A New Beginning

At the end of this trimester, I feel a little burned out because I have been subject to a lot of assessments in various endeavors: 1) midterms and quizzes for acupuncture courses (and I happily learned I didn’t fail in the midterm of one major subject because the teacher miscalculated my score); 2) a high-stakes summative assessment of one module of Data Science on Coursera, consisting of only five questions; and 3) self and peer evaluation for two group assignments and quizzes in EDS 113.

Back in college, being on the receiving end of assessment and a learner subject to tests felt like a mandatory (sometimes, annoying) requirement that had to be finished with, so it was important to strategize with dispensable knowledge (which is vital for procrastinators like me). As a more mature learner, I now greatly appreciate the importance of assessment to students and teachers because it is integral in improving the quality of the teaching-learning process, and hence place more value in how assessment helps teachers facilitate learning and assists students in retaining important concepts and learning important skills.

With that being said, it becomes extremely important for teachers to be assessment-literate. They should be able to plan well-designed assessments and to align them with learning goals and objectives because they know the purpose and importance of different types of assessment (assessment of learning/summative, assessment for learning/formative, assessment as learning, informal/formal) and when to use them. They must also marry theoretical knowledge about assessment and connect it to theories of learning (EDS 103) because it will justify how they will capture learning according to how students learn. Lastly, assessment entails critical reflection and action, which is a core principle in teaching (EDS 111), that allows teachers to reflect upon information from assessment and to adjust accordingly. Theoretically, critically reflective teachers provide the model for students to become critically reflective as well.

As I journey through my life as a student and a (future) teacher, I hope that a strong foundation on assessment becomes part of professional development and teacher training so that we develop critically reflective and assessment literate teachers, who will pave the way for critical thinkers and graduates who perform well in assessment and in life.


Organ Manifestation Theory in TCM

In general, zang organs mainly manufacture and store essential substances like blood, qui, essence, and body fluid while fu organs receive, digest, transport, and excrete. Organ manifestation (Zang Xiang) theory was developed because of rich experience, clinical practice, and anatomical knowledge of ancient Chinese doctors and because of pathological and physiological observations.


 The heart, as the “supreme ruler”, distributes blood and dominates the blood vessels. Blood is also the material basis for mental activities and thinking, so the heart is also said to house the mind and spirit and is associated with the emotion of joy. The health of the heart can be seen in the tongue, taste, and speech. The peri-cardium functions to protect the heart.

If the heart dominates the blood, then the liver stores and regulates the volume of blood. It also maintains the free flow of qi given its elemental properties (wood), so a normally functioning liver creates harmonious qi and blood which helps balance emotions. Additionally, the liver supports digestion with the excretion/secretion of bile and controls the tendons/sinews. The health of the liver can also be seen in the nails and in the eyes. The associated emotion with the liver is anger.

The spleen, located in the middle energizer, controls the blood that the heart distributes and that the liver stores. Most importantly, it is the main organ for the manufacture of qi and blood and governs over the transportation (digestion) and transformation (transmission) of nutrient substance. The health of the spleen can be seen in the muscles, four limbs, mouth, and lips. The emotion that is said to affect the spleen the most is thinking or pensiveness.

The lung controls respiration and dominates qi of respiration and qi of the whole body. It also distributes defensive qi and body fluid to the skin, hair, and muscles, while the skin disperses the qi and defends the body from external pathogens. Also, the lung descends and regulates water passageways for smooth circulation and excretion of water in tandem with the kidney and bladder. The lung is associated with the emotion of sadness or grief. Lastly, the lungs open up into the nose and throat as gateways of respiration.

The kidney helps the lung in receiving and descending qi, stores congenital and acquired essence, dominates development and reproduction, and contains the foundations for yin (kidney yin) and yang (kidney yang) in the body. Furthermore, kidney qi regulates the distribution of body fluid and sends clear fluid to the lung for circulation while turbid fluid goes to the bladder. The health of the kidneys can be seen in the bones and hair, and is connected to the ear and anterior/posterior orifices of the human body. Fear is the emotion that is said to affect the kidneys the most.


