Monday, November 21, 2011

Education: Performance Failure Conditioning - What Is It?

Over 100 years ago, a Russian scientist by the name of Ivan Pavlov published the results of his work. What he termed "condition reflex" was the first model of learning - Classical Conditioning. So what does this have to do with education? A lot!

Since that point in time, numerous other researches have continued their investigation on how individuals learn from Piaget to Bloom to Krathwohl just to mention a few. With all of this documented learning research during the last 50 years, why are we still not achieving the measurable performance success that we know is possible?

Possibly, through intentional and unintentional actions, an old malady for lack of a better word has gained additional ground. I have named this Performance Failure Conditioning. During the last 20 plus years, I have been observing this disorder and have come to realize the enormous detrimental affects upon our society.

So what is performance failure conditioning? Simply speaking, individual performance is conditioned to fail because known obstacles are not removed or are intentionally placed in the path to performance success.

Within education, performance failure conditioning has become rampant. During my first education course over 15 years ago, the professor made the following statement: "Over 90% of you will teach as you were taught in spite of what you learn here." Those words haunted me because even though I was a good student, I had learned early in my K-12 educational experience to work around poor teachers. And after reflecting about the total $25,000 plus college investment for a Bachelor's Degree in Education, those words haunted me and continue to do so even today. I became aware very early on how conditioning played an important part of my professional development and day to day living experiences.

Another example centers around training teachers. Incoming teacher performance is conditioned to fail because teachers not trained to overcome the number one obstacle that prevents engaged learning from happening - attitudes. I have surveyed over 1,000 teachers the last 5 years and have learned that students' attitudes are the major obstacle in creating an engaged learning environment. Redeveloping attitudes is not part of the elementary, middle school or high school college teaching curriculums. Earning my teaching degree later in life, I can also personally attest to this fact. Since it is not part of the training, then these new incoming teachers have indeed been conditioned to fail.

Also, in many school systems, there continues to be unqualified teachers who are practicing within the classroom. Their lack of instructional knowledge and certification definitely affects the performance of their students. Their behaviors are conditioning the students to fail. Student achievement within these dysfunctional classrooms is one of the worst examples of performance failure conditioning.

Performance failure conditioning is not new. This disorder has been around for many years. However in today's world where every moment within the classroom must be one of high performance, performance failure conditioning must be eliminated.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Education: Increase Academic Performance Through Engaged Learning By Partnering Bloom and Krathwohl

What is engaged learning? From my experience and training it is when everyone within the classroom is actively engaged in the learning process to improve academic performance with a minimal amount of time being wasted. Unfortunately, the results from the Nation's Report Card tell us that young people are not performing at the levels required to compete as knowledge workers in the 21st Century.

To create an engaged learning environment requires that teachers have knowledge about how people learn. Many pre-service and experience teachers can recite the 6 categories within Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives:

However very few can with equal ease list the 5 categories within the Affective Learning Domain as identified by Krathwohl and colleagues:

Organization and Prioritizing
Internalize Values
Of course, listing them doesn't mean that they are being implemented into the daily lessons and achieving measurable learning results. And that is probably one of the reasons why improved performance in the classroom is not where it should be given the resources being expended and invested each and every day.

Let's be honest. Most young people especially those in middle school and high school know the following:

Be to school on time
Complete and submit assigned homework or projects
Speak when asked and do not interrupt
Submit neat work with your name, class, etc.
Keep your desk or locker clean and organized
Earn good grades
So, the real issue is not one of knowing, but rather one of wanting to do what is require. By partnering Krathwohl's taxonomy with Bloom's, teachers can increase the learning of a subject while changing beliefs and attitudes.

This partnership does take additional time. However when infusing these domains together, the increased academic performance outcomes far outweigh any perceived challenges. And, the extra benefit is that you spend far less time in classroom management and far more time in engaged learning.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, President of ADVANCED SYSTEMS, works with large urban to private schools, certified staff, support staff, students and parents to improve performance in 30 to 180 days. Using proven tools, we can quickly and affordably identify the gaps in YOUR organization, provide you with an Action Plan that you can easily implement along with developmental programs from executive leadership to student leadership.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Study the Italian Language Abroad

The Italian language is one of ancient and historic roots. Today, it is spoken by approximately 70 million people, and is the official language of several nations, including Italy, Slovenia, and Vatican City. If you are interested in learning to speak, read, and write another language, consider the romantic Italian language. You could study at a college or University and receive your degree in Italian. You could take one of many online accelerated courses. Or you could experience the beauty, history, and culture of the Italian language firsthand. You could attend one of the many Italian immersion programs available in Italy.

