Equity Edu-Policy in Tanzania


Equity Policies in Education: Is it a moral issue?

I was in Tanzania last month. I can attest to the fact that class struggle has taken a strong hold in the Tanzanians’ elite minds. It has reached to a point a good number of them thinks the poor are poor because they are lazy and don’t work hard enough. A fallacy brought about by being in a position of power. When in a position of power, people see things differently —their way and never — the poor people’s way. As they say, power corrupts absolutely.

During my two weeks stay I had numerous discussions with elites and those with means. Their thought process regarding public education is almost the same (I know this is generalization on my part). To the elites, those with means, and to the ones who believe so—the state of the Tanzanian Education System has collapsed. This thinking has led them to believe that it is pointless to have a good public education system that will provide quality education for all. Their conclusion is that the current education system is beyond repair. And, since they can afford (or think they can) an English Medium School for their descendants …they could care less about the poor kids. The poor kids are not biologically theirs.

The sad thing is, elites are the very same people tasked to revamp the current education system in Tanzania. I believe a mindset shift is needed to change the perception that private is always good and anything public is mediocre. We can make our public schools and institutions better without dismantling or interfering with the private ones. I still believe without equity policies in education, Tanzania is different now, but, it will be a very different country 10 years down the line.

The current state of affair on how we educate our kids (if allowed to continue) will create (if it has not done so already) a country of rulers and the ruled. I am ashamed to say this, but, that is a fact. A poor kid from Kibogoji despite how smart he or she may be, will never have a chance to be someone if this trend continues. Imagine, if the current situation was in place when Magufuri was growing up. We would not be bragging about him right now. He would have turned to be a cotton farmer or a cow header somewhere in Mwanza. Magufuri is where he is today because of equity policies in education that existed when we all were growing up. It is a shame we have become blind of our own past because of our successes.

what if a kid

Mind you, equity policies in education have nothing to do with income equality. What is equity then? Cynthia Silva Parker eloquently defined equity as follows: “in the simplest terms, it means fairness, which is not necessarily the same thing as equality. It’s not about everybody getting the same thing, it’s about everybody getting what they need in order to improve the quality of their situation.” Having equity policies in education evens the playing field. By doing so, it increases educational choices for parents and their kids. Thus, it is a win-win situation for the poor and the rich amongst us. Wouldn’t you have liked for your kids to attend school in your neighborhood?

Equity and Equality

Perhaps, supporting public education in real sense isn’t a bad thing after all. I might be naïve of the situation on the ground, which I hope I am not. Anyhow–not tapping onto the minds of the smart poor kids through equity in education is a bad policy for the country. The implications of this will not only have negative consequences to the poor kids but also to your affluent kids as well.

I am not advocating for shutting down schools like the International School of Tanganyika. These type of schools are needed to help us see what Excellency in education looks like so that we can emulate their great programming to improve our public ones.

Like I said before, the experience of the poor in our society is as important as the experience of the elites and the rich among us. For our kids not to share these experiences it diminish their quality of education and life. As Arthur Fletcher puts it “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

What ails the Tanzanian Education System? The GPA vs Division Debate.


What ails the Tanzanian Education System? The GPA vs Division Debate.

I re-read with great interest Mr. Rakesh Rajani’s letter to Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda entitled “Commission to Investigate Causes of Poor Form IV Results” dated May 13th, 2013. My interest to re-read the letter was sparked by the recent development in Tanzania. A few weeks ago, Professor Ndalichako decided to remove the use of gpa in calculating students’ results when reporting exam scores. In arriving to her decision, Professor Ndalichako (the current Minister of Education) reported to have used sound scientific evidence. I quote “”Yes, we need change, but change should be informed and backed by scientific grounds”

profjoycendalichako

Source: NIPASHE.

While on the surface Professor Ndalichako’s decision may sound great. The decision lack substance and scientific grounding. The letter by Mr. Rakesh summarizes many of the ills facing the Tanzanian Education System today. In the letter, Mr. Rakesh raises a significant point among other thing regarding the government’s response to nullify all of 2012 Form Form Exam Results. Mr. Rakesh says “We do not help our students and the nation by making our students look like they are performing better by lowering our standards; we help the students by equipping them to perform in accordance with high standards.

In addition. Rakesh pointed out that the pass or fail benchmarks was set too low. And, I agree. In my views, to measure progress particularly in education — one needs a reliable, valid, fair, and rigorous yardstick. It is my belief that the main problem is that Tanzania has lowered its pass or fail benchmarks to the lowest lows to make things look better than they really are. For example, right now for a student to receive an A on a course, he/she only needs between 75 marks and 100, to receive a B, he/she only needs 50 to 74 marks, and for C, he or she will need to receive between 40 to 49 marks. This scale is too wide and too low. I don’t believe someone who got 75 marks should be classified in the same rank as someone who received 98 marks in the same exam.