The gallbladder aids in digestion, helps descend qi, and helps to maintain the free flow of qi with its partner organ, the liver. The stomach is also important in digestion because it receives and decomposes food. Together with the spleen, the stomach creates acquired foundation for the body and helps in descending qi. After the stomach, the small intestine receives, digests, and separates the clear from the turbid. The large intestine then receives the waste material, absorbs fluid content, forms feces, and then excretes it with the help of lung qi. If the large intestine eliminates solid waste, the bladder temporarily stores urine and relies on qi activity to discharge it. It works hand-in-hand with the kidneys, wherein kidney qi assists it in opening and closing to metabolise body fluid. Lastly, the san jiao or triple energizer functions as the governor of the different forms of qi and facilitates the circulation of quanqi and body fluid from the kidney to the different zang-fu organs. Each energizer functions in relation to the organs that it is located in front of: the upper energizer above the diaphragm dominates essential qi to the heart and lung, the middle energizer dominates digestion, and the lower energizer facilitates the separation of turbid/clear and the discharge of wastes from the body.

Five Element Theory in TCM

Five Phases Theory

Similar to the yin-yang theory, the five-phases theory states that the five natural elements or phases illustrates the different relationships between the zang-fu organs and their characteristics according to their element. In acupuncture, the theory is also used to target “element points” or five transport points located at the hands and feet.

The law of promotion/generation demonstrates the cycle of progression of the five elements in nature and in the human body. In layman’s terms, wood generates fire (like how we light fires with wood), fire generates earth (like the lava of the earth giving rise to earth and soil), earth generates metal (like how precious minerals and metals are deposited in the earth), metal generates water, and water generates wood (like how water can help trees grow).

On the other hand, the law of restriction states that certain elements can limit or control other elements, most often which are opposite them. In this cycle, wood restrains earth (like how a trees roots would penetrate the soil); water restrains fire (like putting out the flames with water); fire restrains metal (like a blacksmith melting metal with fire); and metal restrains wood (like a metal axe would if it was used to cut down a tree).

Since each zang-organ is interconnected with one another because of their ascribed element, a disease of one organ can affect another. In the generation cycle, deficiency would be addressed by tonifying the mother. For example, deficient lung qi (metal) would mean tonifying its promoting element and corresponding organ, which is the spleen (earth), so that the mother (spleen) can nourish the child (lung). However, in the case of excess, cleanse or purge both the organ and its child. For example, excess fire of the heart and liver can be addressed by purging first the heart (fire) in order to clear the liver (wood).

In the restriction cycle, hyperactive zang-organs are treated by suppressing the strong and assisting the weak zang-organs according to the law of restriction. For example, lung yin deficiency with a hyperactive liver means that the liver (wood) is counter-restraining the lung (metal) so the treatment would be to tonify the lung yin and to suppress the liver.


Pattern Differentiation in TCM

Pattern differentiation is one of the major features of Chinese medicine which differentiates it from Western Medicine. While there are many diseases in TCM that can be considered the same with those identified in Western Medicine, biomedical terms are not  exact substitutes for treatment and so pattern differentiation is important in diagnosis and treatment.

Different treatments for the same disease recognize that each patient is unique in terms of responding to the treatment of the disease. In addition, practitioners often look at a syndrome, which is a pattern of symptoms that can be seen at a certain stage of a disease. For example, a migrane or a recurring headache is the same in Western Medicine and a doctor may prescribe paracetamol or any other painkiller for treatment. In Chinese medicine, a migration can either signal a problem with the liver because it is connected to the eyes and head and/or the kidney, which belongs to the water element and promotes wood (liver). Another example is that the common cold can manifest in different syndromes like wind-cold or wind-heat so the treatment depends on syndrome differentiation.

