soon. Just (re)heard about Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. Namely,

> concrete experience (or “DO”)

> reflective observation (or “OBSERVE”)

> abstract conceptualization (or “THINK”)

> active experimentation (or “PLAN”)

Here is a summary: http://www.learning-theories.com/experiential-learning-kolb.html

Today’s workshop (focussing upon Governance/leadership that impacted implicit curriculum) was divided in two halves… through two methodologies. The morning was all input, with a few tasks. The afternoon was mostly discussion (participation), with some input.

It was surprising how engaging the afternoon session was (despite afternoon sessions being traditionally weak), and how difficult to participate in input session in the morning (despite “alert” morning time).

And once again, it showed (for me) how for adult learning, input through lecture is the worst, or at least an ineffective way, to communicate.

It was also interesting to see our education facilitators make certain mistakes… which taught not just by good example, but also bad.

For instance, the professor who used the lecture input method… put a lot of content in his session and ran out of time to do the tasks effectively. We rushed through tasks… and also the theoretical discussions could have been done so differently.

Similarly in the input session, the facilitator kept using his own example as a positive example… which (unintentionally?) put him as the teacher-authority. Alternatively, he could have spent more time in tasks, getting discussion over what he wanted to talk about. I’m sure that would have resulted in better (contextual) answers… without drawing attention to the examples that could arise from the institution faculty/leaders. That (according to what we were taught last year) would have given us participants more ownership on the content.

In the afternoon session, again focussing on leadership patterns that would affect implicit curriculum… the session was almost entirely discussion oriented.  Exciting and engaging. Yet two mistakes (according to me) here. The first discussion was based on two biblical case studies. However, because the texts were slightly controversial (or the method of deriving principles from Acts being controversial), it was easy for our group to get distracted from the main point of the discussion. Relatedly, it was the sum-up (the relation between leadership and curriculum) was not made explicit. And could have been the central focus of the discussion. So, rather than focus on the biblical passage and the principles… think about our own instition and see how we could do things differently by “learning from” these biblical examples.

The second error was structural… in the sense that the facilitator, interacting with our table (that talked a lot), spent a lot of time talking to “us”… with his back turned against another group that was not talking much. That I think sent the wrong signal… and made me feel a little uncomfortable with our participation… and also perhaps feeling a little bad for the other group who may (or may not) have felt ignored. Perhaps in large groups… every comment should be brought to the group… rather than limit to the group that asked the question. That would have allowed the other participants to feel more involved.

I also reacted strongly against what was called “S1 model of leadership,” by Blanchard?). It was interesting… but the problems were highlighted when “directive leadership” was thought to be appropriate in certain cases. While I did relent (especially where directive leadership is helpful in cases of counselling in extreme cases). But I really felt that in cases of teaching… no student (especially adult) is in need for directive teaching. But some seminaries actually felt that for the BTh level it was necessary. Which I really felt sad to hear. Do we not respect our students to participate in their learning… help them think for themselves… guide them (ie. more participatory) rather than telling them to learn something in a particular manner or else. This over-directive method of learning is a problem of education in India… and sadly we tend to justify it. I hope I can continue to fight against this malice… in myself… as well as in the systems that think it is appropriate.

Anyway… that’s my view for today. I really want to focus on education… so let’s see what’s in store tomorrow.

 

Currently the review of the day’s learning is happening. According to the facilitators, the following plan was implemented. I’m taking their structure and making some notes below each point.

WHAT DID WE COVER TODAY (14/May, Monday)

1. What has changed – REVIEW

The facilitators had begun the day with the question, “What of last year was helpful/meaningful for your teaching/institution?” I felt the session was a little rushed. Beginning with the question presupposed that we even remembered what we did last years. It would have been good to have some kind of review statement… what was taught… and then see if we (participants) remembered… what struck us, and what we tried / failed in etc.

2. Expectations – NEEDS

The facilitators had then asked what our “expectations” were. I personally don’t like these kinds of questions, because the participants are so keen to please (not offend) the teacher that oftentimes true feelings are hidden/suppressed, or even participants tend to over-state high expectations.  Personally, I begin with the view that students may not be keen to learn, and so don’t ask questions that force students to be positive.  Another idea of “hook” (from Perry Shaw), is perhaps more helpful for the beginning of classes lectures. (hook being, grabbing students/participants attention).

3. Joseph Story – SENSITIZE

The Joseph story was a case study given about a student who had a good experience in bible college, but bad experience in “ministry” and then went back to bible college. We were supposed to draw attention to failure of seminaries in training students for ministry (which is largely true) but I find case studies disturbing. Their manipulative nature… especially in trying to get predetermined answers… that help the facilitators, is distracting. But I liked the rationale the facilitators gave… to get the discussion closer to home… get people aware about the implicit curriculum in a non-direct way. I think in that sense, the story was successful.

4. Biblical Qualities – INPUT

According to Jane Vella, “Input” is an important part, but only a part, of the whole teaching-learning tasks. And usually, input means lectures. The facilitators tried to have “input” (theory of biblical qualities that shape leadership) in a non-boring non-lecture way, however I felt that the discussion under-sold the participants… because most of the participants, I’m sure had already done some/most of that kind of thinking.

