Five Ways to Motivate Students in Physical Education Class

There is no shortcut to becoming a master physical education teacher. In order to keep yourself motivated as a teacher you need to motive your students by constantly challenging them and encouraging them to reach their physical goals. A physical education teacher must perform their own professional development to stay current with the times and learn new techniques to motive their students. The five tips below are simple, yet many physical education teachers do not stress on a daily basis.

1. Be Willing to Gain More Knowledge: As a physical education teacher you to be interested in learning about new activities and games, plus incorporates them into their lesson plans. A teacher that is never satisfied with gaining knowledge is a good teacher. As a physical education teacher you should never be satisfied with teaching the same skills over and over again, year after year. You should research and find new games to bring into your class. By bringing in new games it will not only broaden students knowledge of new skills, but they will also have fun learning new and different skills.

2. Be Encouraging: This enables students to help increase confidence and decrease doubt and failure. This is important because as a teacher you should want to build up your students confidence. When you encourage your student and tell them that they did a great job in performing a certain skill, it will motivate the child and help build their confidence and improve their overall self-esteem. The opposite is criticizing a student. By doing this you are destroying a students confidence. If you tell a child they did a horrible job performing a skill, not only will destroy the students self-esteem but you will also decrease their willingness to participate in your gym class. And that should not be the goal of any physical education teacher.

3. Be Passionate About Teaching: It is important to be passionate about what you teach. If you are not passionate and giving it your all, the students will pick up on that. It is important that your students can see how passionate you are about physical education, and in return they can become passionate as well and want to live a active and healthy life.

4. Stay Organized: Being organized is an extremely important skill for a teacher to have. If you are going to teach a lesson on the volleyball set, it is important to have an organized introduction, fitness activity, and at least three setting activities thought out and planned out ahead of time so that the class runs smoothly and effectively.

5. Keep an Emphasis on Safety: The safety of your students is one of, if not the most important thing you can emphasize. A physical education teacher always needs to be focused on injury control []. You want your students to have fun, but you also want them to have fun in a safe and orderly environment. It is important that you establish safety guidelines to your students, and they are aware of the consequences if they do not follow those rules.

Analyzing Issues of Overidentification in Special Education

Overidentification in special education has two potential meanings. First, it can mean that there are too many students being identified as needing special education in a school or district. Estimates of students in need of special education services have ranged from 3% to 8% of total students. Central office staff typically attempt to stay within the 10% range however, it sometimes reaches highs of 13% or more. Second, it may mean that a certain group of students is over represented in the special education population in comparison to their make up in the general population of students. Ideally, the proportion of the subgroup of students in the special education population should be identical to that of the general population.

Overidentification of students in need of special education services results in a number of negative outcomes for the students, the school district, and to a larger extent society. Students identified as needing special education services often don’t receive the same rigorous curriculum as those not receiving services. Therefore, they are not as prepared for the demands of the next grade level as unidentified students. They frequently have lowered expectations placed upon them, may be socially stigmatized, may display greater behavioral problems requiring disciplinary action, and are more likely to not complete school or they complete school with less skills than other students.

Overidentified students place an unnecessary burden on already limited school resources and take away existing resources from those students who are really in need of them. Staff time is taken up in extra preparation for their daily needs, to go to extra meetings, and to complete evaluations. If discipline becomes an issue, then administrator time gets taken away from other duties.

In regard to potential impacts on society, overidentification’s reduced demands, watered-down curriculum, and potential social stigmatization leaves students unprepared to continue with their education or lacking the skills necessary to take a productive role in the workplace and support themselves. When these students are unable to become productive members of society after school then their educational institution has failed them.

Some of the reasons for overidentification include:

  • Poverty and income inequality
  • Inequity in schools funding
  • Inability to access early interventions
  • Lack of training in regard to appropriate referrals to and placements in special education
  • Lack of understanding of diverse populations

Research has found that students from impoverished backgrounds are more likely to be unprepared for the rigors of education and lack the background knowledge and experiences of their more affluent peers. The Head Start Program was developed in 1965 to meet this need, and to provide comprehensive services to low income families during the preschool years. However, while gains have been made, a gap still exists, and many families are unable to access these services for a variety of reasons.

Schools are not always funded appropriately with many schools requiring students to bring in their own work materials, lack resources for paraprofessional support, or lack the funds to have full day kindergarten or hire enough teachers to have smaller classes. When schools are funded appropriately, the district often determines where and when the money is spent, which may not always be on the biggest needs or those that will make the biggest difference in the long-term.

Unfortunately, some schools don’t always make appropriate referrals or placement decisions. Sometimes they wait too long before making a referral and sometimes they make one too soon. The advent of Response to Intervention (RTI) may help in this area as schools should have data about how students respond to interventions before making a referral.

Lack of understanding about different cultures and the way children learn may also lead to students being over identified, especially for behavior concerns. Not every child is able to sit in a chair for six hours a day learning. There are many ways to learn and students need to be exposed to as many of them as possible before being identified with a disability.

Parents and educators need to be aware that over identification of students for special educational services has short and long-term consequences. These consequences affect the student, the school, and, potentially, society. It is the school’s responsibility to keep an open mind, look at individual differences and all possibilities prior to identifying a student as in need of special education services.

Balanced Literacy

Balanced literacy is a theory based on the idea that there are many different learning styles for children who are learning to read. There are many different teaching methods that are effective ways for teaching reading, but alone they do not always deliver for every student. With the variety of learning styles that the students bring into the classroom it is impossible to suggest that one method of teaching would effectively teach each student how to be a good reader. The balanced reading approach bases itself on the idea that a combination of teaching methods used together will teach a greater range of students more effectively.