On the other hand, the same treatment for different disease means that different diseases at certain stages of progression can show the same pathological changes or syndrome. For example, three patients present different illnesses: one has a headache, another has gout, and the last has heartburn; if these three illnesses are caused by pathogenic heat, then they could get the same treatment.



Self and Peer Assessment

It is a peculiar thing to reflect upon a type of assessment that I have rarely seen in the years I have been a student. Back in college, it appeared that only teachers had a monopoly on the way assessments were designed and administered and as I meandered through my masters and postgraduate courses it was peppered mostly with assessment for learning and assessment of learning. Looking back, it appears that the educational system favors individuality more than group work and if there is collaborative effort it is a means to award each student with the same final grade.

The last time I had undergone self- and peer assessment was two trimesters ago for two education subjects. Both required group work with fellow students who I have never met before and online. For one subject, my groupmates were active in collaborating, sharing their thoughts, and sending communication online and offline because of the nature of the assignment and project (e.g. fieldwork, survey). In contrast, the other subject confined me and my classmates to a Googledocs until the very end of the assignment. There were a lot of factors that facilitated teamwork: technology, similar goals and objectives, individual effort, instructions/assignment. But the major difference was the clarity of instruction, personalities, and delegation of tasks. One groupwork was halfheartedly felt because of the lack of personal connection and motivation, while the teamwork for the other subject worked out perfectly. And these translated into the self- and peer-assessment rubrics both subjects required from us at the end of trimester. To some degree, there is assurance that self-assessment scores can be validated by peer-assessment scores, but at the same time, there was some hesitancy to grade oneself and others objectively particularly since it would reflect my character and other peoples’ character. One needs to ask: Am I being fair and true to myself? Am I being fair to others who have also worked on the project? What if my perception of my level of work is different than my groupmates?

Now, I have a greater appreciation of self- and peer-assessment as a tool to empower students in the learning and assessment process, yet that power and involvement must also be accompanied with a teacher who appreciates this type of assessment and who can guide students to become critically reflective and objective in social activities and assignments.


Critical Pedagogy

Back when I was in college, I went through a phase when I would question everything. It began slowly with our theory class that introduced us to the Frankfurt school of thought, Gramsci, and Althusser, and as I tried to make sense of the industry and system of the mass media (for where could a Broadcast Communication graduate go?) I became disenfranchised and discouraged to join such an oppressive occupation judging by the political-economy and power relations of the system.

My last year of college was peppered with a lot of debates and disagreements with my classmates and teachers as I sought to break the silence and to assert an alternative view on media content and theory. I found myself caught up in the crossroads of accepting the status quo or challenging it, particularly since the real world awaits after graduation.  For this reason, I found solace in one theorist who would be able to give a theory on what I was experiencing. I could resonate with feminist author bell hooks (1994) when she wrote in “Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom”,  “My commitment to learning kept me attending classes. Yet, even so, because I did not conform – would not be an unquestioning, passive student – some professors treated me with contempt. I was slowly being estranged from education.” Both of us found Paolo Friere and his work, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, as a way to understand the limitations of our education (or schooling, perhaps as what Ivan Illich would argue) and to discover alternative strategies for learning as a student.

Freire’s work can very well be considered to be aligned with constructivist theories of learning, as these theories posit that individuals are actively involved in the construct of knowledge (as cognitive constructivists like Jean Piaget would argue) and that knowledge is socially constructed and embedded within socio-cultural contexts (much like what Lev Vygotsky woud posit). However, Freire argues that the very nature of traditional education as a practice of domination, which oppresses and silences the masses, can be transformed to a practice of freedom and critical reflection that considers people in their socio-economic and political reality. The first step towards this change is through problem-solving education and critical consciousness through meaningful dialogue in the classroom.

