Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year Resolutions, 2014

As the clock strikes 12:00 I feel like I am standing on hill that stands between 2013 and 2014. Looking back from the hill I can see 2013 a successful, eventful and a fruitful year. I raise and swing my Khadar in farewell and gratitude to 2013 at the same time thanking God for gracing peace and health to all santient beings. Looking forward from the hill I can view a vast expanse of the year 2014. I raise and swing my Khadar to 2014 praying for peace, happiness, success and health to all santient beings.      

I have never had new year resolutions before. Even if I had one, I am sure I would have not lived up to it. I am a random person. I have never liked to stick my  life to any rule or schedule. I have liked to lead life as it comes. So, for a person like me having new year resolutions would have only meant making false committments to myself. 

But this year I have decided to have few:

1. Pray more, be closer to God and be more spiritual 

2. Get along better with people and improve social skills

3. Improve mental wellbeing, think positive, laugh more and enjoy life

Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Academic Toppers: Girls outnumber boys

2103 was a fruitful year for Samtse HSS. The school saw many important events. Some highlights of the year include, the introduction of an hour long evening study (also referred to as remedial classes) for class ten and twelve, teachers day, classroom decoration and organization competition, wall magazine competition, games and sports (inter-house, inter-class, Dzongkhag level, regional level tournaments), the arrival of school bus which was real boon for students who travel 10 kms to reach school, the initialization of the work for the school's maiden magazine, earthquake safety drill and teacher recognition award.     

The last but the most important event of the year was the results declaration day on 18th December. The day had Dasho Dzongrab as the chief guest. Addressing to an audience of students and parents, the Principal said 'if students succeed, it indicates the success of parents and teachers as well. And if students fail all three, parents, teachers and students must take the blame. It should spur regrets and soul searching mind' While the chief guest's address expressed concern over the vulnerability of youth involving in youth crime during winter holidays and emphasized the importance of parents' guidance.

Academic toppers: 3 boys, 12 girls
After the chief guest's address, the awards began. The academic toppers walk one after another to the chief guest to get the awards in great pride. And the parents gave long ovation. But what surprised us all on that day was that there were more girl toppers than boy toppers. We saw a series of girls receiving the awards. At one moment I was worried that there would not be a single boy topper. The announcer made a witty comment that if girls show dominance over boys like it did on that day, few years down the line we would find most men doing household duties like kitchen work and woman taking the role of men as the sole family bread earner' However, much later, to our relief a boy appeared and he was followed by two more and that made just three boys out of fifteen.

The emergence of more girls academic toppers and less boy toppers in the school prompted many questions in my mind. In Bhutan there is social bias against women, in that woman are deemed as people who cannot take up roles that man do.  Are girls trying to close the gap between men and women? Is this an emergence of a  new trend?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Patterns of Teacher-Student Verbal Interaction in the Tenth Grade Biology Classes in Samtse District

Classroom interaction is an important aspect of teaching and learning. The purpose of this study was to analyze the pattern of teacher-student verbal interaction in grade ten biology classes using Flanders Interaction Analysis System (FIAS) by finding the mostly used interaction category in FIAS; teacher talk time and student talk time; teachers’ use of direct influence and indirect influence; the proportion of students’ response time and students’ initiation time. The sample of the study comprised 8 teachers and 383 students of the tenth grade biology classes of four randomly selected schools in Samtse district. Eighteen classes were observed using a coding chart. The data obtained were analyzed using the decoding process prescribed in FIAS.

The results of data analysis showed that ‘lecturing’ was the mostly used category in FIAS with 75.71% of the total time; teacher talk time (85.23%) was significantly higher than student talk time (11.38%); teachers used more direct influence (77.27%) than indirect influence (7.96%). The time for students’ response and students’ initiation were 9.93% and 1.45% respectively.

Key words: Classroom Interaction, Flanders Interaction Analysis System (FIAS), Biology       
1.     Introduction
1.1 Rationale
Classroom interaction is an important aspect of teaching and learning. Researchers (e.g. Okofar, 1993, Kalu, 2004, Odinko, 2011) found that classroom interaction had significant effect on students’ academic achievement, behavior and motivation. Active classroom interaction enhanced student test scores; changed students’ behavior form passive to active; and motivated students to learn. Due to the significant effect classroom interaction has on learning, there has been a shift in pedagogy trends worldwide from teacher-fronted, non-interactive teaching to interactive, learner-centered learning process.