Lev Vygotsky, a psychologist who focused on cognitive development, viewed learning as being integrated and socially based. This view of learning follows suit with the balanced literacy approach as it focuses on learning to read as a social activity, an integrated activity that requires students to read, write, listen, and speak, and requires engagement in classroom activities. All of these ideas from Vygotsky are found in balanced instruction. Students interact in small groups, integrate the different pieces of reading as listed above, and engage in activities that allow students to interactively learn to read. (Wilkinson, 2000)

Obviously, a major piece of balanced literacy is the instructional techniques. “While many teachers in today’s schools are mandated to use prescriptive basal reading programs … a teacher should know much more to become an effective instructor of reading.” (Bukowiecki, 2007) There is more than one way to teach reading to students, and the diversity and variety in the lessons can help students with all types of learning styles and needs learn to be effective readers. Before the instructional techniques can be described there is a critical theory behind reading instruction that needs to be addressed and understood, that theory is the five big ideas of reading.

The five big ideas are the backbone of reading instruction. “The National Reading Panel published its research results and recommendations in a report … this national report presented five key literacy topics – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension – that should be included in daily literacy instruction” (Bukowiecki, 2007) These five ideas are the individual pieces that teachers need to focus on to promote good readers. “Big ideas are fundamental concepts and principles that help students gain the broadest knowledge within an academic area, such as beginning reading, most efficiently.” (Coyne, 2006)

Balanced literacy bases much of its success in the classroom to the five big ideas. “Big ideas focus attention on the most relevant aspects of reading instruction. They also function as anchoring concepts within which ‘small’ ideas can often be taught and understood.” (Coyne, 2006) Through a balance of teaching methods all students are able to actively participate and learn in the classroom lessons, especially at risk students who are struggling with their reading. “Teachers working with at-risk students or students who are experiencing reading difficulties can use the five big ideas as a strategic focus for instruction and intervention because these ideas target critical areas in beginning reading.” (Coyne, 2006)

There are many instructional techniques that can effectively teach the five big ideas and develop excellent readers. The first, and probably the most used in reading specialist classrooms, is the basal reading approach. This approach can be seen in classrooms where teachers do reading activities in small groups and in a specified area of the classroom. The basal approach is “based on the assumption that students learn to read by reading, writing, and talking about meaningful topics.” (Vacca, 2006) Many different genres of literature are able to be covered through expository and narrative texts. This approach is eclectic and follows suit with the bottom-up approach because it “presents skills to be taught in a sequence, or an interactive program, featuring unedited children’s literature selections, strategy instruction, and writing opportunities.” (Vacca, 2006)

Another approach to reading instruction is the language experience approach. This approach combines many different approaches, which is obviously a characteristic of balanced literacy. This strategy is “based on the idea that language should be used to communicate thoughts, ideas, and meaning.” (Vacca, 2006) A great example of this approach is story dictation. Students are able to create lessons using their own language. Other popular pieces of the language experience approach include, “planned and continuous activities such as individual and group dictated stories, the building of word banks of known words, creative writing activities, oral reading of prose and poetry by teacher and students, directed reading-thinking lessons, the investigation of interests using multiple materials, and keeping records of student progress.” (Vacca, 2006)

The next type of instruction is integrated language arts. This method “extends the concept of language experience by immersing students in reading, writing, talking, listening, and viewing activities.” (Vacca, 2006) Each of those topics listed in the previous quote should be taught together, rather than as isolated and separate commodities. Students grow by connecting with the combination of imaginative and informative literature. The most important aspect of integrating language arts is “so that students will learn how to use language to think clearly, strategically, critically, and creatively.” (Vacca, 2006)

Literature based instruction is the next instructional technique to be discussed. This method accommodates the differences in student’s reading abilities while focusing on the meaning, interest, and pleasure of reading. “An important part of classroom life should be reading, reading literature that makes children wonder, weep, laugh, shiver, and gasp.” (Vacca, 2006) When students are thoroughly enjoying the material that they are reading they can fully immerse themselves into reading. The students, when using this method, choose their own books which personalizes reading and ensures that they are reading high interest materials. A good strategy used under this theory is based on the idea that “literature can be used as a springboard for writing – children can write different endings for stories or incidents in their own lives that reflect conflicts similar to ones about which they have read.” (Vacca, 2006) Another extension of this technique is to allow students to use the same structure of an existing story and write their own following that structure. Students are able to feel control over their learning while advancing their reading and writing abilities.

The final instructional technique to be discussed is technology based instruction. With the changes in technology it should be no surprise that computers and the internet have changed the way that people read and write. Emails are a great tool that students can use to practice reading and writing. The invention of the CD-ROM also created an engaging way for students to practice their reading skills. In the classroom items such as smart boards, electromagnetic LCD pen monitors, and web-cams are changing the way that reading is taught. Word processors are a fun way for students to create texts and practice reading and writing. (Vacca, 2006)

All of these approaches that were pointed out can be used together in the balanced literacy approach to ensure that students are getting everything that they can from the reading lessons. The balance of strategies such as these discussed has been proven to be effective in the classroom. “A clear knowledge of comprehension strategies combined with an awareness of when and how to use them can provide readers … with an arsenal of tactics to ensure that they construct meaning as they read” (Vacca, 2006) As good as the balanced approach is for students, the downside is that it is quite difficult for teachers.

The balanced approach to teaching could be somewhat overwhelming for new teachers because it requires them to utilize different methods to teach the material. There is a great debate going on about how well teachers are being educated in reading instruction. In an article that surveyed teachers to find education patterns came to a simple conclusion that relates to the balanced approach. “Clearly there was a consensus that an effective preservice reading education would include balanced, practical methodologies across a number of reading related courses supplemented by multiple field experience opportunities.” (Broemmel, 2006) This conclusion illustrates the idea that balance is necessary even for instructing adult teachers because it creates a diverse experience that everyone can benefit from.

Balanced literacy creates a diverse and eclectic approach to teaching learning. It utilizes numerous methods to include every student and promote effective and efficient readers by touching on the different learning styles. From struggling readers to advanced readers, all are able to benefit from the balanced literacy approach.