With all due respect to Professor Ndalichako, the decision to change the yardstick from gpa to division may sound good in ones’ ears, it really does not address the underlying problem of the scale itself. The Division system may be reliable and perhaps fair, however, if it will continue to be based on these low benchmarks, it will not be rigorous. Thus, the decision is counter-productive. Perhaps to approach this problem better is to change the benchmarks back to “A” being between 90-100 marks, “B” between 80-89 marks, and “C” from 70 to 79. Hence, changing the benchmarks rather than the yardstick will bring reliability, fairness, and rigor back.

Furthermore, addressing the yardstick problem alone will not bring authentic learning back in our schools. Twaweza has done numerous learning assessment studies with our students for many years. Year after year these studies have arrived to the same conclusion. OUR STUDENTS ARE INDEED NOT COGNITIVELY LEARNING. The studies points to teacher absenteeism, lack of morally, dilapidated learning and teaching environment, language of instruction, lack of learning and teaching materials as causes to low levels of cognitive learning for our kids. I believe changing the yardstick from gpa to division will not in any-way address these fundamental teaching and learning issues. Unless the Professor acknowledges the existence of these issues, we will not move forward.

To move forward we need to acknowledge the root causes of our underperformance. Thus, I agree with  Mr. Rakesh conclusion. I quote, “Because so many aspects need to be solved, a key task will be to focus on issues that are, from an evidence based perspective, the key drivers of learning.” The gpa versus division issue, is not in any way a key driver of learning.Just to remind you, Mr. Rakesh recommended the following:

  1. “enhancing teacher motivation and accountability, including use of effective pedagogy and increased time in the classroom. Among others this will require a ‘compact’ with the teachers and the Tanzania Teachers’ Union to move away from the go slow and general demotivation/resistance that characterize the status quo;
  2. exploration of the use of incentives for teachers and others that are paid on the basis of delivery of learning outcomes (local cash on delivery, payments for performance);
  3. experiments with the use of Kiswahili as the medium of instruction, building on extensive research done in Tanzania and elsewhere; clarifying and simplifying roles and responsibilities for educational delivery, and having real recognition for those who do well and consequences for those who fail to exercise ethics and responsibilities;
  4. better allocation, follow-up, value for money and accountability of the large budget for education, in particular ensuring a larger share of resources reach the basic education facilities at the community level;
  5. establishment and implementation of deep transparency and functional citizen feedback systems (consistent with Open Government Partnership principles) that allow everyone from the parent to the President to know what is going on in each school with the click of a button.’’

While I agree with many of the suggested solutions listed; I do not however, agree with recommendation numbers two and three. My reasons for not entirely agreeing with these particular recommendations will be discussed in my next article.

2015 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Asma in Minnesota: Attacked For Speaking Swahili at Apple-bees’ Restaurant


To Donate to Asma: Click here

6691073_1446751288.9556_updatesHello Folks,

I have been working in Human Rights issues for many years. Never in my life would I imagine having someone close to me become a victim of a hate crime.

On Friday October 30th 2015, Asma along with her friends and their children were dining at Applebees In Coon Rapids, MN. Another patron sitting in another booth overheard her speaking in a foreign language.  She yelled and insulted Asma for not speaking “American”. The patron eventually threw a drink at her and smashed Asma’s face with a beer mug.

Asma suffered trauma all over her face due to this attack. Her injuries required 15 stitches all over her face with busted lips, cut on top of her eye brow and cuts all over her face.

6691073_1446751374.3126_updates

Asma is currently going through care dealing with her injuries. Any donation received will go directly to her well being.

I know in my heart that Minnesota is not defined by this incident.

Let us stand together against hate and help Asma get back to her feet again.

Thank you so much for your help and we are asking you to share this page with everyone that you know.

Warmly,
Hassanen
Friends of Asma

Tanzania Election 2015: Your Vote Matters.


I am disappointed about the fact that I am in fact disappointed. You may ask: Why am I disappointed? I am disappointed because my beloved Tanzania is falling into the normal trap of the prevailing understanding—‘’each for oneself and God for us all”.  

This Western philosophy is already failing many in the West. My predictions are that if it hasn’t failed many in Tanzania already, sooner than later it will. The gap between the rich the the poor will astronomically increase. The results of which will be catastrophic levels of unrest for the ones outside the circles of influence which may destabilizes the peaceful nature of Tanzania. 

