EDS 111 | Module 6: Diversity

Diversity is a common aspect in Philippine schools. Having nineteen different languages spoken across the country clearly demonstrates how varied our culture is. People don’t often live in exclusivity thus allowing cultures to meet in many different settings. As the society is heterogenous, classrooms are also filled with various types of students. Diversity in school is not only about culture and religion, it is also about character, gender, belief systems, family background, economic capacities, and abilities. If teachers fail to acknowledge these differences by not suiting up their practices according to these differences, problems will arise, not only in student’s academic learning but also in their values formation. Upon reading the module I came to fully understand that the differences of students should not be ignored or be taken for granted; I came to understand that it should be given consideration in planning learning materials, in delivering the lessons, or in the practice of teaching in general. Teachers must be creative to come up with an inclusive classroom practices where students of all kinds are able to fully harness the truest purpose of schooling which is to learn.

Being from the Southern Mindanao area, I grew up in a community where cultural and religious differences were prevalent. I am used to the idea of heterogeneity in school settings. As an elementary student back then, one thing that I observed, teachers—as traditional as they were—acted as the sole provider of knowledge who were basically guided by textbooks issued by the state in their pedagogy and treat students as sponges of information. The concept of inclusivity in the classroom and the whole school was not emphasized even in passing. The concept of culture was only introduced in Sibika and Kultura subjects although only major cultures made it to the textbooks; and the rationale behind the need to learn about those people from different cultures were not elaborated. We as students were left out thinking that it was nothing more than an introduction. In our school there was a silent understanding that yes this place has different kinds of students so what, it’s normal. As a result, students couldn’t develop the sense respect for differences. Kids with disability were bullied and eventually drop out of school just like my neighbor, some would just refused to enroll at all because they feel like they’re less of a person given what the culture of bullying shows them; kids from different religion gets subtle discrimination which creates an invisible wall in between, leading for some kids to think that they’re religion is better than the others; kids who were slow in learning were called names worsening their efficacy to learn. Overall this is a result of teachers failure to create a school culture that is inclusive, that values respect for differences.

To address diversity, teachers must have the creativity in their teaching practices. This will allow them to come up with better strategies for effective, inclusive pedagogy. Teachers are central to student learning, may it be academically or values formation. Emphasizing appreciation for differences in the classroom develops the concept of respect for self and for others. If this culture of respect is forged inside school settings, it can be translated outside which can eventually create a safe positive community. 

EDS 111 | Module 5: CPD

The module discussed that school practices can be improved if teachers undertake Continuing Professional Development. The CPD, however, that is commonly undertaken is the one that mainly upgrade the skill and knowledge of individual teachers, such as their knowledge on the content. This kind CPD has leanings on the idea that teachers are the only knowledgeable person in the classroom and students are empty vessels that need to be filled in. Another form of CPD is the one that teachers acquire additional knowledge of top of the existing ones. These types of CPD work under the expectations of a system or has to conform to state agendas, meaning teachers have no liberty to truly learn what they deem is necessary for the overall and lasting improvement of teaching practices which will benefit student learning. CPD to be valuable has to allow renewed and transformative practices and this requires individual reflection and collaboration among teachers who have hands-on knowledge or have understanding on the real scenarios on teaching-learning events. With the common goal to forge effective ways to improve school practices, forming professional learning communities where teachers share ideas, critic one another constructively, support each and are equally held responsible for all the students learning, is also beneficial for teaching-learning.

In my opinion, if teachers have intrapersonal skills and are committed and passionate with their jobs, sky is the limit for them in improving their teaching practices, but I also understand that they need support from the school, from the principal, and from other teachers to be able to reach that high level of improvement in their teaching practices. What I’ve learned from this module is that CPD should not be limited to retooling and remodeling of teachers’ knowledge and skills. Although I deem that it is important as individual skills are important, teachers need to have that overall capacities that will allow them to affect and transform practices of teaching in their respective schools and equitably elevate all students learnings. I have not been to any CPD activities but I think what is commonly emphasized in there is improving individual knowledge in content and skills which might not all that 21st century demands for learning actually needs. I have not heard nor observed (from the teachers I know) that there were collaborative activities that allow for collective efforts to effectively address the issues in the contemporary education. During the onset of K-12 implementation, teachers are sent to various retooling/remodeling seminars but there was no mention of innovative collaboration to further support the program. In the 21st century, I believe that CPD should foster collaboration among teachers, principals, students, schools, in order to achieve a meaningful, lasting results in school practices and student learning.

Student learning is the main goal why schools exist. It is therefore important that teachers being facilitators of learning have all the ammunitions of being an effective and valuable teacher, not only cognitive and practical skills but also motivation, commitment, and honest concern for student learnings.