5. M.V.V. case studies – INDUCTIVE

M = Mission, V = Vision, and V= Values. There was a discussion about what is a mission statement, what is a vision statement and what are values. I found the distinctions very gray… and the priority of one (like mission over vision) over another, problematic. At least the facilitator admitted that these were just words and could work either way (in terms of priority). However the clarity that mission statement should be repeatable by the whole institution was a helpful reminder of its importance and relevance.

6. M.V.V. lecture – INPUT

Honestly, the input sessions could have been better… more engaging. I really don’t like learning by negative example… and more and more it feels that “input” sessions on the whole are not as successful as they are made out to be. A truly “ouch” moment for any teacher (including me).

7. GATE Values – IMPLEMENTATION

We were asked to identify what the GATE values were… I felt it was a little “narcissistic” at first… especially since we would be forced to answer only positively. Still… it was helpful to identify someone elses values before applying that to ourselves. I don’t quite understand how this was “implementation”, but maybe after reading Vella again it will become clearer.

8. Your values and Mission – INTERPRETATION

This activity was most helpful… where we looked at SAIACS stated values… and its “actual” (what is visible) values. It was a wake up call (again) to the need to be aware of our implicit curriculum. Do we really do what we say we do.

On the whole, I liked the ending of the session… it was engaging and relevant. The other sessions made me wish that there was a more direct focus on education and teaching.

SAIACS faculty are currently going through a workshop on Education conducted by GATE. According to the GATE website, there is a four year curriculum for the workshops. I’m going to quote the GATE Curriculum in verbatim for reference. Source: http://www.gateglobal.org/curriculum.html

GATE’s Workshop Curriculum

GATE offers a series of four annual workshops. We refer to them as workshops because the room in which we meet becomes a “shop” in which, together, we work to understand the implications of our theological commitments for the way we plan educational programs and the ways we teach. As a GATE team, we bring to the workshops a robust integration of biblical theology, grounded theory, and educational research in human cognition, the psychology of learning, and organizational change. Our methodology in the workshops is to set a context in which faculties can interact with theory, theology, and their cultural and institutional realities in ways that facilitate and encourage institutional change.

Theological and Philosophical Foundations for Transformational Education / Year 1

This workshop engages the participants in a discovery process to determine how factors such as the characteristics of entering students, the nature of the church, and the realities of their own cultures impact the designs and outcomes of educational experiences. Special emphasis is given to introducing relevant biblical/theological categories as well as modeling established educational practices. Faculties set institutional and individual goals for the year ahead.

Teaching Methods for Transformational Education /Year 2

In this workshop participants explore classroom methodology that leads to life transformation rather than the mere processing of information. Participants discover that designing educational experiences that promote transformational learning involves more than just organizing and delivering content. Special attention is given to the wide variety of methods used by Jesus as well as the purposes he had for using different approaches. In this and each succeeding workshop, faculties report on how well they achieved their goals from the previous year and set institutional and individual for the year ahead.

Leadership that Transforms Education / Year 3

This workshop considers how administrative practices such as leadership styles, decision making, personnel management, and conflict resolution impact the learning of students in a school. Participants examine the values that inform these practices and what students are learning through this hidden or implicit curriculum of the school. Biblical metaphors for leadership and leadership development are discussed with a view to making appropriate changes in practice for given situations.

Developing Curriculum for Transformational Education / Year 4

The final workshop addresses the school’s curriculum and how it should be shaped based upon the ministry context that its graduates will encounter. Participants consider how the state of the local church, the local culture, as well as biblical and cultural requirements for church leaders impact the school’s curriculum design. A key component of this workshop is the creation of a ministry profile describing the skills and character traits necessary for ministry in the local context. The workshop is intended to produce significant short-term and long-term institutional adjustments and individual course refinements for those participating.

What we are doing at SAIACS (along with four other seminaries) is to combine Year 1 and 2 (which we did last year) and Year 3 and 4 (which we are currently doing this year.

The format can be roughly understand as “theoretical issues for improving theological education” and “practice lessons in improving theological education.”

This year (year 3+4), while the broad focus is on curriculum development, the theoretical part looks at shaping leadership and governance so that the implicit curriculum of the institute can be strengthened (to make it more transformational). After the leadership discussion, we will then look at the practical aspects of developing curriculum in theological colleges.

It has always bothered me that this site (this blog) has been ignored by me and also by viewers. I hardly get any “hits” here… while my other blogs are reasonably well received. I wonder why, while living and breathing education, I have found hardly anything to write in this blog.

I think, my struggles to write and finish my dissertation was largely the reason for ignoring this site. And so, now that I have finished my dissertation (phew!!!) I think I am ready to restart my focus on this site. This site (blog) has the focus of issues in education, and particularly teaching. I guess, it’s about time I restart my focus on communicating, rather than just research!

Tomorrow, my seminary/college/institute where I work (SAIACS) begins a second-in-a-series of workshops focusing upon education. It’s a good place to start thinking/reflecting “publicly” on the proceedings of that workshop… to get myself thinking again on education.

Here’s to new beginnings.

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