Another way to work on my students’ English skills… (maybe)

I recently completed a style manual for the students at the Tata-Dhan Academy. It was a pretty big project, and overall, I think it turned out pretty well, but I found that there was still some stuff left unaddressed. Part of it was that there wasn’t enough time—I felt that if I kept adding more and more, the manual would never be completed. Part of it was that there was some stuff that I couldn’t quite figure out where to put. Part of it was that the issues were more “personal” and less “institutional” (or they were things where I wasn’t sure I would get institutional endorsement).

So, I decided to start something new: The Grumpy Writer’s Grumps.

The plan is to have a weekly one-page writeup (literally—I sort of like the idea of it being hand-done) that can both serve as a source of entertainment for myself, and as a source of information for my students. I also hope that the students will take up my offer to “argue” with me by leaving comments on the site, since that would be another opportunity to build their writing skills.

I guess that only time will tell. But until then, here’s the first issue of The Grumpy Writer’s Grumps:

The Grumpy Writer’s Grumps #001

I Have to Say Something… but the words just aren’t coming out right

One of the courses that Academy students have to take is “Managerial Oral Communication.” I rarely (almost never, actually) use PowerPoint in my classes, but for a change, I decided to deliver this presentation to them. (I’ve included notes below so you can have an idea of what was discussed in the class itself.)

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Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts


Report on a workshop offered by the Tata-Dhan Academy, Madurai

Preface

Post-independence India has witnessed an immense struggle against poverty. A variety of stakeholders have resorted to innovative and diverse models to face the challenges ahead. NGOs have played key roles in furthering the efforts made by these stakeholders to reduce poverty. In this process, development practitioners have amassed a wealth of experience and learning, especially at the grassroots level.

This treasure chest of learning is there for the asking; unfortunately, knowledge sharing in the development sector is severely under utilized and much of the valuable grassroots learning experiences remain obscure and localized. Precious time, human resources, and other resources can be put to optimal use if these learnings are made widely and freely available.

Individual reflections and group discussions on this disparity indicated that a forum was necessary to make these learnings easily accessible to people; such a forum would help develop contemporary development theories and concepts. The Transferring Grassroots Experiences into New Development Theories and Concepts knowledge-building workshop is one such forum, and it was designed to facilitate sharing and learning and to enable practitioners to theorize and conceptualize based on their experiences. By creating this platform and enabling development practitioners themselves to present their theories, DHAN Foundation and the Tata-Dhan Academy hope to set in motion a very powerful process whereby the gaps between theories, grassroots level practitioners, and the community can be narrowed.
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Fieldwork Diary Writing: A “Development Diary” for Self-Reflection

Goodbye “Dear Diary” and hello “Development Diary”

Many people can be a bit intimidated by the thought of diary writing. A large part of this is the recollection of childhood diary writing experiences filled with mundane details which look something like:

Dear Diary,
Today I got up at 6:30 and had five idli for breakfast. Then I went to the tea shop and had two cups of tea and …

You get the point. No one—not even you—is likely to want to read or re-read those words a month later.

So, why are we asking you to keep a “Development Diary” then1?
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  1. This document was prepared for Tata-Dhan Academy students who are completing the fieldwork or development practice segments of their curriculum. As such, some of the content specifically highlights the types of topics they would be recording about their experiences. [back]

Is India’s New Growth Reaching the Poor?

India is often heralded both as the land of diversity and as the land of unity. This is a claim reinforced by the wealth of religious, cultural, and linguistic diversity coexisting with many things uniquely “Indian” within the country’s boundaries. Now, with India’s impressive growth, “income” can be added as an element of “diversity”; can the same be said for improving its status as a land of unity? “India: How’s it Growing?” published in Developments magazine asks the question “How many Indias are there?” and tries to evaluate the inclusiveness of India’s economic growth.
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Snippy Writing Tips

I couldn’t help it. I had to start writing my own writing guide based on a few of the things that really irritate me when I’m editing or correcting something for someone else. It’s a work in progress and it’s being done somewhat haphazardly (which probably means that I’m eventually going to get lazy about it after a while and not add new tips). But I’m having fun doing it—it helps relieve some of the frustration I sometimes feel when editing….

Snippy Writing Tips

Process Documentation and Journal Writing: Guidelines for Making the Most out of Your Field Experiences

Download a nicely formatted PDF version for offline viewing.

Introduction

Process documentation and journal writing should become a natural extension of the work that you do while you are in the field. Both of these types of writing are meant to describe what happened in the field, and both of them will include different kinds of information to help you later on when writing your reports. But while these writing tasks are related, they are different in their purposes. Broadly speaking, process documentation is purely objective, while journal writing is more flexible and allows for more subjective commentary. The following document was written to help you get started with process documentation and journal writing1. I urge you to take the included information as “guidelines” and not as a prescriptive set of rules or requirements.
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  1. This document was prepared for Tata-Dhan Academy students who are completing the fieldwork or development practice segments of their curriculum. As such, some of the content specifically highlights the types of topics they would be recording about their experiences. Nevertheless, whatever your course of study—or indeed even if you are writing for pleasure!—many of the concepts here should still be easily applicable. [back]

Video: Asking the Right Questions: An Introduction to the Centre for Micro Finance

Last summer, the Centre for Micro Finance took on a group of interns to help with several of their projects. Two of the interns, Rachel Bergenfield and Neera Jain—by the way, the most awesome interns ever!—agreed to undertake the huge project of filming a documentary in a few short weeks, and here is the result of their efforts!

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Instructing the Curriculum? Or a Curriculum for Better Instruction?

Evaluation and Assessment of Curriculum

This week, as I write this, I am also in the midst of finding a new job. My past few days have been filled with composing cover letters, browsing online job sites, sending emails out to my network of colleagues, and refining my CV—my curriculum vitae. “The course of life.” When looked at from that perspective, the term curriculum is certainly a weighty one; however, despite the import of the term, clarity about what constitutes a curriculum is still unclear for many people. Definitions become even hazier when restricted to academics and used alongside terms like instruction. The education field, like any other, has its share of jargon; curriculum and instruction are two of these. These two related terms are essential to the education field and deserve to be considered more closely.

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Eliminating the Fear of the Test: Reflections on Assessments

Evaluation and Assessment of Curriculum

Abstract

Our world is full of assessments. This seems especially true to those in the education field who conduct assessments ranging from self-designed assessments for classroom use, to nationally designed assessments to compare students from different states or districts. So caught up are we in the act of either administering or taking an assessment, that we rarely stop to ask questions like, “Why are we conducting this assessment?”, “What will be the added value of conducting this assessment?”, and “Are the assessments we use being used appropriately?” The following questions are addressed in the following first-person narrative account based on some of my experiences with assessments. In the process, I also highlight two experiences with traditional assessments which had drastically different impacts on my perception of assessments.
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