Would you like to live in a new home? A home improvement project can be an easy way to change the look and increase the appeal of your home, make it feel like new. Below are five very easy ways to improve your home and increase the value at the same time. Home improvement projects do not have to take a lot of time or money to make your home look better.Easy Home Improvement Project – KitchenPaint the kitchen cabinets. An easy kitchen home improvement project that most anyone can do is to repaint the cabinets. A dull, lifeless kitchen can easily be brought back to life by a new coat of paint on the cabinets. Select a bright, crisp color and a new coat of paint on the cabinets will change the look of the kitchen. It will look clean and fresh. With the sharpness of the new paint, the kitchen will appear and feel larger. A light, bright color seems to expand the feel of the room.For a finishing touch that will complete the cabinets in your kitchen home improvement project change the hardware. Cabinet hardware can become dull and worn over a long life of use. Changing the knobs and handles will drastically change the appearance of the cabinets and give the kitchen a newly remodeled look.Easy Home Improvement Project – FlooringReplace carpet flooring. Old, worn carpet is thin, hard and makes a home look dirty and dungy. Replace old carpet with new in your next home improvement project. New carpet adds a soft touch. It looks good and insulates to some extent. If you have a limited budget, purchase good carpet padding and an inexpensive carpet. The result will be a thick expensive feel.Easy Home Improvement Project – New FaucetsChange the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Old faucets dull and wear with age. Replacing faucets will give the sink a fresh new appearance.This home improvement project is much simpler that it may sound. You can hire a plumber to install new faucets or you can do it yourself. Nice faucets can be purchased at your local hardware store, along with proper plumbing supplies that are quite easy to install.Easy Home Improvement Project – PaintingPaint the exterior and the interior of your home. A fresh coat of paint is a simple home improvement project that will give your home a new clean look. The exterior appeal will look inviting to visitors and the fresh new interior will make them glad they entered. This is a relatively inexpensive, simple home improvement project that you can hire done or you can do it yourself.Easy Home Improvement Project – DrivewayA very easy home improvement project that will add a new look to the exterior of your home is to pressure wash the concrete driveway. Over the course of a short season, a concrete driveway will get dirty and grungy. Simply rent a pressure washer and wash the driveway. The process is not hard but it is a slow process. The result will be worth the time. The concrete will look like it has been recently placed.So there it is – five easy home improvement projects that will make your home feel like new. If you want to improve the appeal and add value to your home, try one or more of these home improvement projects.
There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.Different Types of FinancingOne problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.Alternative Financing SolutionsBut what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well: It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.A Precious CommodityRemember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?
A sound tech’s primary duty is to assist the sound engineer and he has only one major responsibility, which is to be attentive. Load in and load out are second only to that primary responsibility.Be Attentive
There are many facets to being attentive. First and foremost a good sound tech will attend to the needs of the engineer. Being attentive means paying attention. The engineer should have no difficulty at all communicating with his tech. Some of the common means of communication that are used during shows are:
Two-way radios or closed circuit comm. systems
A nod of the head
A tech must follow his engineer’s lead and must constantly glance at the engineer to see if he needs something. The engineer of any show has a lot on his mind. There is a lot he has to be responsible for to achieve truly professional results. The engineer must focus on several things at once: the artists, the sound, and the audience. One thing he should not have to focus on is getting his tech’s attention. Anytime the engineer has difficulty communicating with his tech, the tech is failing to do his job. It is the responsibility of the tech to be attentive. The engineer should never have to leave his seat after the artists arrive. The sound tech must be attentive to the needs of the artists too. When the artists are setting up, it is the sound tech’s responsibility to provide the following:
Hand each artist his or her cable and tell them, “This is for you,” or “You plug in here” for example.
We are not to touch the artists’ equipment and they are not to touch ours (within reason of course.) We have to touch the drums to mic them, but we politely ask if that is okay and we make sure to ask if any of our mics are in the way of the drummer. Singers, obviously, will find it necessary to touch our microphones and that is okay too. But, it is the sound tech’s job to make all necessary adjustments to microphone stands to obtain the optimum placement for every artist. No artist should ever have to adjust a mic stand. Whenever that happens the sound tech is not doing his job. The artist should only have to focus on his instrument and his performance. Playing music is an emotional experience and if an artist becomes perturbed because he has to adjust his mic stand it will affect his emotions negatively and that will degrade his performance.
