Conclusion: Principles of Teaching

Just recently a good friend of mine resigned — or rather, stepped down — as one of the executive assistants of a well-known Undersecretary in the Department of Education. I had always known her to be of the ideal teacher type and who had the capability to make it as one of the best frontliners of the delivery of basic education in the country, yet somehow her circumstances have led her in the same direction but- not as an educator but an education professional in policy. I can somehow understand her perspective — she took four years to finish her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education — and she saw that the profession may be stable and secure but real institutional change needed to support our teachers comes from the top and not from the bottom.

“EDS 111: Principles of Teaching” has helped me contextualize the teaching profession not just on the ground but with how DepEd works and should work as a bureaucracy. It also helped me understand how it is situated within the broader socio-economic context of society and what individual teachers, schools, divisions, and institutions must do to ensure that they exercise critical reflective practice.  The concepts and principles in the course can help in educational policy and in the teaching practice. After taking the course, I  hope to pursue more research on teaching and teachers as part of the scholarship of teaching and learning as a student and as a researcher in the field of development.

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Creativity in the Time of Present Education

The role of an educator is not only to teach but also to deliver quality education for all. We must create a learning environment that is conducive and inclusive of learners from different backgrounds. How well do education institutions provide inclusive and quality education for Filipino learners? How well do teachers, the school administration, government and community provide for their needs?

It is said that creative teaching becomes essential in the face of diversity because it entails developing and utilizing different methodologies and approaches to facilitate the learning process for all learners. Despite the many materials, information and trainings out there about how to employ creativity in the classroom so that learning is different and useful, teachers still would have to overcome two barriers: an unsupportive institutional structure and themselves. In the case of the public school system, anecdotal evidence points to teachers overloaded with teaching, administrative and extra-curricular work that simply gives them no time to reflect and that puts them into the position that they are frontliners but adhere to the policies of a centralized bureaucracy. Outside of this black hat of being devil’s advocate, I would like to assume that the limited resources, time and support has helped public school teachers be more creative in their practice (i.e. social media for support and admin work, the Internet for materials and information) and collaborate with their peers for support and pedagogical knowledge.

One thing that I think must be strengthened, in the quest to create creative and innovative teachers (and learners), is that they must be given enough time and space to critically reflect upon their practice and to share with others. Second, critical thinking and problem-solving also entails that teachers must be trained to engage and appreciate Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL). Given that a Bachelor’s Degree in Education normally does not have students write a dissertation or thesis, it is normal for them to be intimidated by the intricacies of academic language, which describe the nature of instruction in which most SOTL are written in. How can we verify the effectiveness of our teaching-learning practices and its impact on our learners if we do not appreciate and engage in scholarly work? In the US, author bell hooks has been able to transgress the academic language and to speak of transformative education in layman’s terms – perhaps this should also happen in the Philippines. While education professionals in DepEd provide support for academic research and provide support for professional learning communities (via LAC) in public schools), it is important to ensure that these really enhance teacher effectiveness and translate into better learner outcomes.

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The principles of effective teaching – critical reflexive practice, creativity, strong knowledge bases, professionalism/professionalization – ties in well with the conclusion of the principles of effective learning. From the broader “-isms” on how we learn, the teacher becomes both a learner and a facilitator of learning by being theoretically grounded in his/her practice and by being critical and open about applying learning concepts in the classroom. How else can we create critical, reflective, and creative individuals if we ourselves do not practice what we preach or do not give them the opportunity, venue, and time to do so? How can we facilitate higher-order thinking if their foundations are weak and if so, how can we make it so that they can learn? At the end of the day, successful learning and successful teaching is not about having good grades and giving good grades – at this day and age, it should be equipping them with the life skills and concepts they need to survive in a dog-eats-dog world and ensuring that they have the intrinsic motivation to do good for themselves and for others.

