Reflections on Different Research Approaches

My learning experiences, as well as working with different research approaches, has enriched my perspective on conducting educational research. However, I realised that It is important to understand different theoretical perspectives. When I was a student teacher I only knew the terms qualitative research and quantitative research but without understanding the term research paradigm or understanding different approaches to doing educational research. According to Willis (2007), the terms qualitative and quantitative are two ways of conducting research in the social science but are not clearly understood, thus the term “research paradigm” is really powerful.


In understanding ‘qualitative research’,  I portray eight moments of qualitative research from Denzin and Lincoln (2008) which integrates different theoretical perspectives to help me understand different stages of conducting educational research. As a beginning researcher in qualitative research, I was overwhelmed with the philosophy and various bizarre terms describing research. I was thinking that it might be because of a language barrier, but when I reflected on it I realised the real challenge was moving from quantitative research, which holds to objective truth and objectivity, into the multiple truths and subjectivity of qualitative research. But, I couldn’t ignore the power of objective truth in my mind which influenced me to become confused and insecure in conducting educational research. When I conducted the different approaches of educational research, I became more aware of the distinctive power of each paradigm.


Denzin and Lincoln (2008) divided the history of qualitative research into eight phases:

  1. Traditional phase (early 1900s) focuses on objective research,
  2. Modernist phase (1970s) still embraces quantitative studies,
  3. Blurred genres (1970-1986) moves into qualitative studies with more interpretive work,
  4. Crisis of representation (mid 1980s) involves reflective writing and validity questioning,
  5. Postmodern period of experimental ethnographic writing (mid 1990s) comprises new ways of composing ethnography which are more activist-oriented research
  6. Post-experimental inquiry (1995-2000) involves varied representations in writing such as autobiographical, visual, and poetic
  7. Methodologically contested present (2000-2004) involves debate within qualitative research on political contestation with conservatives in terms of what is ‘valid’ research.
  8. The future (2005-now) involves confronting the “methodological backlash” associated with “Bush science” and evidence-based social movement.


Meanwhile Taylor and Wallace (2007) divided the eight phases into (1) the immediate future, which emphasises social justice, and (2) the fractured future which involves political praxis, new ethics, aesthetics and theologies for a globalized world. When I reflected on this history I realised how educational research in my country is situated mostly in the modernist phase. Some educational researchers in my country are moving forward into blurred genres. The research journey in my doctoral thesis has helped me to open my mind to different ways of conducting research, and therefore at this stage I challenged myself to go in-depth into eight moments of qualitative research, not only to develop my professional practice but also develop my professional practice in educational research.

Furthermore, mixed methods is one of the contemporary research approaches that strongly influences educational research. Many people believe that mixed methods research design has been considered as the middle way in the war between quantitative and qualitative research approaches. According to Brewer and Hunter (as cited in Cresswell, 2005, p. 510), “a mixed methods research design is a procedure for collecting, analysing, and mixing both quantitative and qualitative data in a single study to understand a research problem”.  There could be different facets of educational research that are shaped by the post/positivism paradigm, including this mixed methods approach. According to Denzin (2010, p. 420), “the mixed methods discourse has been shaped by a community of post-positivist scholars who have moved back and forth between quantitative and qualitative research frameworks”. Denzin (2010) points out several interesting issues in mixed method approaches: paradigm wars, dialogue, and dilemmas in combining qualitative and quantitative which clearly has differences. I came to realize that combining qualitative and quantitative ways are not necessarily solved in satisfying ways.


In addition, the positivism paradigm which has influenced the natural and social sciences during the twentieth century (Kincheloe & Tobin, 2009) has also strongly influenced educational research in my country. For example, when conducting action research, it still influenced by the power of measurable and objective truth. For example, improving students’ achievement by using constructivism, and then they seek to justify the improvement in students’ achievement by scoring and  triangulating quantitative and qualitative data. When I reflect deeply and look at the nature of mixed methods research design, I realise the power of objective truth and generalisation in this approach. In here, mixed methods is considered as the more powerful research approach as many people believe that combining quantitative and qualitative data and finding the one truth provides an integral picture of the data. However, within different approaches in educational research I have come to understand distinctive the characteristics of each approach. Holding only to a single approach would not help to transform myself and others. I realise that I need to use dialectical thinking to campaign for transformative educational research.


The Nature of Science

When I was a student and a beginning science teacher I simply thought science was the way to understand the world through systematic methods, namely “scientific methods”. I remember my teacher asked me to memorise the steps of scientific methods which I recognised as science itself. I had never thought about the philosophy of science, the truth, or the scientific community. In my doctoral thesis, I started opening my eyes to a far deeper insight into the nature and history of science. I used to believe that science is developed in the belief of one truth; in that science there is only right and wrong answer, there is no opportunity for other beliefs. Then I realised that scientific knowledge is recognised not only because of its symbolic nature but is constructed and validated through social interaction, or the dialogue process, within the scientific community. I remembered the agreement in August, 2008, when it was decided that Pluto would no longer be classified a planet. I realised the power of the scientific community in deciding the truth of science. Therefore, once scientific knowledge is validated by the scientific community it becomes ‘acceptable scientific’ concepts.

In relation to philosophy of science, Theobald (1968) states that science is concerned with facts about the world we live in, meanwhile the philosophy of science focuses on the nature of scientific facts (the structure of facts and the relations between them). Martin (1972) pointed out that there are four different ways to understand the philosophy of science; (1) a systematic development of the world view presented by science (the universe), (2) certain scientific investigations of science itself (history), (3) critical investigation of science as a social institution (society), (4) and analysis, clarification and critique of the concepts and methods of science (most common). As cited in McComas (2008, p. 249), the nature of science (NOS) is closely related, but is not identical to, the history and philosophy of science when NOS is defined as “a hybrid domain which blends aspects of various social studies of science including the history, sociology and philosophy of science combined with research from the cognitive sciences such as psychology into a rich description of science; how it works, how scientists operate as a social group, and how society itself both directs and reacts to scientific endeavours. For this chapter, I focus on the history and the nature of science to help me gain an understanding of the big picture of the philosophy of science.