Fast forward to the present, and I find myself entrenched in another line of work that is vastly different than expected from a graduate of Mass Communication (which wouldn’t matter anyway). Throughout the discussion about constructivism and instructional design in this week’s course, there is still the underlying assumption that the teacher is still the key source of information and guidance in the process of learning – well, Vgotsky would point out that peers or co-students can also be the More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs) in the process of learning – which brings us to examine more closely the power relations in the classroom. There is also the lack of discussion on the teacher as a learner in the discourse – how do these roles interact with one another and how does critical reflective practice play into the classroom when the MKOs can possibly be the students themselves? How do teachers, as a perceived frontliner in knowledge reproduction and ideology, be able to work within the system in order to create critical thinkers?

Hence, I end with bell hooks (1994) call for hope in the midst of the prevailing power and ideological structures within society: “The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations,
remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to
move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”


hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge. Retrieved from https://academictrap.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/bell-hooks-teaching-to-transgress.pdf


Social Learning in Reality and in Distance Education

Social Learning Theory in Reality

Life never ceases to remind me that as a parent, I have obligation to be a good role model to my daughter. Just the other day, my husband pointed out that Wyona is not as friendly as often to other people as before, and he attributed this to my natural tendency to be shy around people. “Learn to smile and say ‘Hi’,” he joked. “Kaya napagkakamalan kang mataray eh (That’s why people mistake you for being snobbish).” I shrug off his suggestion and laugh, but deep inside I am reflecting. Why would I expect Wyona to be friendly if I don’t show her how to be friendly? No matter, at least her father’s friendly.

Kidding aside,  modeling behavior and observing such behavior are important aspects of the learning of a toddler. Everything she sees, she imitates from social interactions (clapping, smiling, laughing, saying goodbye, kissing) to movements that require motor skills (opening the cabinet, putting things inside and outside the box, opening the zipper of a bag, putting a phone against the ear). The ones she repeats are mostly the ones she is exposed to everyday, which she picks up from my husband and I’s habits and daily routine. She also learns new movements from the daily commercials she watches on TV. Yet she also has the agency to choose not to act, depending on her current environment and mood.

Count on Albert Bandura to put a name to what a toddler (and I) was going through. Combining cognitivist and behaviorist theories, Bandura posited that not all types of learning come from direct reinforcement or experience, but also from observation of others in person and in media (Cherry, 2017). And to me, Wyona embodies all the components in social learning theory: observation, imitation, and modeling.

Distance Learning and Social Learning Theory

Yet how does learning work if technology is factored in? Bandura’s theory on social learning was significantly used in explaining behavior among viewers (i.e. aggression) yet it did not consider yet that the forms of interaction would change through media — from face-to-face to online. So how would social learning occur if there is no one to observe?

The best thing about online learning is that it is asynchronous and independent, yet everyone is on the same page. Therefore, one particular behavior that online learners should have and is required in this type of learning environment is time management. This is to ensure that there is enough time to study the resources, participate in the discussions, and write.

The first step is to learn through a verbal instructional model, which involves descriptions and explanations of a behavior. How can you manage your time well, given the available modules and resources? How do you organize and manage knowledge? Second, internal mental states are important. Extrinsic reinforcement through interaction through the forums can help boost self-efficacy as other learners affirm or recognize opinions and thoughts. Most importantly, intrinsic reinforcement like the satisfaction of finishing a module within time and see other learners complete their own tasks contributes to better time management.

As of now, with the completion of social theories of learning, I have to go back to the reality that my toddler has managed to open the drawer in the room, empty its contents, and climb into it. Where she learned that she can do that, Bandura cannot fully explain since no one in the family climbs into a drawer to play…but I am happy to know she’s making connections among what she knows (the drawer can be opened in the way the adults open it and it is big to accommodate her), her potential behavior (she can climb into the space and can explore), and the responses from her environment (being told that she could be hurt in the process or being observed for consequences). Ah, learning is never this interesting in the classroom.


Cherry, K. (2017). What is Social Learning Theory? Verywell. Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/social-learning-theory-2795074.