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The political establishments have the opportunity to change this fact. However, there is a conundrum in the modern politicking in Tanzania. Three factors contributes to this conundrum: One, political positions have become so expensive such that it is inaccessible for the common man with a common sense to access it. It is only accessible to those who have the means to purchase it and/or bloodlines connecting them to the current politicians.  Two, the sad thing is, most of the African modern politicians were born in conditions of want, lived on the edge of needs, survived in dog-eat-dog world, are unable to restrain their ego, and have the highest desire for the lime-lights. These realities brings forth the Third  factor, the ignorance in understanding the basics of a generally good structure called the commons. Which is the foundation of good society.

In Africa and Tanzania in particular, many people still live and largely observe the laws of the common. That is everything is ours and not mine.  That is how the family structure is built. That is how the village structure is built. However, the commons are not common anymore. The commons are now largely owned by the few. Politicians, relatives, and their friends. Thus, the commons cannot save the majority. As the saying goes “owned by the few will only save the few”.  The many who actually own the commons are left to struggle in this man-made abject poverty. And that, disgust me.

In Tanzania for example: hospitals, schools, clean drinking water supply, electricity, the police force and all the essentials services of the majority are short-handed. No medicine, no teachers, no running water, no electricity, and no supplies at our policing centers. However, there is always money for the chosen few to indulge in the wealth of the commons. Another instance is the Members of Parliament who saves themselves rather than serving those who put them in office. We have become worshipers of our rulers rather than the rulers worshiping us for entrusting them with our resources. This has to change. It starts with the constitution. A new constitution that will put its people first and not the other way around.

Stop Albino Killings in Tanzania. Spread the Word!

Stop Albino Killings in Tanzania. Spread the Word!

The current situation for the sick among us is atrocious. There is saying that goes like “A society is judged by how it treats the less fortunate among it”. Tanzania treats the less fortunate horribly. Look at how we treat our elderly, our albinos, and all the less fortunate among us. The rulers and the connected receive first class medical attention. If you don’t believe me, wait until one among them or their family member needs critical medical attention to which there is none in the state referral hospitals. Then, there will be money to fly them to South Africa, India, Europe or the United States. Where they pay in cash for the medical procedures necessary to save their lives. Off course, not with their money. They pay with the commons’ money. Your tax money. We, ourselves have allowed them to write these benefits into their contracts. These types of loopholes create no incentives for the rulers to find solutions to improve health care for the commons and the well-being of its people.

On top of that, the rulers travel excessively in the name of the commons. Using our poverty numbers and statistics to borrow money in our names. Not for us, but for themselves. To them, our poverty is the necessary evil. Our poverty is a necessity to borrow from the IMF and the other rich countries around the world. Without us being poor, there will be no reason and/or collateral for the borrowing. Hence, we are kept poor through BAD policies so that the borrowing and begging can and will continues. Unless the culture is changed…we will continue to be victims of our own making.

Tanzanians. You do have a voice and a chance to rectify the situation. Your voice can change all this man-made-poverty.

Vote with this in mind.

Anyhow, It is your country. Do as you please!

Mimi Sio Mpiga Kura

Who Cares About the Tanzanian Elections? You Should!


JOEL MOSKOWITZ

While the world watches in horror as refugees from war torn areas of the Middle East and Africa attempt to flee to safety, a democratic earthquake is about to shake up the region that will have positive implications for Africa and the world. Tanzania, an East African country with the largest coastal port on the Indian Ocean and one trillion cubic feet of natural gas in its territorial waters, might very well elect the first opposition candidate as President in its fifty plus years of independence from Great Britain.

Much like Israel in 1977, when Menachem Begin’s Likud trounced the only ruling party the country knew, Tanzania’s Chadema Party, led by charismatic former prime minister Edward Lowassa, seems poised to oust the ruling party CCM and its presidential candidate, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli.

This being Africa, the incumbent party is not beyond resorting to dirty tricks to try and stem the opposition from making inroads. Opposition campaign volunteers have been arrested under such trumped up charges as staging illegal demonstrations. Others are being detained under the Cyber Security Law, ostensibly enacted to prevent criticism of the government. Permits have been denied to the opposition for campaign rallies. Yet all that has not stopped tens of thousands of supporters to show up in support of Lowassa, as he often takes public transportation to campaign.

Lowassa is no populist. He defected from the ruling CCM to run the opposition. He is a successful affluent businessman and a Christian in a country that is at least half Muslim and still relatively poor. His term as Prime Minister ended when he was scapegoated in a corruption scandal, his popularity only seemed to rise as he kept his seat in Parliament with dignity.