According to Hoyningen-Huene (2008), in order to understand the nature of science, we can look to the history of science itself, even though at the beginning of the 21st Century there was no consensus among philosophers, historians or scientists about the nature of science, however, we could see that science has its own characteristics as a unique cultural product. In addition, science comes from the language of ‘scientia’ (Latin) which means knowledge. However, science could be referring to, in the broadest possible sense, not only all the sciences in the sense of the natural sciences but also the social sciences and the humanities. Therefore Hoyningen-Huene (2008) provides the features of science which characteristically distinguish it from other forms of knowledge, especially from everyday knowledge, by its higher degree of systematicity through eight dimensions – descriptions, explanations, predictions, the defense of knowledge claims, epistemic connectedness, an ideal of completeness, knowledge generation and the representation of knowledge. Meanwhile Milne (2011) provides four components in science which are empirical criteria, logical argument, sceptical review and the natural world. These four components refer to the use of our senses/observations, the rules of logic, what is science, and exploring nature. Then, when I came across aspects of the nature of science I found the following statement by Lederman (as cited in Deng, Chen, Tsai, & Chai, 2011, p. 963) to be relevant to seven aspects of the nature of science:

Scientific knowledge is tentative (subject to change), empirically based (based on and/or derived from observations of the natural world), and subjective (involves personal background, biases, and/or is theory-laden); necessarily involves human inference, imagination, and creativity (involves the invention of explanations); and is socially and culturally embedded. Two additional important aspects are the distinction between observations and inferences, and the functions of and relationships between science theories and laws.

Even though it has been debated whether scientific inquiry ought to be included in the nature of science, these seven aspects are recognised by many science educators (Deng, Chen, Tsai, & Chai, 2011). Thus, throughout the literature, I can see science is about exploring nature and everyday lives through scientific methods by certain rules of logic. Finally, I agree with a famous quote by Albert Einstein: “the whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking”, which means the whole of science is nothing more than a systematisation of everyday thinking (Hoyningen-Huene, 2008, p. 180).

In relation to the issue of science as a body of knowledge, according to Rosenblatt (2011), we need to differentiate between the body of understanding and the body of information. My understanding is that science in an effort to understand the world, not simply the source of information. Since understanding the world is complex and we need different points of view the issue of complexity in science is becoming important. Science is viewed not only as a singular body of knowledge but more as general systems, cybernetics, chaos, deep eco-logical, enactivist and autopoietic theories which emerge in dynamic structure (Fenwick, 2009). Thus, as science educators we need to realise whose knowledge has been privileged to understand the world. As Tytler (2007, p. 22) points out, most scientists and science educators “see science as universal, and scientific knowledge as having privileged status on the basis of the reliability of the methods of science which has been criticized by different perspectives from “feminist, post-colonialist, sociological, anthropological, and from critical and cultural studies” with questions which refer to knowledge production such as “what can be known and by whom, and what constitutes and validates knowledge”.

Since scientific ideas involve human beings science is not value-free. It involves passion, love, even ambition. Thus, Bekoff (2000) states that science supposes to tell us what things are and the way they are, however, science is not value-free with many prejudices embedded in scientific training and thinking. Even though most scientists are grounded in the common sense notion of science that “science is viewed as a fact-gathering, value-free activity in which individual values and subjectivity play no role”, however we cannot ignore that scientists are humans who have individual agendas — personal, social, economical and political (Bekoff, 2000, p. 60). As science is also concerned with control, scientists often feel uncomfortable when they can’t control the variables and sometimes controlled experiments ignore the existence of complex relationships among variables (Bekoff, 2000). Therefore, some scientists feel that they learn to deal with complex situations by not oversimplifying complex relationships among variables (Bekoff, 2000). According to Bekoff (2000, p. 62) “reductionism (in science) promotes alienation, isolation, and disconnection”, thus he proposed scientists as holists and more heart-driven, which means that science is embedded with a “sense of togetherness and relationship, family and community, and awe” and “is infused with spirit, compassion, and love”.

In education, the issue of including the nature of science has been widespread as, according to McComas (2008, p. 249), science curriculum reform starts to include the nature of science which helps students to understand and appreciate the scientific enterprise both as content (the facts of science) and process (the generation and testing of truth claims in science). According to Deng, Chen, Tsai, and Chai (2011, p. 962), views of the nature of science will help students to “(a) understand the process of science, (b) make informed decisions on socio-scientific issues, (c) appreciate science as a pivotal element of contemporary culture, (d) be more aware of the norms of the scientific community, and (e) learn science content with more depth”. Students’ views of the nature of science involve 10 dimensions and can be conceptualized as a continuum ranging from positivist/empiricist to constructivist/relativist perspectives, [in which] positivist/empiricist views are labelled as naıve or inadequate views, whereas the constructivist/relativist views are labelled as informed or adequate (McComas, 2008).

Finally, we must also acknowledge indigenous scientific knowledge. McKinley (as stated in Milne, 2011, p. 8) “argues that Indigenous Knowledge is place-based knowledge, which is often dismissed as irrelevant in educational settings as science becomes, if it is not already, increasingly global and universal”. According to Milne (2011, p. 8), “Indigenous Knowledge is local and, for people, their knowledge is specific to place. Indigenous Knowledge typically consists of creation stories and cosmologies that explain the origin of the Earth and people, codes of ritual/behaviour that organize human interactions with the environment, practices and patterns of resource allocation, and a body of factual knowledge”. According to Milne (2011), the tide of positivism, logical empiricism and Eurocentrism views science as the knowledge of power, whereas a pluralist model recognises all knowledge as equal. Eurocentric science is not uniquely Western or modern. It has borrowed from knowledge traditions across the world, including the Americas, African, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Arabic and Pacific (Milne, 2011).

