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Attendance Reforms Still Needed in Schools & Universities of the Arab World

By       Message Kevin Anthony Stoda     Permalink
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The educational institutions bend by reducing the number of and variety of items on progress evaluations and on exams.  They also throw out the teaching of important textbook chapters at times.  In the end, this "dumbing down" of the curriculum hurts all facets of society.

Researchers in California also note the following points concerning  "engaged time or time on task (in class)".   Their findings " demonstrate that the more engaged time students have, the higher they achieve.  Highly interactive instructional styles led to greater amounts of student engaged time, and, consequently, increased student learning." Research on reading and mathematic instruction show that:

  • Student engagement dropped considerably lower when students spent 90% of their time doing seatwork"
  • "Students were actively engaged in learning 84 percent of the time during teacher led activities but only 70 percent of the time during seatwork
  • Seatwork and students working alone was the dominant activity pattern in classrooms studied --  66% in reading and 75% in math

In short, students who simply go home to study (spending 100% of their time in seatwork) on their own instead of being engaged in a classroom by their instructors and their peers lose focus and become disengaged.  For this very reason, many "highly effective teachers [around the world] use interactive presentations with modeling, questions and answers, guided practice, and constructive feedback before students work independently.  It is also interesting to note that high student engagement during teacher-led instruction and group work yielded high engagement during independent seatwork."

According to California researchers, "Academic learning time has to do with quality; it is the amount of time students spend actively working on tasks of an appropriate difficulty.  Success breeds success.  When a teacher targets the instruction of a new concept or skill so students can succeed at least 75% of the time, students are more engaged and achieve at higher levels."

Note:  "Computer game makers use this same research concept.  They create captivating games designed with advancing levels of difficulty so that even novice players, intrigued by the challenge, and can "find the ring' or "enter the magic door' frequently enough to maintain their interest.   For the teacher, striking the balance between challenge and success in the classroom is more demanding and complex than any game, particularly with a heterogeneous group of students."

Finally, in order,  "[to]deliver lessons designed to maximize academic learning time, teachers must:

  • "accurately diagnose each student's knowledge and skill level
  • prescribe learning tasks appropriate to a student's levels
  • structure engaging lessons around the learning tasks and give clear, concise task directions
  • have substantive teacher-student interaction during the lesson, such as: modeling, guiding students as they practice, asking probing questions, giving corrective feedback"



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Depressingly, in Omani colleges we often have abysmal attendance levels running to students missing sometimes well over 30% of their classes, i.e. opportunities to experience time-on-task activities.  

How can instructors be able to diagnose students' knowledge and skill level in any timely manner with such lack-of-attendance?

In addition, without being able to diagnose in a timely manner, how can lecturers or teachers then  accurately (and in a timely manner) "prescribe the learning tasks appropriate to a student's level"?

Moreover, with many students coming to class 5, 10  or 15 minutes late, how can such-students (quickly) comprehend the concisely presented directions for each task, i.e. without disrupting the others who arrived on time?

Finally, with such poor attendance and through continual tardiness, how can many students observe good behaviors or understand what is being modeled and practiced?  Likewise, how can probing questions and discussions be followed up regularly?

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Tragically, attendance is most lacking at times in the semester when attendance is needed most. 

For example, attendance is lowest during the first two weeks of each terms, i.e. the period when an instructor is trying to diagnose and set up or model a host of effective, motivating, and efficient  tasks.  It is during this period that the course's pace needs to be set, and this pace can be a very motivating one if  large amount and variety of group-, pair- and individual activities are introduced.

However, if students do not allow themselves to get into the rhythm of a course until later in the term, a great deal of quality time spent practicing is lost. Moreover, rigidity and bad behaviors have already been modeled by that time, too, as students demand "less comprehensible input" the later they show up for the term.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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