Saturday, June 3, 2017

Memories of May: The launch of my Book, Teachers Day and meeting my former students.

For teachers across our Nation the month of May starts with the celebration of Teachers Day coinciding the Birth anniversary of our beloved King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. As usual the school leaders coordinated the celebration supported strongly by student dancers, singers and performers to entertain us, their teachers, on the Teachers day. I enjoyed a lot. The homemade cards with handwritten messages, other valuable gifts from students and sumptuous lunch host by school leaders thoroughly pleased us.

At Druk we have a culture where Former students who have graduated from our school also join in to celebrate this special day with their teachers. They bring in some more cakes, sweet memories and warm hugs along with them. We cant ask any more than that. But something more was waiting particularly for me before I could call it a day!

It was already 3:30 PM in the afternoon of May 2nd. I expected nothing exciting to happen. But as luck would have it, my Book Publisher Mr. Bedu Prasad Bhattarai, the proprietor of DSB Enterprise text me to collect the copies of my much awaited Book Eight: Nyingtob Tsherings Amazing Journey from his book store.

He had printed 1000 copies to display for sell during the following Book Fairs in Mongar followed by another Book Fair in Punakha. He informed me to collect some copies to help sell it within my friend circle and colleagues at Druk School. The day then became too early to call off. I had been waiting for this moment for a long time. And finally I could hold the copies of my book with fathomless contentment in my heart and escalated excitement in my spirit.

The Title of the Book gave me an instant idea on how my maiden book would be launched. Taking pictures of eight individuals who are akin to the eight characters in my book at eight different locations and sharing it on Facebook would be the strategy to launch my book. The idea thrilled me.

There I waswith full of energy and determination to execute this weird but low cost yet reaching to larger audience to launch my book. Like my protagonist of the book who is in his own amazing journey, I too embarked on a memorable and exciting journey of launching my book at eight different locations meeting eight different personalities and simultaneously selling my own book. I often announced to the strangers and friends alike that its fun selling ones own book. I went on to share with my friends that I would one day post an article in my blog with the title The Author who sold his own book.

Thus 2nd May was the first event to launch the book. On 5th may, which also happen to be my birthday, I dedicated the day to hold the 2nd event to launch the book. 3rd and 4th events were held on 12th and 25th May respectively. On 28th may, I could complete my 5th event to launch the book. 6th event was held on 2nd June and now I am left with two more events to complete the series of eight events to launch my maiden book. The upcoming locations and the personalities need to be withhold to let readers do some guess work.

On 8th May, apart from launching and selling books, I happen to receive a friend request from a young girl. Looking at her profile picture, her face absolutely looks familiar. We started chatting instantly and what I came to realize simply spellbound me.

The young girl who had sent me a friend request on Facebook happen to be Miss Sherab Lhamo my former student of Lichen community Primary school in Trashi Yangtse. I was her class teacher in the year 2010. We were meeting after 7 long years though on Facebook. And soon, on my request, she text me snapshots of her school mates Facebook profile.  I then could meet with the rest of my students of 2010 and 2011. They were studying in class IV and class V when I was working there as a Light Drukyul teacher.

It was and it is a very pleasing experience to chat with them and know where they are and to realize how much you as a teacher had been entrusted with this very responsible duty to make a difference in their lives. I dont claim to be the best teacher but I tell you they have many good memories to share with me.

My two years teaching experience at Lichen Community Primary School will always remain close to my heart as the school is my Alma Mater of my career as a teacher and a place where I could be a small part in many childrens life in their pursuit of greater dreams.

The month of May began and came to an end too in celebrating the special relationship of teacher and student. My book Eight: Nyingtob Tsherings Amazing Journey also in many ways celebrate the valuable relationship which is enjoyed between a teacher and a student. A sender and a receiver. An agent of Change and the Change itself. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Detriments of Kegan’s Cooperative Learning

Detriments of Kegan’s Cooperative Learning: Why Kegan’s Cooperative Learning is not picture perfect.

A literary review.