Reflections on Assessment

The influence of assessment in students’ learning and teaching approaches has been recognised in research and different literature (Carrillo-de-la-Pen˜a and Pe´rez, 2012). Based on my experiences as a student and as a teacher, I realise the powerful influence of assessment. When I was a student my learning styles were related to my teachers’ assessment and most of my teachers’ assessment focused on content knowledge; thus I was busy memorizing facts. It was also replicable. When I became a teacher I used assessment of learning which focused on measuring students’ skills and abilities without giving opportunities for students to learn from the assessment itself. I realise that there are possible negative effects of testing on students: anxiety, categorizing and labelling the students, damaging students’ self-esteem, and creating self-fulfilling prophecies (Linn & Miller, 2005). I realised that I became the judge of my students’ capabilities and achievement level. Thus, my students only learnt when there were exams scheduled and only learnt by memorizing. According to Wass, Van der Vleuten, Shatzer, and Jones (2001), it is well known that students adjust their learning processes according to the particular type of assessment used. Consequently, the choice of the type of assessment is crucial and should closely correspond to the teaching objectives. In addition, according to Rust (2002), we should use different strategies of assessment which are concerned with students’ different approaches to learning. Over-assessment or inappropriate assessment leads to students’ surface and partial learning (George, 2009). Because each student is unique with a different approach to learning, each student should have the opportunity to engage in deep learning which can only be achieved by providing opportunities for different types of assessment.


In relation to the power of standardised assessment in my country, Brown (2010) points out that high-stakes, standards-based accountability school environments that many pre-service teachers were educated in evolved out of a series of governmental responses to the publication of documents by a range of organizations and commissions that questioned the effectiveness of the United States education system. The aim of these policies was to ensure that all students attain high levels of academic achievement. Researchers reported that these policies led to students experiencing a narrowed curriculum that emphasizes the mastery of basic skills to prepare them for multiple-choice standardized tests (Firestone, Camilli, Yurecko, Monfils, & Mayrowetz, 2000). Others found that high-stakes education policies created classroom environments where students are excluded from (Haney, 2000) or ignored during classroom instruction (Anagnostopoulos, 2006). Lastly, studies show that having such stakes in place can decrease students’ motivation to learn (Amrein & Berliner, 2003; Madaus & Clarke, 2001).


In different types of assessment, Hagstrom (2006) and Pemberton, Rademacher, Tyler-wood, and Cereijo (2006) stated that educational systems worldwide have employed two forms of assessment originally popularized by Bloom over the past 5 decades. These are formative and summative. Summative assessment focuses on testing and rating of students, and occurs at the end of learning to determine the extent to which learning has been retained and has reached the standards of the student and the education system as a whole (Thurlow, 2000; Hagstrom, 2006; Simpson-Beck, 2012). Meanwhile formative assessment refers to the continuous assessment of students’ progress which is collected throughout the school year as a long-term objective (Dyck, Pemberton, Woods, & Sundbye, 1998) for the correction, clarification and adjustment of information prior to summative assessment (Adams, 2004). In addition, formative assessment can be reflective, student-centred, and used as an ongoing process to improve and increase learning (Hunt & Pellegrino, 2002; Gipps, 2002; Hagstrom, 2006; Simpson-Beck, 2012). Formative assessment is said to be linked to cognitive learning theory (Steadman & Svinicki, 1998). Meanwhile Hagstrom (2006) points out that formative assessment is an interactive pedagogy based on constructivist ideas about learning.

Feedback and grade

Giving feedback and grades is an assessment process which influences students’ learning and motivation. I have included this topic because of my experiences as a teacher. I struggled in giving feedback and grades on my students’ learning and thus I have always wondered if I gave good feedback to motivate my students’ learning. Did my students’ grades truly represent their ability? Did my students’ grades truly represent my professional teaching? Firstly, I shall discuss feedback and then move to grades. According to Shute (2008), feedback is generally regarded as crucial to improving knowledge and skill acquisition and motivating learning. However, giving feedback is not easy and simple. According to Cohen (1985), feedback is one of the most powerful instructions and least understood features in instructional design. There are large bodies of feedback research over 50 years which provide many conflicting findings and no consistent pattern of results (Cohen, 1985) on what feedback criteria best help students’ learning. Rust (2002) points out several criteria of good feedback, which are that it ought to be prompt, encouraging, specific, balanced, positive, general with specific suggestions, use conversational language, provide comments’ explanations, grades’ explanation and a discussion opportunity. Sadly research evidence suggests that just giving feedback to students without requiring them to actively engage with it is likely to have only limited effect (Rust, 2002). Regarding giving grades, there are many are good arguments against them (Winter, 1983: Rust, 2000). According to Rust (2002) giving grades doesn’t mean very much, especially in giving numbers. For example, what does 52% actually mean? A number of students could get 52% with different reasons within their different strengths and weakness. However, students tend to focus on accumulating their average grade rather than on what has been learnt or what is the strength and weakness of their work. Teachers need to question whether, alongside their tendency to use grades to help students succeed in national examinations, as part of assessment of learning, this leads to meaningless learning experiences. So the main question always comes to my mind, ‘what is education for?’


