Friday, August 12, 2016

Dimensions of School Environment: Literature Reiew

(This piece is directly lifted from a paper I wrote on School environment. Readers may find it difficult to locate its context and background. The review identified some of the dimensions of school environment such as leadership, affiliation (collegial relationship), collegial support, resource adequacy, and student support.)

Pioneering works on school environment were done by Moos (1974). Moos’ studies on school environment followed after his studies on work environment in different places like hospital wards, prisons, military companies, university residences and work milieus. Through his work in a variety of environments, Moos (1974) developed the Work Environment Scale (WES) which was later modified to School Level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ) to make it suitable to study school environment (Fraser, Docker & Fisher, 1989).

Moos considered school solely in terms of the perceptions of their inhabitants in a framework of person-milieu interaction (Fraser & Rentoul, 1982). Moos viewed that the perceptions of the inhabitants are the raw materials in the measurement of environment, and contrasts with the use of direct observation techniques which report researchers' perspectives. It is within this framework that several studies using the school level environment questionnaire were conducted with the aim of improving the school environment. For example, Fisher and Fraser (1991) investigated 109 primary and high schools teachers’ perceptions of their school environments. They found that primary teachers held more favorable perceptions of their school environment than did high school teachers. Previously, Fisher and Fraser (1990) presented the validity and reliability of each of the SLEQ scales, and offered a case study that used the SLEQ to improve school environment. They indicated that school environment could be improved by harmonizing the level of teachers’ actual and ideal perceptions of their school environments. Furthermore, Dorman and Fraser (1996) used a modified SLEQ to investigate the differences between Catholic and government school environments. With a considerably large sample of 208 science and religion teachers from 32 schools, they maintained that Catholic school teachers viewed their schools as more empowering and higher on school climate in Indonesian Junior Secondary Schools than government school teachers did. More recently, Templeton and Johnson (1998) have employed the SLEQ to assess school environment of an urban school in the USA to clarify factors that play roles in developing a safer school environment. They indicated that teachers desired more student support, more resources and less work pressure as conditions of a “safer” school environment. In the Indonesian educational context, Irianto (2002) used the Indonesian version of the modified SLEQ to measure working environment at The Centre for Development and In-service for Science Teachers in Indonesia. He documented that trainers in this institution perceived positively their working environments on five scales, namely, Affiliation, Professional Interest, Mission Consensus, Empowerment, and Innovation and viewed less favorable Resource Adequacy and Work-Pressure scales.

Other studies have investigated the effect of leadership, collegial support, resource adequacy, and student support, on school environment. In the leadership aspect, Leithwood (1990) stated that leadership style is an important variable that shape a school environment and hence the teachers’ behavior. He advised school administrators to create an integrative environment where everybody in the school is made to feel important and everybody’s opinion is respected by involving all the teachers in the decision making process. He cautioned that when teachers are not part of the decision-making process they feel depersonalized, unsupported and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment. Such leadership practice he said creates a compartmentalized school environment where teachers are seen as separate working group from the administrators. On the other hand Al-Safran, Brown & Wiseman (2013) found that the integrative principal leadership style is found to encourage and create a cooperative school environment for better school outcome than schools with authoritative principals. They also stated that cooperation and collaboration among teachers takes place more in schools run by integrative principals than schools run by authoritative principals.

Collegial relationship, which in this study is referred to as ‘Affiliation’ is an important element of school environment. Fullan (2001) stated that a good relationships with colleagues results in a harmonious school atmosphere. Schonfeld (1990) studied the effect of social support from colleagues on teachers’ psychological symptoms of stress and job-related morale. He found that greater colleague support was significantly correlated with lower levels of depression, less psycho-physiologic symptoms, and greater job satisfaction. King and Peart (1992) also found that teachers who indicated good relationships with their colleagues tended to be highly satisfied with teaching. Jacobsson, Pousette & Thylfors (2001) reported a significant but low correlation between colleague support and emotional exhaustion, irritation, stress, and work demands. These results reinforced the beneficial effects of good relationships with colleagues and a harmonious school atmosphere, supporting Sarason’s (1993) contentions. Sarason maintained that good collegial conditions contributed to a healthy school environment, where teachers could grow and learn and where they could create and sustain conditions that were necessary for productive learning in their students.

