Diversity Issues in American Schools: An Overview


Diversity Issues in American Schools: A Brief Overview

America has been a diverse country since its inception (Banks & Banks, 2001). Many groups of people have migrated to the U.S in search of religious freedom, economic opportunity, and a better life for themselves and their children (Millet, 2000). Thus, America is often referred to as a country of immigrants. In the beginning, most immigrants came to America to stay for good. These groups of immigrants eliminated all ties with their countries of origin. This created a country of oneness and aided the formation of the melting pot theory. In the melting pot theory the focus is on the outcome, you don’t care about the difference between the members in a society. What is more important is the end results, that is, creating a country of oneness despite all the differences in the ingredients that created it.

However, the turn of the 20th century has seen another big wave of immigrants to the United States. Recent immigrant populations are quite different from the previous ones, however. In that, most of the recent immigrants still hold ties and direct relationship to their countries of origin (Spring, 2001). This phenomenon is aided by advancement in technology. Due to technology, the world has become smaller, hence the analogy “living in a global village”. As a result, the recent immigrant population can be captured better using the salad bowl theory. The salad bowl theory argues that the oneness of America concept fail to capture the true racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity of American. The theory asks us to consider and appreciate the different parts or ingredients that makes up todays America. Things such faith, values, tradition, political views, world views, and value system among the different groups of Americans needs to be appreciated rather than dismissing them all-together.

Addressing Multiculturalism and Diversity in Schools

Schools mirror societies. Because of the increased diversity in the population at large, school systems in America are also experiencing an upsurge in students, educators, and school leaders’ diversity (Banks & Banks, 2001). To help all students from the different ethnic groups, racial groups, cultural groups, economic groups, and social groups learn, a conscious effort is need to embrace multicultural education and diversity in all our schools. This can only be achieved through authentic training regarding diversity and multiculturalism to educators, school administrators, and students. Without a conscious and continued efforts to understand, appreciated, and celebrating the diverse views of others and of ourselves, I am afraid no progress will be made.

Do Leader Keys Address Cultural Competency?

In order to answer the question “Do leader keys training address cultural competency? I interviewed an assistant principal at a school in the Metro Atlanta area. Before the interview, I decided to familiarize myself with the definition of cultural competency. Cultural competency refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures (Taylor, et al., 1998). Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) attitude towards cultural differences, (c) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures (Von Bergen, Soper, & Foster, 2002).

Once I had a firm understanding of the term cultural competency, I decided to develop four questions to direct the interviewing process. The questions I developed are: 1) what does cultural competency mean to you? 2) was cultural competency part of the training you received in your leader keys training? 3) how long was the leader keys training? was it a one shot training or a continuous training? 4) how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?

I contacted three assistant principals at two different schools in the Atlanta Metro area. One of the three agreed to meet me at a Starbucks coffee shop for an interview. I sent the interview questions to the interviewee three days prior to our meeting.  The interview responses and my analysis of those responses are included below.

When responding to the question “what does cultural competency mean to you?” the assistant principal described “cultural competency as the ability one has to understand others’ world view. She continued by saying….It is my understanding of others and how they view education and the process of educating students.” While I agree with the assistant principals’ understanding of the term cultural competency, I however, believe that cultural competency is more than understanding other people’s world views. My opinion is that, cultural competency is about understanding your own cultural and world view first and being strong enough not to impose your world view onto others. In addition, it is also important to have the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interacting with people from other culture without showing elements of prejudice.

When asked whether cultural competency was part of the leader keys training, the assistant principal flatly said, it wasn’t. According to her, leader keys training takes only one week.  She added, there are refresher meeting and follow-ups during the course of the year. She added that all leaders do receive a cultural competency training, however, in other types of mandatory district training such as the sexual abuse training, computer competency training, and others. I feel as though cultural competency training should be a part and parcel of the overall leader keys training. Currently, the educator population in the U.S is increasing becoming diverse. It is becoming an amalgam of different cultural and world views. For a leader to be effective at communicating, interacting, and evaluating a diverse workforce of educators, cultural competency should be a mandatory part of the leader keys training in my views.

