31 August, 2011

Howard Gardner on Multiple Intelligences

Here he discusses student-directed learning, multiple intelligences, and a different approach to assessment.

1. On the importance of engaging students actively in what they are studying.

We have schools because we hope that some day when children have left schools that they will still be able to use what it is that they've learned. And there is now a massive amount of evidence from all realms of science that unless individuals take a very active role in what it is that they're studying, unless they learn to ask questions, to do things hands on, to essentially re-create things in their own mind and transform them as is needed, the ideas just disappear. The student may have a good grade on the exam, we may think that he or she is learning, but a year or two later there's nothing left.

2. On the characteristics of student-directed learning.

If, on the other hand, somebody has carried out an experiment himself or herself, analyzed the data, made a prediction, and saw whether it came out correctly, if somebody is doing history and actually does some interviewing himself or herself -- oral histories -- then reads the documents, listens to it, goes back and asks further questions, writes up a paper. That's the kind of thing that's going to adhere, whereas if you simply memorize a bunch of names and a bunch of facts, even a bunch of definitions, there's nothing to hold on to.

3. On the theory of multiple intelligences.

The idea of multiple intelligences comes out of psychology. It's a theory that was developed to document the fact that human beings have very different kinds of intellectual strengths and that these strengths are very, very important in how kids learn and how people represent things in their minds, and then how people use them in order to show what it is that they've understood.

If we all had exactly the same kind of mind and there was only one kind of intelligence, then we could teach everybody the same thing in the same way and assess them in the same way and that would be fair. But once we realize that people have very different kinds of minds, different kinds of strengths -- some people are good in thinking spatially, some in thinking language, others are very logical, other people need to be hands on and explore actively and try things out -- then education, which treats everybody the same way, is actually the most unfair education. Because it picks out one kind of mind, which I call the law professor mind -- somebody who's very linguistic and logical -- and says, if you think like that, great, if you don't think like that, there's no room on the train for you.

4. On technology and multiple intelligences.

If we know that one child has a very spatial or visual-spatial way of learning, another child has a very hands-on way of learning, a third child likes to ask deep philosophical questions, the fourth child likes stories, we don't have to talk very fast as a teacher. We can actually provide software, we can provide materials, we can provide resources that present material to a child in a way in which the child will find interesting and will be able to use his or her intelligences productively and, to the extent that the technology is interactive, the child will actually be able to show his or her understanding in a way that's comfortable to the child.

We have this myth that the only way to learn something is to read it in a textbook or hear a lecture on it. And the only way to show that we've understood something is to take a short-answer test or maybe occasionally with an essay question thrown in. But that's nonsense. Everything can be taught in more than one way. And anything that's understood can be shown in more than one way. I don't believe because there are eight intelligences we have to teach things eight ways. I think that's silly. But we always ought to be asking ourselves, "Are we reaching every child, and, if not, are there other ways in which we can do it?"

5. On the need for fundamental change in the curriculum.

I think that we teach way too many subjects and we cover way too much material and the end result is that students have a very superficial knowledge, as we often say, a mile wide and an inch deep. Then once they leave school, almost everything's been forgotten. And I think that school needs to change to have a few priorities and to really go into those priorities very deeply.

Let's take the area of science. I actually don't care if a child studies physics or biology or geology or astronomy before he goes to college. There's plenty of time to do that kind of detailed work. I think what's really important is to begin to learn to think scientifically. To understand what a hypothesis is. How to test it out and see whether it's working or not. If it's not working, how to revise your theory about things. That takes time. There's no way you can present that in a week or indeed even in a month. You have to learn about it from doing many different kinds of experiments, seeing when the results are like what you predicted, seeing when they're different, and so on.

But if you really focus on science in that kind of way by the time you go to college -- or, if you don't go to college, by the time you go to the workplace -- you'll know the difference between a statement that is simply a matter of opinion or prejudice and one for which there's solid evidence.

