Tainted Waters.


By Shaaban Fundi

Drugged water

pharmaceuticals in drinking water

Last week I attended Advanced Placement Environmental Science educators training at Kennesaw State University “some place” in this massive city of Atlanta. In this training I learned different inquiry (lab) based methods of teaching advanced placement environmental science to students. It was a great week.

In one of the days during the training, we went to see a membrane bioreactor (MBR) sewage treatment plant. We talked about the advantages of an MBR over traditional sewage treatment plants. In the middle of this discussion, a person asked about pharmaceuticals? Does MBR sewage treatment process remove pharmaceuticals in the treated water? I am not exactly sure what the question was, but it was along those lines.

That question actually made me think twice about where do the medication (pills, injections, topical creams, etc) that millions and millions of people are taking everyday go? We know for a fact that what goes in must come out. It is a small portion of the medication we take that is actually metabolized– the rest is released to the environment through our urine, fecal matters and in so many other ways. But, where do these by-products go to after we flush the toilets and/or when dumped in landfills after they expire?

Expired drugsPharmaceuticals are the biggest incoming environmental and health challenge of our time. There are millions and millions of people taking a variety of medication each single day. All these pharmaceuticals finally end up in our water ways. Most of these pharmaceuticals have long half-lives and also very few to zero natural microbes are able to metabolize them. Hence, they stay in the environment longer increasing the likelihood that their concentration will significantly increase in our water supply systems the next few years.

The effect to human and other animals is not very well documented as of yet. Some studies done on fish have shown negative effect to fish population exposed to elevated levels of pharmaceuticals in rivers, streams and lakes. Some male fish have actually turned into female when their habitats are exposed to high levels of pharmaceuticals for long duration. What these low concentrations of pharmaceuticals found in drinking water doing to the human body is currently a mystery.

Admittedly, the pharmaceuticals are in minute concentrations right now but since none of the water treatment plants can remove them from water–we are running the risk of their concentration increasing over the next few years.

In America right now there are no legislations to deal with pharmaceuticals in drinking water or the water that goes into the streams, rivers, and lakes. At the same time, trace amount of pharmaceuticals have already been recorded in many urban and suburban water supply systems. What is America going to do with this impending health and environmental problem?

I do not know about you, but I would rather not drink none-prescribed pills in the water I drink!!!!

With all the hormones, antidepressants, and other different types of medications in the drinking water supplies; no wonder–people can no-longer stand each- other.

And you are wrong even if you drink bottled water–you are still taking in pills!

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The Evolution vs. Creationism Controversy in America


Shaaban Fundi,

Evolution vs creationismGoing through the articles regarding creationism vs evolution has made me aware of the existence of the great debate that is boiling between the creationists and the evidence based supporters of the evolution process. I understand the fear that is held by the creationists about evolution and the significant challenge it possess to the creation only idea. As a science instructor representing the larger scientific community in a classroom, I feel that curriculum decisions based on the belief of creationism have no place in determining science standards.

To me, science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science. Thus, creationism, that provides explanations based on faith and not on empirical evidence has no part in science and no part in the science classroom.

Moreover, progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence. The theory of evolution is one of these well-established explanations. An enormous amount of scientific investigation since the mid-19th century has converted early ideas about evolution proposed by Darwin and others into a strong and well-supported theory. Today the theory of evolution has become the bedrock of modern biology and is universally accepted by scientists as the engine for speciation.

However, creationists in their bid to get equal time in the science classroom, deliberately mislead the public by trying to present evolution as a controversial theory. I simply don’t understand why it is that today, more than 150 years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, we are still fighting over evolution. The Catholic Church has endorsed evolution; every competent biologist relies on its theoretical framework; and its mechanism and its consequences have been thoroughly documented. The theory of evolution has become the central unifying concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines. In contrast, the claims of creation science lack empirical support and cannot be meaningfully tested. These observations lead to two fundamental conclusions: the teaching of evolution should be an integral part of science instruction, and creation science is in fact not science and should not be presented as such in science classes.

The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted. Scientific investigators seek to understand natural phenomena by observation and experimentation. Scientific interpretations of facts and the explanations that account for them therefore must be testable by observation and experimentation.

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.

No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation should be admissible as science in any science course. Incorporating the teaching of such doctrines into a science curriculum compromises the objectives of public education. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to an increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare. The growing role that science plays in modern life requires that science, and not religion, be taught in science classes.

