A good research question leads to a good research

To start an educational research with a good research question is quite daunting for novice researchers.

Morphologically, the word research comes with a prefix ‘re-‘ like repeat or redo.  This signifies that it is a continuous action—a continuous search. As a cycle, the process of research does not seem to have a definite beginning and an end.

However, formulating research questions can be a definitive start for this cycle.

Thinking of a research question

A research question is an integral part of the research process. By starting with a question, a researcher can identify research problems and kickstart the research cycle.

In effect, identifying a problem during the early stage of research takes place by interconnecting with various sources.  For example, a researcher may look into experiences, theories, non-education sources, social issues, and related literature (Ary, et al., 2010).

Identifying the problem

Hence, for educational researchers, there is a need to look for problems from professional experience.   The school principal serves as a good starting point when it comes to looking for a research problem.

By informally asking the principal of his [perceived] struggles in his school,  he can give the researcher a piece of his mind by mentioning the challenges and the struggles he usually faces.

From this, the research journey begins, as we can start formulating some research questions.  Although one would wonder, “How do we form a clear research question that could give us a defined research problem?”

Planning the research

Subsequently, Cohen, et al. (2005) believes that a vital part of careful planning involves setting and making the parameters of the research clear and explicit. In his book, Cohen emphasizes the significance of defining the aims of the research.  Perhaps, this is a good way of managing the planning stage of the research process. Relatively, it enables the researcher to have a more focused research problem.

Moreover,  the purpose of the research needs to be well-defined.   The researcher has to base this on the topic and the research problem.  This could be anchored on personal and professional experience, as well as related literature (Cohen, et al., 2005; Cresswell, 2012). Consequently, this may lead to ideal research questions.

The combination of a clear topic, problem, purpose, and questions provide a strong foundation for a promising research. Other than that, supported readings and experiences could still strengthen the foundation of the study. This makes the entire research cycle a seemingly never-ending process of establishing one’s perceived ‘truth’.

 

Clearly, with a polished research topic, problem, purpose, and questions, educational researchers could produce a good research proposal and a more meaningful research experience. Therefore, before plunging into the design and methodology, we need to constantly consult our peers and research supervisors with regards to the quality of the research questions.

“Prevention is better than cure.” So, does this hold true for research?

Or should we say, “Is a good research really grounded on good research questions?”

References:

Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Razavieh, A., & Ary, D. (2010). Introduction to research in education (pp. 49-56). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2000). Research methods in education (pp. 43-50). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Trump’s Twitter Leadership versus the Leaders’ Rulebooks

In just two weeks into his presidency, Trump has started to rewrite the rulebooks of leadership. Well, this new paradigm revolves around this new concept of Twitter Leadership with Trump at its helm.

Pundits and commoners have been very vocal about Trump’s leadership style. Obviously, there are always two sides to a coin.

Evaluating Trump’s leadership as the 45th US president needs a non-political context.

Feasibly, this might sound absurd. But, as Trump’s words and actions have been highly political in nature, we can’t be too redundant in our analysis.

Twitter Leadership in action

 Trump’s ‘Twitter Leadership’

First, we need to define what this ‘Twitter Leadership’ is. No rulebook on leadership has ever coined this term, so let REEDEL be the first. There is no need to complicate the obvious. Through Twitter, Trump built the momentum of his campaign. Eventually, through Twitter, Trump has stamped his mark as the US president in the past two weeks.

Definitely, @realDonaldTrump has made waves not just in the US but also as far as Twitter’s reach. From his Great Wall and Muslim Ban tweets, Trump has moved the political arena from the Lincoln Memorial to the Twitter-sphere.

Pun aside; he’s got 23.8M followers. That’s more than enough to define a ‘leader’.

On a more serious note, is that enough to define him as a ‘real leader’ according to the rulebooks of leadership?

Trait Leadership and Trump

Proponents of trait leadership believe that a leader is born not made. One of them is Stephen Zaccaro (2007), who believes in leadership skills as inherent attitudes and behaviors.

Zaccaro’s model includes the following attributes:

  1. Personality
  2. Cognitive Abilities
  3. Motives and Values
  4. Social Appraisal Skills
  5. Problem Solving Skills
  6. Expertise/Tacit Knowledge

More importantly, Zaccaro (2007) noted that leadership effectiveness comes from the combination of these traits rather than ‘independent contribution of multiple traits.’