Another variable of school environment widely investigated is student support. Unsupportive student behaviors have been repeatedly linked to negative school environments and teacher stress (Ingersol, 2003; Naylor, 2001; Wisniewski & Gargiulo, 1997). Schonfeld’s (1990) study indicated a strong correlation between student disruptive behavior and teacher depression and psychophysiologic symptoms. Charles and Senter cited in Ding, Li, Li and Kulm (2008) also reported that inappropriate student behavior impacts learning and teaching. It wastes classroom time, distracts students from learning and teachers from teaching, lessens students’ motivation and causes students’ and teachers’ stress. In a study done on 1386 secondary teachers working in Spanish schools, disruptive behavior has been found as a major source of teachers’ stress and annoyance (López, Santiago, Godas, Castro, Villardfrancos & Ponte, 2008). Furthermore, students’ disruptive behaviors can provoke negative feelings in teachers such as frustration and lack of confidence. As a result, teachers become too stressed to make the right decisions (Arbuckle & Little, 2004; Thompson & Webber, 2008). For instance, teachers sometimes give up on disruptive students, remove them from their classes and let others deal with them (Egyed and Short, 2006).

Resources have also been considered as an important element of school environment. Nelson & Simmons (2003) stated that when schools have adequate resources to meet work demands, manageability of the job is increased. On the other hand, inadequate resources will make work demands and pressures to be unmanageable (Taris, Peeters, LeBlanc, Schreurs & Schaufel, 2001). Hargreaves (1994) discussed the changing world of teaching where increased work demands are enhanced by reduced time, resources, and professional development opportunities. Drago, Caplan, Costanza, Brubaker, Cloud, Harris, Kashlan and Riggs (1999) suggested that the “doing more with less” was a mirroring of societal trends which place higher expectations and higher stress on employees. When circumstances at work prevent the acquisition of needed resources, Shirom (2003) theorized that stress is more likely and that the job demand-resource link is strongly related to emotional exhaustion. Naylor’s (2001) analysis of the qualitative data gathered on the work life of 1,500 teachers indicated that even the most basic resources were not adequately supplied. Some teachers spoke of purchasing their own supplies to meet students’ needs. Naylor reported that without needed resources teacher work load is increased, and their struggle to manage becomes more difficult.

As for local literature, there is paucity of research linking school environment and teachers behavior. Only few studies have emohasized on school environment. In his study on ‘Factors Affecting Effective Educational Organization in Bhutan’ Dorji (2009) suggested that for schools to function as affective organizations the employees (teachers) should function in a work environment conducive to outstanding productivity. He also points that administrative support; transparent leadership, good student behavior and positive school environment and teacher independence are factors that promote the morale of teachers thereby increasing their enthusiasm for their work. The Bhutan education blueprint (2014) states that during the focus group discussions, teachers expressed that poor working environment affected their motivation level. Together, both local and international literature suggests that the importance creating a positive school environment to facilitate improvement in teacher effectiveness.


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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Curriculum and Instruction Should Sync

In education, curriculum and instruction are two faces of a same coin. Curriculum is ‘What to teach’ and Instruction is ‘how to teach’. They are inextricably linked and influence each other and they must be compatible at all cost. If the instruction does not suit the curriculum or if the curriculum does not favor the instruction, learning process is bound to see some setbacks. When a change is underway, both must be considered. Leaving any one of them behind or taking any one of them ahead could create an incongruity between the two which could have negative backwash on teaching and learning process.

The MOE’s recent training of teachers on transformative pedagogy is a positive move towards bringing shift in the teaching trend from the teacher-fronted teaching to child-cantered teaching. The new teaching technique has its roots in the constructivist and social learning theory which are based on the premise that children learn by constructing their own knowledge by adding onto his previous knowledge through positive interactions with teachers, parents, friends and other social agents. This approach places children at the heart of learning process and allow them to take control of their learning as opposed to teacher-centric learning where teacher takes the centre stage.

While the initiative has come as a positive change, it has sharpened just one blade of a scissor. The present curriculum to a large extent is content-overloaded and it gives little or practically no room for teachers to practice any innovative teaching technique. The mandate to cover the vast syllabus in an academic year puts teachers to race against time for syllabus completion. It exerts pressure on teachers to move with undue pace through the curriculum and encouraging a ‘tick list’ approach to teaching. It has led to less flexibility and creativity and to a more slavish and often frantic gallop through the curriculum. It exerts a dominant influence on teaching and learning that other important areas such as children’s development of higher order thinking skills, nurturing pupils’ creativity, character, communication skills, problem solving and exploration could not be emphasized.