“In its most basic sense, cooperative learning is group work in which two or more students work together to complete a class assignment. Even though cooperative learning creates a focus on student learning, there are disadvantages to this strategy…” writes Jana Sosnowski
The paper discusses the major flaws and disadvantages of Kegan’s Cooperative Learning. The dissertation is divided into five topics. 1. Difficulties faced by teachers. 2. Difficulties faced by learners. 3. Spencer Kagan's Thoughts on Cooperative Learning. 4. Students feedback 5. My own experience with Kegan’s Structure.

The difficulties of the Kegan’s Cooperative Learning strategy for teachers are due to the following reasons.

Lesson Planning Can Take Longer time.

Jana Sosnowski argues that when children work in groups, interacting with each other, the task of teacher to handle the class becomes very difficult. The lesson plan and assessment tool need to also be designed beforehand for the whole class. The lesson design must engage all group members. The teachers also have to be very vigilant to monitor the activities of the groups.

Classroom Management Challenges

Christine Bartsch  believes “while many of cooperative learning’s disadvantages affect the students, the strategy can also provide difficulties for educators. For students to work together, they must talk to one another. Any teacher who has managed a classroom of 20 to 30 students knows that kids with permission to converse with one another invariably speak increasingly louder, which can become a distraction from the learning process. It is also impossible for one teacher to constantly monitor each group, which can result in off-topic chatter. Students working in groups might also leave their seats to review materials together. Without strict discipline, cooperative learning can reduce an organized classroom to utter chaos.”

The Kegan’s Cooperative Learning strategy is also unfavorable for learners as they are required to be in groups for conduct of tasks because of the following reasons.

Uneven Workloads and Evaluations

Christine Bartsch argue “Beyond personality conflicts, cooperative learning can also result in an uneven distribution of the workload. At its best, cooperative learning encourages students to support and inspire one another, with all involved experiencing an equitable growth in knowledge. Unfortunately, in some instances, more advanced students simply take over the majority of the project for the sake of ease and speed rather than helping struggling students learn. Conversely, indolent students might deliberately rely on more diligent group members to complete the work and avoid exerting any effort themselves. In both cases, the result is not only an uneven workload but also uneven learning that can lead to some students falling behind. The same holds true for student evaluations, as it is often impossible to evaluate group members individually. This can result in all group members receiving the same grade or credit regardless of how much they contributed.”

Same Grades; Unequal Effort.

Jana Sosnowski states that when groups are assigned to perform or complete a task, the flaw of Cooperative learning is that members of the group would put in unequal effort. The one who contributes more and the one who is least bothered land up earning same score as it is a group assignment. When written assignments are assigned the teacher would be able to assess individual’s contributions. The teacher could move around to monitor but the sheer size of classroom and to monitor individual members of groups would be a daunting task for the teacher.

Group Dynamic Dilemmas

Christine Bartsch strongly argue that the Cooperative Learning heavily depends on the successful working of the groups children are put in. These children will have different abilities and conflict between individuals can reduce or halt the working of the group where by the tasks at hand is not completed. Children won’t have social skills to handle the conflicts for common good and such situations will not foster any sort of learning. Children who have grievance outside classroom over other group members may also refuse to work for the group where by the collective task won’t be successfully executed. There are situations were groups will be supervised by personalities who are not necessarily good at completing or executing the assignments. All these problems are possible because you as an individual is put in a group of people where you are supposed to perform well as you would do if you were allowed to undertake any task on your own.

Groups Can Be Overly Social

Jana Sosnowski further adds, “Cooperative groups can be created by student or teacher selection, and each has some disadvantages. When students are allowed to select their own groups, they may choose based solely on social preference, which may encourage students to stray from the assigned task. On the other hand, if the teacher selects groups, there is a danger of grouping together students of similar abilities, which may create a group of very weak students or grouping students who may not work well together”

Discussing the disadvantages of the Kegan’s Cooperative Learning, Dr. Kegan shared (As cited in Dr. Spencer Kagan's Thoughts on Cooperative Learning. Para.4 and 5) that children who lack social skills would not be able to participate in group activities. Often it might lead to task and social conflicts.