 

Professional Development

What makes an individual a “professional”? In an earlier think piece I had delved into what teaching means as a profession and what a teacher is a professional. In essence, teaching is a profession that provides an important public service which requires that teachers have theoretical and ground expertise and a distinct ethical code of practice. They are also under an organization or structure for regulation and disciplinary purposes, which compromises their individual autonomy or judgement in their practice.

Teachers and teaching are not isolated from the entire social, political, cultural system that we are part of, which has an impact on policies that affect the teaching-learning process and our learners. One criticism with teaching, particularly for public school teachers under the large bureaucracy of the Department of Education, is that it is semi-professional because teachers have no full autonomy – while they can decide how they will and what they will teach in the classroom, they are governed by the curriculum, school policies, and directives from the division, regional, and central offices.

Yet if we want to be critically reflective in teaching practices and if we want teachers to grow personally and professionally, there must be opportunities or spaces in the school and in the system for us to individually reflect and to bring critical reflection to action so that it can transform teaching and learning. Research and studies show that continuing professional development improves the knowledge base and skills of educators and ensures that learners are given quality education. For this reason, it becomes also the responsibility of policy-makers and education leaders to ensure that teachers are given collaborative professional development.

In the Philippine context, I have yet to observe one of the venues for these learning communities in the public school setting. The Learning Action Cell (DO. No. 35, s. 2015) and the Teachers’ Quality Circle are opportunities for basic education teachers to come together to share content, experiences, and pedagogical knowledge aside from the various seminars or trainings focused on enhancing their skills. However, based on my own observations and researches, the very barrier to far-reaching changes and transformations in the classroom are some of the teachers themselves – some are comfortable in their own zone and routine, some have long graduated and are not familiar with new content and pedagogical knowledge, and some simply do not have the time or capacity to apply what they learn in various trainings and it becomes a matter of compliance and performance bonus. Yet for some of the teachers I have interviewed, sharing and reflecting with their colleagues have had a far more powerful influence over them in their practice than any other training or seminar. Simply put, without the support of the leadership, fellow teachers, and structures in place, we cannot expect teachers to grow to their full potential as critically reflective educators and subsequently, we cannot expect students to be critically reflective learners.

From Traditional to Contemporary

How would you describe your teaching perspectives prior to your reading of the
module resources? How would you compare your prior conceptions about learning and teaching to the ideas discussed in the resources of this module? What factors influenced your conceptions about teaching and learning?

Back in college, we had gone through an overview of the different main theories in learning in behaviorism and cognitivism. In EDS 103: Principles of Teaching, we had already discussed the different theories in learning from behaviorism to social constructivism. By college, we were introduced to different critical theories to use to analyze mass media and society and this included a discussion on critical theory and pedagogy. From then on, I viewed teaching as a facilitating process to help connect learners and their prior knowledge/experience to new content so that they could make more sense of the world and act upon what they understand; in the same way, the learners are active agents who make meaning within themselves and with others. The readings in this specific module helped strengthen and articulate what I already know and what I am familiar with into something that is more tangible, digestible, and grounded in teaching practice.

Have your perspectives’ changed after studying the module resources? How or how not?

It has not changed because I was already familiar with the content, but it has given me more ideas on different types of strategies to use in the classroom. It has also reminded me that teaching does not adhere to one or two theories of learning, but combines them to suit the learner’s needs and the subject matter. What is different now is that there is an element of the social-emotional development of the learner, which is not tackled even in social constructivism…but even the elements of being emotionally and socially healthy differ from culture to culture.
How willing or open are you in challenging your prior conceptions about teaching and learning, and applying contemporary teaching perspectives and approaches that would better serve the need of the students for more holistic and active learning? Knowing your inclination for specific teaching perspectives, how can you ensure that you will not fall into the trap of a one-size-fits-all teaching and that you will observe the teaching principles as intellectual and varied work – “adopting appropriate teaching roles to support learning goals” (Eberly Center, 2015)?