I am not advocating that students not have the right to believe in creationism. I am simply arguing that in the science classroom students be allowed to explore the truth about their own origin and the origin of their universe based on scientifically collected and proven evidence. In the science classroom, we teach students that all good science is based on the scientific method. Based on this method, we form hypothesis that we later test with experimentation. The evolutionary theory has undergone much experimentation over the past 150 years since Darwin first outlined his theory and for the most part this experimentation has upheld his ideas. Creationism, however, by its very nature, resists attempts to explore its validity using the scientific method. It is impossible to test this theory using experimentation. Thus, I believe that it has no place in the science classroom. I have no problems with it being taught as part of religious instruction or even in a philosophy class. However, I do not think it belongs in a science classroom simply because we cannot use scientific tools to understand and explore the idea.

I strongly reject the Creationists’ claim that if one believes that the theory of evolution is true then one necessarily must believe that there is no God, no meaning or purpose to life, and thus no moral accountability. This statement is completely wrong due to the fact that believing in evolution and believing in God are not mutually exclusive beliefs. The dilemma creationists have for themselves of being unable to reconcile science and religion should not be imposed upon the rest of world populous, and particularly not on educational systems. The courts have consistently ruled that “creation science” is actually a religious view. Because public education must be religiously neutral under the U.S. Constitution, the courts have held that it is unconstitutional to present creation science as legitimate scholarship. I believe that these court rulings should be upheld and creation science kept out of science instruction in the public education system.

Over the past 50 years, our world has become increasingly more technological and the need for students to understand scientific principles has become increasingly more important. If we want our public school students to compete on a global level it is essential that we teach them sound scientific principles and keep creationism out of the science classroom.

American Schools: Resource Allocation Is the Problem.


In the past two weeks, we have been discussing eight K-12 major educational issues related to instructional leadership at the macro level. The issues are: Alternative Assessment, Control of the US Department of Education on the Local Department of Education, What Does It Mean for Schools to be Placed on “Alert” Status?, Georgia and Value Added Measurement, Year Round Schools in Georgia and US in General: What Does the Research Says?, How Credible are the SLOs? Issues of Validity and Reliability, SLOs and Multiple Teacher: Who is Held Accountable?, and the CCRPI. In this reflection, due to a multitude of topic covered, I will only touch on one issue that stood out to me personally, the Alternative Testing issue. I will discuss on how I see this issue impacting me in my capacity as an instructional leader. In addition, I will offer my observations on how I may grow as an instructional leader while tackling this issue.

In the past decade, American schools have seen an increase in student assessment especially those in the form of multiple choice. This was brought about due mainly to the introduction of accountability measures after the introduction of the No Child Left Behind legislation in 2002 (Popham, 2010). However, currently there is a push to reduce the impact of high stakes tests on students and school resources (Ravitch, 2009).  Popham argues that, one, multiple choice tests can only assess basic understanding and recall of information and therefore have no value in improving learning especially critical thinking and problem solving skills and two, schools spend a tremendous amount of money to conduct these tests, with money that could be used to otherwise improve learning in schools (Popham, 2010; Ravitch, 2009).

In response to the calls for alternative assessment in schools, many states have come up with some alternative to multiple choice tests. For example, the state of Georgia is introducing the milestone test this year. This test is considered to be much better than the previous ones as it offers students the opportunity to express their understanding of learned information through writing. However, in our discussion we found out that the majority of the test questions are in filling in the bubble format with a few open ended questions at the end. In addition, we also found out that at the elementary level, these tests will be offered on the computer while the majority of elementary students have no training in keyboarding skills and are still struggling with spelling. In my views this is an impending disaster. How can you test students in a platform that they have little to no knowledge of? This is something very dear to me as I have a daughter in an elementary school. My wife and I have been discussing this issue a lot lately. We are planning to hire someone to teach our daughter keyboarding skills so that she can be successful in these tests. However, I ask myself: Is this really necessary? What about those who may not be able to hire someone to teach their kids keyboarding skills? Should their kids fail? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself lately. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.

As an instructional leader, I feel like this kind of planning at the macro level with little or no input from the school level and especially inputs from teachers is troublesome. If teachers were asked to offer their opinion on the impact of administering a computerized test that requires actual written responses to elementary grade students lacking formal training in keyboarding, I am sure this could be avoided. Maybe the time has come to start listening to teachers before policies of this magnitude gets implemented. Perhaps, we need to stop blaming the teachers for all the woes in education as they knows a thing or two about teaching and learning. Let us use their expertise in teaching and learning to create programs and policies that will improve student learning. After all, teacher spend more time with our kids on a daily basis. Teachers knows our kids possibly more than we do especially when it comes to learning.