Lastly, while addressing the question “how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?” The administrator did not think that this was important.  She argued that best teaching practices are the same across cultures. According to her, culture has little to do with best practices. Therefore, when she is evaluating teachers; background, culture, and world view of the educator are irrelevant. Her only interest is to see how the educator is using best practices in curriculum and instruction. In my views, it is sometimes much easier to use the “one size fits all” when it comes to differentiating evaluations. If we ask educators to differentiate instruction, we as leaders should be able to do the same when evaluating educators’ practices. When we fail to do that, it isn’t painting a good picture of our expectations on others. Lamping everyone in one group, makes the work of evaluating educators much easier. On the contrary, I believe culture, world view, and background are important variables and needs to be included in an evaluation. A good understanding of others’ cultures, world views, and backgrounds would make the Teacher Keys Evaluation System (TKES) a better evaluation instrument overall.

Classroom and Online Discussions

            During classroom and online discussions, I was struck by the semblance of views held by some school administrators on cultural competence and multicultural appreciation in schools. For example, in an interview between my classmate Kimberly and her principal. She asked the principal “How does she approach the issue of diversity when hiring faculty at her school”. The answer the principal provided was similar to answer I received in my interview with an assistant principle when I asked “Does she employ cultural competency approaches when evaluating educators?” They all believe that “the one size fits all” approach is the way to go. In my views, some school administrators still hold the views that America is a melting pot country rather than the views that American is a bowl of salad where by individual culture, world views, and values are respected and celebrated in both action and deeds. We celebrate the diversity among us just when it is convenient, however, when it comes to work and education, we hold the assumptions that everyone is one and the same. Aren’t we all Americans after all?

Conclusion

In my capacity as an instructional and curriculum leader, I will work hard to influence those around me on better ways to provide professional development for teachers and administrators that incorporates cultural competency. I feel like the current model of one size fits all is not aligned with the diversity of students, educators, administrators, and families in our schools. I will advocate for authentic diverse professional development training that raises the awareness of our own biases of our multicultural society. I believe that with the amount of knowledge I have acquired in the past two years in this program, I will be able to influence the design and development of training materials and training educators and administers regarding diversity and multicultural issues in our schools. I see myself growing further as an educational leader on these issues. I believe through authentic advocacy, my voice will amplify these issues especially through the mentorship I provide to new educators, and through multicultural and diversity training in the district and hopefully, the country at large.

References

Anderson, G. L. (2009). Advocacy leadership: Towards a post-reform agenda in education. New York, NY: Routledge.

Banks, J.A. & Banks, C.A.M. (2001). Multicultural Education: Issues and Perspectives (4th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Spring, J. (2001). The politics of American education. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

Taylor, T., et al. (1998). Training and Technical Assistance Manual for Culturally Competent Services and Systems: Implications for Children with Special Health Care Needs. National Center for Cultural Competence, Georgetown University Child Development Center.

Von Bergen, Soper, & Foster, (2002). Unintended negative effects of diversity management. Journal of Public Personnel Management, 31(2), 239-251.

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Do Leader Keys Address Cultural Competency?


Do Leader Keys Address Cultural Competency?

In order to find information to answer the question of whether or not leader keys training address cultural competency, I interviewed an assistant principal at a school. Before the interview, I decided to familiarize myself with the definition of cultural competency. Cultural competency refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures (Taylor, 1996). Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) attitude towards cultural differences, (c) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures (Von Bergen, Soper, & Foster, 2002).

Once I had a firm understanding of the term cultural competency, I decided to develop four questions to direct the interviewing process. The questions I developed are: 1) what does cultural competency mean to you? 2) was cultural competency part of the training you received in your leader keys training? 3) how long was the leader keys training? was it a one shot training or a continuous training? 4) how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?

