EDS 113 Assignment 2:Four teacher traits to make that exam a ‘game’

Looking for sample assessments, especially the non traditional ones, proved not as easy. As a teacher going through printed assessments after another, I have realized that there indeed is a serious lack of alternative forms. I began to wonder if teachers have gone lazy that while some do care, most of us have reported to what is available and what is easy. The importance of being accurate and sure of the results cannot be any more emphasized, because like we have learned in the past, the stakes are so high for learners assessments should not be made in a cavalier fashion.

So what are the necessary teacher traits that one needs to have to be able to assess the accurate way?

Not that I consider myself a good teacher (that is for others to say, wink), but I think I may be considered a good assessor. I like to make sure that I probe quite deeply into what I wish to know about my students in any way possible. Thinking of ways on how to incite interest and mitigate boredom to me is equally important to obtain genuine data, and I have realized that this requires a bit of creativity. Creating assessments that not only measure accurately (having the objectives in mind), but something that will also reflect real data demands an exciting format. To me, an effective assessment can make students feel like that it is possible to have a safe environment and have lots of fun while revealing what they know and don’t know yet.

Concern for students is something that most teachers claim to have, and I do believe in them, but in my experience, it is a real necessity to be able to push teachers to go the extra mile and create fitting and applicable testing methods. Assessments are not a one size fits all, and it is sometimes hard to see one perfect worksheet for one class applies to the specific needs of another. Sometimes teachers have to take real interest in obtaining authentic results.

Teachers need to be inquisitive- persistent in assessing student learning; it is highly important to be curious, hungry to know your students, their capabilities and incapabilities, their weak spots and their strengths. Wanting to know these can help pick up the drive into making purposeful tests, and teachers should not stop twisting questions around until one gets to the most vulnerable (and often times, revealing) areas.

The machine that operates all of these traits is self- reflection. While creativity and innovativeness, concern, inquisitiveness and persistence all play into the creation of good assessments, reflection determines how we can be innovative, concerned and persistent. If teachers walk around being mindful of how assessments can benefit both him or her and the students, then teachers will know how to treat results right. Do we toss it around and pose it as a final grade? Or do we investigate further because there is fair justification of the student’ inconsistencies? How will teachers make it fair for everybody? Teachers pose these
types of questions all the time and the truth is, it only needs a bit more thought in order to shape old, traditional assessments into exciting challenges. Teachers are still allowed to call it an exam, though.

EDS 113 Module 4: Why the topnotcher is not (necessarily) the smartest in the class

I went around today asking my coworkers who happen to be literacy and numeracy teachers at an enrichment center seeking their views on their beliefs on grades, specifically summative assessment grades (or report card figures). They start digging up in their past experiences, dating back in grade and high school, when all that matters is either academic rank, or coolness rank. Concentrating on academic rank, some of them who claimed they do not 100 per cent believe grades are a true reflection of intelligence or learning progress in mark equivalency said that they know more than one person who were, in their opinion, way more mentally advanced than the first in class, also know as the Top 1. This has struck me as I probably felt the same way more than once in my own classroom experience as a learner, and
sometimes as a teacher.

One of the teachers at my job claimed that hard work- laziness could significantly improve one’s rank. She claimed further that due to the traditional format of the school system, results could be skewed by intense review and studying before examinations. Very much agree. The review pre test- forget post test has proven so effective that all my coworkers know someone who mirrored the said technique (or perhaps themselves). Another pointed out that no matter how appropriate or highly prepared the assessment are, other intelligences may come into play such that one’s intelliegence domain (see M.I. by Gardner) may be mismatched into the institution one is in. According to her, a student who may have a slant towards a visual- spatial reasoning may do very poorly forcing himself in a liberal degree (and underperforming) when he could be in technical school learning how to reverse- engineer cars.

I stopped and thought about these views and thought that one of the two could be right: we might all be hating on the Top 1 of our respective classes, or they might have a valid point.

But before debunking all thoughts about the way we traditionally grade students, I wish to offer another insight. Our center keeps a strictly small teacher to student ratio, such that maximum number of students is 2 and 4 for reading and math, respectively. I wish to insist how it is still possible to rate and mark the learners accurately thru meaningful and deliberate formative assessments, and high quality constructed summative assessments, and how that keeps marks and progress reports accurate in describing what it needs to describe. Then were do teachers go wrong?