Earning a degree in Italian from a college or University will provide you with a thorough knowledge of written and conversational Italian. If you earn a college degree in the Italian language, you will most likely be fluent in it. This can lead you to several interesting career options. For example, you can find employment as a foreign language translator, either in the United States or aboard. You can also work as a teacher of English as a second language to students in Italy. If you are already established professionally, and find that you must learn Italian as a job requirement, you can enroll in accelerated courses in Italian online. There are several reputable programs offered via the Internet that are convenient and fun. Learning Italian in this manner will give you a very basic foundation in the language.

If you have the time to devote (a few weeks to a month) and the financial resources, an ideal opportunity is to learn the Italian by enrolling in an immersion program. By doing this, you will not only learn Italian, but you will get a taste of the exciting Italian way of life. Learning Italian in the beautiful country of Italy, where the language has its ancient roots, you will be thrust into the life and culture, and you will learn to speak and understand the language quickly and with surprising ease. You will learn the conversational and colloquial styles of the Italian language. You will interact on a daily basis with native Italian, and they probably won't be willing or able to communicate with you in English. You will be absorbed into the everyday life of Italy. You can choose to study in historic Rome, Florence, Milan, or even Venice. You will learn to understand and appreciate the mythic Italian culture: the art, the architecture, the food, and the people. You will also attend courses in which you will learn how to read and write Italian. Can you think of a more fun and interesting way to learn a foreign language?

Knowing how to communicate in more than one language (such as English and Italian) can be advantageous to your career. If the business you are in demands international travel, being able to communicate with your associates in Italy will make your work easier and less stressful. If you are fluent in Italian, you can be certified as a foreign language translator for example (as mentioned previously). This is a challenging career opportunity. You can work full-time for a foreign language translation firm, translating important business documents or web pages for global corporations. Or you can do freelance translation work, where you make your own work schedule. You might also have the skills to teach English to students in Italian speaking countries. By knowing English and Italian, you would be able to live and work in Italy.

By learning to speak, read, and write the Italian language, you possess the potential to develop you career by working in Italy, or you can set out on a new career as a translator or English instructor. Learning Italian will also enhance your travels to Italy. Learning the Italian language is an intellectually and personally achievement that will broaden your scope professionally open your eyes to a new culture.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Speaks Out on Education in America

The other night I was watching an episode of the show 20/20, in which John Stossell was exposing the dreadful situation of education in the American schools. In this episode, the host made a comparison between our schools and those in Belgium. For this comparison a test was administered to both American and Belgian students of the same age. To wit, the Belgian students clocked the Americans on this test. What stung even more for the American cause was that the American kids were from a rather decent school. Wow! How dreadful. Yet this state within American schools is something I witnessed firsthand.

You see, I was a substitute teacher for several years in several different American schools and I was also a full-time high school teacher of mathematics for two years. This experience gave me a real hard inside look at the American school system. In fact, I was an award winning teacher, former teacher of college mathematics, published author, and yet I didn't make the high school cut for the third year. In short, I didn't make tenure. Why? Gee, I still don't know the answer to that. The only thing I can think of was that I tried to do things a little differently: I tried to teach in novel ways so that students might have a chance to understand mathematics; I tried to keep the endless administrative tasks of discipline, meetings, paperwork, etc. from interfering with my basic approach to teaching; and I tried to give love and understanding to all my students regardless of such issues as race, behavior, or intelligence. In essence, I tried to bring an approach toward learning that might effect student progress rivaled by the situation in the Belgian school system. I wanted my students to be as competent as those in other European countries.

As a result of this approach, I was extremely popular with practically the entire student body. Students from other classes would come to me for extra help and often I would get greeted in the hall by students who were not in my class, but who knew me because of positive things said to them by others. I was acknowledged as an expert in my field and was even lauded for my diverse knowledge in other areas as well. I showed eclectic interests and tried to make such contagious to my students. As much as I tried to keep a low profile, I could not stem the flow of love and praise that I got from the students. Knowing how politics within an organization can work, I was a bit concerned about all the positive press I was getting in such a short time. During the end of the second year, my concerns proved well founded. Even though I did everything I could to be a dedicated teacher, in the end I still came up short, and only have the dozens of letters, cards, and well wishes to ease the pain of having been cut.