The sound tech must adjust the monitors to suit the artists’ preferences. Sometimes they want them closer, or farther away, or turned this way or that. It is critical to keep the monitors out of the feedback zone, i.e. not pointing at microphones that might induce feedback.
Whenever the engineer leaves his seat to attend to those duties, the sound tech is failing to do his job. The engineer cannot focus on setting up the board, and the monitor mix, and the artists, and the audience if he has to do the tech’s job too. The most important job of the sound tech is to be attentive. Being attentive means more than attending to the needs of the engineer and the artists. Being attentive means attending the show and paying attention at all times. Listen for problems that may arise and alert the engineer of any concerns.Look at the system. If there is a speaker that is off axis, the sound tech should notice something like that right away and correct it without hesitation. If an artist is trying to communicate something, the sound tech should be paying attention to that too. It is the engineer’s responsibility to understand those communications that come from the artists during a show, but, more importantly, it is the sound tech’s job to be attentive to the needs of the engineer and the artist. That might mean helping the engineer figure out what the artist is trying to communicate. Furthermore, if a microphone stand slips, or gets moved out of position or knocked over, the sound tech must correct that at once.Sound techs always wear black. This is partly because they sometimes have to slip out on stage during a performance. Their black clothing reflects less light than any other color and therefore draws less attention to them than if they were dressed in fluorescent yellow for example. But it also tells the audience that he is not a member of the band. He is a sound tech and he is just doing what sound techs do. He is being attentive to the needs of the artist or the engineer, and he is doing it well.Bottom line: if you don’t learn anything else from this article, then at least learn this one thing. A sound tech’s primary duty is to be attentive by paying attention at all times and attending to the needs of others for the sole objective of a flawless show.
In 2014 and maybe 2015 and beyond, investing money will be tougher and putting together the best investment portfolio might mean investing money for safety vs. higher investment returns. The best investment ideas are slim pickings. There is very little that is normal in today’s world of finance. My reasoning and background follows.In 1971 I had my Masters in Business (finance) and knew nothing about the investment world or investing money. Actually, I found it quite embarrassing, because adults that I would meet in the business world thought that I might have the best investment ideas in my pocket – due to my education. The years that followed were not the best investment environment, and I became a stock broker in Columbus, Ohio in 1972. I learned real quick what my job was really all about: selling investment ideas… SELL the sizzle NOT the steak… I was informed by my sales manager.Forty years later, investing money is a game that I find has changed little. It’s all but impossible to find the best investment, and the world of investing money is primarily a sales game aimed at uninformed investors (more than 90% of the investing public). I once read that NOW is always the hardest time to invest money. I’ve seen difficult times in the markets for over 40 years and I’ve NEVER repeated that phrase until now.At this time, I am afraid that it is really true. Allison and I have three children, who are all basically 30-something and trying to make it in a difficult world. Investing money for retirement is not an option for them. It is an absolute necessity if they don’t want to work for the rest of their life. Many folks my age are covered by pension funds plus other entitlements, but that’s not the norm for 2014 and beyond. Now, let’s get down to business and talk about investing money in 2014 and beyond; and the best investment ideas I can muster as an older (but still on top of my game) retired financial planner.If you have a 401k at work participate in it, and take maximum advantage of your employer’s matching contribution if your company offers this feature (it’s free money). Investing money here is automatic and almost painless. This is one of the best investment ideas available for accumulating a nest egg for retirement. Plus, the tax advantages will put a smile on your face each year at income-tax time.Open a Roth IRA with a major NO-LOAD mutual fund family and start investing money each month through their automatic investment plan. Enter “no-load funds” into a search engine and you’ll see some of the biggest and best fund companies at the top of the page, names like Vanguard, Fidelity and T Rowe Price. Give them a toll-free call if you have questions – like do you qualify, how much can you invest a year, and will they send you free literature. A Roth IRA (or Roth 401k if available) is one of the very best investment ideas for accumulating money for retirement. A Roth account (IRA or 401k) is TAX FREE investing, as long as you follow the rules. Tax free is as good as it gets and difficult to find.Mutual funds are the average investor’s best investment vehicle because they offer both professional management and instant diversification in the form of a managed portfolio of stocks, bonds, and money market securities. When you invest money in a fund, you own a very small part of (own shares in) a very large investment portfolio. There is always a cost for investing money in funds. All funds charge for yearly expenses. This can amount to less than 1% a year in NO-LOAD FUNDS, with no sales charges when you invest money and no extra ongoing management fees. Or, you can pay 5% in sales charges off the top when you invest money, 2% or more for yearly expenses and 1% to 2% in additional management fees if you work through a