EDS 103 | Module 7: HOTS

Remember that time as a kid when you would compete with other kids in spelling English words and you get rewarded with candy or any goodies if you win regardless if you understood the word or not? If you haven’t experienced that, I did. Remember also that time when you’re in high school and your teacher would give you pointers on what to come out in the exam? Of course you are confident that more of those itemized facts and definitions in your notebook will surely come out in the exam so all you had to was memorize them. Comes the exam, voila — enumeration, identification, definition, multiple choice— you almost got everything right, only that your memory messed up with you and you missed some answers. If you haven’t experienced that, I did. Remember also when your teacher would call your name during recitation to recite the definition of a physics word that you have no clear idea how it actually works but you memorize and recite it anyway because it’s graded? Well, these are just few of those experiences in my elementary and high school where learning through memorizing was given more attention.

I have never developed well my higher-order thinking skills in my basic education. Lower-order thinking has been dominating assessments and instruction back in the day (at least in my experience). There was no much question like WHYs or HOWs. This is not to discredit my teachers however because to be fair they have managed to include at least one essay question in exams. What i’m saying is that there were more WHATs in the process; HOT was not very much emphasized. When I got to college, things were different. Assessments and instruction were more sensible/purposeful and rigid I may say. That time I felt the disparity of my scholastic experience with that of my witty classmates. It had me thinking that I’m disadvantaged. My confidence about learning was waning upon realizing that I’m not very much equipped for college education. It had me thinking, what were taught in big public school and private schools that were not taught in ours? It had me feeling like I’m one of those girls in my high school who intentionally sits in the back row to avoid eye contact with the teacher for fear of getting called upon to answer questions. There was a culture shock as to how learning processes were done. It was more challenging in terms of my ability to learn without being reliant on memorizing.  I remember my Political Science subject, my professor was always on his toes in his teaching and he expects the same from us. Being trained to memorize, I would focus on the italicized and bold words in a paragraph and memorize their definition as I prepare myself whenever my professor would call me for surprise recitation (which he randomly does) without really understating the whole meaning or the whole concept. But that’s no what he wanted. He wanted us to understand the big picture. He wanted us to dissect every possible concepts that we can find in the paragraph. It has allowed me to develop my thinking skills to be able keep up with college. Besides, my high school didn’t prepare me mentally for college. There was no orientation whatsoever how college looks like. This added to my struggle as a freshman.

Developing higher-order thinking in learner prepares them to become creative individuals who are not afraid to take on the challenge of problematic situations and complicated scenarios. Their decision making in academics and in life are grounded on sound rational thinking because they are trained to think thoroughly. It is therefore important for teachers to develop HOTS in the learners especially in the 21st century where life in general has become more challenging and change is going in fast pace.

EDS 103 | Module 6: Constructivism

Constructivist learning is resonates with the idea that learning is an unending process. Everyday we interact with people, we watch news, we read articles on social media, we discover new things—all these bring new information which we then try to assimilate or accommodate to the information that we possess so it becomes part of us, it reshapes our existing beliefs, until the new ones arrive and the cycle goes on and on. Therefore we are learning every day.

And If we look closely how much we use out of what we learned in college from what we learn in a normal everyday life, (unless we are able to apply most of our college learning in the profession that we practice) you would see that we use less of the former and most of the latter. There are just too many to learn outside of school that contributes to how we shape our schemas. More often these experiences are mostly what we can easily remember than how to solve an algebraic expression, or the scientific names of plants. Learning something that don’t make sense to us or we cannot relate to easily evaporates. This is why when teaching it is important that teachers relate lessons to real life scenarios so students will make sense of what they are learning; retention is also better since students have real life examples that they can refer to. My economics professor in college would always try to make realistic examples to allow us to absorb the concepts more effectively. It truly helps.

Students are more likely to remember the lesson if it’s done through meaningful ways. I remember in first year high school, I always get excited if it’s time for science because our teacher would let us have real experience of what we are learning; we go out of the room to look for examples, discover, do experiments, do actual test of our hypotheses, arrive at conclusions. We have fun doing it while at the same time we are learning. Engaging with the lesson enriches understanding and improves retention. It doesn’t only allow for better learning it also keeps them interested in the lesson.

Sometimes the best learning happens outside of the classroom, and the best teacher is experience.

EDS 111 | Module 4 : Beyond Cognitive Learning

The topic in the first article of this module discussed contemporary conception of learning and knowledge and what are its implications for teaching. It gives emphasis on the key big ideas about learning as a result of engagement, learning as social phenomenon, learning as using differences as resources, and lastly learning is acquiring declarative and procedural knowledges. With these conceptions for learning, teaching roles also shift. The authors proposed roles of teachers to match the contemporary conceptions: teaching is an intellectual work, teachers have different roles, teaching is collaborative work, and teachers teach challenging contents. Another topic discussed in the module is the importance of holistic teaching—improving not only cognitive but also the social emotional aspect of the students. These are deemed important to be successful in learning, in college, in life after schooling.