I. Background

Oliver Sacks

Text Box:                     Oliver SacksThe Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is the Neurology and Psychology book which is written by Oliver Sacks. Oliver Sacks is well known as a physician, a neurologist and the author of nine other books. He wrote the book of Awakenings which inspired the Oscar-nominated film. His most recent writing is Musicophilia:Tales of Music and the Brain which explores the power of music and its influences to the brain based on his patient experiences. Currently, he is living in New York City as a professor of Clinical Neurology at Columbia University.

The Book

Text Box:            The Book This book represents the stories of his patients who have neurological disorder. Sacks packed the case study of his patients with a fascinating and appealing language. The book is quite short and easy to read, and represents the feelings and emotions both of his patients and Sacks himself. Even though the topics are neurology and psychology, but it can be considered for readers who don’t have neurology and psychology background. It helps general readers, since it includes short postscripts which consist of the explanations of the study and specific terms in neurology. Sacks also uses the everyday language to engage general readers. Therefore this book not only can help the neurologists, psychologists, and other medical practitioners, but also general readers to enrich their understanding of wide range neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions

II. Summary

The book consists of 24 short stories that are divided into four parts which are Losses, Excesses, Transports, and The World of The Simple. Each part represents stories of people who have specific problems on brain functions which will be represented through each paragraph of this summary. The summary discusses some of the stories in detailed which represent the specific neurological disorder as the main idea of each part.

First Part: Losses. People who have loss or lack some of the functions of their brain can have several diseases or injury, such as Aphonia, Aphemia, Aphasia, Alexia, Apraxia, Agnosia, amnesia, and Ataxia (Sacks, 2007). On The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat, Dr. P is a musician who had problems with his visual images. He couldn’t recognize things around him, even his face, wife, foot, shoes, etc. Therefore, he grabbed his wife’s head to put on his head, because he thought that his wife was a hat. But, he has wonderful musical intelligence, he can do his activities if he’s singing, but he would forget everything and completely stop his activities when he’s interrupted from his singing. The Lost Mariner is the story of Jimmie G, 19 years old, good looking man who was a radio operator in submarine. He can’t remember anything, except his life experiences before mid 1940’s. Therefore, he always thinks that he is 19 years old young man. But, he has excellent ability in science and math. He can compare each chemical elements and is doing well on arithmetical and algebra calculations. The Disembodied Lady is the story of 27 years young woman, who has two young children who worked as computer programming. Her life has changed, since the attack of abdominal pain. She can’t feel her body and control them. Therefore, she has to learn how to walk, move and other functions of her body. The rest of the stories have similar type of neurological disorder. For example, The Man Who Fell out of Bed is the story of a man who can’t feel his leg. He wanted to throw his leg out of bed, because he thought that his leg is the fake leg, not his own. The Hands is the story of Madeleine, 60 years old, a blind woman. She can’t do anything by her hand, because she feels that her hands are useless, inactive as “lumps of dough”. Phantoms is about the feeling of having part of body, especially limb, after it’s lost such as because of amputation. On the Level is about 93 years old man with Parkinson disease, who is walking 20 degrees which way off to the left to maintaining his balance. But, he can’t feel it, he thinks that he’s walking straight. Eyes Right! is the story of Mrs S, around 60 years old. She got a massive stroke which caused damage on her right cerebral hemisphere, so that she can’t feel her left. The last story of The President Speech presents the patients who have global aphasia. They are incapable to understand the words, so that they found Presidents’ speeches are so funny which makes them laugh and anger.

Second Part: Excesses. This second part is unusual in neurological disorder. The disorder is commonly found because of dysfunctional or lack or loss, but not excesses of the system. Witty Ticcy Ray is the story of patient, Ray, 24 years old man who has Tourette’s syndrome which is characterized by the excess of energy, great productions, motions, and notions. He has remarkable ability on music such as hitting the drum, and in various games, such as ping-pong. He is excellent on doing all those things, because he has abnormal quickness of reflect and reactions. Then when Sacks gave him the drug Haldol to treat his disorder, Ray became slow down and lost himself, so that Ray decided not to use the medicine, and let himself to live with his Tourette. The Cupid’s Disease is the story of Natasha K., 90 years old woman who fell herself becomes more energetic, alive and young. She had syphilis seventy years ago which commonly is called cupid’s disease. She chooses to stay energetic, rather than to be treated. The other patient, Miguel O., who has neurosyphilis. He has excited imagination and energy. When Dr. Sacks gave him Haldol, he became slowly down and lost his excited imagination (see figure bellow).

A Matter of Identity is the story of Mr. Thompson who can’t recognize anyone, but he can create fiction characters. In the Yes, Father-Sister, Mrs. B, a former research chemist, she is becoming funny, impulsive, and superficial. She called Dr. Sacks “father, sister, and sometimes doctor”. She knows the right and left, but she can’t differentiate it. The Possessed is the story of Sacks’s experiences on observing Touretters in the street of New York City.

Third Part: Transports. This part consists of the stories of Sacks’s patients who have imaginations, dreams, spiritualities, feelings, or other unconscious and preconscious activities which is called ‘transport or portal, or dreamy states, or reminiscence”. Reminiscence is the story of Mrs. O’C who had dream of her childhood in Ireland where she was dancing and singing. It is not simply a dream, because since then, she feels that she is living in her childhood memories. In Incontinent Nostalgia, a 63 year old woman who had Parkinson disease, since she was 18 years old. She used the drug L-Dopa to treat her Parkinson, but this drug caused the nostalgia and joyful memories of her youth life. A Passage to India is the story of Bhagawahndi P., a 19 years old Indian girl, who suffered form a malignant brain tumor. She had dreams and visions that she was in his country, India, return to her normal life as a young girl. She enjoyed her dreams and visions day to day, until the rest of her life. The Dog Beneath the Skin is the story of a 22 year medical student who had a dream that he was a dog. Since then, he can sniff like a dog. He has excellent smell ability like a dog. He could recognize every street, shop, food by smell. Murder is the story of a man who killed his girl under the influence of PCP (phenylcyclohexylpiperidine). Therefore, he didn’t remember it then. He had the irruption of psychotic fantasy. When he was conscious about it, he would regret and be angry. But, nothing he could do, because his girl was dead. The Visions of Hildegard is the story of woman who had illusion of her earliest childhood, mysticism, and spiritualism. She can imagine and create the picture of city of God and other illusive pictures.