sales rep (financial planner, adviser, or whatever).One of the best investment ideas for 2014, 2015 and beyond: keep your cost of investing money as low as possible. This could make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars over the long term. A dollar saved is a dollar earned.Do all that you can to learn about investing money; and especially learn about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. Once you understand stocks and bonds, getting a handle on mutual funds is a piece of cake. What are the investment options inside your employer’s 401k plan? The vast majority of them are likely mutual funds – mostly stock funds, bond funds, and/or balanced funds (that invest in both stocks and bonds). There will likely also be one or two safe investment options that pay interest: a money market funds and/or a stable account.Investing money successfully in 2014 and beyond could be very difficult due to today’s investment environment. First, record low interest rates mean that safe investments that pay interest are paying close to nothing. Second, bonds and bond funds pay more interest, but when interest rates go back up to normal levels they WILL LOSE money; that’s the way bonds and bond funds work. Third, stocks and stock funds are pricy, having gone up in value and price well over 100% since 2009. In other words, best investment ideas are few and far between.Here’s the best investment strategy in 2014 and beyond for beginners who want to start investing money for retirement and keep it simple. In a 401k and/or Roth IRA account invest (monthly or each payday) equal amounts into a stock fund, bond fund, and money market fund. If your 401k has a stable account option use this instead of the money market fund if it pays more interest.Mutual funds are always one of the best investment ideas for most investors – if you invest money in low-cost no-load funds. (Your 401k plan should have no loads, sales charges). When investing money for retirement in 2014 and 2015 keep three factors in mind. Two of these always apply: keep costs low and invest money across the board in all three fund types listed above. Your third factor is to give money market funds equal weight in 2014 and beyond for added safety. Normally, you would give them less weighting.
Business excellence is an ideal that all good entrepreneurs strive to achieve. In fact, many organizations are devoted to honoring those businesses that best exemplify this concept. However, business excellence cannot be strictly defined. Rather, it varies from one industry to another. For example, in the automotive industry, business excellence includes customer commitment, quality control, efficient supply, and innovative management.Leaders in the automotive industry understand the need to form a strong bond with customers. Perhaps more than other sectors, consumers are more likely to make a decision regarding an automobile purchase based upon their experience with those in the industry. Thus, entrepreneurs need to be concerned with two key features relating to customer commitment. The first is meeting the needs of the consumer, financially and socially. People need automobiles that meet their economic means. This not only means getting a good initial purchase price, but also finding a vehicle that will require minimal repair and maintenance down the road. Consumers also want to purchase automobiles that will not require excess money to be spent on fuel. Therefore, business excellence includes finding more cost-efficient production and distribution processes, and subsequently passing these savings on to the consumer. The second aspect of customer commitment is meeting societal needs and desires. This means staying informed of what vehicle features are most important to consumers. Such information can be garnered using formal surveys and demographic research. Once you understand the buyer, you are more capable of catering to him or her. For example, people in some regions are especially concerned with the environmental impact of their purchases. Thus, the automobile industry would need to show those people they are committed to using recycled materials and alternative fuels. Additionally, many consumers want family vehicles that are safe and comfortable for children. Therefore, excellent automobile entrepreneurs will focus their attention on crash test results and extra amenities.In addition to customer commitment, business excellence must include exceptional quality control measures. This means ensuring that automotive vehicles are safe and easy to maintain. Appropriate testing should be undertaken for each new product model, and the results of these assessments need to be made public in a timely manner. Additionally, individual dealerships should take care to ensure every vehicle is inspected prior to sale and stored under ideal conditions prior to purchase. Efficient supply is an aspect of business excellence that is frequently overlooked. The balance between supply and demand is vital to the automotive industry. Producing too many vehicles can lead to severely diminished profits. It can also lead to a waste of resources that could have been better utilized for vehicles more likely to be purchased. Meanwhile, a supply that is too short can cause companies to lose customers. When an individual needs to purchase a vehicle, he or she may not be able to wait any extensive period for a desired product to come into supply. As a result, they will simply find an alternative automobile to purchase.Finally, business excellence in the automotive industry requires innovative management. There are several parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of vehicles, and financial as well as labor resources need to be managed from the top down as well as controlled on a micro-level. Thus, not only do large factories need to communicate with business executives and the dealerships that asses supply, but individual sales representatives need to be appropriately trained and supervised at each individual dealership.