I have a business in Tanzania and have spent a lot of time there so I know the country well. The energy and buzz Lowassa’s campaign is generating is unlikely in a country used to the ascension of compliant technocrats selected by ruling party bosses. President Obama recently chided African leaders for holding on to power way beyond their expiration date. In Tanzania, transition of power is a regular occurrence every decade or so, even if to another ruling party hack. This time, it’s different and it will affect the geopolitical landscape for years to come. Here’s why.

Corruption is endemic throughout Africa and Tanzania is no exception. Though some high level officials have been caught, prosecuted and jailed for their malfeasance, graft is more a problem on the lower levels of government where low paid bureaucrats or traffic police supplement their living with small payoffs. Tanzania is a vibrant democracy with an independent judiciary; thus, high level corruption pales in comparison to, say, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonetheless, the population has a sense that change is needed on the top and not in the form of a different face on the same body.

Some argue that Lowassa comes from that same body and he’s no different from the rest. They are wrong. Lowassa sees a chance for one of the world’s fastest growing economies, rich in natural resources with a driven, hard working and hard partying population to emerge as a leader in Africa and be a force of good in the world. This is only achievable through a complete overhaul of a tired system.

This particular election is important to the West for a few crucial reasons. A transition of power from one party to another is so rare in Africa that when it happened in Nigeria, it was in the headlines for weeks. The election of a Christian in a country with such a large Muslim population (outgoing President JK Kikwete is Muslim) will prove to the world that democracy is compatible with Islam. A crackdown on corruption and further financial reforms desperately needed in Tanzania is usually achieved only through a change in power. Finally, the greatest proof of stability is the peaceful transition of power and right now Tanzanians seem to hunger for change with stability.

Lowassa is a known quantity and he’s built a coalition of opposition. No matter the outcome, October 25th 2015 will be a historic day. It is sure to be the closest election in African history. We need to hope for fair and transparent elections so that the winner is not a specific candidate or party but Tanzania, Africa and world stability.

Juliet Asante: Why Education Prepares Us to Fail


About five years ago, I made a decision to spend more time outside my home country. A number of things had culminated into this decision. Feeling burnt out and alarmed, I packed my bags and with my daughter, took a sabbatical so to speak.

My predominant feeling at the time was despair. I was a misfit. I felt misunderstood and targeted; and then something monumental happened. On my last night in my home, an email from the Harvard Kennedy School informed me of my acceptance. Unable to carry my suddenly dead weight, my knees crumbled, as warm, salty tasting drops trickled down to trembling lips. I whispered again and again ‘Lord, I am not stupid, lord, I am not stupid’… for by this time, circumstances had conspired to have me questioning my sanity.

A strong believer in the value of a good education, my daughter attended a prestigious school. She and myself interacted with the upwardly mobile of society and we were no strangers to the occasional red-eye flight that took us half way across the world. As an open-minded parent, I did my best to be progressive in my parenting.

Hardly had we settled into our new home, when the first shock of my daughter’s school report hit. The bottom line – my daughter was relatively timid, lacking in sufficient independent thought, initiative and generally lacked a firm grasp of critical educational principles. In a state of shock, I took a very quick, but painful decision to repeat her school year, allowing her the space she needed to adapt and catch up. My decision paid off as she flourished within months.

My own year at school was no trip in the park; I struggled to break free, both from a mindset and a clear gap in my education on many levels. As my elasticity was tested, I experienced sensory overload, sometimes manifesting in extreme physical discomfort.

I come from a country and continent that was once colonized. The colonial masters did leave, but not with everything. Key; was structured education, as we know it. As dutiful servants, we have carried on the culture in relative purity. Indeed, I dare say that the masters would be surprised at our demonstrated faithfulness, for even they have veered off track, recognizing the need to, in some cases, move on. The Educational institutions of our ‘masters’ welcome and encourage change; cherishing the past, but understanding that it only exist to give us grounding into the future. For as there cannot be a future without a past, a past without a future will ultimately lead to extinction. Therein lays the secrets to man’s progress.

The British are particularly great at preserving traditions. Within this tradition is a class system, beautifully represented by her majesty the queen, who we deservedly pay homage to. Let me here hasten to add that I was recently delighted when her majesty supposedly sent out her first tweet!

Colonization was built on the bedrock of the class system; so intricately crafted, that it has the ability to perpetuate itself, even in the absence of the master. Ghana has been ‘independent’ since 1957.

The British had one goal when they colonized; to keep the colonized, colonized. They have done a very good job. We have therefore faithfully failed to think independently. Failing to adapt our education, in a very fast changing world. Subsequently, the education in almost all African countries, lack attributes of independent thought, creativity etc., things that ultimately lead to inventions, the sciences, entrepreneurship; the confidence to explore and question, and the permission to fail honorably. Our colonial masters left a long time ago, but the proxy masters… Alas! Those who benefit from the status-quo, the stand-in masters, prefer to keep it just the way it is. Victims higher up the food chain.