Fourth Part: The World of The Simple. This part consists of stories of Sacks’s patients who have different forms of mind which is very simple, innocent, and transparent. Rebecca is the story of Rebecca, a 19 years old girl who loves stories, poetry, and others arts. She acted like a child in some ways, such as she couldn’t find the key of the door, couldn’t use her clothes, put the gloves into the foot and put the shoes into the hand. Her grandmother was the one who always taking care of her since her parents died. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away, and then she became unmotivated and was losing her soul. Until, she joins the special theater group, and shows the fantastic performances. A Walking Grove is the story of Martin A, a 61 years old man who had Parkinson and Meningitis. He has amazing musical memory, such as he can remember 2000 operas. He acts and uses language like a child, and his spirit of music makes him survive. The Twins is the story of the twins, John and Michael who were 26 years old. They were well known because of their remarkable memory of documentary, algorithm, and time. They knew the content of matches in a box which is felt from the table (11 matches), but they didn’t know where 111’s coming from. Even, they can’t calculate the simplest calculations. Their world is very simple, just remembering without understanding. In The Autist Artist, the 21 years old young man has autism. People think that he is an idiot and even he can’t talk, because he has autism. But, when Dr. Sacks asked him to draw the pictures, he can draw the same pictures as shown amazingly (see picture bellow).

The right side is produced by the autist artist

III. Interpretation and Analysis

In term of content, Sacks provides interesting stories of neurological disorders of his patients which can be rich information for neurologist, psychologist, and general readers as well. He organizes the case study of his patients into four parts: Losses, Excesses, Transports, and The World of The Simple. The Losses and Excesses focus on neurological functions, the Transports relates to the hallucinations and visions, then The World of The Simple provides the stories of different forms of mind which is simple and innocent. The stories on the Losses provide the general neurological disorders which happened on Dr. Sacks’s patients. The similar patterns of patients’ behaviors and psychology help the readers to understand the concept of the dysfunction of brain. Moreover, the importance of music for human brain is also well described. Excesses is really unusual neurological disorder in which patients have excess functions of brain. It seems to be impossible, but it happened to Dr. Sacks’s patients. Some of the patients consider this disorder as the treat and the others consider as the fortune and let it with them without any treatments. On the Transports, it is really amazing that how can the dream and hallucinations change people both psychologically and physically. For example, the story of A Passage to India, Bhagawahndi P. became cheerful and joyful within her brain tumor, because she had hallucinations coming back to India in her childhood. On The World of The Simple is really amazing as well as adults can act like a child. Then they really have the amazing ability as well, such as Rebecca who could perform amazingly in theater or the twins, John and Michael, who could predict the date of the day on history. Overall, all the stories are really interesting, especially for general readers who want to broaden their knowledge.

In terms of structure and language of the book, Sacks guides the readers to understand the main idea of the different concepts of neurological disorders by organizing the stories into four main parts. He describes the incidental moment of each patients in each story, which is really engaging and empowering. As a reader, I am realizing how it is wonderful to have a normal function of brain and how’s amazing to know the brain’s working. Moreover, the book can be considered for the general readers who don’t have neurology and psychology background, because Sacks uses general and engaging language which can help the general readers to understand the stories. He also helps the readers with the postscripts which describe the background of history or further studies as well as special terms in neurology. Moreover, each of stories engages the readers to involve on the patients’ worlds as well. However, for the first part, especially the introduction of Losses could be confusing for the general readers, because he mentions Aphonia, Aphemia, and other words of neurology for the first time. But, the stories on this part make those terms clear. Moreover, different from other stories which are started by introducing the patients, the story of The Vision of Hildegard is started by the explanations of its neurological disorder with the complex language which could be confusing for general readers. But, overall, the book is amazing, not only provides interesting cases of human brain, but also encourage the readers to understand and be empathy of patient’s feelings.

IV. Implementation for Teaching and Learning

The book is definitely can be used as teaching resources on psychology, neurology, and biology subject. In chemistry, it may be related with the medicines which are used to treat the patients. For the other subjects, it can provide the readers different perspectives and contemporary knowledge of neurological disorders. For the readers who study in psychology and neurology or medical background, this book provides readers with rich information about different types of neurological disorder, its characteristics and the treatment. Some of the case studies of Sacks patients are hardly ever found in neurological field. Therefore, it will help them to deal with different problems of neurological disorder. For the teacher, it can help them to deal with students with special needs who have unique behaviour and psychology. This book will help them to understand the unusual type of students’ learning.

Moreover, the high school and university students could use this book as a reference. High school and university students could relate it with their subject in the school and university. On this level of education, students already have the prior knowledge of the human body, especially the brain’s functions. The prior knowledge is needed since it implies some of neurology and psychology terms, especially students who use English as the second language. However, it may be applied for year 7-9 students who using English as the first language, since it used everyday language to engage the readers. Overall, the book can be used as a teaching resource for teachers as well as learning resources for the students within wide ranges of subject.



The book title is The Periodic Kingdom: A Journey into the Land of The Chemical Elements. The book is part of science master book which is published in 1995, New York and consists of 194 pages. The book is short, quite easy to read, imaginative, and poetic. Even though the topic is chemical elements, but it can be considered for readers who don’t have a chemistry background.