6. On how assessment in school differs from assessment in other arenas such as sports or music.

The most important thing about assessment is knowing what it is that you should be able to do. And the best way for me to think about it is a child learning a sport or a child learning an art form, because it is completely unmysterious what you have to be to be a quarterback or a figure skater or a violin player. You see it, you try it out, you're coached, you know when you're getting better, you know how you're doing compared to other kids.

In school, assessment is mystifying. Nobody knows what's going to be on the test, and when the test results go back, neither the teacher nor the student knows what to do. So what I favor is highlighting for kids from the day they walk into school the performances and exhibitions for which they're going to be accountable.

7. On the need for a new approach to assessment in schools.

Let's get real. Let's look at the kinds of things that we really value in the world. Let's be as explicit as we can. Let's provide feedback to kids from as early as possible and then let them internalize the feedback so they themselves can say what's going well, what's not going so well.

I'm a writer and initially I had to have a lot of feedback from editors, including a lot of rejections, but over time I learned what was important. I learned to edit myself and now the feedback from editors is much less necessary. And I think anybody as an adult knows that as you get to be more expert in things you don't have to do so much external critiquing, you can do what we call self-assessment. And in school, assessment shouldn't be something that's done to you, it should be something where you are the most active agent.

8. On what needs to happen in order that long-standing change occurs in public education.

I think for there to be long-standing change in American education that is widespread rather than just on the margins, first of all people have to see examples of places that are like their own places where the new kind of education really works, where students are learning deeply, where they can exhibit their knowledge publicly, and where everybody who looks at the kids says, "That's the kind of kids I want to have." So we need to have enough good examples.

Second of all, we need to have the individuals who are involved in education, primarily teachers and administrators, believe in this, really want to do it, and get the kind of help that they need in order to be able to switch, so to speak, from a teacher-centered, let's-stuff-it-into-the-kid's-mind kind of education to one where the preparation is behind the scenes and the child himself or herself is at the center of learning.

Third of all, I think we need to have assessment schemes that really convince everybody that this kind of education is working. And it's no good to have child-centered learning and then have the same, old multiple-choice tests that were used fifty or one-hundred years ago.

Finally, I think there has to be a political commitment that says this is the kind of education that we want to have in our country, and maybe outside this country, for the foreseeable future. And as long as people are busy bashing teachers or saying that we can't try anything new because it might fail then reform will be stifled as it has been in the past.

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28 August, 2011


1. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
2. Don't have negative thoughts of things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
3. Don't overdo; keep your limits.
4. Don't take yourself so seriously; no one else does.
5. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
6. Dream more while you are awake.
7. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
8. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner of his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
9. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don't hate others.
10. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
11. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
12. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn.
Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
13. Smile and laugh more.
14. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

15. Call your family often.
16. Each day give something good to others.
17. Forgive everyone for everything.
18. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
19. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
20. What other people think of you is none of your business.
21. Your job will not take care of you when you are sick. Your family and friends will. Stay in touch.

22. Put GOD first in anything and everything that you think, say and do.
23. GOD heals everything.
24. Do the right things.
25. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
26. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
27. The best is yet to come.
28. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
29. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
30. If you know GOD you will always be happy. So, be happy.

21 August, 2011

The 9 Essential Skills of Human Resources Management

#1: Organization

Human Resources management requires an orderly approach. Organized files, strong time management skills and personal efficiency are key to the Human Resources function. You’re dealing with people’s lives and careers here, and when a manager requests a personnel file or a compensation recommendation that lines up with both the organization and the industry, it won’t do to say, “Hold on. I’ll see if I can find it.”

#2: Multitasking

On any day, an HR professional will deal with an employee’s personal issue one minute, a benefit claim the next and a recruiting strategy for a hard-to-fill job the minute after. Priorities and business needs move fast and change fast, and colleague A who needs something doesn’t much care if you’re already helping colleague B. You need to be able to handle it all, all at once.