I have always been a fan of Paolo Freire and bell hooks and their advocacy has always been to educate as a practice of freedom from oppression. Of course, their theories are rooted in Marxism and critical social constructivism but it has always been a challenge in how to translate this in the classroom because it is still part of the larger society.  Yet recognizing the learners’ individual differences due to gender, class, religion, personality is one step forward in engaging them and providing a better learning environment so that at the end of the day, they can be able to decide for themselves and to help others even if there are structural limitations.
Which among the contemporary teaching perspectives and approaches discussed in this module resonates with you? Why?

What struck me the most was seeing learners’ differences as resources instead of a problem. As Wilson and Peterson (2006) argued, the one-size-fits-all traditional approach in the classroom was suited more for the teachers’ convenience in measuring learning (i.e. tests) and outliers were dismissed as deficits because they don’t quite fit the bill. As teachers realize that students bring their own experience, knowledge, and understanding to the classroom, instruction can be modified so that most are able to learn even if it is not quantifiable.

 

REFERENCE

Wilson, S. M., & Peterson, P. L. (2006). Theories of learning and teaching: What do they mean for educators?. Washington, DC: National Education Association. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED495823.pdf

 

The Basis of the Bases

Last week’s lesson was about teacher professionalism and how a certain set of criteria would make a teacher a professional and teaching a profession. This week’s lesson is about teasing out one certain aspect that makes a teacher a professional: the theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge needed in practice. Indeed, Koehler  and Mishra (2006) stated, “Teaching is a complicated practice that requires at interweaving of many kinds of specialized knowledge…requiring teachers to apply complex knowledge structures across different cases and contexts…[and] to shift and evolve their understanding.”

These different types of knowledge, called knowledge bases, form the foundation through which a teacher practices his or her craft. There’s the knowledge of what to teach and why (content knowledge), the knowledge of how to teach it (general pedagogical knowledge), the knowledge of what the state wants students to learn (curriculum knowledge),  the knowledge of how to blend pedagogy and content in order to adapt to learners (pedagogical content knowledge), knowledge of the learners and their characteristics, the knowledge of the educational contexts, and the knowledge of the educational ends, purposes and values. For me, this knowledge can be acquired from different sources: the academe, the school, and actual practice.

With this in mind, I echo Schulman’s (1987) reasoning that teaching is comprehension, reasoning, transformation, and reflection rolled into one. Hence, teacher education is not training teachers how to behave in prescribed ways, but to educate them on how to reason and to justify their teaching once they are in the classroom. To do this, they must be able to employ critically reflective practice and to build an adequate base of facts, principles and experiences from which they can justify using their knowledge bases and theoretical knowledge.

I remember back in college, a good friend of mine studying Bachelor in Secondary Education shared her thoughts after observing at one “Center of Excellence in Education” institution in Metro Manila (at that time, the UP College of Education was not yet recognized as one). She shared that this particular teacher education institution was well-known for producing graduates that are well-trained in producing educational materials and lesson plans for the classroom but lack the theoretical knowledge needed to justify their pedagogy and subject content in the classroom. What does this imply? Perhaps, this would translate to poor teaching practices in the classroom and poor pupil performance.

Coincidentally, recent LET results reveal that only one in ten passed at the elementary level while only one-fourth passed at the high school level. While the LET certainly has its limitations in measuring teacher capability and efficiency, it is a means of standardizing the profession. Maybe perhaps it is high time to look into the quality of education graduates in the country and see how they can build up their knowledge bases, strengthen critical reflexivity, and absorb theoretical knowledge – so that it can translate into good teaching practices and better learning for the students in the classroom.

REFERENCES:

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2006). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.

Schulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-21.

What Does It Mean to Be a Teacher?