I am glad that the milestones will at least include some open ended questions. However, the number of multiple choice questions in these teste are still too high in my views. As an instructional leader, I would like to see a major shift in assessment, from merely testing for recall type of knowledge such as multiple choice questions are capable of, to more alternative types of assessment such as portfolios, performance based assessment, writing components and rubrics (Popham, 2010). I believe that if the ultimate goal of education is to develop students who can think deeper, problem solve, and think critically regarding their roles in society, then, we need assessments that reflect this type of knowing(Ravitch, 2009).

To help make a shift from excessive multiple choice testing format tests, I believe it is my responsibility as an Instructional Leader to share with colleague the research on the current climate of testing and how it is negatively impacting students learning and school resource allocation. The truth is that, America still leads the world on per child expenditure in education. The fact that most of this money is spent on testing is wrong. In my humble opinion, more money should be spend in things that matter most for student learning: teacher salaries, new books, balanced education, technology infusion, and so forth.

In my capacity as an instructional leader, I will work tirelessly to influence those around me on better ways to assess student learning including alternative means such those we discussed in class. I believe that with the amount of knowledge I have acquired in the past two years, I should be able to influence the micro level decisions on testing at my school. In addition, as a parent I have the obligation to discuss these issues with my fellow parents and hopefully together we will be able to voice our opinion on this issue to school administrators at our schools, the district, and the state levels. With a sustained engagement of this kind, I am sure we will see a shift in this testing regime to more nuanced types of assessments. I see myself growing further as an educational leader on this issue, through advocacy.

References

Popham, J. (2010). Everything school leaders needs to know about assessment. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Company.

Ravitch, D. (2009). Time to ‘kill No Child Left Behind’. Educational Week, 28(33), 30-36.

Fundraising Update: With a Chance to Own Toyota Camry HubCaps


This item has been sold…thanks!!!

Hello everyone. The fundraising is going great. We have so far raised $920. Our goals is to raise $1000. Click here to support the fundraising.This amount will help us give free books to 5000 Tanzania children from the rural areas. In Tanzania, books are a luxury. Many children from rural areas do not own a book. This will be the first time for most of these children to own a book. Imagine, a 5 years old holding a Dr. Seuss book of his or her own for the first time. The joy in their eyes. You can make that happen.  As you might already know, books are a window to the other world. The imaginary and the real.

An elderly neighbor saw my ad yesterday and decided to donate brand new Toyota Camry hubcaps to Kibogoji. These are worth about $80. We will send them to you for $50 plus ($10) for shipping and handling. Otherwise, you can call me 6784400320 to pick them up yourself. If you would like to have them either click the donate button on the website or go here. Please leave your address for us to send them to you. See pics below!!!

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My Leadership Philosophy


When I started the journey to become a leader in education. I realized pretty quickly that, leadership was all about ones’ values, assumptions, and beliefs. It is my belief that leadership is a journey that consists of followers and a person or persons that leads them. In this mix, the leader creates a vision of what is to be achieved and the followers work in harmony to make the vision a reality. It is the work of the leader to create a clear vision and also to be able to articulate that vision clearly enough for the followers to understand it and be able to implement it successfully. As an example, I work during the summer break as a Trainer and Scorer Director for the National Board of Teaching Standards. My responsibilities are to train teachers to holistically evaluate written, spoken, and/or videotaped responses to a variety of teacher certification examinations. In addition, I prepare materials that exemplify state-specific standards, orienting scorers through an established calibration process, managing scoring sessions, and serving as a content expert in the science teaching content area. Furthermore, I communicate with my supervisors in an hourly basis to make sure that the validity of the scoring process is up to the standards and also the work is done on time.

I always try to be mindful of my own beliefs, values, and assumptions. I am aware of the fact that when I am leading a group of 12 to 16 teachers (adults); my beliefs, values, and assumptions towards what is to be accomplished may be different from their beliefs, values, and assumptions. With this understanding, I work hard not to force my own beliefs, values, and assumptions onto them. I however, negotiate a better way for us all to work hard to accomplish the mission through creating a vision and articulating that vision clearly enough to each member of the team through training and motivational tactics in my disposal to accomplish the task in a timely manner. I work well with the team and with each individual to help them to find the best in themselves when misunderstandings or difficulties start to arise.