#3: Discretion and Business Ethics

Human Resources professionals are the conscience of the company, as well as the keepers of confidential information. As you serve the needs of top management, you also monitor officers’ approaches to employees to ensure proper ethics are observed. You need to be able to push back when they aren’t, to keep the firm on the straight and narrow. Not an easy responsibility! Of course, you always handle appropriately, and never divulge to any unauthorized person, confidential information about anyone in the organization.

#4: Dual Focus

HR professionals need to consider the needs of both employees and management. There are times you must make decisions to protect the individual, and other times when you protect the organization, its culture, and values. These decisions may be misunderstood by some, and you may catch flak because of it, but you know that explaining your choices might compromise confidential information. That’s something you would never do.

#5: Employee Trust

Employees expect Human Resources professionals to advocate for their concerns, yet you must also enforce top management’s policies. The HR professional who can pull off this delicate balancing act wins trust from all concerned.

#6: Fairness

Successful HR professionals demonstrate fairness. This means that communication is clear, that peoples’ voices are heard, that laws and policies are followed, and that privacy and respect is maintained.

#7: Dedication to Continuous Improvement

HR professionals need to help managers coach and develop their employees. The goal is continued improvement and innovation as well as remediation. And looking to their own houses, the HR professional also uses technology and other means to continuously improve the HR function itself.

#8: Strategic Orientation

Forward-thinking HR professionals take a leadership role and influence management’s strategic path. In gauging and filling the labor needs of the company, devising compensation schemes, and bringing on board new skill sets leading to business growth, they provide the proof for the often-heard management comment, “People are our most important asset.”

#9: Team Orientation

Once, companies were organized into hierarchies of workers headed by supervisors. Today, the team is king. HR managers must consequently understand team dynamics and find ways to bring disparate personalities together and make the team work.

Nine Skills, But Also One Caveat

As we listed these skills, one thing we didn’t do was try to prioritize them. Because no general list of skills can take into account the business strategy at your particular organization.

Which leads to the caveat we mentioned, as expressed by Bob Brady?

“HR is a creature of, and serves the business strategy,” Brady says. “It’s important for HR people to know what that strategy is and what makes the business tick so the approach to HR can be tailored accordingly.

“Never think of HR in isolation,” he advises. “Because if Human Resources professionals think of themselves as ‘just HR,’ that’s what the rest of the organization will think too.”

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Resilience - Managing at the Speed of Change By Daryl Conner

Review by Radhakrishnan Chettour

On my MBA guide’s suggestion, I decided to read Daryl Conner's Managing at the Speed of Change. While it is yet another book I have read on change management this year, its focus is more on the foundations of why changes work (or fail), based on his research and experiences. I enjoyed the model he developed in the book. I believe this model can be very well applied in K-12 Schools which are either struggling or hoping to leap in this tough competitive world.

The central theme of the book has to do with the subtitle: "How resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail." Resilience. The idea he develops is that people (and groups) have a reserve capacity for change. There are many factors that affect this reserve, and that winning leaders manage to implement changes in such a way that this reserved is never depleted. There are even some discussions for growing the capacity for change - changes themselves are certainly not going to come any slower in this world. Similarly, in discussing plans for change the idea of preparation arose: pay for it now, or pay later; but you will pay.

Several times throughout the book, Conner talked about "surprise." Resilience is tested not when people are surprised, but when they are surprised that they are surprised. In other words: when people's expectations aren't met and they are thrown off balance, they react in ways that look like resistance to change. This is when change is most difficult and resistance is the highest. The solution from this viewpoint is to prepare people (and oneself) for change; create urgency for change; describe a new state that people will want to achieve; monitor as the change develops.

The idea of "speed of change" also arises here. While changes are happening more and more, people still have (and want) a rhythm to their world, and if changes come too fast (or too slow?) that they cannot survive them. One of the big challenges for leaders anywhere is that we cannot push change onto organisations faster than they can absorb them. Yes, the organisational capacity for change can be managed, but at some point it has to work with the flow in the organisation. A quote from the beginning of the book does this more justice:

Our lives are the most effective and efficient when we are moving at a speed that allows us to appropriately assimilate the changes we face. (page 13)

Going deeper, Conner discusses the core elements of (personal) resilience and the supporting elements of resilience within an organisation or society - all as they have to do with dealing with change.