Now, if we are to juxtapose these with Trump, we can say that he has all these, but the quality remains to be in question.

Let’s just take three of the six attributes by asking these questions:

  1. If he has a ‘good personality’, would he openly use crude expressions?
  2. Well, if he has high cognitive abilities, would he refuse to accept the facts especially the numbers during his inauguration?
  3. If he has such ‘values’, could he think of other policies aside from banning Muslims?

Henceforth, this closes Trump’s chances of falling under a ‘Trait Leader’.

Transactional Leadership and Trump

Perhaps, Trump has high chances of falling under this category. Besides, transactional leadership is the closely relevant to management—a top-down approach for easy maintenance.

For this reason, basic assumption dictates how Trump fits in this category as a business mogul.

However, let’s take a closer look at one of the models as proposed by Bernard Bass (1981), which can be summarized in three points:

  1. Laissez-faire: abdicates responsibilities/delegates/assigns
  2. Management by exception: corrections and punishment
  3. Contingent reward: promises rewards for good performance

Again, it’s the combination of these three that makes a good transactional leader, which brings positive impact to an organization. Does Trump make the cut?

Well, he has abdicated responsibilities to his family, son-in-law, and even Steve Bannon.

In addition, he has fired Sally Yate, the acting attorney general, for “refusing to enforce a legal order”.

Unfortunately, Trump has not promised any rewards yet—just walls and bans.

The buck stops there for Trump and Transactional Leadership.

Transformational Leadership and Trump

A transformational leader is usually associated with the word ‘charisma’. Once again, people can safely assume that by being a formal reality show host, Trump could be a transformational leader.

Nevertheless, let’s benchmark Trump against Bass’ model of transformational leadership. Bass (1990) does not box a transformational leader in a charismatic brand.

Consequently, for him, superior leader performance comes when a leader creates awareness of the mission and allows their follower to go beyond.

Likewise, Bass’ Transformational Leader goes by these traits:

  1. Charisma: Provides vision and sense of mission
  2. Inspiration: Communicates high expectations
  3. Intellectual Stimulation: Promotes intelligence
  4. Individualized Consideration: Treats every person respectfully

Given the abovementioned traits, it’s definitely a NO for all for Mr. President.

Twitter Leadership in full swing!

Twitter Leadership and Trump

With all three major leadership theories squeezed out, what’s left for Mr. Donald J. Trump?

Definitely, he does not fit in any of the three mainstream leadership ideals because he is Trump. He does not follow the Bible because he creates his own canon of alternative facts.

Hence, we propose a theory: the Twitter Leadership. It does not fall in any of the three leadership models, although it has some traces of transactional leadership.

In addition to the earlier definition of Twitter Leadership, this theory can be simply explained by the following:

  1. Simplistic: Vision and policies must fit in 140 characters.
  2. Social Media Driven: The official medium of communication and source of information devoid of fake news
  3. Self-promoting: The leader should be at the center of everything.

Arguments aside, @realDonaldTrump fits this model perfectly.

As a challenge to future researchers in this colorful field of leadership, Trump is the perfect guinea pig for this paradigm shift.

How effective is Twitter Leadership? We will find out in the next four years.

Top 5 reasons why teachers quit international schools and how to deal with it

In this fast paced world, teachers quit international schools for a hundred and one reasons. The departure of a teacher from a school is part of how human resource in an organization function. Indeed, it is a very personal decision too.

People come; people go. However, if there is a significant number of teachers leaving a school, the resultant impact is potentially destructive.

A study by Glenn Odland and Mary Ruzicka (2009) has deemed that a moderate turnover in a school is healthy. But, the recent statistics shows that teacher turnover percentages are in a pessimistic range. A high turnover of school teachers is not what we are after for. What are the reasons for this trend?

funny look at why teachers quit international schools

Reason 1: Causal factors related to administrative leadership and why teachers quit international schools

The central ideas of statement categorized to administrative leadership are:

  • Communication between senior management and faculty
  • Support from principal and senior management
  • Teacher involvement in decision-making

Support from the administrative level of the school and the involvement of the teachers in decision-making greatly affect the turnover of teachers.

With an autocratic system being practiced in the school, together with the culture which lacks appreciation, administrative leadership is a clear indicator why teachers quit their job.