Cryptocurrency have been around for a while now and there are multiple papers and articles on basics of Cryptocurrency. Not only have the Cryptocurrency flourished but have opened up as a new and trusted opportunity for investors. The crypto market is still young but mature enough to pour in the adequate amount of data for analysis and predict the trends. Though it is considered as the most volatile market and a huge gamble as an investment, it has now become predictable to a certain point and the Bitcoin futures are a proof of this. Many concepts of the stock market have now been applied to the crypto market with some tweaks and changes. This gives us another proof that many people are adopting Cryptocurrency market every day, and currently more than 500 million investors are present in it. Though the total market cap of crypto market is $286.14 Billion that is roughly 1/65th of the stock market at the time of writing, the market potential is very high considering the success despite its age and the presence of already established financial markets. The reason behind this is nothing else but the fact that people have started believing in the technology and the products backing a crypto. This also means that the crypto technology have proven itself and so much that the companies have agreed to put their assets in the form of crypto coins or tokens. The concept of Cryptocurrency became successful with the success of Bitcoin. Bitcoin, which once used to be the only Cryptocurrency, now contributes only 37.6% to the total Cryptocurrency market. The reason being, emergence of new Cryptocurrencies and the success of projects backing them. This does not indicate that Bitcoin failed, in fact market capitalization of Bitcoin has increased, rather what this indicates is that crypto market have expanded as a whole.
These facts are enough to prove the success of Cryptocurrencies and their market. And in reality investment in Crypto market is considered as safe now, to the extent that some invest as for their retirement plan. Therefore what we need next are the tools for analysis of crypto market. There are many such tools that enable you to analyze this market in a manner similar to stock market providing similar metrics. Including coin market cap, coin stalker, cryptoz and investing. Even thought these metrics are simple, the do provide crucial information about the crypto under consideration. For example, a high market cap indicates a strong project, a high 24hour volume indicates high demand and circulating supply indicates the total amount of coins of that crypto in circulation. Another important metric is volatility of a crypto. Volatility is how much the price of a crypto fluctuates. Crypto market is considered as highly volatile, cashing out at a moment might bring in a lot of profit or make you pull your hairs. Thus what we look for is a crypto that is stable enough to give us time to make a calculated decision. Currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ethereum-classic (not specifically) are considered as stable. With being stable, they need to be strong enough, so that they do not become invalid or simply stop existing in the market. These features make a crypto reliable, and the most reliable Cryptocurrencies are used as a form of liquidity.
As far is crypto market is concerned, volatility comes hand in hand, but so do its most important property i.e. Decentralization. Crypto market is decentralized, what this means is that the price fall in one crypto does not necessarily means down trend of any other crypto. Thus giving us an opportunity in the form of what are called mutual funds. It’s a Concept of managing a portfolio of the crypto currencies that you invest in. The Idea is to spread your investments to multiple Cryptocurrencies so as to reduce the risk involved if any crypto starts on a bear run
Similar to this concept is the concept of Indices in crypto market. Indices provide a standard point of reference for the market as a whole. The Idea is to choose the top currencies in the market and distribute the investment among them. These chosen crypto currencies change if the index are dynamic in nature and only consider the top currencies. For example if a currency ‘X’ drops down to 11th position in crypto market, the index considering top 10 currencies would now won’t consider currency ‘X’, rather start considering currency ‘Y’ which have taken it’s place. Some providers such as cci30 and crypto20 have tokenized these Crypto indices. While this might look like a good Idea to some, others oppose due to the fact that there are some pre-requisites to invest in these tokens such as a minimum amount of investment is needed. While others such as cryptoz provide the methodology and a the index value, along with the currency constituents so that an investor is free to invest the amount he/she wants to and choose not to invest in a crypto otherwise included in an index. Thus, indices give you a choice to further smooth out the volatility and reduce the risk involved.