We have a lot of ideas of what a teacher should do, but rarely do we pause and reflect to think about what a teacher should be. What makes a teacher a professional and what constitutes their professionalism in their profession? Upon initial thought, I defined teacher professionalism as something that “refers to the ethical and work conduct expected of teachers in the classroom and in the school. As the frontliners of delivering education, teachers are expected to be a good role model for students and reflect and instill the good values of a productive citizen into their students. Lastly, they must adhere to the set of qualifications required from them in order to be a teacher (i.e. bachelor’s degree, teaching certificate, LET passer).” Sounds just about right? But interestingly, my definition embodies a very conservative and traditional meaning of teacher professionalism…one that places the teacher as the duty-bearer of reproducing the existing social relations and labor power in society and as a worker that has no or little agency to maneuver within the organizational structure and societal structure they are embedded within.

No doubt teachers and the teaching profession are deeply embedded in the social, political, and cultural circumstances of the time. With added knowledge on what constitutes professionalism, I agree on the following criteria most discussed in literature (David, 2000) and as expounded by Quong (2016):

  1. Schools and teachers provide important public service through the transfer of skills, knowledge, understanding and technology in order to hone productive citizens;
  2. Theoretically and grounded expertise through education and professional learning and license;
  3. Organization and regulation required for recruitment and discipline purposes; and
  4. Individual autonomy (judgment) for effective practice.

Individual autonomy is the most crucial — as this is constrained by a centralized curriculum, school mandates, and other means of organizational control over individual teaching practice and pedagogy. However, there is always a space for contestation and resistance — for teachers can tailor their own teaching and forward their own ideology inside the classroom. Sadly, when they step out of the classroom, there are many societal forces at play — and unless their pedagogy translates to good student performance, even the most well-meaning teacher with the students’ interests at heart will bow down to the interests of the school and the state.

For me, what does it mean to be a teacher as a worker of the state or private interest and as a worker whose responsibility is to maintain the status quo of labor and social relations and inequalities? For me, a teacher as a professional must be collaborative and collegial, activist, flexible and progressive, responsive to change, self-regulatory, and enquiry-oriented (Demirkasımoğlu, 2010). The even bigger question is how can we work to change the system within the system? What does it mean to be a teacher who works for the system but contributes to its reform and change?

 

REFERENCES:

David, C. (2000). Professionalism and Ethics in Teaching. London: Taylor&Francis Books Ltd.

Demirkasımoğlu, N. (2010). Defining “Teacher Professionalism” from different perspectives. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 9, 2047-2051.

Quong, T. D. (2016). The dynamics of teacher professionalism in an Asian context. Paper presented the Asia Leadership Roundtable 2016, Singapore.

 

 

From Reflection to Critically Reflective Practice

As a researcher who has spent much time on the field with teachers and school administrators, putting their experiences into writing is not that difficult. After all, we capture bits and pieces of their overall experience in the school – whether its planning, school-based management, teaching, etc. But we can never really capture them in practice and in all the moments in between – only small insights which provide a glimpse of what they do as a teacher or why they do it.

After reading various resources on reflective teaching practice (and this does not apply only to teachers but to other professionals), I was immediately torn between the prescriptive assumption of teachers’ having the venue and luxury engaging in critically reflective practice and what is happening on the ground. Many times I have had teachers sounding out their woes about non-teaching work that robs them of their time from their family. Coupled with the fact that they are the frontliners of a large bureaucracy, they become implementors of policy that are often created from the top and are interpreted in many ways on the field. So if Brookfields (1995) suggested that there is a need for critically reflective teachers, teachers who are able to reflect and to transform their classroom into a democratic one, then the system must also allow for teachers to have the time and space to critically reflect and grow as educators and individuals. Of course, if we were to go back to Brookfields (1995) discussion about hegemonic assumptions in reflective practice, then we can very well say that maybe the structure of capitalism calls for submissive and reactive teachers because it is likely to produce submissive and non-critical employees in the long-run.