Working in a group may also result in forcing one of the members to work for the group.
Some members may also disapprove answers and suggestions from other members fearing they would look foolish and face failure. They may start blaming each other if the task fails.
Competition between teams may lead to losing the spirit to compete when the loser team keeps losing. This may result into lower scores and lower self-esteem.

The working in groups will also lead to dependency on the group members which will make some members not able to work alone.

Teachers sometime would miss to assist the groups which have not understood the task.
The following is a list of feedback received by Cathy Middlecamp from her students with regard to Collaborative Learning.

People need to go at different speeds: “There may be one group member who doesn't learn as quickly as the others, and get left behind, and ultimately not learn anything at all. Similarly, if one does not learn as quickly and the group tries to slow down to explain things to this member. The whole group may end up falling behind.”

Someone may try to take over the group: “More problems occur when one person is a control freak, not willing or able to trust the abilities of others in the group. This can again result in discord and a lack of cooperation amongst the group members. Put simply, one person can drastically affect the group either positively or negatively”

Quiet people may not feel comfortable: “More quiet people may not feel comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas with a group.”

Sometimes people just don't get along: “There could be arguing with group members. When you put a group of people that have never worked together, different personalities might lead to arguments, this would waste time and lead to an unproductive group.”

People may not pull their weight: “If you are the only one in your group that is willing to do the work and the rest of the people just sit back and watch, it can get very frustrating. If you try to give them things to do and help them get involved in the group, their lack of motivation and care may produce poor quality work in which, many times, you get graded on too.”

It is not fair! “All the group members may not participate equally. In this kind of situation, one might feel that he/she can take a back seat and let the other members do all the work. This is not fair because often, the group is given one grade, and that may not be representative of each member.”

A concept may not be understood as well if a person doesn't have to figure it out: “Sometimes peer groups get lazy and just give group members answers to a certain problem without explaining how they arrived at their conclusions. Because of this, no real knowledge has been gained."

The time spent talking about irrelevant topics is unbelievable:

“The freedom to talk often greatly reduces the efficiency of my group work. As soon as we are set free to begin whatever the task or project is, the uncontrollable temptation to talk about plans for the weekend, what happened last weekend, or this incredible whatever that someone witnessed/heard about sneaks in. The time spent talking about irrelevant topics is unbelievable when seriously considered.”

My experience with Kegan Structure:

Druk School teachers had a week long rigorous training on Kegan’s Cooperative Learning in the year 2012. With great hope to benefit the fruits of this new strategy, I enthusiastically implemented the strategies and structures along with the rest of the faculty members. The gambits and cheers to encourage learners were instantly welcomed. As benefits were quickly enjoyed, the disadvantages were also encountered sooner.

The students seated in groups encouraged them to talk more. It soon reciprocate in wasting time chatting with each other often distracting the classroom and tasks remained uncompleted.

The examination oriented education system also discouraged the implement of Kegan CL structure at length because children were to be taught to test.

Examination based assessment is followed in our system and the Syllabus coverage is paramount irrespective of quality in delivery or span of time spared to discuss particular topic in length. If Exams are limited to one in an academic year and the syllabus is condensed where by an avenue is opened for more discussions and dialogue sessions which will foster better learning. In addition to the difficulties of Kegan’s CL Structures, the class size of 40-60 students in a classroom is another hindering for Bhutanese classrooms to implement the Kegan’s CL structure.

All said and done, this paper only discusses the negative aspects of Kegan’s Cooperative Learning Structure and strategies. The hyperactive nature of 21st century learners, the differences in personalities and the different ability of the learners makes Kegan’s Structures for learning quite difficult. However, there is a scope to assess and look into the advantages of the structure too and strike a balance to benefit students at large.

Dr. Spencer Kagan's Thoughts on Cooperative Learning.(n.d.)Retrieved from.
Students speak out on Collaborative Learning.(n.d.) Retrieved from
Three Disadvantages of Using Cooperative Learning. (n.d.) Retrieved from cooperative-learning-10044274.html
Three Disadvantages of Using Cooperative Learning. (n.d.) Retrieved from cooperative-learning 10044274.html

A letter to myself to jumpstart 2018!

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