Broemmel, Amy D (2006).No teacher left behind: valuing teacher voice in elementary reading teacher education reform. Reading Research and Instruction. 46, 53.

Bukowiecki, Elaine M (2007).Teaching children how to READ. Kappa Delta Pi Record. 43, 58.

Coyne, Michael D (2006).Beginning reading instruction for students at risk for reading disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic. 41, 161.

Vacca, J, Vacca, R, Gove, M, Burkey, L, Lenhart, L, & McKeon, C (2006). Reading and learning to read. Boston: Pearson Publishing.

Wilkinson, Louise (2000).Classroom language and literacy learning. Handbook of Reading Research. 3.

The Role of Technology in Education

In the current age we live in, technology has become an important component. Every day there is some new gadget or software that makes lives easier and improves on the technology and software that already exists. Making lives easier is not, however, the only role technology plays in our lives.

Technology is playing an increasing role in education. As technology advances, it is used to benefit students of all ages in the learning process.

Technology used in the classroom helps students adsorb the material. For example, since some people are visual learners, projection screens linked to computers can allow students to see their notes instead of simply listening to a teacher deliver a lecture.

Software can be used to supplement class curriculum. The programs provide study questions, activities, and even tests and quizzes for a class that can help students continue learning outside the classroom.

Technology has also become part of many curriculums, even outside of computer and technology classes. Students use computers to create presentations and use the Internet to research topics for papers and essays.

Students also learn to use the technology available to them in computer and tech classes. This ensures that after graduation they will be able to use the technology in a work setting, which may put them ahead of someone who didn’t have access to a particular technology or software in their own school setting.

As technology advances, students have better access to educational opportunities like these. When something new and “better” is revealed, the “older” technology becomes more affordable, allowing it to be used in educational settings, even when schools are on a tight budget.

Technology has also advanced to help children even before they’ve started school. Educational video games and systems for young children helps them prepare for school and in some cases get a head start on their education.

There are people who may say children are “spoiled” by technology. Instead of being able to add a long column of numbers in their heads, for example, they turn to a calculator. Regardless of these arguments, technology is an important part of today’s society. By incorporating it into the classroom, students will be better equipped to transition from the classroom to the work place.

What is the Difference Between a Doctorate and a PhD?

It is wise to plan a career well in advance and a common question I asked by colleagues and friends is what are the actual differences between a Doctorate and a PhD? Are these degrees of equal length? Is a PhD considered to be of higher quality than a Doctorate?

A PhD and a Doctorate are in many cases worth the same and can be considered approximately equal. The both require the same number of hours, normally 60 semester hours. The main difference is that the PhD dissertation is more theoretical, while the Doctorate is more practically based and applied.

If you are in a position where you need to make the choice of which to study then more often than not it is common sense. Go with the course that will suit your personality and style. If you have conducted yourself in a majority research role and want to stay on that path, go with the PhD, otherwise, take the Doctorate. This is a better option for those students who would like to ‘hit the ground running’ in the world-of-work before they actually start their post-doctorate job.

It is a commonly misunderstood assumption that UK universities have doctorates that are by dissertation, submitting a thesis only. This may be considered an almost easy way through the system compared with the US route which is to do coursework and then sit a comprehensive examination.

While US students must work through mountains of coursework, their British counterparts work through long research components and dissertations. Indeed many professors from both sides of the Atlantic working together consider their respective programs to have been fairly comparable in terms of workload.

At this stage in your career it is never too late to seek further advice from a trusted careers advisor or research partner/supervisor at your current or previously attended educational establishment. Even if they aren’t completely sure what advice to give, they will almost certainly know someone who is.

When you write letters to professors of renowned research schools seeking admittance, nothing looks worse than an undecided research student. Seek advice early and you will feel and act like you are prepared to take on a PhD or Doctorate program of your choice.

Reference Services in Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone


Society is becoming more stratified and polarized, with the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, having limited cognitive skills wider apart than in any time in our history. In this period of increasing stratification by income and ability, the library in academic institutions may acts as a bridge between the entrenched social poles.

Reference libraries have the longest history of any type of library. They existed in the days of clay tablet and from such tablets, information was consulted and a list of concerns is being regarded as the primitive forerunners of current library catalogues. From their beginnings in ancient times, the functions of libraries have not altered significantly. However the format, quantity and content of the materials making up their stock and the resultant services have progressively been transformed to the point where the researchers today have access to a network of sophisticated information resources. The primary role of the library is educational and this has been the attitude if not the realisation of reference librarians (Higgens, 1988).

Academic libraries are those designed to meet general studies at the undergraduate and graduate levels and which also support their parent institutions in delivering their programmes for an effective teaching and implementation of practical skills. Higgens (1988) defined an academic library as that attached to help academic institutions above secondary level serving the teaching and research needs of students, staff and researchers. According to Harrods (2000) academic libraries are those found in universities, polytechnics, colleges and all other institutions forming part of or associated with the educational institutions.

Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Fourah Bay College library was established in 1827. It is located at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone in the Michael Jollife Building which was named after the late Mr. Michael Jollife, an expatriate who served as College librarian from 1961-1970.

The first floor of the library houses the reception desk; photocopying room; issue desk; Sierra Leone Collection (incorporating the United Nations Collection); the American Shelf; General Reference Collection; Cataloguing Department; Acquisition Department; Circulation Department and the College Librarian's office. The second floor holds the Textbook Collection. The third floor contains the General Lending Collection.

The lower ground floor houses the Bindery; staff rooms and stores. The library has Professional, Para-professional and other support staff. It uses the Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme and the Triplicate Issuing System with Card catalogue.

