Friday, December 16, 2016

Getting an International Publication

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 (L√≥pez, 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.

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 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