Perhaps grading trickiness is proportional to class size. What this means is that as the class grows in size, so does the lack of accuracy. It could be that a smaller class allows for more differentiated instruction and then differentiated assessment, and this relationship is what creates high fidelity grades and feedback. A larger class may be deindividualizing students into mere ‘group members’ and teachers may tend to generalize more as the class grows in number. I am always highly confident that my one on one student is almost always on the right track as I enjoy greater freedom in making teacher made worksheets and assessments, not having to consider to accommodate anybody. Comparing it to how I handled my 14 year old ESL class in Hanoi, Vietnam a long time ago where I would attempt to describe them in a few adjectives when asked about by my supervisor. Making some sense.

EDS 113 Module 3E: My classroom realities on differentiation

So many teachers have dreamed of differentiating classroom assessments, and one can imagine the clamor to incorporate such into formal curricula, but the perceived disadvantages seem to continue to outweigh the benefits. What really is the current state of our teachers and classrooms that something as beneficial, even exciting, as differentiated assessments cannot penetrate most class instruction? or, if implemented (or attempting to), what are the struggles in differentiation? Let me make my own classroom as a case study.

I work at a numeracy and literacy enrichment center, which is short for an after school facility. The owners are very amiable and generous, but as teachers there, I and my coworkers understand that there is always a business side to things. Two to four students are accommodated at a single class, regardless of level, with only student and teacher availability as basis for the placement. Students come in for an hour’s worth of session, multiple times a week, with usually the same classmates. Which means our number one enemy is the time constraint. It is not a joke to actually be concerned about student progress and care how every student may benefit from their 60 minutes if a single teacher is constantly bombarded by a five year old on one side of the desk, and then a 14 year old, and then an 11 on the other. All three clearly needed some type of attention, and for the most part, it is impossible to speak to more than one at the same time (we wish we can, and we sure tried).

Second is the lack of rigid scheduling. Although like I said earlier, we are trying to understand this as it is one on the business side, and at this point, the center has decided that we cannot afford to refuse a student only because the teacher only cared to admit same- level pupils at a given time slot.

Third and last is the lack of preparation time. Teachers at our center prepare for their classes during their lunch hour, or force themselves to report to work very early. Sometimes, as much as we dislike doing so, we are forced to prepare some materials during another student’s class, and we hate to be in this position. But it’s better than no preparation at all. Management seem to scrimp on this because again, it is hard to lose a whole hour, which again meant losing business.

Me and my coworkers continue to seek a solution somehow on how to reconcile issues on differentiation of instruction and of assessment and the lack of allowance on matters of resources and time, so for now, we continue to do our best and multitask by rehersing talking to two people at the same time.

EDS 113 Module 3B: How high are the stakes we put on assessments of learning?

In most modern education facilities everywhere, the culture of assessing the learning of students by way of a single moment of performance is something that scares me, both for the teacher and for the students. If being judged by an isolated test devoid of context is not daunting enough, it seems to me that people who advocate a sole yardstick such as a summative assessment to determine a student’s future genuinely believes that our learning in any area of knowledge is something applied in isolation, staring down pages upon pages of test questions. I had to say that this is almost never the case. Even engineers and people of science simply do not perform science for the sake of it, but is applied math and science that they do.

Personally, I think it is hurting our chances of coming up with real and pragmatic solutions to the issues of our society and the world as well if we continue to put our biggest eggs in the traditional testing basket. To come up with genuine answers to these problems is to surround us in different gray areas, a color not seen in an examination paper. It takes a real sit down, brainstorm, exchange of ideas and in depth synthesis of current and background information to be able to solve issues. And see, talking is illegal (and sharing of ideas) in a testing room.

This is not to say that summative assessments are never necessary, because they are. But to put such weight on it and constantly bombard young minds that they can never be more than anything of what is written on a marked paper is a grossly misled belief. In the classroom, why not advocate for more reflective self assessments within a safe environment, than be busy dishing out worksheets and scary term exams? What about more well- rounded tests in various forms and activities to aid evaluation?

EDS 113 Module 1: Exams make the (students’) world go round

The cold hard truth is sometimes hard to swallow, especially this one
for teachers who actually believe in true assessments: exams are a
student’s world. We are judged by it, therefore we will kill for it, we
will die for it. Missing an exam is unheard of in UP, and I guess in
many othe colleges. And yet, we don’t understand why it defines us.