Fourah Bay College library is one of the outstanding academic libraries in Sierra Leone established with the mission statement "to build a comprehensive collection of recorded information to support effective teaching, research and training in the Liberal Arts, Pure and Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Social Sciences and Law and related fields to facilitate speedy access to information, and to optimize the use of collection by potential library users of Fourah Bay College and other institutions. "

Reference Service is the peak of library activity job. It involves the maintenance of a resource bank from which answers to queries are provided and materials needed by users are made available.Davidson (1979) defined reference service as the provision of information and materials to people entering a reference library and requesting help from the library staff. Katz (1997) viewed reference service as the behind-the-scene activities of the reference library in the selection, acquisition and maintenance of the library stock and its careful recordings and administration.

When we talk of reference service in academic libraries, we mean those activities undertaken by librarians and associated types of staff from the reference department in academic libraries. This is achieved through the use of collection of books, and other materials stocked in the reference department for reference purposes distinct from collection made for home reading or other use outside the library. The reference process in academic libraries involves the following:

• The user recognises his need for information;
• The user puts his question to the librarian;
• The librarian engages the questioner in a reference dialogue;
• The librarian refines and restates the question;
• The librarian formulates the search strategy;
• The librarian identifies and exploits his own and / or external information resources;
• The librarian presents his tentative findings;
• The user assesses the relevance of these in relation to his requirements; and
• The user accepts an approved answer.

Reference materials at the Fourah Bay College Library include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, abstract journals, directories, yearbooks, biographies periodicals / serials, indexes to periodicals, newspapers, maps and charts, technical reports, patents, standard specifications, dissertations, theses, conference proceedings and the academic and administrative calendar of events or the operation of the college.

In addition to these materials the library offers the following services:

Reference Service: This refers to the personal assistance given to users in finding specific information whether direct or indirect. At Fourah Bay College Library, a resource bank is maintained from which answers to questions are provided and materials needed by users are made available.

Bibliographic Service: The library prepares book lists and bibliographies for its clients, especially post-graduate students which serve as a great aid in their research activities especially in the writing of their theses and dissertation.

Photocopying Service: This service is provided for students who wish to photocopy their notes as well as lecturers who want to reproduce multiple copies of useful materials to make their lecture notes. Users pay a fee for this service.

Internet Service: This is the latest among the services provided at the Fourah Bay College Library. The Library provides an opportunity for staff and students to access information online via the use of the Internet. However, to use the system, the clientele must have some skills in the use computers and a fee is also charged for the service.

Binding Service: Mutilated references materials are sent to bindery to be bound. However it is not a free for all service as some cost is charged for the services rendered especially to students and for personal work of staff members.

The reference department at the Fourah Bay College library is a special one from which materials can not be borrowed for home reading. It is served by special librarians called Reference Librarians or Information Officers, who assist and advise patrons in their research and other literature needs. They provide bibliographic or intellectual access and offer targeted services and programmes with the mission of educating, informing and entertaining a variety of audiences and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole.

Reference Queries: are also answered in the library. These questions posed by the library patrons to the reference librarians with the aim of getting the right information to satisfy their needs. These queries are divided into:

Directional Queries: These are queries in which the reference librarian is asked simply for directions.

Ready Reference Queries: These are referred to as quick reference questions. They are queries in which the reference librarians need to consult only one source, and that adjacent to the enquiry point, in order to deal with the user's needs. This is distinguished from the purely directional level of work by the fact that the librarians need to consult some data rather than simply answer from personal knowledge.

Specific Search Queries: These are described as those in which reference librarians may need to consult several sources to ensure complete the satisfaction of user needs. They are the kind which are clearly understood without too much discussion and the sources required are obvious and fairly elementary.

Research Queries: These are queries that require extended searches, perhaps over several days and possibly involving a number of library staff concurrently. The marshalling of facts and figures from a wide range of sources, together with the need to write extensive background notes and explanations, and probably to borrow materials from other libraries and make a telephone call to advice or getting assistance from other libraries will be a feature of this type of query

Challenges of Reference Services at the Fourah Bay College Library

Academic Libraries in Sierra Leone, especially Fourah Bay College Library are not without challenges. These range from shortage of funds through lack of adequate professionally skilled staff to erratic power supply.

The library is wholly and solely dependent upon the college administration for funding. An assessment of funding at Fourah Bay College Library reveals that a very low priority is given to the institution's academic nerve centre. The library is gravely underfunded. Games and Sports Division is given a higher quotation than the library. This financial challenge has therefore limited the library in the provision of an excellent reference service to its clients. The library also lacks the required current reference materials to handle reference queries. This financial constraints has limited the library in acquiring the most recent reference materials.

Further the number of professional staff is small compared to the number of para-professional and other support staff. The reference section does not have adequate staff to handle the volume of reference queries from the bulk of the users of the library especially during peak periods.

Power outages also pose a serious challenge. The problem, though a national one, has affected the operations of the library. The 21st century library is supposed to be a digital library which must thrive on power supply. Sadly power supply in Sierra Leone is erratic and this has handicapped the Fourah Bay College library greatly. As such staff and users could not make use of such facilities as computer, searching the Internet for recent reference materials and information or photocopying materials which can not be used outside the library or even have access to automated reference materials.

The reference department at the library does not have Internet facilities to aid in answering reference queries that require current response. Also the seating accommodation in the reference department at the library is inadequate and can not accommodate the large number of students in the college who come in for reference services. The reference department also lacks Current Awareness Services (CAS), Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) all of which form the basis for reference services. Moreover the reference sources and resources available at the reference department are not well publicised or marketed which could serve as a strong link between the department and the clients.

Indeed, reference service is one of the most important services that a library uses to meet its aims and objectives. There is considerable potential in the use the college library of reference services but there are also many challenges. There should be therefore commitment on the part of the librarians, library administration, users and the college administration in order to achieve quality and sustainability in the development and improvement of reference services. Only through their active participation will reference services transform the teaching and learning process, alter the nature of information seeking, organising and using behaviour at Fourah Bay College.