For individuals, resilience has five characteristics that can be monitored and developed. The personal characteristics are

  1. Positive: Display a sense of security and self-assurance that is based on their view of life as complex but filled with opportunity.
  2. Focused: Have a clear vision of what they want to achieve.
  3. Flexible: Demonstrate a special flexibility when responding to uncertainty.
  4. Organised: Develop structured approaches to managing ambiguity.
  5. Proactive: Engage change rather than defend against it.

And then there are seven supporting patterns that connect to resilience. Combining these with knowledge of the personal characteristics above is a key to ever-improving the ability and capacity for people and organisations to handle change. Here I list each of these supporting patterns and some comments from different chapters.

  1. Nature. What is the nature of the change? Is it micro (personal), organisational, or macro (larger than the organisation)? Change is perceived as "negative" when it has negative ramifications (of course), but also if people feel they have no ability to predict or control the change. And I love this quote from p. 72: "We are more comfortable with change when our ability & willingness to change can help determine the outcome."
  2. Process. The familiar process for change: create pain, transition, end up in the desired state. But it's not quite so simple, of course. I liked the chemistry analogy of a transition process and "energy levels." The desired state had better be a "lower energy" position from the current state - that's the only way you are going to get through the transition state, which often requires more energy (temporarily). I also liked Conner's discussions of timing and perceptions here.
  3. Roles. There are four roles in change: Sponsor, Agent, Target and Advocate. The sponsor must stay involved throughout the change - sponsor abandonment is one of the things that kills change initiatives (and any other business initiative for that matter). I liked the comment that sponsors can really only manage a few change initiatives at a given time: they require active involvement. Aspects of perception come in here too, as each role has a different view of what needs to be done and what the impact is going to be on their work life.
  4. Resistance. Resistance happens any time the change causes a disruption or a loss of equilibrium. A big aspect of resistance is the frame of reference of people: some will see the change as an obvious extension of the current direction, and others will see it coming out of left field as a total disruption of their work. Winning change leaders understand that these perspectives exist and adjust their approach for each of these audiences. There was another interesting aspect in this chapter: that while some resistance arises from negatively perceived changes, other resistance will appear from people who (initially) had a positive perception of the change. For the negative people, the process they go through looks something like the grief cycle: Immobilisation (shock, surprise), Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, Acceptance. For the people who have the positive initial perception, the cycle reminds me of Blanchard's Situational Leadership model: Uninformed optimism, Informed pessimism, Hopeful realism, Informed optimism, Completion. I also liked his idea of "sober selling" of a change: essentially, don't over-hype things because it can come crashing down on you. And if people back out of an idea after hearing a more realistic ("sober") description, they were probably going to back out anyway.
  5. Commitment. This was an interesting description of the stages of commitment and how change efforts progress through each stage, including what happens if change efforts are cancelled at a given stage. He breaks the stages into three main phases: Preparation (with stages of Contact and Awareness), Acceptance (with stages of Understanding and Positive Perception), and Commitment (with stages of Installation, Adoption, Institutionalisation and Internalisation). In comparison to Kotter's 8 Steps, which is a process, this was much more about what happens as you flow through any kind of change process. You get deeper and deeper commitment. I like the explicit acknowledgement and discussion of the checking-out process when changes are cancelled or stopped.
  6. Culture. Of course culture impacts a change effort, but what is culture anyway? In Conner's view (and I tend to agree), culture reflects the interrelationships of shared behaviour, beliefs, and assumptions in an organization that have developed over time. Culture always acts in self-preservation, so that changes which affect culture will always see exhaustion, as this uses up reserves of resilience. Unfortunately for change efforts, many aspects of culture are buried deep in the psyche of the organization and are difficult to uncover - uncovering them makes it easier to change them. The implications of the discussion were that change leaders have three options: change the change; change the culture; or prepare to fail.
  7. Synergy. This last pattern is all about how people work together and relationships. Conner highlights three types of relationships that he sees: self-destructive, static, and synergistic. It is only the synergistic relationships that can thrive under change situations. And the discussion here and in the Culture section reminded me of the ideas of Tribal Leadership: that the more successful organisations tap into a Tribal level of connection and culture that help the organization weather any kind of storm. One thought I had about the discussion been whether anyone has done network analysis with a mind to looking for synergistic (and destructive and static) relationships.
To buy online: Managing at the speed of change Rs. 820/-

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20 August, 2011

Amazing Tips On Time Management!