In 2015, the universities will not adapt what they teach to the job market; insisting on teaching outdated curricula, and in some instances, using books that are no longer in print. The resulting gaps in what the job market wants and the skills sets of graduates is alarming, inflaming the already testy job market. My country suffers from a youth unemployment rate of over 60%, social structures are breaking down, leadership is confused, corruption is rapt; Work ethic and attitude is at its worst and inventions are relatively non-existent.

I just recently sat down with two same-aged nephews in different parts of the globe. Both aged 5. It was all I could do not to cry. We absolutely will continue to be slaves, for the next generation is already doomed. The chasm seems so insurmountable, Words fail me… words fail me

Ghanaians are smart people. Ghanaians continue to excel all over the world, even under the most trying conditions and with the worst of starts. Recently a gentleman of Ghanaian decent, preparing to go to college, was accepted in all the major ivy leagues schools in the United States. Such a feat it was, that it was covered on prime-time television. This and other cases, continue to prove, that indeed, this may be a case of nurture and not nature.

In the meantime, in the land of the purposeless, a new threat looms. Groups like ISIS have sniffed the hopelessness that engulfs our youth, and like vultures that feed on carcass, they circle our shores, licking lips shimmering with spit…

-Source: http://www.myjoyonline.com/opinion/2015/August-28th/why-education-prepares-us-to-fail-by-juliet-asante.php#sthash.XnrSFnLg.dpuf

Tanzania: Vote With Conscience This Election Year


CCM neglected its voters for way too long. The tears and pain of neglect is compelling voters to reject the status quo in order to usher a new dawn. A dawn unto which things are done differently. Now is the time to end business as usual. Time to chart a new cause. The peope will rise with clarity this election year.

The “Go Away CCM” is a mainstream movement that has gained significant support within our majority and the momentum to occupy Magogoni, has just started. The words of learned people like Balozi Mwapachu are an indication of things yet to come. With slogans like “Hakuna haja ya ramli mwaka huu, UKAWA watashinda,” it is indeed promising.

Over the next two month the majority after being kept in the fringes for far too long, will rise up and reject CCM for undermining Tanzania’s future. Please do join hands in support of CHANGE.  Change for Tanzania to begin the healing process. Healing from the scars tattooed on us because of CCM.  It is true that, change has taken too long arrive.

Living under CCM has been a nightmare to farmers—each year wanakukopa mazao yako. And, then they don’t pay you back in time for the next farming season. Ask korosho farmers in Mtwara, Beans and Maize farmers in Morogoro and Rukwa, Cotton farmers in Mwanza and Tabora, Tumbaku farmers in Tabora, Kahawa farmers in Mbeya, Kilimanjaro, and Kagera? They will tell you exactly how it feels to toil for a whole year and at the end not receiving a pay for your hard work. That is CCM in a nutshell.

Living under CCM has been a nightmare to students—-each year students are seating on the floor and do not have any books to read. Each year students fights for their education loans. Ask pupils how it feels to seat on the ground the entire year trying to get an education? Yes. That is CCM to you.

Living under CCM has been a nightmare to Magufuri——Did you hear Magufuri campaigning against his own party? That is CCM to you.

Living under CCM has been a nightmare to workers—-each year the dream of a retirement is being being pushed to the fringes. It is almost impossible for workers to dream for a retirement after working honorably for 30 plus years in the government. It has been tax rise after tax rise with no services in return. Hivi kweli haujachoka kuoga maji ya kujipiga makofi miaka nenda miaka rudi? Ukienda hospitali hakuna dawa….wala vitanda vya kulaza wagonjwa. That is CCM to you.

So what to do?

Vote with conscience.

————Ask UKAWA to be honest with you about your own issues.

————Teachers why don’t you ask Lowassa to promise you, once he wins, he will concentrate on solving your problems first (pay raises, housing, career advancements, etc).

————Tanzanians why don’t you ask UKAWA to promise in complete terms that once they have your votes, KATIBA BORA will be the first thing on their table.

The Way Forward.

Start Forming interest groups to follow up on issues that affect you and your community. Politicians needs to be made aware that, we ain’t kidding with our votes this time around.

The main reason we have governments in the first place is so that they can provide social services that will otherwise be too expensive to provide to ourselves in an individual basis.

