EDS 111 Module 3E: UP as a learning community

Many former students and undergraduate alumni of the University of the Philippines would probably agree that in reading about lifelong learning, scholarship and learning communities, UP is an embodiment of most of the characteristics of a true community where people are not only striving to become an academic, but also a group that puts up almost an effortless vibe of learning. As I am sure there is a parallel collective in other schools, I have not seen a community of this size where everywhere feels like a virtual classroom (so pardon my limited perspective about other schools– feel free to share below).

Kruse, Louis and Bryk (1995) said that learning communities usually have the five characteristics, namely: reflective dialogue, focus of student learning, interaction exists among teachers, collaboration, shared values and norms (Kruse, Louis and Bryk, 1995). The latter proposed that these should be present in a organization to be considered a community with a lifelong goal of growth by being voluntarily engaged. From where I stand, these characteristics, especially reflective sharing, collaboration and values- sharing , are easily ever- present in UP, and is not just exclusive among the teaching staff, but in several forms as well.

Reflective dialogue is described as conversations where teachers discuss student improvement in their teaching. In the university, this is generally observable as personal traits of all members both students and teachers. In the UP culture, constant self evaluation and critical thinking are behaviors that are constantly encouraged within the self, and this opens
communication lines not just between faculty members but amazingly, students also get involved.

Collaboration is not exclusive between just teachers, but always present, as organizations get deeply creative in activities and projects. Administration activities and the student council, or the USC, equally compete with student orgs; there isn’t a monopoly of who controls and regulates.

Values and norms are shared and passed on thru a strong tradition of independence, self- analysis and critical thinking– traits considered a brand of membership in the UP community– are just some of what are considered important as a member of this community. Granted, there are some who may not fit into certain molds but it is almost safe to say that its ethos tend to prescribe to have some of the traits mentioned above, and could possibly manifest in many implicit forms.
I believe that the key to a successful learning community is that students champion lifelong learning themselves, and in this institution, most of it are done outside of teacher monitoring. As it is already a given that faculty members in most institution posses higher academic profiles, a sort of culture within the student community needs to surface, and in UP, the latter had nailed it down to a tee.

(Roberts, S. & Pruitt, E. Z. (2009). The professional learning community: An overview (Chapter 1). In Schools as professional learning communities: Collaborative activities and strategies for professional development (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press, pp. 1-25.). Retrieved from http://www.corwin.com/upm-data/27683_Roberts_Chapter_1.pdf

EDS 111 Module 3D: Questions towards reflectivity

As a student teacher, I should be aware that theories should not become our main source of food when it comes to learning how to teach. Reflection is a valuable form of in-practice professional development, and perhaps sui generis.

A researcher who valued the social reform outlet of teaching,  Dewey has prescribed 3 attitudes a teacher must possess in his or her reflective practice. They are openmindedness, responsibility and wholeheartedness (Dewey, 1933).

But what are the vital questions we should ask ourselves in order to achieve a higher sense of thinking in this regard? Consider the following:

OPEN-MINDEDNESS:

  1. Do you think about who may be affected or offended by your activities in the classroom?
  2. Do you bother to be sensitive enough to your non-believing students?
  3. Do you question gender profiling, inequality of racial representation, stereotypes, language discrimination and other socially relevant issues as possible biases in applicable contexts in your content?
  4. Do you inquire and interrogate texts on what could else be considered normative ideologies?

RESPONSIBILITY:

  1. Do you take the time to look up other resources to explain multi-raciality, religion and other idea variants when your material lacks exposure of the other sides?
  2. Do you encourage debates and peer learning that examine the topics and ideas shared, even of your own? Can you take students’ critiques and be humble enough to remain level- headed when others are critical?
  3. Do you harbor fear of making mistakes in front of your students? Or are you able to bounce back with grace and be able to own that mistake with a thorough and salient answer?

WHOLEHEARTEDNESS:

  1. Do you accept that this profession is public service?
  2. Do you acknowledge that teaching is never a self- serving practice?
  3. Is it important to you to cater to others needs first before your own? Are you clear on who and what should teachers prioritize?
  4. Are you committed to selfless service to all students, no matter who, where or in what surroundings?

Teaching is not a one size fits all practice as we have learned in the previous modules. Because of this, it will easier to see that different contexts, different scenarios, different students and different cultures will invariably prove that correct teaching cannot be prescribed. But if there is one thing that can be prescribed in the profession, it is reflective practice. It is more than professional, and it teaches us respect, and other desirable personality traits universally useful for a progressive self.

Reference:

Grant, C.A and Zeichner, K. M. (1984). On becoming a reflective teacher. In Preparing for Reflective Teaching (pp. 103-114). Retrieved from http://www.wou.edu/~girodm/foundations/Grant_and_Zeichner.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3C: Folderize your brain! (and how to teach categorization)

Do you have an imaginary number line in your head to help you do mental math? Do you have boxes that store the different phyla of the animal kingdom that helps you remember that the centipede is not in the same phylum as the segmented earth-worm, and that an octopus is a mollusk? Do you have folders in your head?