My idea about teaching and learning hasn’t really changed much after learning the module. I had other subject that tackled same topic so my perceptions have already been shaped. The most interesting topic for me is in the second article. I totally agree that students need to be able to develop their social emotional skills to persevere challenges in schooling and in life. It is not uncommon that some intelligent people still fail or unable to reach remarkable success. Poor choices or wrong decisions contribute to the failure. There are knowledgeable people who lack the ability to build good relationships with others, who lack the ability to collaborate, because they cannot express themselves well or are unwilling to accept others’ ideas. This results to failure or mediocre success.  Developing students socially and emotionally especially from the beginning of their schooling life is a great deal for their holistic well being. In my opinion, success is also about attitude and schools should have the responsibility to nurture it. I think that state should create policies that will allow for strict incorporation of SEL in classroom practices and pedagogies.

I know it’s easy to say that I will or won’t do this and that if become a teacher.  I won’t promise that I’ll be Miss. Perfect Teacher if I become one but I won’t turn a blind on the gravity of the responsibility. I understand the actual challenges of being a teacher. Therefore I must ensure that I have what it needs to be a teacher; I must not fall under the trap of teachers being feeders of knowledge and students are sponges. What else to do with my learnings in this subject than apply it in actual practice. 😉

EDS 103 | Module 5: Cognitive Theory

If I try to remember my life in first grade I could only name a few, only those that through my life I constantly revisit. Like when my teacher would ask me to fetch drinking water for her before I go home for lunch that I got the “most obedient” award during recognition day. I can also remember her wide mouth in red lipstick and her big white teeth when she smiles. I can also remember how my haircut looked like that every time I see Dora the Explorer I remember young self. If I didn’t keep on revisiting these memories, prolly its gone along the rest. Those were short term memories that were constantly processed to become long term memories.

I was never gifted with sharp memory but I was able to get by schooling using techniques to assist me with like associating the sound of the word to an object, or using acronyms, or by just making sense or carefully understanding the idea. If I would compare my brain to a computer I would say I’m still Pentium 1, with 32bit speed. Slow. The more I get older the more I feel like my brain keeps lagging. My memory has become very awful. I can hardly memorize cellphone number in three glances unlike when I was a little bit younger. I also have hard time arranging my thoughts and put it into words. Writing this journal took me lots of time to get done. Age truly affects cognitive abilities, I must say.

The most effective learning for me is when the teacher is very interesting in presenting the lessons like relating the lessons to real life. Also when the lesson is carefully distributed within the schedule avoiding information overload. Meaning only significant ideas are included and eliminating or passing on less important ones. The less cognitive load, the more effective learning. It’s useless to be given a lot of information and not understanding a single one or two because they all crammed up in the cognitive engine. If the topic is intrinsically lengthy, my strategy is I manage my time carefully and allocate enough to process the information well like reading and rereading or just reading slowly.

THOUGHTS

It’s interesting to know how the mind works; it helps you understand your own mental processes let alone your mental limitations and strengths. It’s not surprising that everyone is different in many aspects but it’s still a curious thing how everyone can do things that other’s can’t like how your friend is so good in math while you can’t answer simple addition of fraction, or how others can finish reading a book in two to three hours while others consume a day or two, or how your friend can memorize Eminem’s rap song while you barely can sing four lines. These things are results of our cognitive abilities. Our cognitive processes are malleable to external influence thus it is important that teachers provide learning opportunities that allow cognitive processes to work according to its limitations and possibly towards it’s true potential.

As a future educator, it is important for me to know and understand theories of cognition. It will allow me to select the right approach to my pedagogy and the way lesson contents are to be presented to suit the requirements of my students to provide effective learning. Cognitive theory proves that in some way the mind can be manipulated to achieve some of its potentials and teachers must utilize this in their practices. I would say that a thoughtful teaching is important for a successful learning. 

EDS 103 | Module 4: Observational Learning

One of the reasons why code of ethics for teachers exists is to protect the welfare of the students including the values that they might absorb out of the behavior that the teacher displays in the classroom. Also teachers are symbols of authority and students are captive audiences and gullible creatures who most likely will believe and do what their teachers say even if it’s bias or wrong. In observational learning, people learn from a model, may it be live, described/explained, or symbolic. This is why teachers are required to act accordingly.

Even adults don’t stop learning through observation, from dancing skills to fashion to acting. We mimic what we see on tv, in movies, on the internet. There are just too many sources in the contemporary world that can shape the behavior and subsequently learning. According to my professor in humanities, there’s no such thing as originality since everything is copied or mimicked from a variety of sources. The one factor that makes social learning theory more sensible is that it understands that there is one thing that controls how the behavior is displayed—the mental processes. It’s hard to imagine mimicking something without using the cognitive faculty.

Observational learning is useful in many sense. In distance education where learning can be a bit challenging since almost everyone is working, I think students must be able to develop good time management. Through observational learning such was watching educational videos on youtube or reading write-ups on blogs or websites, students can be able to develop this ability.  

Social learning theory answered my questions in behavioral theory. Now I’m thrilled to know about cognitive learning theory.