So is this the basis of the American tenure system? I was never in favor of such a system and I was willing to work on my merits from year to year. So where did I go wrong, or should I say, where did the school system go wrong? Furthermore, is mediocrity--or worse--sub par performance the standard of excellence in the American school system? Well the episode of 20/20 sort of gave me an answer to that question. From the episode it appears that this is the best case scenario. From my experience, I know this to be true. In Belgium, excellence is expected both from teachers and from students. Here we settle on mediocrity all the time. Heaven forfend should an outstanding teacher come along! All of a sudden, many tenured pros or administrators feel threatened. This is much like the situation in corporate America.

As business writer and speaker Harvey MacKay put it in his book, Beware of the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, "It pays to be good but sometimes it pays a lot more to be bad." In other countries, excellence is sought after. In Belgium students learn to speak four of five languages. I always tried to be competent in at least four or five as well. As humans, we rise to the level of our expectations; therefore, in Belgium, the kids are brought up expected to speak several languages. If you go there and tell a local that you speak five languages, you receive no special acknowledgment. Do that here, and an American will look at you like you have two heads or something.

During another part of the show, the host takes us through several areas of the country where the educational standards are let us say, less than good. One emphasis of the show is to stress that where there is no competition in the school system, there is no excellence--just mediocrity. Charter schools don't have this problem because they sink or swim according to how well the students do and how well the students achieve. Why should public schools not be held to the same standards and be more accountable for the results they put forth? Why should great teachers be axed because they dared to be exceptional?

There are great teachers out there--both tenured and non-tenured. We need to give more praise to the great ones and see that competition weeds out the bad ones. We need to see that the non-tenured great ones are protected so that they can stay within the system...otherwise mediocrity will be the standard and excellence that rare gem you find only once in awhile. After all, when excellence becomes the standard then neither teachers nor students have anything to feel insecure about, for both are assured their proper place.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Education: How Summer Vacations Reinforce Performance Failure Conditioning

Even though the American economy has not been agrian based for at least 75 years, American children are still benefiting (?) from an agrian school structure. Young children still have summers off and spend on average 180 to 185 days in school. FACT: Many of these days are not full instructional days and today's students spend less time in the classroom than students of 50 or 100 years ago.

Schools are facing mandates to offer academic remediation during the summer and some parents are quite upset. This intrusion into summer vacation is viewed as denying a "right." Unfortunately, this outdated practice is only reinforcing performance failure conditioning.

When the U.S. was an agrian-based economy, being out of school during the summer was to assist the family farms. Children helped from plowing the fields to canning the produce. Summer break was a break from school and not a break from work.

Technology improvements from equipment to biochemistry has made farming far more efficient and additional manual child labor was no longer needed. Yet, summer break still remained through the industrial revolution and into the technology revolution. Children and families became conditioned to expect this time off from school and more importantly from learning.

Since information is doubling every year, today's young people need to know and learn more, not less. Losing 2.5 to 3 months each year for 12 years is only reinforcing performance failure conditioning. Educational psychologists know that students who are cognitively behind do not lose just 2.5 months each summer, but rather the loss multiplies or is exponential. This loss helps to explain why our students are not making the literacy gains necessary to be knowledge workers.

Additionally, there are several other factors why summer vacation reinforces performance failure. As a former teacher, I can personally attest that many young people begin to "shut down" after Easter or spring break because they have been conditioned to view summer vacation on the horizon. Given that our children need every minute to be engaged in the learning process, losing 4 to 6 weeks is not acceptable.

Also, with some parents not having the ability to take summer vacations due to their work commitments, these parents remove children from school for 1 to 2 weeks. In the mid-20th century, many parents would not even think about removing their children for a non-summer vacation. Even though the children are completing assignments during this time, they are losing the value of informal learning. Research suggests that up to 70% of all learning is gained informally - learning from one another.