Given the difference in the nature of curriculum and instruction, there is a need to make alterations in the existing curriculum so as to measure up with the new instructional method. Like the instruction, the curriculum needs to be viewed and designed from the constructivist point of view. It needs to be grounded in the principles of constructivism and social learning theory. The current textbooks are crammed with information making the overall curriculum congested and difficult for both teachers and students. A constructivist based curriculum should provide space, time and opportunity for both teacher and students for meaningful learning. It should allow enough time for teachers and students for positive and meaningful interaction to dig below the superficial level of understanding of concepts. It should also provide adequate opportunities for students to apply what they have learnt in their day to day lives. Students should engage in mini-research projects to experience authentic inquiry and discovery. Basically the change should aim for a light content which does not exert any pressure of completion on teachers and students to allow teachers to effectively use innovative teaching techniques to facilitate meaningful learning.  

Content overloaded curriculum should not stand as a militating factor against the use of innovative teaching technique.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Entrepreneurship Education in Bhutan: Perception, Culture and Challenges

Sonam Rinchen , Karma Utha, Bhupen Gurung, Ganeshman Gurung & Tshewang Rabgay
The purpose of the study was to determine Bhutanese students' perception towards entrepreneurship and the influence of entrepreneurship on their career choice by a team of lecturers from Samtse College of Education and a teacher from the Samtse Higher Secondary School. It was a multifaceted research involving survey, interviews, focus group interviews and document analysis. The samples included 921 students [19 diploma students, 248 undergraduate students, 654 school students (460=HSS & 194=MSS)], currently studying in the schools, colleges and VTIs in Samtse, Chhukha and Thimphu  Dzongkhags. Students perception analysis revealed that their perceptions on career choice are inclined more towards entrepreneurship second to government jobs. The study also found that students and parents are aware of the increasing unemployment scenario in Bhutan. It was also found that  there is a minimal focus on entrepreneurship education in both school and the university curriculum and the pedagogical practices which are teacher centered to a large extent are not favorable for entrepreneurship skill development. Some of the recommendations included a need to include entrepreneurship education in the curriculum of all levels of school and a need to disseminate information related to entrepreneurship among students in schools and colleges.
Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Bhutan; Career; Curriculum; Perception

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Grounded in the importance of school environment as an important factor influencing teachers’ performance, this study explores Samtse Higher Secondary School teachers’ perception of the level of the eight dimensions of school environment-student support, affiliation, professional interest, staff freedom, participatory decision making, innovation, resource adequacy, work pressure.  A survey questionnaire, School Level Environment Questionnaire built on a five point scale was administered to 29 teachers in the school. The data obtained was analyzed using descriptive statistics such as means and standard deviations to indicate the levels of perception on the scale. The results revealed that out of the eight dimensions, teachers had average level of opinion towards student support, affiliation, professional interest, staff freedom, participatory decision making, innovation, low level of opinion towards resource adequacy and high level of opinion towards work pressure. The study found the need to improve all eight dimensions of the school environment. Recommendations were suggested to improve the school environment. The study was significant because feedback information based on teacher perceptions can be good basis for reflection upon, discussion of and systematic attempts to improve school environments.

KEY WORDS: School environment, Student support, Affiliation, Professional interest, Staff Freedom

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Study Of Factors Influencing Students’ Academic Performance In A Higher Secondary School In Bhutan: Published in the 16th Volume of RABSEL

Tshewang Rabgay
The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors affecting academic performance of the students of a higher secondary school in Bhutan. The dependent variable considered for the study was students’ academic performance, which was indicated by students’ test scores and the independent variables were students’ demographic characteristics, parents’ socio-economic status, parenting style and students’ learning and study strategy. The data were collected from 241 students of the school using two questionnaires­–Learning And Study Strategy Inventory and Baumrind’s Parenting Style’s Questionnaire. Correlation analysis, independent samples t-test and descriptive analysis were used to analyze data. The findings revealed that socio-economic factors such as parents’ education, income and occupation resulted in difference in academic performance but there was no difference in students’ academic performance based on students’ demographic variables like gender, age and living arrangements. Of the three parenting styles, namely authoritative, authoritarian and permissive, it was found that authoritative parenting results in better academic performance. The findings also revealed that students had average level learning and study skills. Recommendations were suggested to improve students’ academic performance.