I contacted three assistant principals at two different schools in the Atlanta Metro area. One of the three agreed to meet me at a Starbucks coffee shop for an interview. I sent the interview questions to the interviewee three days prior to our meeting.  The interview responses and my analysis of those responses are included below.

When responding to the question “what does cultural competency mean to you?” the assistant principal described “cultural competency as the ability one has to understand others’ world view. She continued by saying….It is my understanding of others and how they view education and the process of educating students.” While I agree with the assistant principals’ understanding of the term cultural competency, I however, believe that cultural competency is more than understanding other people’s world views. My opinion is that, cultural competency is about understanding your own cultural and world view first and being strong enough not to impose your world view onto others. In addition, it is also important to have the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interacting with people from other culture without showing elements of prejudice.

When asked whether cultural competency was part of the leader keys training, the assistant principal flatly said, it wasn’t. According to her, leader keys training takes only one week.  She added, there are refresher meeting and follow-ups during the course of the year. She added that all leaders do receive a cultural competency training, however, in other types of mandatory district training such as the sexual abuse training, computer competency training, and others. I feel as though cultural competency training should be a part and parcel of the overall leader keys training. Currently, the educator population in the U.S is increasing becoming diverse. It is becoming an amalgam of different cultural and world views. For a leader to be effective at communicating, interacting, and evaluating a diverse workforce of educators, cultural competency should be a mandatory part of the leader keys training in my views.

Lastly, while addressing the question “how important is cultural awareness when evaluating educators in a diverse society like ours?” The administrator did not think that this was important.  She argued that best teaching practices are the same across cultures. According to her, culture has little to do with best practices. Therefore, when she is evaluating teachers; background, culture, and world view of the educator are irrelevant. Her only interest is to see how the educator is using best practices in curriculum and instruction. In my views, it is sometimes much easier to use the “one size fits all” when it comes to differentiating evaluations. If we ask educators to differentiate instruction, we as leaders should be able to do the same when evaluating educators’ practices. When we fail to do that, it isn’t painting a good picture of our expectations on others. Lamping everyone in one group, makes the work of evaluating educators much easier. On the contrary, I believe culture, world view, and background are important variables and needs to be included in an evaluation. A good understanding of others’ cultures, world views, and backgrounds would make the Teacher Keys Evaluation System (TKES) a better evaluation instrument overall.

Micro Leadership Issues: K-12 Americana


In the past three weeks, we have been discussing six K-12 major educational issues related to instructional leadership at the micro level. The issues we discussed were: Principal and Teacher Opinions of walkthroughs, Teacher Professional Development, Administrators Training for TKES/LKES for walkthroughs, The Process of Recruiting Principals, The Number of Males vs Female Principals, and Teachers Opinions Regarding Professional Learning. In this reflection, I will briefly touch on three of these issues. In my reflection, I will highlight issues that stood out to me personally during our discussions. I will also discuss how I see these issue impacting me in my capacity as an instructional leader. Furthermore, I will offer my observations and suggestions on how I may grow as an instructional leader while tackling this issue.

American schools have seen a major shift from its focus on student learning to a focus on teacher evaluation and high stakes student testing after the release of the A Nation At Risk Report in 1983 (Anderson, 2009). Among other things, the release of this report has contributed to the ever-growing assertion that American schools are failing.  The failing schools narrative has led to various school reform efforts at the school, the local district, the state, and at the national levels (Lavitch, 2009). Some of the recent school reform effort includes the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 with its emphasis on testing and school choice, the Race to the Top with its emphasis on tying student testing to teacher evaluation, and the adoption of the Common Core Standards.