I remember a first semester season in UPLB at the PhySci building where
I found myself walking to take one of those popular 7-9pm departmental
exams. I was walking casually towards the second floor at the ICS (yes,
I was once a computer science major). I peeked thru the glass square of
the exam room door and I saw it filled with students; initial reaction
was puzzled then, shocked.

My instructor exited the door and greeted me, saying “O, late ka, Ms
Banal.” I didn’t even know he knew me.

I looked at my watch and it said 6:50pm and I clearly wasn’t late. My
feelings slowly turning into panic as I began to ask the people who are
getting out one by one that this is the finals I was going to take at
7pm, which turns out was moved to 5pm. My worst nightmare was realized.

Not that because I was burning oil night and day studying for this
exam, I generally don’t review for tests back in the day, but the
thought of mising an important event in a student’s life probably means
I will fail the course. All invested work all semester would have been
wasted, only because I missed the rescheduling announcement on this
one.

Let us imagine for a second the bar exam, the medical board exams, the LET. Learners are defined by exams, and truth be told, lives are dependent on it. Students toil the hardest on exams in the hopes of being rated highly, but isn’t that a form of deceit? An intentional, deliberate attempt to make your professor think you knew more than you actually do, all because you were able to cram meaningless terms in one, or some, all nighter? If that is the case then there is nothing genuine about this type of assessment.

And that is why I didn’t even bother pulling the pleas on the teacher and request another shot on the exam because I didn’t think I deserved to be judged based on a two-hour quiz. I reenrolled, and “killed it”, so to speak.

I now wonder if my course instructor tried to improve his teaching, or the program after finding the assessment results of my classmates.

EDS 103 Module 3D (on Vygotsky): Cognitively- underdeveloped students a result of incompetent teachers?

Vygotsky’s ideas on constructivism are nothing short of brilliant that promotes a largely beneficial school of thought for education. One of its most salient points was about the importance of a competent mentor that facilitates learning. Vygotsky readily suggests parents as the first and original, to provide the initial social interaction for a child,  but as biological maturity proceeds in a typical society, so does the need for a child to enter formal education.

Inevitably, this means that a huge chunk of a child’s life of the next 12 years or so will be spend in the care of school administrators; to be put under the heavy influence of curriculum life as its virtual bible and the youth at the mercy of class room teachers from age 4 to 5 to their formative years, puberty and then adolescence and adult life. This shows how great of an impact, and of responsibility the education system has on a person’s life, and you may ask who becomes their closest mentors next to their parents? None other than the teachers. An unbelievably  huge privilege and a responsibility at that.

But, as teachers and future ones reading Vygotsky and his preaching on the need for good  teachers to become proper role models, I cannot help but reflect on non-performing students. They are the ones who we could consider underdeveloped— lacking in critical thinking, displays poor reasoning abilities, lacking knowledge on correct learning techniques and strategies. The list can go on but what I am pointing out here is an observation I have made… are weak students necessarily mentored by incompetent teachers- models?

The following passage is quoted from Saul McLeod’s article on the famous thinker Vygotsky’s thoughts on social influences on cognitive development:

According to Vygotsky (1978), much important learning by the child occurs through social interaction with a skillful tutor. The tutor may model behaviors and/or provide verbal instructions for the child. Vygotsky refers to this as cooperative or collaborative dialogue. The child seeks to understand the actions or instructions provided by the tutor (often the parent or teacher) then internalizes the information, using it to guide or regulate their own performance. (2014)

Following this claim, it might well mean that the reverse could also be true? Think of the Ivy League and a local community college: does it mean that students who attend the top schools who boast of the best education in the United States (maybe even the world) are the way they are primarily because they are being mentored by elite minds of the American academe, during and pre- tertiary? And does that also follow that the converse is true, that if you find yourself poorly performing and lacking in the fundamental pillars skills, then it is partly because that you’ve been mentored by passive teachers, by teachers who didn’t really care, by teachers who lacked passion and the drive to be able to become the best model for their students, or worse, by teachers who are also equally clueless and misinformed?

I do not wish to discount the fact that the self accounts for something in cognitive development, as Piaget and the others who had developed theories on intelligence and the like, but as far as social cognition is concerned, do you think Vygotsky will blame incompetence of the tutor in his model?