This is the first time that I have revealed that the above exists in my thoughts, because until now, I did not know that a few many cognitive psychologists have explicitly drawn much conclusion that there is such an organizational memory structure (Huitt and Lutz, 2003) in human brains that help us with memory retrieval.

Jerome Bruner (1998) was one of the first thinkers to articulate this idea explicitly in his constructivist theories that touched on memories and memory formation. Eliasmith’s (2001) definition of memory, according to Lutz and Huitt (2003), implied that there is such a mental structure that organizes our new memories in a fashion that makes sense to us.

This being said, I am now sure that I am not the only one who has a structured computer hard drive – like manner of remembering things. But as cognitive theorists would suggest, the importance of an organized and structured prior knowledge would elicit a resounding agreement. What are its benefits?

For one, categorizing knowledge we perceive thru the senses (sensory memories), that translated into working memory, and then made its way into our long term makes it easier to retrieve for future use (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968). Imagine if new memories are not given due attention and was left “lying there in the brain” as it was perceived, then our brains would be too cluttered to form new ones, and to assist in other much harder cognitive processes, or “brain jobs”, such as planning, reflection and metacognition.

Priming is based on prior knowledge and is necessary to make new memories thru the use of previously encountered date, to form associations, and so are a whole lot of learning endeavors. The use of a top- down (Miller et al, 1960) and the bottom- up information processing uses organized prior knowledge. Establishing connections to previous memory is necessary for learning to occur (Lutz and Huitt, 2003).

So now we see how valuable organizing, sorting and labeling the different “folders” in our head, how do we attempt to teach that to our students? One way could be teaching discrimination and identifying similarities. Making distinctions between the things and concepts that are around us can help students form their own ideas of what could be classified together and what cannot be grouped. Teaching thru priming can also build mental associations that eventually lead to a rich, diverse, adn then sophisticated network of ideas that encourages open- mindedness and tolerance to others (making cultural associations).

Cognitive organization helps teach expertise (Schraw and McCrudden, 2013) as memory and prior knowledge becomes more and more vivid, and then powerful. So go ahead, whip out the label- maker and start folderizing your thoughts like a crazy obsessive person (because it works).

Lutz, S., & Huitt, W. (2003). Information processing and memory: Theory and applications. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/papers/infoproc.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3B: Role Models table

Models and Mentors in My Life

My Models and Mentors

Role Models and Mentors Their Contributions
Mother She has instilled that a strong personality is resilient to challenges in life
Step- father Has shown me incredible intelligence that I aspired to have: etiquette, manners, class, worldliness
Friend and former manager She has demonstrated to me that a Filipino female can thrive against a predominantly Caucasian –biased teaching industry abroad

The Type of Role Model I Want to Be for My Students.

 
1.      A view of fairness and justice, respect for others’ ways and means
2.      Being open minded and anti- bigotry
3.      An equal gender view
4.      The importance of lifelong learning
5.      The emphasis on the power of character strength and independence

 

How I Will Incorporate Models and Mentors in My Classroom?
In teaching ESL in Southeast Asia, I feel that it would be of great help to put a successful immigrant local child into a classroom of learning students of English as a model. This model would be completely relatable, and this puts the abstract purpose of learning another language in perspective. A model like this could be applied whenever I can; a sort of a guest speaker- resource person. An open forum could be held and students may ask about the child’s path to success in another land, and how he/she was able to conquer challenges.

Whenever this is not possible, another model that can be applied is to invite a native English speaker friend who is also a relatable and a highly amiable person. He may serve as a guest demonstration partner in showcasing a Demo Day, where the teacher and students can participate in a demonstration, interviewing/ interrogating/ dialogue-ing with the guest in front of the class.

As you can see, these model formats are not a constant fixture in the class, but only as an invited figures. In this case, then the modeling could be continued to carried out by the teacher (myself) after the models have left the class for their appearance. They may only serve as inspirations and a figure the teacher and the students can refer back to even after the appearance in class, as a case study when practical issues and questions are encountered.

Who Will Be My Education Mentor? What Would My Ideal Education Mentor Be Like?
A person I have so much respect for was a friend and a former manager I had the pleasure of working with in Vietnam teaching English to young and adult students. She was female, which is a rarity in managerial positions that is dominated by young White Westerners, which also means she was the supervisor to a whole team of native- English speakers. She is a highly respected teacher in the school, and is also valued for her consultation services.

I have considered her a mentor as I still contact the person to ask questions to, to consult difficulties I might be having professionally, and seek her interpretation of certain scenarios that confuses me, aside from being a truly good friend to me. I believe she has considerable experience as she had been teaching for 2 decades now, and I trust her to offer me sound judgment. She has a lot of best practices to share with me, and she doesn’t scrimp on straight and unbiased critique. She is also highly intelligent as she has been trained in the US and in other countries, and have trained teachers herself in the Philippines and Vietnam.

I have worked with her and seeing the response of both the parents and the students to her work, I would definitely consider her excellent and passionate at her job, something all of us current and future teachers can learn. The results of the product of her work demonstrate what kind of teacher I would want to be.