Peter Atkins is well-known popular author in science, specially as a textbook author of Physical Chemistry. He is also a lecturer in Physical Chemistry at Oxford University and has research interests in quantum theory. In this book, Atkins brings the readers into the imaginary journey through the periodic table. He points out in this book that “the periodic table is arguably the most important concept in chemistry”. Therefore, this book provides the fundamental framework of chemical elements through imagination which can help the readers develop a meaningful understanding of both the concepts and practices.


The summary is divided into three paragraphs which represents three parts of the book: Geography, History, and Government and Institutions. These three parts complement each others to represent the kingdom of periodic table.

The concept of chemical elements, as arranges through a periodic table, is a fundamental concept in chemistry. However, the periodic table is not simply the list of chemical elements with different names and colors, but it is also the basis of every material in the world, such as water, air, plants, animals, and humans themselves. Starting the imaginative geographical journey, the periodic table is divided into different regions which represent different characteristics of elements from metal in the West to non metal in the East and inert elements at an Eastern Shoreline. Every element with their own personality contributes to the characteristics of regions in the periodic kingdom. Every region has their own products which is of crucial importance for natural and human life, for example ,Iron which can becomes steel is the foundation for most infrastructures in modern society and Phosphorus is one component of bone. However, there are few elements in the regions that have no applications and have not been explored by the nature and industry, such as Francium which is only comes in small quantities in the earth. The other reasons are human have not yet found the commercial value and radioactivity of these elements. Moreover, every region in the Kingdom not only has the differences on colors and products, but also the physical geography, such as the forms and the structure of atoms. The atoms of each element is distinguished by the diameter and mass which later on determine their characteristics on chemical reactions. This physical geography has shown connection between the location of regions and their properties.

Each element also has their own history of discovery as well as their own name. However, it is difficult to find the beginning history of discovery of many elements. Only few elements can be found in the earth in the native form, such as gold, copper, and sulfur. The advanced technology is also applied for the elements invention, for example, Humphrey Davy who invented Potassium and Sodium through electrolysis. Most of naming of elements depends on the characteristics or the recourses, such as calcium is present in lime (Latin of Lime is Calx). Some of elements have been named by the colours, such as iodine, from ioeides (violet) and by the smell, such as Bromine form bromos (stench). Most people didn’t give their own name to the elements, but few elements are named by using famous people name such as Einstenium (Albert Einstein). Currently, the name of elements is determined by the atom number through a scheme of nomenclature. The cartographers of the kingdom contribute to the arrangement of elements in the periodic table. The first cartographer, Johann Dobereiner identified a triad arrangement (three elements), where the atomic weigh of middle element was the arithmetic means of two outer elements. Then, Newlands invented the harmonies among elements in the eight steps (octaves) which is followed by Julius Lothar Meyer who found the varied periodically of atomic weight. Different from other cartographers, Dmitri Ivanovitch Mendeleev explored the elements from their chemical properties. Finally, the map of modern kingdom is arranged by the atomic weight which contributes to the number of proton, neutron, and electron. The arrangement of elements by atomic weigh also related to their chemical properties.

The government and institutions of the kingdom have the laws both interior and exterior. The laws of the interior consist of the rules for governing the structure of atoms which contribute to their properties. The inventions during the late nineteenth and twentieth century have greatly impacted on the internal structure of atoms which are based on quantum theory. Rutherford with his fundamental experiment, found the theory of nuclear atom. The atom consists of single and massive positive charge which is a nuclear and surroundings by the electrons. His student, Moseley succeeded to count this positive charge which is determined as the atomic number. Later on, based on this model, He found that this positively charge of particles also determined the proton of element. Each nucleus also consists of the number neutron which related to the mass of atom. This invention of atomic particles contributes to the properties of elements. The laws of exteriors govern the surrounding electrons which chemical reactions of elements rely on. The rules provide the information of possibility and the distribution of electron positions. In order to achieve a stable condition, electron involves a chemical reactions. Atoms of each element are held together through chemical bonding to create compounds. The principle of chemical bonds is determined by the characteristic of atom both interior (nucleus) and exterior (electron configuration).

In conclusion, each chemical element contributes to the characteristics of every region in the kingdom. Many scientists put a great effort into exploring the characteristics of chemical elements from different perspectives and experiments. Every element provides its own product, and is held together with other elements to create chemical compounds of all material in the world.

Interpretation and Analysis

Peter Atkins provides the essential concept in chemical elements through imaginative journey and poetic language which are really engaging. The idea of representing chemical elements in periodic table as a kingdom which are related each others is really interesting. Readers who used to read Peter Atkins Textbook, especially in Physical Chemistry, can be excited by is unique representations of chemistry in this book. Even though, Atkins pointed out that he provided the journey of periodic table for the readers who don’t have chemistry background, it needs chemistry knowledge to engage in the journey, especially for readers who have English as second language.

Atkins organizes the journey through three big parts: Geography, History, and Government and Institutions. Geography as part one consists of three chapters: the terrain, the products of regions, and physical geography. In this part, he explores the characteristics and uses of each element in every region. Chemical elements with their own characteristic from metal, non metal, transitions, and inert elements provide different landscape in the kingdom. The journey stimulates readers to imagine geography of elements by giving the rich descriptions of each region from West to East, from North to South. In this part, he assists readers to realize the importance of rules of chemical elements in every materials, natural process, and living organisms, especially human life. He used everyday language to describe the chemical elements and try to use simple descriptions of their physical geography. The second part (History) is divided into four chapters: the history of discovery, the naming of the regions, the origin of the land, and the cartographers. He used more in depth language to describe the history of the discovery the elements as well as the process of cartography. The rich information of discovery naming, and cartographers are given from Humphrey Davy to Ramsay, from simple nomenclature into IUPAC, from Dobereiner to Mendeleev. Readers with a background in chemistry will find a simple, interesting and imaginative way of presenting complex and rich information. For readers without a chemistry background, the authors provide the opportunity to use the depth of their imagination to make sense of it.