KEY WORDS: Academic Performance, Socio-economic Status, Learning and Study Strategy, Parenting Style

Friday, November 13, 2015

Socio-cultural Factors Influencing Adolescent Girls’ Body Image

A Paper Presented at the 3rd Research Convention at SCE. 
Theme: Gender and Education
Adolescence is associated with an increased concern for body image. Past studies have shown that body image concern is more in girls than boys which suggests that adolescent girls are more likely to be dissatisfied with their body than boys. Body image is influenced by many factors. This study aimed to explore the influence of socio-cultural factors-media, parents and peers on Samtse Higher Secondary School girls’ body image; and to determine the most influential factor among the three. The study also sought to find the level of body satisfaction of Samtse Higher Secondary School girls. A survey was conducted with 150 girls of the school. The data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, paired samples t-test and regression analysis. The results suggested that media and peers had significantly dominant influence on girls’ body image than parents. It was also found that most girls (50.6%) were dissatisfied with their body which was further confirmed by the significant difference (p-0.000) between girls’ perceived actual body image and ideal body image. The study recommended media literacy programs for both parents and adolescents to deal with the social and cultural pressures to conform to unrealistic body ideals. The study also recommended teachers and school counselor to conduct psycho-educational initiatives in the school such as body image sessions and group discussions to teach students to accept and appreciate their body as they are and to decrease their preoccupation with appearance. 
KEY WORDS: Adolescent girls, Body image, Sociocultural factors, Media, Parents,

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kamal: A Talent In My School

Kamal is like any other eleventh grade science student in my school. He is a shy and a timid young boy. Because of his silent and calm nature, he is not an easily noticeable student in the school. He is a member of the school vocational club.

Recently the school conducted 'Club Exhibition'. The school has twenty one clubs. Kamal occupied a small space in the vocational club corner. He sat quietly with some mobile repairing equipment displayed before him. The crowd concentration shifted from one club to another but not many were interested in Kamal. The few that came thought that what was before him was merely a display of disassembled mobile phone. 

All during the program Kamal remained inconspicuous to the audience. It was only towards the end of the program that Kamal came to the limelight. Actually it was my encounter with him that caught the crowd's eye.

Kamal in the vocational club corner
The guests had already left and there was a very thin audience left. I thought we had called it an exhibition and I was walking out of the hall. As I neared the exit door I saw Kamal sitting quietly with two other friends.

"What have you got here?" I asked him.

"Mobile repair sir"

"Can you repair my mobile? Its sound doesn't work" I asked .

I thought he would not dare accept to work on a teacher's mobile. But the response was a confident "Yes sir"

I handed him my mobile and others around me started to laugh taking Kamal for granted. But Kamal started getting busy on the mobile. I told him in jest 'I hope you will not return my mobile in pieces like Mr. Bean returning a solid radio in several pieces to a customer' following which there was a huge laughter from students who thronged around to watch Kamal.

The students who were watching Kamal were anxious over what Kamal was doing. They thought he was on a risky venture of handling a teacher's phone.

Just then a lady teacher walked past and asked me "What's going on here?"

"He is repairing my mobile" I said.

"He will only get your mobile spoiled" she remarked and walked away giving a fleeting glance at Kamal.

Kamal heard the comment and he blushed but his hands never ceased to be confident.
Kamal working on my mobile

At one moment I was skeptical of his ability. I wished I had not given him the mobile. By then he had dismantled the phone completely and I could only watch him.

But his hands were deft and he exuded confidence over what he was doing

Still skeptical, I asked the other two boys sitting next to him who were equally quite. "Do you think he can really repair my mobile?"

"Yes sir. He can. He is really good at it sir." That gave me some reassurance.

Kamal had identified a problem with my phone. He said "sir, there is a disconnection here" He pointed to something very tiny which I couldn't make a thing. He  worked meticulously on it and got it fixed. 

Watching among the crowd was another teacher who also had problem with his mobile phone. He stepped forward and handed Kamal his phone. He had multiple problems - the camera, screen and dial pad. Kamal got all of them fixed just in few minutes. He won the crowd's heart.

Fascinated by his capability, I asked him "Did you do any formal training on repairing mobile phones?" 

"No sir. I learnt by myself at home" he said still looking timid.

"Are all these repair kits yours?" I asked pointing at the kits.

"Yes sir"

"Do you do this at home?"

"Yes sir"

"Sir, he is well known in Daragaon, (the place where he stays)" said the other two boys near him."People give him different electrical appliances such as, rice cooker, curry cooker, water boiler, microoven, washing machine and fan to repair. Just anything sir-any electrical equipment. He fixes them all for free sir. His room looks like a electronics repair shop" 

The next day I got the following things repaired:

1. Water boiler
2. Two fans 
3. Micro oven 
4. Tubelight
5. Extension cord
6. My wife's watch

I was surprised at Kamal's unique skills. Unique because he didn't learn from any Guru but his skills are self-taught. However, Kamal admitted that he cannot repair computers and digital camera. He has plans to attend computer repair course this winter. 

When asked about his ambition, Kamal said he wants to become an electronic engineer.