The VARK Learning Theory


VARK is an acronym that stands for visual, audial/aural, read/write, and kinesthetic (Fleming & Mills, 1992; Fleming & Baume (2007). The VARK Learning Style Inventory categorizes students’ into one of these four categories based on how they prefer to receive and deliver information (Lang, 2004). Students who are capable of using more than one learning style equally well are categorized as multi-modal learners (Fleming & Mills, 1992). The VARK Learning Style Questionnaire consists of 16 questions and the highest score received in each category determines a student’s learning style.
According to Nilson (2010) the VARK was developed by Fleming and Mills as a framework that reflects the preferred physical sense of learners during intake and putting out information. The VARK model is an expansion of the VAK model, however, VARK further differentiate the visual category into graphical and textual or visual and read/write learners (Murphy, Gray, Straja & Bogert , 2004). The VARK was the first model to systematically use a series of question with help sheets for students, teachers, and employers in order to classify individuals’ preferred way of taking in or giving out information (Fleming & Baume, 2006). The four categories of The VARK Learning Style Inventory are summarized in Table 2.
According to Fleming (2006) and Fleming and Baume (2007) and Drago and Wagner (2004) visual learners prefer to use materials such as charts, graphs, and other symbols to take in and give out information. For these learners, sight is very important especially when taking information in and when organizing ideas. They tend to use colors and highlighters when processing information and the use of diagrams, drawing, and/or recall through pictures to reinforce information and idea intake is recommended. The read and write learners prefer to learn from printed textual learning materials. They tend to use lists, headings, dictionaries, glossaries, definitions, handouts, textbooks, and lecture notes during taking in and giving out information or ideas (Fleming, 2006). Aural leaners on the other hand, prefer to learn through spoken words lessons, talking, debate, and discussions. They tend to understand more when information is explained to them. They learn best through lectures, tutorials, debates, and discussions (Fleming, 2006; Tennent, Becker & Keho, 2005). Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through direct practice, hands-on activities, and learning by doing (Fleming, 2006). These learners are commonly referred to as “hands on learners”. They learn best through activities such as field trips, tours, field immersion experiences, apprenticeship and activities where they can engage all senses when taking in and giving out ideas or information (Ramayah, Sivanandan, Nasrijal, Letchumanan & Leog (2009). Finally, multimodal learners are students whole learning is based on more than one style. These learners take longer to gather and process information but tend to have a deeper and broader understanding of the information presented (Fleming, 2006). Multimodal learners can be further classified into bi model (VR, VK, AR, AK, AV, KR), tri model (VAK, VAR, VRK, and ARK) and quad model (VARK).
Literature Review of Studies that Used the VARK Questionnaire to Identify Learning Styles
French, Cosgriff, and Brown (2007) examined the learning styles of 120 occupational therapy students at La Trobe University using the VARK questionnaire. Of the 120 students, 33% were kinesthetic learners, 18.1% were quadmodal (where visual or aural learners were the majority, followed by bimodal, and tri-modal was the least learning style of preference for the occupational therapy students. Rathnakar et al. (2014) investigated learning styles of undergraduate medical students using the VARK questionnaire and the influence of sex and academic performance. Four hundred and fifteen second year medical students belonging to two batches participated in the study. Study results showed that 68.7% of participants were multi-modal. The predominant sensory modality was aural (45.5%), followed by kinesthetic with 33.1%. The study also found out that learning preference was not influenced by either sex or prior academic performance. A study by Meehan-Andrews (2009) examined the learning styles of first year health science students to find out the benefits that students received from each teaching strategy. The VARK questionnaire was used in this study to identify student learning style preference. The results indicated that the majority of students were unimodal (54%). Among the unimodal learners, 7% were visual learners, 3% were aural learners, 10% were Read/Write learners and 36% were kinesthetic. The other 46% were multi-modal learners, with 20% bimodal learners, 10% tri-modal, and 16% quadmodal. Finally, a study by Lincoln et al. (2006) investigated the learning styles of adult English as a second language (ESL) students in Northwest Arkansas using the VARK learning style questionnaire. A total of 69 students from 17 different countries participated in the study. The study found out that one third of participants preferred Read/Write learning style. The remaining participants, 17% were multi-modal learners, 4% visual learners, 25% kinesthetic learners, and 20% aural learners.

Validity and Reliability of the VARK learning style questionnaire.
Usability features of the VARK model were investigated by Wehrwein et al (2007). The researchers concluded that the VARK model encourages teachers to be aware of students’ differences before making decisions about what teaching strategies should be used to teach them, supports the idea of matching teaching methods and students preferences, encourages educators to use a variety of teaching strategies and assessment techniques, encourages educators to redesign resources and educational environments, and provides an opportunity for students to talk about their learning style with their teachers. However, the researchers noted that validity and reliability of VARK Questionnaire has not yet been fully verified. A study by Boatman,
Courtney, and Lee (2008) identified a few studies that have evaluated the quality of the VARK Questionnaire. Some of the limitation associated with the VARKs validity and reliability are discussed by Breckler, Joun and Ngo (2008) who proposed that the VARK questionnaire is not a complete inventory as it supplies the users with a simple profile of their sensory learning preferences. Another study by Leite, Svinicki, and Shi (2009) concluded that “researchers using the VARK should proceed with caution because the use and proposed interpretation of VARK scores have not yet received a comprehensive validation” (p. 15).