As a leader, I listen with respect and gratitude to each member of my team. I spend a lot of time soliciting member’s views on the best ways to accomplish the task. A good example of how I accomplish this is that, I eat lunch with all my workers on a daily basis. During lunch time, we talk and discuss work, problems and solutions, and life in general. As a leader of the team, I value each and everyone’s contributions. I believe that, individual successes of each member of the team brings about the overall success of the team. I usually spend time reflecting on my leadership each evening. In my reflections, I try to figure out what went well and what did not go well on that particular day as well as the implications of my leadership on my team member and on the task to be executed. These reflections help me to fine tune my approaches and to find better ways of working successfully with each member of the team.

In summary, I use my personal experience to lead. I balance my work and personal success. I always help people to find the best in themselves. I spend time reflecting on my leadership and its implications on others. I value integrity in personal and professional development. I respect leadership from different perspectives and ways of knowing. I listen with respect and gratitude to others. All these beliefs, values, and assumptions I hold dear in my leadership, have helped me to successful lead a group of teachers each summer for the past five years.

Help Kibogoji Send Books To Students in Tanzania


I was able to collect over 5000 books for Kibogoji in the Spring, Semester, 2014. Actually, my students donated these books. I am very humbled with the generosity and support I have received from the students and their families. So, now we need money to send these books to Tanzania. My students suggested I should take the ice bucket challenge to raise funds that will be used to ship the books to Tanzania. Below is a video of me taking the cold ice bucket challenge.

Please take a minute to put a donation to the donate button in this blog or go here: http://www.gofundme.com/dzpsm8. I greatly appreciate your generous contribution. Your donation, will help to put a book on the hands of a rural Tanzanian child. Believe me, your donation will make a difference. Frederick Douglas once said, “mind is a terrible thing to waste”. Let’s not allow this to happen to kids in rural Tanzania.

Thank you from Kibogoji Team. Click here to watch the video.

Two Years Down, One More to Get it!


It has being two years. Two years of great learning in a treacherous and anxiety filled path. I am glad to say that these two years were challenging and rewarding personally, professionally, and culturally. Before talking about my professional experience, I would like to first talk about the cultural experience shift I have encountered in past two years. I believe the cultural shift has influenced my perceptions of how I view my personal-self and my profession growth. You will agree with me that there is a huge cultural difference between a master’s degree level kind work and the PhD level kind work. It was challenging for me to keep up with the classwork and research workload demands at first. I had to work twice as hard and with a wife, full time work, and with an eight years old child (and one the cooker) in the mix–it wasn’t easy!
Being in a PhD program as you know requires extended study times and intense intellectual effort. Without a doubt my professional experience has taken a leap forward. Professionally, I am an educator and NBPTS Trainer and Scoring Director for Pearson. As an educator, I spend most of my time teaching, giving homework, exams, and directing lab work and term research papers for my students. In my consulting work, I train educators to holistically evaluate written, spoken, and/or videotaped responses to a variety of teacher certification examinations. I prepare materials that exemplify state-specific standards, orienting scorers through an established calibration process, managing scoring sessions, and serving as a content expert in the science teaching content area. Therefore, starting a PhD program at Mercer University added a huge amount of responsibility to my already full schedule.
I had to start by taking foundational courses, taking seminar courses for my research, and including an unending amount of writing. It was intense to me at times. I had to sit in classes, listen, do homework, and exams— the smell of going back to all this school work was intense. The whole point of it is, the hands-on experience I received in my class sessions and in seminars, was easily transferable into my own teaching. As an educator, I must admit, I wasn’t doing much of the application side of teaching at my work and with my students. All of these new experiences were life changing personally and professionally. I have learned a lot in these two years, from the fundamental theories of teaching and learning, to practical application of the theories. Now I know more and I am starting to combine the practical part with the theoretical part in my own praxis.
I had to cross many bridges to get here. I believe this is very common in a PhD journey. I am not sure if crossroad is the right word, but it is rather a result of me gaining more knowledge and adapting to the new challenges. What my thoughts were before starting my PhD studies are quite different from what my thoughts are today. A good example is the research statement I wrote in my first PhD seminar course. The title of that research statement has changed four times in the past two years. This is due to my gaining more understanding of my area of research interest. All I can say at this point in time is that I have been liberated and the past two years have been an eye opening experience and mind boggling at the same time. I am looking forward to my last year in this program with much anticipation while preparing to concur the world.
After I graduate from my PhD program I plan to work with pre and in-service teachers here in America and in Africa to enhance their professional experience and effectiveness. I believe there is so much need for improvement in many education systems in Africa. In five years to come I envision myself holding one of the top positions in the education system in Africa and especially in Tanzania. I have many ideas on how to improve the Tanzanian education system from kindergarten to high school. I understand the challenges that the education system in Tanzania faces. Armed with a PhD degree from Mercer University, natural curiosity, and the let’s get it done attitude provides me with the leverage I will need to provoke the type of action that is needed to make education systems work better for our children.
I know it is not going to be easy. Empowered with solid skills, knowledge, exposure, and will power, I can make significant contributions that will affect the trajectory of education in Tanzania. My contributions in this area will impact the future of the Tanzanian education system for the benefit of many generations of Tanzanian down the road. I plan to enhance my leadership skills through participating in different professional and community groups. Currently, I am a chairman of the board for St. Carie Classroom Tanzania Chapter, an American not for profit organization working to increase access to girls education in Mwanza, Tanzania. Together with my own efforts at Kibogoji Education, Inc., I am learning the skills I need to effectively run a transnational educational program. As a chair of St. Caries Classrooms and a founder of Kibogoji Education, Inc., I have the opportunity to learn more about leadership and technology integration in resource poor countries. My hopes are to see technology driven education delivery gaining momentum in Africa. Moreover, I am participating in service and outreach programs to local schools, engage in research, and meet with leaders in the education field in many parts of Africa. This entire involvement is meant to sharpen my technical, research, and leadership skills. Hopefully, soon I will be on my way to help transform the teaching and learning process in Africa.
My advice to anyone who is interested to embark into the PhD journey is to prepare to work hard and to also think through thoroughly before applying. They should prepare to meet and solve many challenges along the way while maintain a positive outlook of the situation. I read many articles and some have had great advice on how to manage life, work, and a PhD madness and work load. I promise you, there are some times along the way you will have to stop and say “wait, am I sure I want to continue with this?” These are roadblocks where you have to think maturely and get advice from trusted friends and your academic advisors. It is not something to be proud of, but several times I have had my head so low and thought about quitting. Seriously, I am not proud of those moment. If you find yourself in those down moments, a few hours of rethinking and getting advice, will get you through. The good side of all of this is, others did it, others are doing it, and others will do it in the future! Why not me?