What Are Conference Proceedings?

The simple definition of conference proceedings goes something like this: A collection of academic papers presented at a professional association meeting or conference. However, many of the words, like meeting and conference, which make up that definition are interchangeable with other terms…and often are. If you’re not an academic or an engineer, you will benefit from the following expanded explanation.

For starters the term conference can also be exchanged with the following terms:

  • Meeting
  • Symposium
  • Exposition
  • Colloquium
  • Workshop
  • Exhibition
  • Confabulation (yes, confabulation — I didn’t imagine it)

The term proceedings can also be exchanged with the following terms:

  • Papers
  • Manuscripts
  • Abstracts (a brief paper — a paragraph up to 1 page)
  • Extended Abstracts (2-5 pages)
  • Presentations

And the term association can be exchanged with any organization, like: society, agency, research foundation, council, institute, corporation, etc.

While conferences can be focused on any academic subject, from Humanities and Social Studies to Natural and Applied sciences, they are often focused on a specific discipline. For example, one conference hosted by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society will include 30 – 40 papers all focused tightly on, well…veterinary acupuncture. This focus provides a depth of coverage unlike any other scientific publication. In fact, one of the truly unique qualities of conference proceedings lies in the fact that they are made up of research papers from many individuals, which makes their character distinctly different from scientific books, textbooks or journals.

One conference proceedings title can include as few as 5-10 papers or as many as 2,000 papers. Some conferences are held each year, or every two years, three years, etc. Most proceedings publications are referred to as “monographs” (stand-alone), and others are part of a series. For example, the Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings Series may have a symposium titled “Three-Dimensional Nano- and Microphotonics”, which is volume #1014 in the series.

They are relatively cost-effective sources for academic research since they are less expensive than their higher priced relatives, journals — and typically have more content than journals, albeit a little less prestigious. Conference proceedings often include new research breakthroughs, innovations, methodologies and best practices, particularly in the fields of science, engineering and technology. They provide a platform for researchers to identify potential collaborators, and can influence work in related disciplines. It is at these important national and international conferences that research findings are reported and debated for the first time – long before their formal publication in journals and textbooks.

Hopefully, the next time someone mentions conference proceedings you won’t have a blank stare on your face.

MBA Verses EMBA Verses Executive Programs

Decision-making Process for Management Programs:

This is a very common dilemma with college grads these days. I did quite a bit of research for a couple of years, as I already had a MBA from India and was debating on whether to pursue an EMBA or second MBA. I was offered a second MBA from a decent local school, and my craving to gain knowledge from top schools and network beyond my domain made me embark on a PLD ( Program For Leadership Development) from Harvard.

First and foremost, I believe your passion is important for your career ladder and not your degree or your school. Look at what your local schools are good at and known for and see whether they meet your passion via a niche program, i.e. maybe you want to be an entrepreneur or an urban planner or a marketing analytics analyst. What I’m saying is the credentials of the MBA do not always matter. Think about it, CFA/CMA/CPA have better ROI compared to MBA, even though they need hard work.

MBA – Some people will agree that the benefits of attending an Ivy League or other “top” school for this program clearly give you advantages for your professional future. However, some will disagree and say the choice of school does not matter. I say both can be correct. Top schools can provide you with access to various resources and networking connections. The recognizable name of the school can usually play a small but valuable part in your job search and interviews. When it comes to core education, the books and materials utilized are almost the same as those in “regular” schools; however the teaching, amenities and networking offered at top schools play a big role in differentiating you from other MBA grads. For instance, if you are an Ivy League grad, the network is wide-spread and will give you access to valuable information about alumni-affiliated companies.

When all is said and done, attending a top school can be key in getting your foot in the door of your future profession. Once in, your real talents and skills need to shine to help you move up the career ladder. Let me add this disclaimer – education aside, you must still succeed in the interview process, which requires careful preparation and thinking on your feet. If you decide to obtain your MBA from a local, lesser-known school, that doesn’t mean the education you receive will be to a lesser degree. Make sure you research which schools have the largest alumni in the local community and then start networking. The first step to your successful network could be your Alumni club or try searching Do your research to get an understanding of the topics discussed in the MBA classroom and how they relate to your experience and expectations. My PLD program classmate was a Wharton Business School drop out for that reason.

EMBA – The Executive MBA has become an attraction for people who have 10 yrs or more of business experience. Although it did spark my interest, I had difficulty doing ROI for programs at top schools as they have exorbitant fees, relatively speaking. If you are flying out every week or every other week, then you need to include those expenses as well. The advantages I see in this program are as follows: Brand name, comprehensive domain knowledge on other subjects, and networking at executive level (very good bonding for approximately 2 years and will continue for life).

The in-class discussions will be interesting, as your classmates are probably at the same decision making level as you. You can complete this program while working which can be beneficial to most participants. I believe Wharton requires company sponsorship & nomination (fees to be paid by your firm as well as their recommendation of you) to participate while most others don’t. Harvard does not have an EMBA program per se, but has PLD which caters to the same target market. It is focused on leadership rather than comprehensive coverage of a multitude of subjects. It is usually difficult to make career path changes (like IT to Marketing) unless the company you work for gives you that chance. Thoughts are welcome on this subject.

2nd MBA – Many people who obtained their MBA outside the United States/ European region often seek an additional MBA from a top school in the United States. I feel there is nothing wrong with it. You will see quite an interesting difference in programs. The important topic that will be discussed in the application form/interview for this program will be your “demonstration of the ‘need’ for an additional MBA”. Students have shared interesting perspectives on this topic, ranging from the need to understand cultural differences in management arena to wanting to broaden their range of business expertise to feeling like the “frog in the well.” Part-time MBA – This is beneficial to our working generation. Some schools, such as Ross, may let you sit in on the job interviews done for the full time students. This is an opportunity for people who are looking to change careers from one domain to another.