Reference
Boatman, K., Coatney, R., & Lee, W. (2008). See how they learn: the impact of faculty and student learning styles on student performance in introductory economics. The American Economist, 52(1), 39-48.
Breckler, J., Joun, D. & Ngo, H. (2008). Learning styles of physiology students interested in health professions, Advances in Physiology Education, 33(4), 30-36.
Drago, W., & Wagner, R. (2004). Vark preferred learning styles and online education.
Management Research News, 27(7), 1-13.
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Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory


Kolb’s Learning Style Theory

Kolb’s Learning Style Theory is based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory. Experiential learning theory is influenced by the work of 20th century educational theorists such as John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, Jean Piaget, Wiliam James, Carl Jung, Paulo Freire, Carl Rogers and many others who in one way or the other gave experience a central role in their theories regarding human development (Kolb, 1981, Kolb, 1984, Kolb & Kolb, 2005). Experiential learning theory (ELT) defines learning as “the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience” (Kolb, 1984, p. 41). The ELT model contains two dialectically related modes of grasping and transforming experience. The dialectically related modes for grasping experience are the Concrete Experience (CE) and Abstract Experience (AE) and the dialectically related modes of transforming experience are the Reflective Observation (RO) and the Active Observation (AE) (Kolb, 1984, Kolb & Kolb, 2005).
Kolb’s experiential learning style theory categorizes the learning cycle into four stages (concrete experience, abstract experience, reflective observation, and active observation), each its own individual learning style preference (Kolb, 1984; Sirin & Guzel, 2006) and summarized in Figure 1. Concrete experience is the process whereby a learner learns through actively experiencing an activity. This is sometimes referred to as learning through hands-on experience. Reflective observation is the process whereby a learner learns through conscious reflection about the activity. Abstract conceptualization on the other hand referrers to the learning process where by a learner learns by being presented with a theory or a model that has to be observed. Finally, active observation referrers to the process whereby the learner learns through testing a theory or a model. According to Kolb and Kolb (2005), experiential learning can be referred to as a “process of constructing knowledge that involves a creative tension among the four learning modes that is responsive to textual demand” (p. 194). Thus in ELT learning follows the learning cycle- the learner experience the phenomenon, reflect on it, think about it, and finally the learner acts on the distilled abstract concepts in a recursive process that is responsive to the situation and the phenomenon being learned (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).
The Kolb learning style theory has identified four types of learners. These are: 1. Divergers, 2. Assimilators, 3. Convergers, and 4. Accommodators. Dorney (2005) described the four types of learners as either exhibiting an only one type of the learning styles (pure) or exhibiting a combination of the four types (extreme cases). Kolb and Kolb (2005) describes divergers as learners having CE and RO as their dominant learning abilities. Learners with this learning style have a greater ability of viewing concrete situations in many diversified points of views. Individuals with the diverging learning style performs better is situations such as brainstorming sessions where ideas are generated. Divergers have interest in people and culture. They tends to be imaginative, emotional, with broad cultural interest and tend to specialize in the arts. During formal learning activities, individuals with diverging learning style prefers to work in groups, listens openly and like to receive personalized feedback. On the other hand, learners with the assimilating learning style have AC and RO as their dominant learning abilities. Assimilators are best at developing concise and logical pattern of information from a wide ranging source of unrelated information. They are less focused on people and culture, however, they are heavily interested in ideas and abstract concepts (Kolb &Kolb, 2005, Rusian, 2005). Assimilators places more value on the soundness of theories rather than practicability. They are a very important group of learners especially in information and science careers. In formal learning activities, assimilators prefers to receive information through reading, lectures, and exploring models. They enjoy having time to think things through.
Learners with a converging learning style have AC and AE as dominant learning abilities. Convergers functions really well at finding practical solutions to ideas and theories. Persons with the converging style prefer to solve technical problems rather than solving social and interpersonal problems. They are an important group of learners in bringing effectiveness in specialists and technology careers. During formal learning activities, convergers prefer to experiment with new ideas through experimentation, simulations, and practical application (Danish et al. 2009, Kolb &Kolb, 2005, Rusian, 2005). Lastly, learners with the accommodating style have CE and AE as their dominant learning abilities. They learn best from hands-on experience. Accomodators rely more heavily on other people for information, analysis, and solving problems rather than relying on themselves or their own technical analysis. They are a very important group of learners especially for bringing effectiveness in action oriented careers such as marketing, teaching, and sales. During formal learning activities, accommodators prefer to work with others to get their work done. They are more action oriented than thinking oriented (Danish et al. 2009, Russian, 2005)