Does Affect Impact Student Achievement?


Background

Educators are experiencing undue pressure to perform in education accountability driven by evidence-based instruction. The pressure to show adequate student performance on standardized tests causes many educators to allocate a larger portion of their classroom instructional time to test preparation instead of teaching higher-order learning and thinking skills (Tapia & Marsh, 2004). The shift in teaching time allocation also causes educators to sacrifice other crucial teaching and learning components believed to improve student learning. Other educational components include: student interest, motivation, self–confidence, the value of the subject matter, and enjoyment (Chamberlin, 2010). In this article, I will define the term student affect, present the evolution of this psychological construct, present some of the challenges of measuring it, explain why I plan to measure student affect in my dissertation research study, and finally I will conclude by explaining affect as it relates to my dissertation research.

Definition of the “Term Student Affect.”

The term affect in the field of psychology carries many meanings. It is referred to as motivation (Chouinard and Roy, 2008 & Shin, Lee, & Kim, 2009 as cited in Chamberlin, 2010), dispositions (Gresalfi, 2009 as cited in Chamberlin, 2010), belief (as cited in Chamberlin, 2010), emotions (Grootenboer, 2003 as cited in Chamberlin, 2010), and attitudes (Chouinard & Roy, 2008 as cited in Chamberlin, 2010). The myriad of terms is sometimes confusing. However, Anderson and Bourke (2000) define affect as a construct consisting of sub-components such as “anxiety, aspiration(s), value, attitude (s), interest(s), and locus of control, self-efficacy, and self-esteem” (p.1). Furthermore, Anderson and Bourke (2010) argue that motivation and affect are two words that carries the same meaning because motivation is shown throughout all sub-components of affect. Thus, the term affect is a complex psychological construct expressed in various words with similar and/or sometimes carrying same meaning.