The last part (Government and Institutions) is divided into four chapters: the laws of the interior, the laws of the exterior, regional administration, and liaisons and alliances. He provides deeper information on the properties of chemical elements, the structural atom, quantum mechanics, the laws of electrons, the compounds, and the chemical bonding. These basic principles provide really valuable information and critical reflections for readers on understanding of chemistry concepts. Overall, Atkins provides integration information of basic concepts in chemistry in each part which helps readers to engage with his imaginative journey through poetic languages.

Implementation for Teaching and Learning Chemistry in Indonesia Context

In Indonesia, using this book as one of reading reference is really challenging, not only because of The language, but also the rigid curriculum that teachers and students have to deal with. However, the different approach of this book, by using poetic language and imaginary thinking, is really engaging. Mostly teachers and students heavily depend on chemistry textbooks as learning resources which provide similar patterns of information. Therefore, engaging students through reading this book could create meaningful learning experiences for students.

However, the level of using this book need to be considered for students, even though there is a new curriculum framework for chemistry that is starting to be taught in junior high school level (grade 7-9), it will be confusing for them rather than engaging. For high school students, this book will be useful for rich information of their chemistry knowledge which is really related to the curriculum. This table bellow shows the implementation of using Atkins book within chemistry teaching.

Table 1. Chemistry Curriculum for High School in Indonesia and it’s related with Peter Atkin’s Book



Sub Topic

Atkin’s Book (The Periodic Kingdom)


· Nomenclature

· The Structure of Atom, (Part One)

· Characteristics periodic atoms,

· Chemical bonding

· The Bohr model, etc

· Electron configurations

· Periodic tables

· Chemical bonding process (ion, covalent, etc.)

· Part one: the terrain, physical geography

· Part two: the naming of regions, the cartographers

· Part three: the laws of interior, liaisons and alliances


· The Structure of Atom (Part two)

· Periodic atoms

· Structure of molecules

· Quantum mechanics and periodic tables

· Hybridizations electrons

· Molecules bonding

Part three: the laws of exterior, regional administrations liaisons and alliances


Sources, characteristics and products of chemical elements

· Resources of chemical elements in the nature

· Physical and chemical properties of chemical elements

· The products of chemical elements (the uses and dangerous) in every day life

· Part one: The Terrain, the product of the regions

· Part two: the history of discovery

Source: Curriculum Centre, Department of National Education, 2008

For engaging students by using this book as a resource, teacher can use this tool bellow:

Example of Teaching Tool: Cross and Down Game






















  1. The main chemical element in DNA protein
  2. The number of elements arrangement using analogy of music by Newlands (latin)
  3. The scientist who found the nuclear atom (surname)
  4. The element which discovered by making use of distant nuclear fire, the sun
  5. The main elements in the Western Deserts
  6. The German Chemist who examined the correlation between the physical properties and atomic weight (surname)
  7. One of the triads elements which is arranged by Dobereiner
  8. Called for the elements which are not chemically active in coastal deserts of Kingdom
  9. The Australian Physics who enunciated the exclusion principle of electron orbital
  10. The metal element which is crucial importance to lift humanity from stone age to industrial revolution


  1. 25% of gases in the atmosphere
  2. The chemical compound for refrigerants which can deplete the ozone layer
  3. The very first element to be formed
  4. The scientist who found Potassium and Sodium
  5. The element is named because of the colour, green shout (Greek)
  6. One advance technology to discover the chemical elements
  7. The chemical bond which is an interaction between the ions that atom form
  8. A positively charged particle in atomic nucleus
  9. Vertical columns in periodic table
  10. The first enabling technology which drove compounds apart in ways.

Moreover, this book will be more essential for university students, especially for chemistry students in general and inorganic chemistry course. The basic concepts in this book will help the students develop a higher level of thinking in chemistry. Moreover, this book is a valuable and interesting chemistry reference which can engage and motivate students for learning chemistry. However, teachers, especially in Indonesia should use a creative approach in dealing with challenges of using this book as a teaching resource.


Curriculum Centre, Department of National Education. 2008. Chemistry Curriculum for Secondary High School Retrieved 10/08/2008.

Art education crucial for schoolchildren

Art education crucial for schoolchildren

Abdul Azis ,  Utrecht   |  Fri, 05/02/2008 2:26 PM  |  Focus

Many people argue that art education for children, particularly in primary school, is not as important as mathematics and natural science. Some point out there is no choice, for whoever wants to fight in the future must deal with mathematics and science. I agree to some extent; however, saying art education is not important is also hasty and unreasonable.

Art education holds a strong position in developing children’s skill and creativity. Many parents do not recognize the tremendous potential and are unaware how important it is to educate their children in this field in addition to other disciplines in school. Children are sometimes forced to take courses relating to science such as mathematics, biology, physics and statistics without being asked whether they like the subjects.

Commonly we hear negative statements from some parents; what do you want to be as an artist, and how can you fulfill your life as a painter or musician?

Becoming an artist nowadays is so open and full of possibilities to be successful. Art has become a sphere of development and reservoir of humankind, especially in the developed world. In the United States and Europe, art has a strategic position in the society and deserves a highly respected space. Painting and sculpture in the house symbolize modern people and the presence of artwork can explain to us the history of human beings by seeing what art earlier generations produced.

Every child has tendencies and inclinations for specific fields. Parents sometimes force children into one specific field because of their desire to see their children “seem” smart. A doctor or astronaut must be smarter than a child who wants to play the piano, the thinking goes. This kind of thinking, though, is detrimental to a child’s development.