The crypto market might look risky at first look and many might still be skeptical of its authenticity, But the maturity that this market has attained within the short period of its existence is amazing and the proof enough for its authenticity. The biggest concern that investors have is volatility, for which there had been a solution in form of indices.
An enormous amount of research shows the importance of self-determination (i.e., autonomy) for students in elementary school through college for enhancing learning and improving important post-school outcomes.
Research by psychologists Richard Ryan, PhD, and Edward Deci, PhD, on Self-Determination Theory indicates that intrinsic motivation (doing something because it is inherently interesting or enjoyable), and thus higher quality learning, flourishes in contexts that satisfy human needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Students experience competence when challenged and given prompt feedback. Students experience autonomy when they feel supported to explore, take initiative and develop and implement solutions for their problems. Students experience relatedness when they perceive others listening and responding to them. When these three needs are met, students are more intrinsically motivated and actively engaged in their learning.
Numerous studies have found that students who are more involved in setting educational goals are more likely to reach their goals. When students perceive that the primary focus of learning is to obtain external rewards, such as a grade on an exam, they often perform more poorly, think of themselves as less competent, and report greater anxiety than when they believe that exams are simply a way for them to monitor their own learning. Some studies have found that the use of external rewards actually decreased motivation for a task for which the student initially was motivated. In a 1999 examination of 128 studies that investigated the effects of external rewards on intrinsic motivations, Drs. Deci and Ryan, along with psychologist Richard Koestner, PhD, concluded that such rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation by undermining people’s taking responsibility for motivating or regulating themselves.
Self-determination research has also identified flaws in high stakes, test focused school reforms, which despite good intentions, has led teachers and administrators to engage in precisely the types of interventions that result in poor quality learning. Dr. Ryan and colleagues found that high stakes tests tend to constrain teachers’ choices about curriculum coverage and curtail teachers’ ability to respond to students’ interests (Ryan & La Guardia, 1999). Also, psychologists Tim Urdan, PhD, and Scott Paris, PhD, found that such tests can decrease teacher enthusiasm for teaching, which has an adverse effect on students’ motivation (Urdan & Paris, 1994).
The processes described in self-determination theory may be particularly important for children with special educational needs. Researcher Michael Wehmeyer found that students with disabilities who are more self-determined are more likely to be employed and living independently in the community after completing high school than students who are less self-determined.
Research also shows that the educational benefits of self-determination principles don’t stop with high school graduation. Studies show how the orientation taken by college and medical school instructors (whether it is toward controlling students’ behavior or supporting the students’ autonomy) affects the students’ motivation and learning.
Self-determination theory has identified ways to better motivate students to learn at all educational levels, including those with disabilities.
Schools throughout the country are using self-determination instruction as a way to better motivate students and meet the growing need to teach children and youth ways to more fully accept responsibility for their lives by helping them to identify their needs and develop strategies to meet those needs.
Researchers have developed and evaluated instructional interventions and supports to encourage self-determination for all students, with many of these programs designed for use by students with disabilities. Many parents, researchers and policy makers have voiced concern about high rates of unemployment, under-employment and poverty experienced by students with disabilities after they complete their educational programs. Providing support for student self-determination in school settings is one way to enhance student learning and improve important post-school outcomes for students with disabilities. Schools have particularly emphasized the use of self-determination curricula with students with disabilities to meet federal mandates to actively involve students with disabilities in the Individualized Education Planning process.
Programs to promote self-determination help students acquire knowledge, skills and beliefs that meet their needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness (for example, see Steps to Self-determination by educational researchers Sharon Field and Alan Hoffman). Such programs also provide instruction aimed specifically at helping students play a more active role in educational planning (for example, see The Self-directed Individualized Education Plan by Jim Martin, Laura Huber Marshall, Laurie Maxson, & Patty Jerman).
Drs. Field and Hoffman developed a model designed to guide the development of self-determination instructional interventions. According to the model, instructional activities in areas such as increasing self-awareness; improving decision-making, goal-setting and goal-attainment skills; enhancing communication and relationship skills; and developing the ability to celebrate success and learn from reflecting on experiences lead to increased student self-determination. Self-determination instructional programs help students learn how to participate more actively in educational decision-making by helping them become familiar with the educational planning process, assisting them to identify information they would like to share at educational planning meetings, and supporting students to develop skills to effectively communicate their needs and wants. Examples of activities used in self-determination instructional programs include reflecting on daydreams to help students decide what is important to them; teaching students how to set goals that are important to them and then, with the support of peers, family members and teachers, taking steps to achieve those goals. Providing contextual supports and opportunities for students, such as coaching for problem-solving and offering opportunities for choice, are also critical elements that lead to meeting needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness and thus, increasing student self-determination.