The Evolution of the Construct and its Measurement

The psychological construct, affect, gained recognition in the early 20th century, however, researchers did not have instruments or inventories to measure or quantify it at that time (Thompson, 1992 as cited in Chamberlin, 2010). In the 1920’s and 1930’s affect was considered a non-observable behavior due to an immense interest in behaviorist research. A type of research that concentrated in investigating observable behavior. Because of that, little interest and effort was directed to non- behaviorist research. Thus, researchers of that time period paid little or no attention to the research on student affect.
However, in the 1960’s and 1970’s affect re-gained traction again due to a new breed of researchers. In the past 40 years there has been increased attention to the research regarding affect, especially by researchers in mathematics, science, and the social sciences. During that time, researchers attempted to define, characterize, and develop instruments for measuring student affect in mathematics more than in any other subject areas. The sheer number of instruments developed to assess affect during this period is colossal and therefore, it is not to list them all here, however, I will mention a few of the most popular instruments. A summary of the popular instruments used to measure affects’ sub- components is presented in Table 1 below:
Table 1
Summary of Student Affect Instruments
Name of Instrument Acronym Affect Sub-Component Grade Level Person(s) Who Conducted the Study
Attitude Towards Mathematics Inventory AtMI Self-efficacy, Value, Anxiety, and Motivation Secondary: High School Tapia & Marsh
Mathematics Attitude Scale None Value and enjoyment Tertiary: Freshman in College Aiken
Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale MARS Anxiety Tertiary: Freshman to Senior. Richardson & Suinn
Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scale None Attitude, Self-Efficacy, Anxiety, and Motivation. Secondary: High School Fennema & Sherman
National Longitudinal Study of Mathematical Ability NLSMA Attitude Secondary: Grade 8 School Math Study Group

Challenges Associated with Measuring Students’ Affect

The biggest barrier to measuring affect is the fact that affect is a psychological construct. Adding to the complexity and difficulty in measuring affect is the fact that affect is composed of many sub-components, namely, anxiety, aspiration, attitude, interest, locus of control, self-control/efficacy, self-esteem, and value. Since affect is a psychological construct it clearly consists of non-measurable attributes. Unlike measurable attributes such as length, weight, and height in which (we as a society) have agreed upon units of measurements like Meters for length, Kilograms for weight, Kelvin for temperature, affect attributes such as anxiety, self-confidence, and enjoyment do not have society agreed upon measuring units and therefore are far more difficult to measure (Chamberlin, 2010). Moreover, another fact that makes measuring affect difficult is that each of affects’ sub-component consists of three characteristics. These characteristics of affect are: target, direction, and intensity. Target refers to the objective, activity, or idea to which the feeling is directed. Direction refers to the negative or positive direction of the feelings. Finally, intensity refers to the strength degree of the feeling. Thus, with the lack of an agreed upon measurement unit and the many characteristics associated with affect, it is indeed difficult to measure.
Quantifying affects’ sub-components is complex and problematic, but, not impossible. Recently, some psychologists have successfully attempted to quantify and assess some aspects of student affect using sophisticated statistical programs and software in schools. However, a great deal of the research regarding affect still lacks empirical evidence (Tapia & Marsh, 2004). Thus, in light of these promising developments in measuring affect, I plan to assess three sub-components of affect in my dissertation research study. I believe self-confidence, enjoyment, and value of the subject matter are important factors to measure as they related more closely to student performance in an academic setting. I will not include other sub-components of affect (i.e., anxiety, aspiration, attitude, interest, locus of control) in my dissertation research study since they are not closely related with my research topic and course of study.

Why I Plan to Measure Student Affect in my Dissertation Research Study?

Affect is an important ingredient for learning. In 1916, Binet and Simon stated that non- intellectual characteristics were the greatest single most important factor affecting student teaching and hence, their learning (Chamberlin, 2010). The non-intellectual characteristics they referred to at the time is what we call today student affect. The name student affect has changed over the years from non-intellectual characteristics, to non-cognitive characteristics, to it’s modern day name of affect. Unfortunately at the time, Binet and Simon did not conduct experimental studies nor did they have empirical evidence to either support or discredit their claim. However, currently there is ample of evidence from the Trends for International Science Education (TIMMS) supporting the idea that student affect is as important as cognitive components of teaching and learning (Martin & Kelly, 1996, Martin & Foy, 2008; Messick, 1979; as cited in Chamberlin, 2010). The only anomalous data from TIMMS are those by Mullis, Martin, Gonzalez, and Chrostowski (2004). This study did not show a correlation between student affect and academic achievement.
The central focus of my dissertation topic is to determine whether when a students’ learning style preferences are matched with instructional materials, if the student academic achievement will improve. As I continue to examine this hypothesis, I plan to also investigate students affect as one of the factors affecting student learning. I plan to focus upon the investigation of the three components of student affect, namely, self-confidence, perceived value of the subject matter, and whether students will enjoy instruction when the learning materials matches their learning style preference. To do this, I plan to use a modified public domain affect inventory instrument created by Drs. W. James Popham of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Rick Stiggins of ETS Assessment Training Institute. Both are experts in educational assessment. Therefore, this instrument will help me collect data to assess the three components of student affect in my research study.
This inventory instrument is similar to the one developed by Aiken (1974) and it assesses student enjoyment, self-efficacy, and how students value the subject matter. This instrument was chosen because it is user-friendly, appropriate for high school students, has high validity and reliability, and produces results that are easy to interpret. Thus, this dissertation research study will include a section on student affect assessment and target the three sub-components of affect, namely, enjoyment, self-efficacy, and value. I believe this will add value to the findings of the present research on student affect and fill-in an prominent gap in these two areas of research in education namely student affect and the Students’ learning style theory.