Myths about Stress and Time Management

Myth #1: All stress is bad. No, there's good and bad stress. Good stress is excitement, thrills, etc. The goal is to recognize personal signs of bad stress and deal with them.

Myth #2: Planning my time just takes more time. Actually, research shows the opposite.

Myth #3: I get more done in more time when I wisely use caffeine, sugar, alcohol or nicotine. Wrong! Research shows that the body always has to "come down" and when it does, you can't always be very effective then after the boost.

Myth #4: A time management problem means that there's not enough time to get done what needs to get done. No, a time management problem is not using your time to your fullest advantage, to get done what you want done.

Myth #5: The busier I am, the better I'm using my time. Look out! You may only be doing what's urgent, and not what's important.

Myth #6: I feel very harried, busy, so I must have a time management problem. Not necessarily. You should verify that you have a time management problem. This requires knowing what you really want to get done and if it is getting done or not.

Myth #7: I feel OK, so I must not be stressed. In reality, many adults don't even know when they're really stressed out until their bodies tell them so. They miss the early warning signs from their body, for example, headaches, still backs, twitches, etc.

Major Causes of Workplace Stress

  1. Not knowing what you want or if you're getting it - poor planning.
  2. The feeling that there's too much to do. One can have this feeling even if there's hardly anything to do at all.
  3. Not enjoying your job. This can be caused by lots of things, for example, not knowing what you want, not eating well, etc. However, most people always blame their jobs.
  4. Conflicting demands on the job.
  5. Insufficient resources to do the job.6. Not feeling appreciated.

Biggest Time Wasters

  1. Interruptions. There will always be interruptions. It's how they're handled that wastes time.
  2. Hopelessness. People "give in", "numb out" and "march through the day".
  3. Poor delegation skills. This involves not sharing work with others.

Common Symptoms of Poor Stress and Time Management

  1. Irritability. Fellow workers notice this first.
  2. Fatigue. How many adults even notice this?
  3. Difficulty concentrating. You often don't need to just to get through the day!
  4. Forgetfulness. You can't remember what you did all day, what you ate yesterday.
  5. Loss of sleep. This affects everything else!
  6. Physical disorders, for example, headaches, rashes, tics, cramps, etc.
  7. At worst, withdrawal and depression.

Wise Principles of Good Stress and Time Management

  1. Learn your signs for being overstressed or having a time management problem. Ask your friends about you. Perhaps they can tell you what they see from you when you're overstressed.
  2. Most people feel that they are stressed and/or have a time management problem. Verify that you really have a problem. What do you see, hear or feel that leads you to conclude that you have a time or stress problem?
  3. Don't have the illusion that doing more will make you happier. Is it quantity of time that you want, or quality?
  4. Stress and time management problems have many causes and usually require more than one technique to fix. You don't need a lot of techniques, usually more than one, but not a lot.
  5. One of the major benefits of doing time planning is feeling that you're in control.
  6. Focus on results, not on busyness.
  7. It's the trying that counts - at least as much as doing the perfect technique.

Simple Techniques to Manage Stress

There are lots of things people can do to cut down on stress. Most people probably even know what they could do. It's not the lack of knowing what to do in order to cut down stress; it is doing what you know you have to do. The following techniques are geared to help you do what you know you have to do.