The NCLB introduced most of the data driven accountability and management we are now experiencing all the way down the education ecosystem to the school level. The NCLB legislation “sought to close the achievement gap between the rich and the poor students by creating common curriculum standards, closing the so called failing schools, and introducing the public reporting of student test scores” (Spring, 2011, p 36). However, prior to the NCBL legislation, educators had some autonomy to choose instruction strategies for their classroom, to create meaningful lesson plans, and to design appropriate evaluations to test student knowledge and understanding. While teacher accountability may have been difficult to measure under the system prior to NCBL, I now feel, like Spring, that the current model of teaching consisting of    “scripted lessons created by outside agency” and that teachers are increasingly forced to teach to the requirements of standardized tests is harmful to education and to the children of America receiving this education.

While discussing the principals and teachers’ opinions of walkthroughs I was struck by the differences in opinions between the two groups. Some teachers, on one hand believes that walkthroughs are an inauthentic exercise. They just “put on a show” during walkthroughs for the purpose of satisfying the evaluators. There is no a genuine interest in the process. Walkthroughs causes teachers to be nervous because walkthroughs are tied to teachers’ contractual obligation. On the other hand, principals feels as though walkthroughs are necessary: they provide feedback, enjoyable, and beneficial. In my opinion walkthroughs could be better if they were used to provide constructive feedback to the teachers on how to become better educators. In my experience, this has not been the case. Most times, walkthroughs are not accompanied by the feedback mechanism that is necessary to help teachers improve their crafts. Evaluators are only looking for what is missing (the negatives) rather than looking for what is present (the positives) during the observation.

The issue of professional development raised many interesting views and discussions as well. The views of my colleagues were that most professional development sessions are conducted just to fulfill schools or district-wide mandates (requirements). There is a huge amount of repetitions on the topics, lack of choice is the norm, and they infringe on teachers’ planning time. This is because most professional development sessions happens during the teachers’ planning periods and after regular school hours. My colleagues and I would welcome diverse professional learning opportunities where teachers would have a choice on what sessions to attend based on personally identified professional development needs.

In addition to our discussions in class, I conducted an interview with my principal to learn more about the process of recruiting a new principal and also the training that administrators receive to conduct LKES and TKES walkthroughs (the interview transcripts are attached on the back of this reflection). I learned from the interview that the training that administrators receive takes only three days. It is more like an orientation rather than a training. During this so called training, administrators are familiarized with the check-list, what to look for during walkthroughs, and how to report the results of a walkthrough on a computer.  I believe this is not enough time for a major task such as this. A task that can determine a teachers’ likelihood of receiving next years’ contract or not, requires more rigorous training than what is happening at the moment. I would like for the training to train administrators to look for more than what happening in the class at that particular time and the 10 minutes that the administrator spends in a class. I believe, administrators should spend more time in class, visit more often, and share ideas on how to improve instruction.

The process of recruiting a principal in the Dekalb County Schools System is very different from one school to the next. In most schools, a principal is normally assigned to a school without local inputs. At Dunwoody High School, the process involves a four-prong process. It involves the members of the community, some members of the school staff, students, and the county hiring process. I like the process at Dunwoody High School as it involves the majority of the schools’ stakeholders. It is more democratic. Dunwoody High School, unlike other schools in the county where a principal is assigned to school, the community, the students’ body, and school staffs are all involved in selecting the incoming principal.

To conclude, in my capacity as an instructional leader, I will work hard to influence those around me on better ways to provide professional development for teachers and administrators. I feel like the current model of one size fits all is not working. I will advocate for diverse professional development training for teachers. Professional development trainings that cater to teachers’ identified needs for development. I believe that with the amount of knowledge I have acquired in the past two years in this program, I am able to influence the micro level decisions on professional development training at my school. I see myself growing further as an educational leader on these issues. I believe through authentic advocacy based on teachers’ identified needs for development, we will be able to improve professional development experiences for teachers. As they say, we can’t keep doing the same things over and over expecting different results.

Reference

Anderson, G. L. (2009). Advocacy leadership: Towards a post-reform agenda in education. New York, NY: Routledge.

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

Spring, J. (2001). The politics of American education. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.

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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