In Bhutan, the concept of teaching through interactive classroom started in 1986 when NAPE (New Approach to Primary Education) was launched by the Department of Education (Dorji, 2005). Prior to that, teacher-centered was the most commonly practiced teaching method. The new approach framed a new policy that laid emphasis on the shift of teachers’ role from being a ‘sage on the stage’ or from being someone who had authority in class to someone who facilitated learning through interaction, giving more time for students to talk and using indirect teaching. Subsequently, the two teacher training colleges of education trained prospective, as well as in-service teachers on the use of various interactive teaching techniques like cooperative learning method, inquiry learning method, activity-based learning method, etc. 

It has been over two decades since the concept of interactive classroom has been given importance in Bhutan. But, has there been a change in interaction practices? Do our teachers teach through interactive classroom environment? What is the common interaction pattern? What proportion of class time was teacher talk and student talk? Do teachers give enough time for students to share ideas and ask questions? Do teachers use direct influence or indirect influence? In the light of these questions, this study aimed to study teacher-student verbal interaction patterns with reference to teaching the tenth grade biology.

The basic assumption of the study was that in a normal classroom verbal communication was predominant (Flanders, 1970; Blatt et al, 2008). The results of the study would provide a clear picture of patterns of teacher-student verbal interaction in the tenth grade biology classes.

1.2 Research Objectives
The objectives of the study were to analyze the teacher-student verbal interaction patterns in teaching the tenth grade biology by finding:  
1.2.1 The mostly used interaction category in FIAS.
              1.2.2 The teacher talk time and student talk time.
              1.2.3 Teachers’ use of direct influence and indirect influence in class.
              1.2.4 Students’ response time and students’ initiation time.

1.3 Research Questions
What were the patterns of teacher-student verbal interaction in teaching the tenth grade biology classes?
1.3.1       Which was the mostly used interaction category in FIAS?
1.3.2       What proportion of the class time was teacher talk time and student talk time?
1.3.3       Did teachers use more direct influence or indirect influence?
             1.3.4    What percentage of time was students’ initiation and response?

2. Literature Review
2.1 Definition of Classroom Interaction
Biddle (1967) defined classroom interaction as “an action-reaction or a two-way influence which may be between teacher and students or among students.” Odinko (2011) provided an elaborate definition considering teacher, learners and learning material. He defined it as “behaviors exhibited by the teacher and learners in the form of communication between teacher and learner in small groups or with the entire class as well as learner-learner, learner-material and teacher-material.”

2.2 Learning Theories Underlying Classroom Interaction
Classroom interaction is based on social interdependence theory developed by a Russian scientist Vygotsky. The social interdependence theory claims that learning should be socially mediated. By implication, the degree of social interaction in any class is assumed to influence learning. It is along this line that Johnson and Johnson (1994) reiterated that interaction means the interdependence and active involvement of all in the social construction of learning. Further, Vygotsky (1978) said that the more socially skillful students are and the more attention teachers pay to teaching involving the learners in activities through the use of social interaction, the more it would lead to the achievement of self goals.

2.3 Significance of Classroom Interaction
Interaction is viewed significant in learning because it influences students’ academic achievement. Several interaction studies have indicated that some relation exists between classroom interaction pattern and student achievement. Okafor (1993) found a positive relationship between classroom interaction and student level of achievement. Udeani (1992) reported that classroom interaction accounted for about 74% of the variation in students’ cognitive achievement.

Besides academic achievement, interactive learning also lead to gains in social skills. Johnson and Johnson (1989) found that when students were placed in social context such as in cooperative learning where they engaged in active ‘face to face interaction’ (one of the five principles of cooperative learning), they shared ideas, point of views provided, got positive feedback and reached a common consensus which promoted skills like communication, decision making and leadership. They also found that students learned how to accept differences based on ability, ethnic, background, and gender.