The extended break from summer vacation also harms long term cognitive retention. Concepts that are taught shortly before the end of school may need to be re-taught in the fall because students lack the opportunities necessary for reinforcement and application. One direct outcome is the "teach to the test" behavior. Teachers must now hurriedly re-teach these previously learned objectives because these are the foundation for new concepts.

Learning is very much like a brick wall. Each row of bricks supports the next layer. When a row is missing just one or even several bricks, the entire wall is weakened and may eventually collapse. Again, our national results regarding educational performance demonstrate that we have many falling walls.

The American public education system needs to be restructured to face the 21st century. No one looks good in a bad system. We must face the reality that learning for our children must be more than 180 days and must be structured to support known cognitive research such as shorter and more frequent breaks. The archaic practice of summer vacation will only continue to reinforce performance failure conditioning and leave all of our children and our country behind.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith, President of ADVANCED SYSTEMS, works with large urban to private schools, certified staff, support staff, students and parents to improve performance in 30 to 180 days. Using proven tools, we can quickly and affordably identify the gaps in YOUR organization, provide you with an Action Plan that you can easily implement along with developmental programs from executive leadership to student leadership.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Role of School to Build a Nation

School is the alternate home of a Child. A child learns basic steps of life to grow as a man in the school. In rough terms, we can say that School is the factory to produce components of the Society. A Nation is recognized by its modern and flourished societies. The best societies are made by the contribution of well educated and intellectual people.

A man is build up with the foundation of education he got in his school. He is going to contribute the society by applying the knowledge and wisdom in appropriate place, which he acquired in his student life. The quality of education matters in this regard because he will be performing according to the level of education he got.

We can map a school as the breeding ground for the quality production of a Man. A man is born with a blank mind; School is responsible to feed the brain with quality input to help him to grow as a responsible citizen of a Nation. That's why today's parents want to educate their child in the best possible environment. To build a Great Nation the contribution of each and every responsible citizen is precious.

An Ocean is a collection of numerous number of tiny water droplets, similarly a Nation is a collection of numerous responsible citizens. To make it developed, each member of it should be well-educated and intelligent enough to fight against any kind of odd situation. School makes it possible to groom an infant child to a great man to be a part of such Society.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Education: Dynamic Classroom Management for 6th to 12th Grade Is All About Student Leadership

Within many colleges and universities that train future teachers, there is continual emphasis on classroom management. To be effective within the classroom means to provide continual learning opportunities for all the students so that annual yearly progress (AYP) will occur. Without proper classroom management or a structure for classroom discipline, this creates an obvious obstacle that prevents the desired results, measurable learning, from happening. Unfortunately, classroom management in many cases relies on the presumption that with every grade achieved the student will develop the necessary self-leadership skills necessary for academic and classroom success.

One of the more popular classroom management strategies is arranging desks into groups of 4 to 5 instead of rows. Group work is considered to be an effective learning strategy. Since classroom management and learning are partners, this is considered to be the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, such a strategy presumes that students have strong interpersonal skills including:

Communication especially non-verbal
Decision making and problem solving
Emotional intelligence specific to self-control and discipline
Mutual respect through demonstration of personal core values
Time management
Yet a review of most school curriculums would possibly reveal that these 5 interpersonal skill sets are not formally developed or taught, but are presumed to develop through the "Osmosis Factor." With that being the case, then employing this specific classroom management is potentially setting these young people up to fail and unintentionally creating additional at risk behavior.

Now consider if these sixth to twelfth grade students had been developed through a student leadership process that would infuse interpersonal skills with positive attitudes along with goal planning and goal achievement.

How much more engaged learning would happen within these classrooms?
How much more time would the teacher have to work with students who were struggling with a key concept?
What type of high performance culture could be achieved within the school?

Effective classroom management for middle and high school students must include a student leadership developmental process and curriculum. If these young people cannot lead themselves first, then how can they lead or work with anyone else? Let's stop setting these young people up to fail and begin to develop them through real world tools and processes beginning with student leadership.
Leanne Hoagland-Smith, President of ADVANCED SYSTEMS, works with large urban to private schools, certified staff, support staff, students and parents to improve performance in 30 to 180 days. Using proven tools, we can quickly and affordably identify the gaps in YOUR organization, provide you with an Action Plan that you can easily implement along with developmental programs from executive leadership to student leadership.