A Word on Consultants:

To what extent consultants help candidates to be successful is debatable. Some have had great success with consultants; others would say it is just too much trouble. Do your research to find one who is reliable and meets your expectations. I have added a link in this blog that discusses feedback on consultants. I did lot of research a few years back when I was targeting MIT Sloan’s fellow Management Program. Through all this research I found some consultants to be rigid, materialistic, and some that lived by the phrase “my way or the highway.”

One of them was so angry that I consulted the school about the admission process before hiring him that he terminated our communication. The common factors among these consultants were: they are among the Adcom, they know what schools/employers look for and they will help with applications and probe your thinking. My research revealed that while they may not all be pleasant to work with, they are skilled in putting a positive spin on your application. In the end I chose a mentor, not a consultant. She has very good perspective on who I am and what my passion entails. That helped me think straight and make the right decision for myself, which is why I ended up in PLD.

Executive education programs – PLD/AMP/GMP/KMI:

These are some of the other programs I did research on. They cater to executives. If you are a Manager/VP/CTO/CFO/CEO, I suggest that you look into these programs. Harvard’s PLD/AMP/GMP programs are very intense and the selection process needs to be commended, as you will end up with classmates who are highly talented and have the same level of expertise as you. Among the students in my PLD class was an author, a pilot, a CFO of the world’s largest exporter of dates, a surgeon, IT manager, and an entrepreneur.

The list goes on for 100 well-qualified candidates. They are the cream of the crop since every candidate must be sponsored and nominated by their organization even before your application is considered. The application form for PLD is filled up with complex questions and your sponsor needs to have patience and clear understanding of your talents. The selection process is quick but accuracy is important! You need to cross your T’s and dot your I’s. Kellogg’s KMI seems to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to the selection process; however their teaching is still excellent and the quality of the program is still on par. A colleague of mine attended this program and thought highly of the professors and the program itself. The class size is usually in the range of 20-30.

The Importance of Grammar and Verbal Tense in ESL Teaching

Grammar and ESL Teaching: Past and Present Tense


The teaching of grammar as part of ESL programs is important; while it is a debated subject, it has been demonstrated that “natural learners” of second languages do not become proficient in the language if they do not understand the basic structure as provided by grammar studies. Hinkel and Fotos (2002) note that individuals over a “critical period” of age 15 are at risk for this problem, as are individuals who acquire enough of the second language to be able to communicate even with grammar deficiencies, and many individuals who learn English as their second language do not receive the negative feedback that would let them know they are doing something wrong that they would receive in a structured situation (18).

The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of the literature to demonstrate the importance of thorough attention to verbal tense.

Literature Review

Plotnik discusses the effect of tense: every narrative has a base tense, one that moves the action of the communication forward. The use of the tense establishes the mood for the conversation or the story being told – past tense is traditionally the storyteller’s medium, in which events have taken place and people have acted out their destinies. There is a finite basis to expired time. Present tense, on the other hand, promotes a feeling or mood of immediacy and the potential for change or flexibility (Plotnik, 2003).

According to Mc Carthy and Carter (2002), communication involves relational aspects and the desire to express oneself politely and indirectly (as opposed to bluntly), often manifests itself in tense forms that are part of the knowledge of correct grammatical construction. These include verbs in a progressive context such as want, like, have to and so forth. The range of tense helps individuals to create communication with relational, interpersonal meaning. The speaking strategy of tense creates a relationship between the speaker, the event and the listener that can either involve or detach the participants from the event and each other. Understanding and correctly using the past and present tense has the potential of significantly increasing not only effective communication of verbal and written messages, but also of correctly and proactively establishing relational aspects of events and situations that it is an important part of proactive grammar instruction.

Limitations in the development of the English past tense affix -ed have been well-documented in ESL students across a variety of language tasks, including spontaneous conversations, elicited productions, sentence completion, sentence recall, production of nonsense forms, writing samples, and grammaticality judgments. Specifically, “the morphophonological component of English tense marking represents the patterns children need to extract from the input in order to produce the various forms associated with past tense. Specifically, children have to learn to “add -ed ” to regular verb stems and recognize the various alternative phonological processes involved in indicating the past tense of irregular verbs.”

There is a semantic contrast between tenses under three headings, location in time, factuality and backshifting. The primary use of the past tense indicates a situation in which “actions, events, processes, relations, states of affairs or whatever a clause expresses” are dynamic (in which case they ‘take place’) or static in which case they ‘obtain’…The past tense may be more directly indicated by an expression including time such as “yesterday”, a definite time in which the topic of the sentence occurred. Use of the past tense remarks on something that has happened, but does not necessary indicate that the situation continues into the present.

Huddleston (1984) noted that past time is an inherently relational concept; the past tense inflection indicates that the time the situation or even took place is past in relationship to another time, usually at the time the sentence is said or written. The time of the situation in the present tense will normally be present or future, and may also be expressed in temporal terms (such as now, next week) or by a subordinate when clause such as ‘when she gets here, I am going to talk to her’, indicating future. One important use of the subordinate clause is restricted to cases when the future situation in which the predicted event will take place is assured – Huddleston uses the example “He is ill next week” as a nonsensical misuse of the present tense as opposed to the action verb in “We leave for Paris next week” (145). This example shows how incorrect usage of past and present tense can not only impair communication and understanding, but have the potential to affect the “face” of the speaker/writer in social and work settings as well.

Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, & Svartik (1995) identified five major classes of alternations used in the making of English past participles.