The jigsaw classroom technique can transform competitive classrooms in which many students are struggling into cooperative classrooms in which once-struggling students show dramatic academic and social improvements.
In the early 1970s, in the wake of the civil rights movement, educators were faced with a social dilemma that had no obvious solution. All over the country, well-intentioned efforts to desegregate America’s public schools were leading to serious problems. Ethnic minority children, most of whom had previously attended severely under-funded schools, found themselves in classrooms composed predominantly of more privileged White children. This created a situation in which students from affluent backgrounds often shone brilliantly while students from impoverished backgrounds often struggled. Of course, this difficult situation seemed to confirm age-old stereotypes: that Blacks and Latinos are stupid or lazy and that Whites are pushy and overly competitive. The end result was strained relations between children from different ethnic groups and widening gaps in the academic achievement of Whites and minorities.
Drawing on classic psychological research on how to reduce tensions between competing groups (e.g., see Allport, 1954; Sherif, 1958; see also Pettigrew, 1998), Elliot Aronson and colleagues realized that one of the major reasons for this problem was the competitive nature of the typical classroom. In a typical classroom, students work on assignments individually, and teachers often call on students to see who can publicly demonstrate his or her knowledge. Anyone who has ever been called to the board to solve a long division problem – only to get confused about dividends and divisors – knows that public failure can be devastating. The snide remarks that children often make when their peers fail do little to remedy this situation. But what if students could be taught to work together in the classroom – as cooperating members of a cohesive team? Could a cooperative learning environment turn things around for struggling students? When this is done properly, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.
In response to real educational dilemmas, Aronson and colleagues developed and implemented the jigsaw classroom technique in Austin, Texas, in 1971. The jigsaw technique is so named because each child in a jigsaw classroom has to become an expert on a single topic that is a crucial part of a larger academic puzzle. For example, if the children in a jigsaw classroom were working on a project about World War II, a classroom of 30 children might be broken down into five diverse groups of six children each. Within each group, a different child would be given the responsibility of researching and learning about a different specific topic: Khanh might learn about Hitler’s rise to power, Tracy might learn about the U.S. entry into the war, Mauricio might learn about the development of the atomic bomb, etc. To be sure that each group member learned his or her material well, the students from different groups who had the same assignment would be instructed to compare notes and share information. Then students would be brought together in their primary groups, and each student would present his or her “piece of the puzzle” to the other group members. Of course, teachers play the important role of keeping the students involved and derailing any tensions that may emerge. For example, suppose Mauricio struggled as he tried to present his information about the atomic bomb. If Tracy were to make fun of him, the teacher would quickly remind Tracy that while it may make her feel good to make fun of her teammate, she is hurting herself and her group – because everyone will be expected to know all about the atomic bomb on the upcoming quiz.
When properly carried out, the jigsaw classroom technique can transform competitive classrooms in which many students are struggling into cooperative classrooms in which once-struggling students show dramatic academic and social improvements (and in which students who were already doing well continue to shine). Students in jigsaw classrooms also come to like each other more, as students begin to form cross-ethnic friendships and discard ethnic and cultural stereotypes. Finally, jigsaw classrooms decrease absenteeism, and they even seem to increase children’s level of empathy (i.e., children’s ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes). The jigsaw technique thus has the potential to improve education dramatically in a multi-cultural world by revolutionizing the way children learn.
Since its demonstration in the 1970s, the jigsaw classroom has been used in hundreds of classrooms settings across the nation, ranging from the elementary schools where it was first developed to high school and college classrooms (e.g., see Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Rosenfield, & Sikes, 1977; Perkins & Saris, 2001; Slavin, 1980). Researchers know that the technique is effective, incidentally, because it has been carefully studied using solid research techniques. For example, in many cases, students in different classrooms who are covering the same material are randomly assigned to receive either traditional instruction (no intervention) or instruction by means of the jigsaw technique. Studies in real classrooms have consistently revealed enhanced academic performance, reductions in stereotypes and prejudice, and improved social relations.