Criticisms of Kolb’s Learning Theory
Despite of the wide use of Kolb’s learning style inventory in education, there are still many criticisms leveled at the theory. Coffield et al. (2004) points out the following flaws: 1) Reliability of the instrument (Learning Style Inventory) is still contested and unresolved, 2) validity of the learning style inventory is still contested and unsettled, (3) there is no evidence that support matching improves academic performance in further education, and lastly, (4) the notion of learning cycles may be problematic as it does not account for all individuals’ information processing preferences. Furthermore, the research on the fluid nature (flexible stable) of learning styles remains both confusing and confused (Robotham, 1999).
A Review of the Studies Conducted Based on the Kolb Learning Theory
Many studies have been conducted based on the Kolb learning style theory. SoyLu –Yilmaz & AkkoyunLu (2009) examined the effect of learning styles on achievement in different learning environments. Thirty nine college level students in an education and instructional technology undergraduate program in Turkey participated in the study. The study used Kolb’s learning style inventory to identify students’ learning styles. For this study, students were categorized into two learning styles: 18 students (53%) were identifies as identified as divergers and 16 students (47%) were identified as assimilators. In other words, students fell into either the diverger group or the assimilator group. The study found no significant difference between instructional strategies in a computer- mediated environment (narrative + music + text + static pictures). Furthermore, In addition, there was no significant change in student achievement when students’ learning style was matched with the instructional strategies (p = .53). Raksasuk (2000) examined the effects of matching learning styles with participatory interaction modes on student achievement among 195 first year students attending a web-based instructional course on library and information science in Thailand. Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory was used to identify students’ learning styles in this study. Of the 195 students, 66 were identified as assimilators, 44 were identified as accommodators, 55 were divergers, and 40 were convergers. Raksasuk found no significant effect in the amount of information learned when instruction was matched to students’ learning styles preference.
Another study by Tulbure (2012), compared two groups of pre-service teachers (with educational sciences (N= 85) and economic sciences major (N = 97) to in order to identify their learning style preferences, the most effective teaching strategies for each learning style and some possible differences between their academic achievement. A total of 182 students participated in the study. The study used Kolb’s learning style inventory to identify student learning styles. Four types of learning styles were identified. For the educational major group, 31% were assimilators (N = 26), 28% were divergers (N = 24), 23% were convergers (N = 20), while only 18% (N = 15) were classified as accommodators (N = 15). For the economic major group, 36% were identified as convergers (N = 36), 25% were identified as assimilators (N = 24), 20% as divergers (N = 19), and 19% as accommodators (N = 18). The results were as follows: Convergers showed statistically significant results with cooperative learning, investigation, and problem solving. Divergers showed statistically significant results when cooperative learning and investigations are used as instructional strategies. Accommodators showed statistically significant results when investigation, debate, and problem solving instructional strategies were used. Assimilators showed statistically significant results when only when problem solving was used.
Bhatti and Bart (2013) examined the effect of learning style on scholastic achievement. One hundred and ninety three undergraduate students studying social science at a Division I Research University participated in the study. Kolb’s learning style inventory was used to identify students’ learning styles. Of the 193 students, 28 were identified as convergent, 49 divergent, 76 assimilators, and 40 accommodator. The major findings of the study was that the dominant learning style was assimilator and that gender and learning styles influenced student achievement. Another study by Smith (2010) investigated the learning style preferences among licensed nurses who were enrolled in a course. The study used Kolb’s learning style inventory to identify the nurses learning styles. The majority of the nurses were identified as accommodators (31%), followed by assimilators and divergers (20%), and the least preferred learning style was convergent (19%).
In summary, Kolb’s learning style theory proposes four types of learners. These are: accommodators, divergers, convergers, and assimilators. Research using this model has identified convergers as the common learning style. However, in my literature review, the discipline seems to determine what the common learning style would be. For example, assimilators dominated the learning style landscape for the social science study, in the nursing field study, accommodators were the majority, and in the economic sciences major group, divergers were the majority. The convergent learner found in this theory is closely aligned to the kinesthetic learner on the VARK theory. However, the Kolb’s learning style inventory is mainly used to identify adults learning styles rather than children as the VARK theory does.

Figure 1. Kolb’s learning experiential model and four learning styles

kolb_learning_styles_diagram_colour
Source: http://www.businessballs.com

References
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