Reference
Aiken, L.R. (1974). Two scale of attitude toward mathematics. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 5, 67-71.
Anderson, L. W., & Bourke, S. F. (2000). Assessing affective characteristics in the schools. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Chamberlin, S. A. (2010). A review of the instruments created to assess affect in mathematics. Journal of Mathematics Education, 3(1), 167-182.
Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., Gonzalez, E.J., & Chrostowski, S.J. (2004). TIMSS 2003 International Mathematics: Report Findings from IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at the Fourth and Eighth Grades. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College.
Tapia, M., & Marsh, G. E. (2004). An instrument to measure affect. Mathematics Education Quarterly, 8(2), 56-62.

Chimney Tops, Smoky Mountains National Park


There were many good moments in Gatlingburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. However, this one was among the best. And the best days were many. I do not have a good recollection of the events of each day that we spent at the Great Smoky Mountains. I would say, this was either the third or fourth day there. Each day we took a walk in the wild side to witness the beauty of nature. On this particular day, we went to climb and see the famous Chimney Tops Trail.

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This trail is designated as strenuous. Therefore, we packed our rucksacks lightly with some juice, dry fruits, and a sandwich for the Pili-Pili. The trail is located half-way up the mountain on the singularly road to Cherokee, South Carolina. Once you pack your vehicle, the trail start slowly by descending to the bottom of the river. It was a beautiful sight and hugely deceiving of the long and uphill graded hike to come.

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Once you cross a few bridges, steep and thoughtfully placed steps starts. There are 256 steps. Pili counted them out of boredom. The trail keeps going up, up, and up, and up again. Meandering like a giant river approaching the ocean. It’s not the hike that brings hordes of people here. It’s the amazing views on the way up and at the top of the chimneys. I know the pictures that you see here don’t give justice to the actual views there. The 2.3 miles up and 2.3 miles down was joyous as anything i have never done in a few years. 

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Big Results Now: A Quick Fix Solution to Education in Tanzania


The tables have turned. Or am I seeing the work of a magician. Enough with the jokes! Seriously, Tanzania has been the laughing stock in East Africa with regards to its education system for a while. We all know that change do take time. Especially, meaningful and lasting changes in education don’t happen overnight (read here, here, and here). And quick fixes have unintended consequences (read here). However, I am happy to say that Tanzania has found a magic formula to raise student achievement in the shortest amount of time through its Big Results Now program.

Two years ago, the failure rates at the primary, secondary and high school levels were up the roofs (read here). The 2012 examination results for secondary schools was the lowest in the history of the Tanzanian education system. However, in less than a year of BIG RESULTS NOW, we are seeing the highest jump in exam results never seen anywhere in the world of education. Has the system really changed? Or is it a mirage?

What I believe is this, for change to happen, underlying causes needs to be addressed. Has the education system in Tanzania addressed the challenges it faces? Challenges such as lack of teachers, lack of quality instruction in the classrooms, teacher absenteeism, lack of teaching resources, lack of laboratories and lab materials for science related courses. In my sane mind, I can’t believe that all these challenges have been addressed in less than a year. Unless you believe in miracles, which I don’t, something really shady is in the works here. As they say in Swahili “kuongeza ukubwa wa magoli” is not a genuine solution to this problem. The problems facing the education system in Tanzania are multi-faceted and needs multi-faceted solutions to address them. Quick fixes, No. They will just create a spillover effect. What I see is a disaster in the making. The consequences of which, will be difficult to remediate with simple and quick fixes.

 

Smoky Mountains National Park


This year we decided to chart a new course for our family summer vacation. We decided to take a path less traveled. Once you have been to the Sunshine State too many times, it becomes less difficult to choose to go elsewhere. I have no complaints with my vacations in Florida. Florida is always going to be the best destination for a summer vacation. With all the amusement parks, serene beaches, and warm weather. I love the place and I could visit there anytime. However, July’s Florida heat can be a turd too much to bear sometimes.