  1. Talk to someone. You don't have to fix the problem, just report it.
  2. Notice if any of the muscles in your body are tense. Just noticing that will often relax the muscle.
  3. Ask your boss if you're doing OK. This simple question can make a lot of difference and verify wrong impressions.
  4. Delegate.
  5. If you take on a technique to manage stress, tell someone else. They can help you be accountable to them and yourself.
  6. Cut down on caffeine and sweets. Take a walk instead. Tell someone that you're going to do that.
  7. Use basic techniques of planning, problem solving and decision making.
  8. Concise guidelines are included in this guidebook. Tell someone that you're going to use these techniques.
  9. Monitor the number of hours that you work in a week. Tell your boss, family and/or friends how many hours that you are working.
  10. Write weekly status reports. Include what you've accomplished last week and plan to do next week. Include any current issues or recommendations that you must report to your boss. Give the written status report to your boss on a weekly basis.
  11. "Wash the dishes". Do something you can feel good about.

Simple Techniques to Manage Time

There never seems to be enough time in the roles of management and supervision. Therefore, the goal of time management should not be to find more time. The goal is set a reasonable amount of time to spend on these roles and then use that time wisely.

  1. Start with the simple techniques of stress management above.
  2. Managing time takes practice. Practice asking yourself this question throughout the day: "Is this what I want or need to be doing right now?" If yes, then keep doing it.
  3. Find some way to realistically and practically analyze your time. Logging your time for a week in 15-minute intervals is not that hard and does not take up that much time. Do it for a week and review your results.
  4. Do a "todo" list for your day. Do it at the end of the previous day. Mark items as "A" and "B" in priority. Set aside two hours right away each day to do the important "A" items and then do the "B" items in the afternoon. Let your answering machine take your calls during your "A" time.
  5. At the end of your day, spend five minutes cleaning up your space. Use this time, too, to organize your space, including your desktop. That'll give you a clean start for the next day.
  6. Learn the difference between "Where can I help?" and "Where am I really needed?" Experienced leaders learn that the last question is much more important than the former.
  7. Learn the difference between "Do I need to do this now?" and "Do I need to do this at all?" Experienced leaders learn how to quickly answer this question when faced with a new task.
  8. Delegate. Delegation shows up as a frequent suggestion in this guide because it is one of the most important skills for a leader to have. Effective delegation will free up a great deal of time for you.
  9. If you are CEO in a corporation, then ask your Board for help. They are responsible to supervise you, as a CEO. Although the Board should not be micro-managing you, that is, involved in the day-to-day activities of the corporation, they still might have some ideas to help you with your time management. Remember, too, that good time management comes from good planning, and the Board is responsible to oversee development of major plans. Thus, the Board may be able to help you by doing a better themselves in their responsibilities as planners for the organization.
  10. Use a "Do Not Disturb" sign! During the early part of the day, when you're attending to your important items (your "A" list), hang this sign on the doorknob outside your door.
  11. Sort your mail into categories including "read now", "handle now" and "read later". You'll quickly get a knack for sorting through your mail. You'll also notice that much of what you think you need to read later wasn't really all that important anyway.
  12. Read your mail at the same time each day. That way, you'll likely get to your mail on a regular basis and won't become distracted into any certain piece of mail that ends up taking too much of your time.
  13. Have a place for everything and put everything in its place. That way, you'll know where to find it when you need it. Another important outcome is that your people will see that you are somewhat organized, rather than out of control.
  14. Best suggestion for saving time - schedule 10 minutes to do nothing. That time can be used to just sit and clear your mind. You'll end up thinking more clearly, resulting in more time in your day. The best outcome of this practice is that it reminds you that you're not a slave to a clock - and that if you take 10 minutes out of your day, you and your organization won't fall apart.
  15. Learn good meeting management skills. Meetings can become a terrible waste of time. Guidelines for good meeting management are included later in this section.

Role of "Gumption"

Everything good usually starts with gumption. It's picking yourself up, deciding that you could be happier, that you want to be happier - and then doing one small thing to get you started and keep you going. Boredom and blaming are the opposite of gumption. Stress and time management start with gumption. It's the trying that counts. Poor time and stress management often comes from doing the same thing harder, rather than smarter.

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