Aronson is not the only researcher to explore the merits of cooperative learning techniques. Shortly after Aronson and colleagues began to document the power of the jigsaw classroom, Robert Slavin, Elizabeth Cohen and others began to document the power of other kinds of cooperative learning programs (see Cohen & Lotan, 1995; Slavin, 1980; Slavin, Hurley, & Chamberlain, 2003). As of this writing, some kind of systematic cooperative learning technique had been applied in about 1500 schools across the country, and the technique appears to be picking up steam. Perhaps the only big question that remains about cooperative learning techniques such as the jigsaw classroom is why these techniques have not been implemented even more broadly than they already have.
In the early 1960s, social psychologist William McGuire published some classic papers showing that it is surprisingly easy to change people’s attitudes about things that we all wholeheartedly accept as true. For example, for speakers armed with a little knowledge of persuasion, it is remarkably easy to convince almost anyone that brushing one’s teeth is not such a great idea. McGuire’s insight into this curious phenomenon was that it is easy to change people’s minds about things that they have always taken for granted precisely because most people have little if any practice resisting attacks on attitudes that no one ever questions.
Taking this logic a little further, McGuire asked if it might be possible to train people to resist attacks on their beliefs by giving them practice at resisting arguments that they could easily refute. Specifically, McGuire drew an analogy between biological resistance to disease and psychological resistance to persuasion. Biological inoculation works by exposing people to a weakened version of an attacking agent such as a virus. People’s bodies produce antibodies that make them immune to the attacking agent, and when a full-blown version of the agent hits later in life, people win the biological battle against the full-blown disease. Would giving people a little practice fending off a weak attack on their attitudes make it easier for people to resist stronger attacks on their attitudes that come along later? The answer turns out to be yes. McGuire coined the phrase attitude inoculation to refer to the process of resisting strong persuasive arguments by getting practice fighting off weaker versions of the same arguments.
Once attitude inoculation had been demonstrated consistently in the laboratory, researchers decided to see if attitude inoculation could be used to help parents, teachers, and social service agents deal with a pressing social problem that kills about 440,000 people in the U.S. every year: cigarette smoking. Smoking seemed like an ideal problem to study because children below the age of 10 or 12 almost always report negative attitudes about smoking. However, in the face of peer pressure to be cool, many of these same children become smokers during middle to late adolescence.
Adolescents change their attitudes about smoking (and become smokers) because of the power of peer pressure. Researchers quickly realized that if they could inoculate children against pro-smoking arguments (by teaching them to resist pressure from their peers who believed that smoking is “cool”), they might be able to reduce the chances that children would become smokers. A series of field studies of attitude inoculation, conducted in junior high schools and high schools throughout the country, demonstrated that brief interventions using attitude inoculation dramatically reduced rates of teenage smoking. For instance, in an early study by Cheryl Perry and colleagues (1980), high school students inoculated junior high schools students against smoking by having the younger kids role-play the kind of situations they might actually face with a peer who pressured them to try a cigarette. For example, when a role-playing peer called a student “chicken” for not being willing to try an imaginary cigarette, the student practiced answers such as “I’d be a real chicken if I smoked just to impress you.” The kids who were inoculated in this way were about half as likely to become smokers as were kids in a very similar school who did not receive this special intervention.
Public service advertising campaigns have also made use of attitude inoculation theory by encouraging parents to help their children devise strategies for saying no when peers encourage them to smoke. Programs that have made whole or partial use of attitude inoculation programs have repeatedly documented the effectiveness of attitude inoculation to prevent teenage smoking, to curb illicit drug use, and to reduce teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. In comparison with old-fashioned interventions such as simple education about the risks of smoking or teenage pregnancy, attitude inoculation frequently reduces risky behaviors by 30-70% (see Botvin et al., 1995; Ellickson & Bell, 1990; Perry et al., 1980). As psychologist David Myers put it in his popular social psychology textbook, “Today any school district or teacher wishing to use the social psychological approach to smoking prevention can do so easily, inexpensively, and with the hope of significant reductions in future smoking rates and health costs.” So the next time you think about inoculating kids to keep them healthy, make sure you remember that one of the most important kinds of inoculation any kid can get is a psychological inoculation against tobacco.