Reason 2: Compensation package

The compensation package differs from one school to another. In effect, the school which provides a low compensation package to the teachers induces a large turnover of teachers.

Some teachers complain that the salary scheme they were on was insufficient for them to cover the living cost.

Reason 3: Personal circumstances why teachers quit international schools

Personal circumstances and teacher mobility are often correlated factors when teachers quit international schools. Similarly, personal factors are influential enough to contribute to why teachers quit international schools.

These factors are from individual preferences, but the most common ones include the following: the desire to explore new cultures and countries; boredom and exhaustion; and, family matters.

Reason 4: Issues stemming from private ownership

International schools are often highly-independent profit-based organizations. Some studies suggested that the leading cause of teacher turnover in international schools is governance issue in the school.

The dictatorial policies by the owner of the school, like micro-managing the school with poor resources and humongous profit, have caused great dissatisfaction among teachers. Hence, this has become the reason of departure of the teachers.

Reason 5: Misrepresentation during recruitment

This factor involves the perceptions of teachers on how the management treated them during the recruitment phase.  For example, teachers revealed discrepancies between “what they were told in interview” and “the real-life situation”.

In addition, the school did not fulfill the promises and the offerings written in the contracts. Therefore, teachers feel a huge deal of misrepresentation in the school’s situation, and this has caused them to leave.

What should international schools do?

Despite the factor of personal circumstances, the administrative level personnel is the one who bears the most crucial role in combating the issue.

They should provide necessary support to teachers. Other than that, they should also build more bridges and destroy walls between the administrative level and the teachers.

By doing so, opportunities involving decision-making should come with adequate and effective communication.

Furthermore, the school must give an accurate representation of EVERYTHING in the process of recruiting teachers.  This is to minimize conflict and misunderstanding between the school and the newly-recruited teachers.

Moreover, the study by Odland and Ruzicka (2009) has also suggested that the school can carry out interviews with all teachers who are resigning. Such information and data from these teachers are valuable to address the serious problem of why teachers quit school.

With respect to the salary, compensation must be reasonable in accordance with a teacher’s home country and the living cost in the host country.

The financial statements and budgetary decision-making procedures of a school should be transparent and accountable to build the trust and confidence among teachers.

In effect, teachers who have clear comprehension on important school matters will have less doubt and more trust to the school.

Perhaps, a supportive, democratic, trustworthy and transparent school administrative leader will greatly help in reducing teacher turnover rate.  They must share responsibilities and encourage involvement in decision-making, without neglecting the provision of reasonable compensation to the teachers.

 

Reference:

Odland, G., & Ruzicka, M. (2009). An investigation into teacher turnover in international schools. Journal of Research in International Education, 8(1), 5-29.

Assessments: Is it just about evaluating students?

Assessments have always been a part of the school system.  Well, some might say that this is just a rebranding of examination.  However, it is more than that.

Since we follow a system in which every unit is assessed with a summative task, it is just proper to plan relevant assessment methods.  Relatively, this could help students develop skills necessary to meet the objectives of the unit through the assessment task.

Needless to say, it is important to have clear goals to measure one’s success.  By looking at these learning objectives, a teacher could be sure that relevant tasks measure students’ knowledge and skills.

Planning assessments

To be more specific, here are some guiding questions a lot of teachers consider in choosing and planning formative assessment methods for their students:

Does this reflect students’ understanding of the content and the concept?  Will my students find it interesting? Does this meet the set objectives of the unit? Are my directions easy to follow considering the level of my students? Does this contribute to the development of knowledge and skills necessary for the summative assessment?

With these questions in mind and with the thought of the capabilities of students, the next step is to draft an assessment plan suitable to students’ needs.

Post-assessment

In order to support the learners’ progress, this assessment has to be continuously and consistently monitored.

For example, in a language class, teachers usually follow the writing process. Through this writing process,  students get to plan their work then draft their essays.

After that, teachers may ask students to engage in peer and teacher evaluation prior to submission of their final work. This process enables teachers to gauge whether the students are developing skills essential to the completion of the task.

Since this is a formative task, teachers ought to give opportunities for our students to learn from their work through an effective exchange of feedback in the form of comments, written or oral, and the use of rubrics.

Both teachers and students should look at assessments as learning tools instead of merely tools for evaluation. It is through this perspective that real learning takes place–learning that goes beyond marks and letter grades.