 Interactive classroom also brings about changes in students behavior and motivation. Siau et al (2006) found that students in interactive classroom were more motivated to learn, more attentive, more participative and more likely to exchange ideas with instructors and fellow students. Furthermore, positive classroom interaction helps in building positive relationship between teacher and students or among students. Hamre and Pianta (2001) stated that when students had strong and positive relationship with teachers, they were more likely to believe, love the teachers and were more motivated while teachers were more motivated to spend time and energy to improve student success. But a negative relationship with the teacher and students would lead to student dropout rates and teachers often handled only student behavior and prevented efforts to promote positive school environment.

2.4 Related Researches
A study conducted by the Royal Education Council (2009) to study the classroom practices in school in Bhutan reported the following findings:
·       Teaching consisted mostly of one-way talk by the teacher to convey textbook content without being able to get students to comprehend and demonstrate their learning (p.27).
·     Classroom instruction showed predominance of one-way talk by teacher and writing on the chalkboard with lesser evidence of student-centric activities (p.28).
·       There was little evidence of active dialogue between the students and teachers (p.29).
·    Inside the class, students rarely asked questions and were not seen to be participating actively in the teaching process.

In another study done by Sherab (2008) to determine the types of teaching practices applied by primary school teachers in Bhutan, it was found teacher dominated teaching to be the dominant teaching method used by teachers. The results of these studies indicated that non-interactive traditional teacher fronted classrooms is still prevalent in Bhutanese classrooms.

There were numerous studies done in other countries on classroom interaction using FIAS. Kalu (2004) in Nigeria observed and coded interaction pattern using FIAS during Physic lessons in 15 selected secondary schools in Nigeria. The sample included 516 Senior Secondary One (SS1) students and 15 Physics teachers. The results revealed that most of the teachers used direct influence than indirect influence. Most of the class time was dominated by teachers. The study also revealed a strong correlation between classroom interaction and students attitude towards learning physics and academic achievement. The more teachers used indirect teaching, the more students developed positive attitudes towards physics and achieved higher in academic tasks. In other words, students’ development of positive attitude towards physics and achievement in low academic tasks significantly increased with teachers’ indirect influence of classroom activities.

Similar results were found in a study conducted by Babelan and Kia (2010) in Ardebil, Iran. The study aimed at finding interaction pattern among teachers and primary school students using FIAS as the research instrument. The sample included 400 teachers and 1083 primary school students. Regression analysis of the data gathered showed that from the total observation time teacher talk time made up 57.77% of which 16.7% was indirect influence, 41.04% was direct influence, while 33% made up student talk time and 10% made up silence time. In another study by Inamullah (2008) found the results along the same line. The aim of the study was to explore the ratio between direct and indirect influence of English teachers teaching college level students of North West Frontier Province of Pakistan using FIAS. It was found that majority of the teachers used more direct influence than indirect influence. 

3. Research Methodology
This study was classroom observation research that used Flanders’ Interaction Analysis System (FIAS) as a tool to observe, and analyze the patterns of teacher-student interaction in the biology classrooms.

3.1 Research Design
The research design adopted for this study was coding and decoding process involved in interaction analysis. The coding process involved assigning numbers as codes for each interaction categories in the FIAS. The result of assigning codes to the categories in the FIAS was the coding chart as shown in Table 3. The coded chart was used to observe eighteen tenth grade classes in the sample schools of Samtse district. The classes were observed by a nominated teacher in each sample school who had been trained on using FIAS. In the decoding process, the coded data were interpreted to get a picture of the interaction patterns in the classroom.

3.2 Population
Population of the study included teachers and students of tenth grade biology classes of middle and higher secondary schools in Samtse district.

3.3 Sample
Sample of the study included 8 teachers and 383 students of tenth grade Biology classes of four randomly selected schools in Samtse district. The schools, the number of teachers in each school and the number of section of tenth grade classes were given below: 
No. of Students
Classes Observed
No. of Biology Teachers
Samtse HSS
10A 10C 10D 10E
Yoeseltse MSS
10A 10B 10C
Peljorling HSS
10C 10D
Tendruk HSS
10A 10B 10C
(Couldn't upload the remaining part of the paper.......will do it soon)