As we were trying to expose our daughter to other forms of summer travel adventures this year. We decided to climb the mountains. The decision was easy. While there, we saw some of the best kept secret places in the Southeastern Mountains Ranges of the United States. Gatlinburg is at the base of Smoky Mountain National Park. Next to it, is Pigeon Forge, the land of Dolly Patton. While there, you can do just anything touristy like amusement parks, you can scare your pants off by visiting many of the Ripley’s scare places or you can grab a cabin in the mountains and live a completely quiet week all to yourself. We chose the latter.

Here are a few pictures from my nature hikes at the Laurel Falls and Clingmans Dome. Enjoy.

 

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Laurel Falls Nature Trail

Laurel Falls Nature Trail

The Counter-factual Causal Inference in Experimental Design


By: Shaaban Fundi

The article entitled “The Qualitative Method of Impact Analysis” by Mohr (1999) attempts to qualify qualitative study design as rigorous and explicit methods for impact analysis (Impact evaluation purposes). In this article, Mohr discusses the problems facing qualitative methods when it is used to study impact. He asserts, impact is fundamentally a causation type of a problem and causation type of impact analysis are better evaluated using a quantitative methodology. Mohr argues that the main issue here lay squarely on the definition of causality. The most accepted definition of causation is based solely on the counter-factual definition of causality. That is if Y occurs, then, X must have occurred. This align perfectly with the quantitative methodology of impact evaluation. According to Mohr (1999) a more defensible version of the counter factual definition is called factual causation. Factual causation states that “X was caused by Y if and only if X and Y both occurred and, in the circumstances, if X had not occurred, then neither would Y” (Mohr, 1999; p. 71). Because of this, causation is better established when things are compared. Thus, causality is derived from the comparison of results from the experimental group to those in the control group. Without this bases of putting two sets of observations together to determine the variance on the treatment variable statistical analysis would not be possible.
Based on the counter-factual definition of causality it seems impossible to use qualitative methodology to evaluate impact. To determine impact, qualitative methods must rely on something other than evidence of counter-factual to establish causal inferences. Therefore, it renders impossible for a qualitative methodology to show the concurrence of X and Y without the use of a treatment group and a control group that is prevalent in quantitative designs. However, Stricken (1976 as cited in Mohr, 1999) offer us an approach called the “modus operandi’ method that could be used to bypass the counter-factual definition of causality. The modus operandi method can be described as follows: It is an elimination process. For example, to demonstrate that treatment T has caused Y to occur, other possible causes of Y such as U, V, and W must be eliminated as contenders for causing T to occur through elimination. The modus operandi is commonly used in daily works of professionals such as doctors, police, educators, and investigators. Modus operandi does not meet the counter-factual definition of causality used in quantitative study designs. However, because of the modus operandi methods, qualitative study designs can be used to determine impact of programs using the elimination process to determine causal inferences. Thus, no variables are needed to establish causation in qualitative designs because physical causality rather than factual causality does indeed produce compelling evidence for ascertaining the occurrence of T occurring when Y occurred after all the other contenders have been eliminated. Moreover, causal reasoning can be reliably used in qualitative designs to determine causal inferences in program and impact analysis.
I enjoyed reading this article because it offered me very practical and useful insights in conceptualizing causality inferences. I have learned that the debate on causation between researchers in the quantitative design and those in the qualitative design is hugely centered on the definition of causation. For the supporters of the quantitative design, causation is defined majorly based on the counter-factual definition of causality. That, causation is determined through comparing two sets of variables (control and experimental values). On the other hand, the proponents in the qualitative design camp sees that causation can be established through the elimination process. They argue that the process of elimination is commonly used in our daily lives without a comparison and/or variables. I can relate this to my research. There are several similarities between my research design and the process of elimination described in this article. My research follows the quantitative design tradition but does not involve a control group. Thus, the causal inferences I can draw from my research design (single-participant research design) are largely a result of better controls of the internal threats to validity rather than the comparison of results from the control group and that of the experimental group because none exists. Thus, as a researcher I plan to incorporate the useful, practical, beneficial insights, and steps of determining causal inferences discussed in this article in my own research especially during the design phase (to eliminate all other possible causes that may have caused the increase in student scores) of the research and during data interpretations.
Reference
Mohr, B. L. (1999). The qualitative method of impact analysis. American Journal of Evaluation, 20 (1), 69-84.