The first class includes all regular verbs (e.g., cleaned, kicked, smashed) and a large set of irregular verbs, and is composed of those verbs whose past tense and past participle forms are identical (e.g., brought, built, caught, had, left, kept, said, taught, thought, told). The second class contains high frequency irregular verbs such as hit, cut, and put that remain unchanged across their present, past, or past participle forms. For a third class of irregular verbs, the past participle is generated via the affixation of -en to their past tense form. This class includes verbs like beaten, broken, spoken, stolen. For the fourth class of irregular verbs, the – en morpheme is affixed to the present tense form (e.g., blown, eaten, taken, thrown). A final class of irregular verbs uses participle forms that are distinct from both their present and past tense forms (e.g., been, drunk, gone, written, ridden).

Redmond (2003) notes that production of the English past participle requires command of four advanced grammatical contexts: the passive, the present perfect, the past perfect, and the past modal. From syntactic and semantic perspectives, each of usage is considered complex relative to simple active sentences because they require speakers to coordinate multiple relations between tense, voice, aspect, and mood within the verb phrase.

Ionin and Wexler’s 2002 research amongst 20 child ESL learners found that they almost never produce incorrect tense/agreement morpohology. Also, the researchers noted, “the L2 learners use suppletive inflection at a significantly higher rate than affixal inflection, and overgenerate be auxiliary forms in utterances lacking progressive participles (e.g., they are help people).

A grammaticality judgment task of English tense/agreement morphology similarly shows that the child ESL learners are significantly more sensitive to the ‘be paradigm’ than to inflection on thematic verbs. These findings suggest that tense is present in the learners’ grammar, and that it is instantiated through forms of the be auxiliary. It is argued that omission of inflection is due to problems with the realization of surface morphology … it is furthermore suggested that second language learners initially associate morphological agreement with verb-raising and, thus, acquire forms of be before inflectional morphology on in situ thematic verbs (95).


The correct use of tense is an important skill for adult ESL individuals to have and the lesson plans developed to address this directly will help them communicate effectively with co-workers and people in the community as to what they want and need, what they have had and have done and also to establish their identity based on their past history and future wants.

It is important for ESL students to learn grammar so that they are able to express personal thoughts in the appropriate syntax. Effective use of syntax is important to show different attitudes and express power and identity. Some incorrect forms of grammar may even be interpreted by the listener/reader as being rude or impolite. The more precisely an individual can express their thoughts and meanings, the more effective their communication will be, and the more potential for success they will have in their interpersonal and business communications throughout their lives.


Hinkel E. and Fotos, S. (Eds.) (2002). New perspectives on grammar teaching in second language classrooms. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erbaum Associates.

Huddleston, R. (1984). Introduction to the grammar of English. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Ionin, T. and Wexler, K. (2002). Why is ‘is’ easier than ‘-s’?: acquisition of tense/agreement morphology by child second language learners of English. Second Language Research, 18(2): 95-136.

McCarthy, M. and Carter, R. (2002). Ten criteria for a spoken grammar. In: Hinkel E. and Fotos, S. (Eds.) New perspectives on grammar teaching in second language classrooms. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erbaum Associates.

Plotnik, A. (2003). Tense counts! Writer, 116(10): 17-18.

Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G., and Svartvik, J. (1995). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. New York: Longman.

Redmond, S.M. (2003). Children’s productions of the affix -ed in past tense and past participle contexts. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Resources, 46(5): 1095-109.

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Effective Shift Handover in the Processing Industry

A successful handover between shifts heavily depends on the organizational skills of management and the effective use of the communication tools available. Learn what these tools are and get the most out of your operators.

On numerous occasions, poor handovers between shifts have been responsible for accidents. A prominent example is the Texas City fire involving BP’s isomerization column on March 24, 2005. The nightshift filled the column. The dayshift continued to fill the column; it flooded, and eventually led to an accident killing 15 people.

A successful handover between shifts heavily depends on the organizational skills of management and the effective use of the communication tools available. These tools are:

1. the shift log book;

2. the shift handover meeting;

3. and the shift team meeting.

The shift logbook

Electronic log books that have a predefined plan for data collection seem to work best. They are a nexus, defining the status of the operation, available for all within the organization. Some may be automated and others may be the gathering of an ope ator’s investigations or calculations. Additional information may be harvested from laboratory results, managers, engineers, supervisors, field operators, maintenance personnel, maintenance or business planners, and schedulers. In its best form, the pre-defined sheet of the log book ensures consistent data collected at defined, scheduled times. In its worst form, the “log book” is a collection of disparate data maintained by a manager, or managers – not shared up, and down, the chain of command within the organization.

Managers shouldn’t assume that operators are competent writers. Nor should they assume that operators will produce clear descriptions of events. Operators are not hired for their communication skills. We’ve found that many plants managers do not evaluate candidates for these skills. However, companies are beginning to see the value of communications skills for their operators. Recently, many companies have started testing new recruits for their writing abilities. They are beginning to test existing operators. Much to their chagrin, these managers discovered that some operators have reading and writing skills below those expected for high school graduates. Remedial training can save these operators and make them more useful to their companies.

So, how can companies transform their operations and maintenance from reactive to predictive if their operators can’t read and write? This will be one of the challenges they must grapple with as they begin to build the multiple variant statistical models needed to predict plant conditions. The future of proactive operability depends on operators who can effectively document process events and investigate their causes. Besides content, there is also context – what data should be included in daily reporting? Ideally, clear boundary lines should be drawn between different units within a plant containing several product lines. However, a periodic review should be conducted to assure that no one will be blindsided by an unexpected problem. Obviously, it will sometimes be necessary to report the same measurement in two log books. Whenever possible, avoid sharing of information between remotely separated units – the log book should include values for measurements the unit has control over.

Shift handover meeting

The handover should be formal and consistent; it should be held at specific times. Most of all, it must be valued by those in attendance, not considered a waste of time or a ritual. The interview should be a brief exchange of information encompassing not just immediate problems but identifying threats to production and quality. Side issues such as potential environmental excursions and safety issues should be included, or may be handled in separate meetings. The best handovers follow an established format. Issues are reported in order of importance: safety, environment, quality, production, reliability Meetings should be as short as possible or they develop a life of their own: attendees devote their time to preparing for the meeting instead of solving problems.