Yet certainly with all the existing venues for professional development (mostly defined in terms of “training”) for teachers, there is always the inclusion of reflection. However, reflection is always there, but critical reflection is not. In the past, I would think that all individuals inherently reflect upon their experiences as they go through life, particularly through the most confusing and uncomfortable times and situations. However, not all would critically analyze and uncover the underlying assumptions of what we do, how we work, and how we think at a particular point in time…since there is always a fear of changing something we’re used to doing. Yet this is is only the beginning of being critically reflective. It also means breaking out of our comfort zone and validating assumptions through others: students, colleagues, and existing literature. Most importantly, reflective practice goes beyond internal reflection and translates into a change of action and words, which has an impact on other people. Thus, this is what will make a critically reflective teacher different than any other: by making changes internally and in their teaching, they can foster a democratic environment and help learners be critically reflective themselves.

Me as a Learner

Online learning is not new to me. During elementary and high school,  some of my technology classes utilized online platforms to facilitate discussion through forums and assignments. Fast forward to a decade later and I found myself using the same platform, but this time it is no longer blended with face-to-face instruction and interaction.

As a researcher and a full-time mother, this works best for me as the traditional classroom setup demands physical presence and effort. However, learning becomes a bigger responsibility because of the independence required of us; reading, writing, doing activities in a course are readily available and it is up to us, as learners, to manage and to allot time for learning. It also requires engaging with other learners, but the asynchronicity is beneficial because it gives time to process and to write. Hence, we are also given the responsibility to help each other learn through sharing our reflections, insights, and learnings. While the delivery or mode may be vastly different than what we’re used to, the content and the opportunities to engage with others are there.

Self-Assessment

As I begin my journey, I realize that most often we do not assess ourselves as learners when starting a new class. For this reason, I took three self-assessment tests (Study Skill Inventory, Self-Regulation Questionnaire, and Time Management Skills Test) to measure my present capacity and areas of improvement as a learner. These were the results:

1. Study Skill Inventory:

Section Your Score Benchmark
Textbooks 31 30
Notetaking 17 20
Memory 36 30
Test Prep 44 40
Concentration 34 35
Time Management 18 20

2. Self-Regulation Questionnaire
Total Score: 232
Result: Intermediate (moderate) self-regulation capacity (scores ranging from 214-238)

3. Time Management Skills
Total Score: 44
Result: Good time manager

According to the results of the test, I am a good time manager with moderate self-regulation capacity. My strengths include utilizing textbooks, memory, and test preparation, while I can improve on note-taking, concentration, and time management.

Two of the results contradict each other: while I am a good time manager in the Time Management Skills Test, I need to improve this aspect according to the Study Skills Inventory test. These are two entirely different tests, as the SSI test is more within the context of face-to-face college instruction, while the TMS test is broader. I find that I agree more with the TMS results since I am no longer a college student; I am learning online; and I am a work-at-home mother which entails managing time as a student, mother, and wife. This also reflects in the results of the SSI in terms of concentration – imagine juggling work, studies, breastfeeding, and raising a child! But I am not complaining – the challenge makes it all the worthwhile! I think I would need to address time management and concentration during the course of my studies. This would also be possible with well-planned and scheduled activities and time for studies, work, and family life.

My goal for EDS 111 is to study the principles of teaching and to observe and to apply it, first as a mother and later on as a teacher. Reading and learning the modules, participating actively in the discussion, and regularly reflecting will help me achieve these goals with the help of my fellow learners and family

Pledge of Commitment

With this reflection, I pledge commit myself to finishing this course and to impart what I have learned to fellow learners and netizens.

The Beginning

Welcome to this little cozy nook of mine in cyberspace!

Back in my graduate days (which was not so long ago), a dear professor by the name of Dr. Arnisson Ortega required us to submit one-page reflection papers each week to help us process our learning. He called them, “Think Pieces”. Inspired by how much this simple writing exercise has helped me learn, I created this blog to share my “think pieces” as a parent, learner, and a distance education student.

This eJourney of mine begins with my “think pieces” from two introductory courses in the Professional Teaching Certification program: EDS 103 (Theories of Learning) and EDS 111 (Principles of Teaching).

Insights are always welcome. Happy reading and learning, fellow learner/netizen!