Children will follow a parent’s chosen course of study without conviction because they think it’s only the desire of their parents. Children then turn lazy. They like music or painting, so why should they follow a course of study that is not their desire?

Pushing them and neglecting their potential in the art field will not only create a stark identity, when perhaps in their future career they will be successful as an expert in one of the science fields, but also they will lose their empathy, care and feeling. And this is so sad.

By learning art education, children will exercise how to apply their feelings by respecting the environment, other people, animals, etc. The essence of art education is to teach them how to respect life itself. Exercising the sense, care, heart, mind and feeling will be able to drive children to go forward and spread peace and pure knowledge. Of course, we do not hope to have our children become “robots”, being smart on thinking but losing their humanity as human beings.

There are also some obvious examples that art offers a wide space to be successful. Michael Jackson, Ronald Reagan (a former artist and U.S. president), Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor of California), etc, are examples of where we can benefit by going beyond in this field.

I believe shaping a smart identity for children must involve an artistic attitude and should begin when our children enter primary school. Looking at their potential and not pushing them to like what we like will bear Indonesian leaders who understand how to build this country as a nation of dignity.

In this age, every discipline fuses in an interdisciplinary manner, and art holds the same value as other disciplines to establish a smart, fighting identity for our children.

The writer is a fellow of the International Fellowship Program (IFP) Ford Foundation and a graduate student of fine arts at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU) in the Netherlands. He can be reached at

‘Ponpes’ strive to improve education for women

Wahyoe Boediwardhana ,  The Jakarta Post ,  Malang, E. Java   |  Sun, 05/25/2008 12:01 PM  |  Discover

The quality of education today for Muslim women is being continuously improved upon these tenets of Islamic education. The teaching of both Islam and sciences are considered very important, particularly in the face of contemporary challenges.

Despite the greater number of professional women who are advocating better education for their peers in the country, the domestic role of women in guiding their children’s learning still seems to remain the primary reason for improvement.

“Children rarely, if ever, turn to their fathers first about something. They are more likely to ask their mothers first. This is because they are closer to their mothers and see her every day,” the chairman of the Al Rifa’ie Ponpes foundation, Ahmad Muflih Azam, told The Jakarta Post.

Some educators of a particular segment have responded to the need by providing a broader educational opportunity for Muslim girls.

One such individual is K.H. Achmad Zamachsyari, who set up in 1992 a modern pondok pesantren (ponpes) for female students.

The Al Rifa’ie Islamic boarding school in Gondanglegi district, Malang regency, aims to educate its students to develop their command of technology, to be proficient in foreign languages, to become high achievers and to develop a noble character. At present, it has 734 female students who come from 18 provinces.

Muflih rejected the prevailing assumption that ponpes were “backward”; he believes that the stigma of ponpes as a marginalized educational institution is no longer relevant.

“That might have been the case during the colonial era, when santri (Islamic students) had no opportunities for formal schooling. Now we have equal opportunity, and ponpes often provide a more complete syllabus, particularly with regard to religious education,” he said.

The Al Rifa’ie ponpes achieves this balance between academics and religion by combining formal secondary school curricula with religious education provided at its Madrasah Murottilil Qur’an Al Rifa’ie (MMQA) and Madrasah Diniyah Al Rifa’ie (MDA).

The MMQA provides Koranic studies that lead towards a teaching certificate while the MDA follows the government-approved Islamic/ponpes curriculum, which has been developed further with the Lirboyo-Jombang, the Gontor-Ponorogo and other regional ponpes.

In addition, Al Rifa’ie offers its santri creative skills courses such as culinary management, fashion design and crafts during its 18-hour school day. It also has classes in modern languages, journalism, shariah banking, social sciences, computer sciences, multimedia technology and the life sciences.

“There’s no discrimination in Islam. Men and women have the same educational opportunities,” said Muflih.

Another all-girls ponpes, Al Ishlahiyah, located in the district town of Singosari, provides religious classes on campus and sends its students to attend classes in academic subjects at other Islamic schools.

“Basically, our students study more salafiyah subjects on the Koran and the Hadith than those attending formal schools, including tauhid (Allah and His attributes), tazawuf (building character towards a divine union) and fiqh (Islamic law),” said Lathifah Mahfudz, the curriculum advisor at Al Ishlahiyah.

“That’s the general advantage of ponpes over formal schooling. Instead of relying on formal subjects alone, ponpes offer more religious content, so its graduates will cultivate good character and serve as role models (in society). Most formal schools only have two hours of religious lessons a week,” she added.

With about 350 santri, Al Ishlahiyah has more limited facilities compared to Albut the heads of the two ponpes agree that the central and regional governments needed to assume a greater role in supporting the development of Islamic schools. “… Apart from their considerable contributions (to national education) since the colonial era, ponpes can also act as a screen to filter out anti-religious influences on the younger generation,” Muflih said.

A key area of support is human resources, which requires technical guidance and training as well as skills in curricular management to rais their competitiveness. Ponpes also need more quality science teachers, scholarship funds and modern facilities.

“So far, we haven’t received any special government attention. Though a ponpes department has been established under the education ministry, its direct impact on schools is yet to be seen,” Muflih said.

Lathifah is more critical in her views: “The government may have noticed that we have survived independently without aid, so perhaps it believes that ponpes will continue to exist (without support).”

Despite of the lack of government support, ponpes still try to accommodate disadvantaged students.

“At our institution, we give opportunities to those who cannot afford school expenses, as long as they are highly motivated to learn and to succeed,” Lathifah said.

Aside from academic knowledge and skills, ponpes offer santri valuable experiences in developing a sense of solidarity, discipline, respect for teachers and elders, tolerance, ethics and financial management skills.

“Such experiences will be very useful at home and in (the students’) future family life,” she stressed.


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