Sidebar meetings should be organized for items requiring a more detailed discussion. And, most importantly: the final minutes must be collated and distributed to attendees.

Follow a fixed format

1. Safety

2. Environment

3. Quality

4. Production

5. Reliability

These minutes can be used for identification of potential opportunities, including: increases in production or quality, maintenance possibilities, control system continuous improvements, better control optimization, alarm rationalization, instrumentation fault correction, and development of key performance indicators (KPIs). This work generally occurs further up the chain.

Shift team meeting

This meeting usually takes longer that the handover meeting and requires participation at the tactical and strategic level. It should take place early in the shift. The purpose of the shift team meeting is sharing information between line supervisors, upper managers and staff functions. Sometimes, operators or technicians are included for discussing particular problems. Sometimes, consultants, sales, public relations, or other corporate staff should take part. If the people are located in separate buildings, or travel time is too great for a single meeting, consider networked electronic white boards to allow sharing information and video conferencing. The meeting will have to be adapted for days with managers and engineers and nights for just supervisors.

The meeting should begin with a review of the previous shift for each product, or department. This is the tactical section of the meeting. It is best to follow the same outline for each meeting. Begin this segment with a summary of each product or department, with topics in order of importance: safety, environment, quality, production, and reliability. Unlike the handover meeting, the shift meeting should address more details of a strategic nature.

The tactical section should cover the threats, limitations and potential opportunities. The meeting should address staffing issues, ongoing maintenance repair, preparation for maintenance, lockout and tagout, test results, special permit preparation and implementation. Shipping and material movement plans may be presented. Shift monitoring requirements should be periodically reviewed for operator coverage.

The strategic element, which follows, should address complex issues. These include: training and education needs, planning and preparation for future work, updating and reviewing procedures, safety and environmental education, research and development, process testing, changes in sampling, vibration monitoring testing, product inventories, interactions within the corporate venue, planned outages, and long-term goals.

As with the handover meetings, items requiring detailed discussions should be held in a later sidebar meeting. If possible, for a complex production facility, it is best to summarize each product, briefly, by subject: safety, environment, quality, production and reliability – leave the details for a separate meeting. It is especially important that minutes be prepared for the shift team meetings. Whenever possible, these minutes should be widely shared within the facility.

Developing a shift monitoring plan

The console operators should have a say in establishing a monitoring plan. They have the best understanding of how the process is operating today and how it has operated in the past. They acquired this knowledge from interactions with the process controls and f llowing laboratory analysis. The console operators should not be an untapped resource. However, they require direction from management.

Today, many of your operators have their own routines, which may have been handed down to them from other operators, or may have been developed through operating experience. A better approach is to provide clear guidance and a strategic approach. Managers should review the performance of their best operators and develop general procedures that address the most critical plant issues. If possible, the best operators should help in developing training. This training can then be passed along to less-skilled and future operators. The most elegant approach would be to include their knowledge in a dynamic simulator or emulator.

Training is often limited because of lack of resources. Sometimes, even operating instructions, the basis for an operating manual, aren’t current. If this is the case, bringing them up-to-date is the first step towards developing a shift monitoring plan and improving training. A poorly organized, or outdated, human-computer interface (HCI) can drastically encumber training. For the best results, the HCI should be hierarchical with an overview of all units under the operator’s scope of control. Next, the HCI should have a unit view and finally the ability to display detailed and diagnostic information, i.e., an alarm page.

If possible, detailed or critical procedures should be imbedded in the controls: before the operator can make a change on the screen, instructions must be acknowledged. Caution is required to ensure that these instructions are read.

The best systems log alarms using an historian for future reference; these systems are available for reference not only by managers but by operators. The monitoring plan depends on the field operators carrying out their assigned duties when they need to be carried out.

Field operators will have an assigned schedule that cover s sampling routines and equipment checks. They will receive assignments from console operators to take manual actions such as starting pumps, opening or closing valves, but they should also conduct more focused inspections.

Field operators will be guided in this preventative maintenance by information received at the shift handover. This work usually keeps them busy during first shift but may be ignored, or brushed aside on the back shifts. Sometimes, operators are borrowed for other duties such as loading and unloading of trucks, which have nothing to do with their responsibilities to the unit. Again values and beliefs need to be aligned with the production goals – management must enforce these values.

Pro-active operability

Some companies have embraced a dynamic strategy of continual improvement. This approach involves autonomous field operators applying predictive and preventative maintenance tools to the restoration of plant equipment and maximum production potential. The strategy also involves console operators who analyze production data to maximize product quality and managers who direct the operators to achieve plant goals.

Today, hand-held computers are available for operators to track and record equipment health conditions. The field operators’ role is changing to more of an equipment specialist and if they are not outside with the equipment, they are monitoring and analyzing data to predict equipment failures or operating costs.

Using this new strategy, console operators are no longer waiting for alarms before they interact with the control system. They are trending processes and setting up monitoring strategies – detecting problems before the alarm initiates. This strategy requires revisiting old methods. Pattern recognition was a technique used by operators in the 1950s to 1980s and with the introduction of digital data the analog charts and trends became less popular.

Today console operators are going back to using this method, and HCI developers are utilizing some new techniques such as polar plot diagrams or linear profile charts with trends to monitor lots more process conditions than previously observed.

A powerful tool

One of the most important tools we have for managing the changes that occur throughout a shift is the shift handover. If the shift handover is managed well, operators will be equipped to deal with dynamic process changes.

They will be able to manage equipment changes confidently, from a more in-depth perspective. Replacing equipment following pre-determined maintenance schedules will be transformed into pro-active, predictive maintenance.

Lastly, having a better understanding of what people do and how they do it will allow better decision-making when people changes are proposed.

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