I believe that this module has shown us the heavy importance of Piaget’s lessons to current and future educators in educating us about readiness (the stages of cognitive development), and Vygotsky on material and teaching appropriateness (the ZPD) and the significance of skillful models (McLeod, 2014). In the end, perhaps both the self and social factors determine our rate of cognitive development and one cannot be given more significance over the other, and neither one can be blamed more than the other.

References:

McLeod, S. (2014) Lev Vygotsky. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/vygotsky.html#social

Dweck, C. Mindset. Free Books Online, p 39. Retrieved from http://www.freebooksol.net/Mindset/39.html

Cherry, K. Piaget’s Stage of Cognitive Development. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm

EDS 111 Module 3B: Preschool teaching as a female dominated profession: where males are lacking

Discussing the prospect of a new hire in our school, my directress sipped water from her brightly colored bottle after playfully choking on her response, hearing that I suggested a male candidate should not be ruled out in choosing a new teacher. She has always been the first and final say on the hire even though I participate here and there especially in dropping a list of skills that I think are necessary for the new class suffering a teacher- vacuum.

Then I have come to remember that on my first formal teaching position at a kindergarten in Vietnam 6 years ago, the roster has always been all female. In fact, even the security personnel, helpers, nannies are female (there’s the cook, by the way).

I didn’t wish to be discriminating as I have had experience hiring a male when I was teaching in China over a year ago which worked beautifully (interestingly I chose a male only once), but after learning about the interpersonal skills needed in preschool teaching, it is starting to make sense now. After all, Lilian Katz in 1989 said that mothering and teaching very young learners are distinct, and in my experience, male teachers are very good in making this firm distinction. But the evidence pointing to the need for fostering tender attachment (within the scope of professional decorum) (Scarlett, 1998), I believe, is more overwhelming than the need for firmness and gentle authority. The need is just more deep-seated and innate. The ability to establish the secure attachment is so strong a teacher trait that caregivers openly appreciate it, and parents put in so much value. And touch… let’s not even go there.

Does it really take female teaching sensibilities to perform this job? Or are we being sexist? I surely don’t want to be discounted from being a suitable candidate by virtue of my gender, I have always believed.

Although in light of all these, I refuse to make gender distinctions when it comes to competence, I cannot help myself from seeing females as better candidates (not better teachers, take note) overall to fill the jigsaw shape that parents and maybe students as well are seeking to fulfill. Teaching preschool now makes me feel like only the very distinct form of the female kind of instruction can satisfy the nurturing, caring, loving needs of students in this developmental stage. There might be little difference in ability and skill but maybe, there is an intrinsic one in personalities influenced by gender.

Scarlett, W. G., Ponte, I. C., & Singh, J. P. (2009). Building positive teacher – student relationships (Chapter 3). In Approaches to behavior and classroom management. SAGE Publications. Retreived from http://www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/26067_3.pdf

EDS 103 Module 3: Sticker- stingy

I have never been one who was known among my students to be generous with extrinsic rewards. I have fought against what B.F. Skinner (1938) had termed “token economy” in the classroom. I have never subscribed to the rewards of a tangible reward such as stickers and other gifts to motivate my students and here’s why:

  1. I refused to teach my students to equate amiable behavior/ performance to a small and a very impermanent joy such as a sticker; to me, it’s the equivalent of bribery.
  2. I want to instill in my students the rewards of learning in itself: better grades, knowledge that they can use sooner or later, a competitive edge among their peers if it suits them (my students are young children), possessing know how, general contributor to intelligence, usable abilities, among others;
  3. I want them to value more lasting trophies (knowledge) than disposable ones (tokens);
  4. I hope to shape their attitude towards good behavior does not always equate to immediate positive responses. Some things are cumulative and process- based and patience and long term hard work is sometimes necessary;
  5. I wish to help them adjust into the real world outside a token economy with realistic expectations that not every positive deed will be rewarded, and a positive deed is already a source of pride. (McLeod, 2007)

These reasons listed above are my personal feelings towards reinforcements and rewards. I respect the proponents of behaviorism as they have very solid arguments in most aspects, but perhaps I could be trying to teach and discipline from a more reformist bias.

Make no mistake on how I also subscribe and employ several tactics on conditioning (again, my students are at a very malleable age). As a matter of fact, I have come to trust the theories of behaviorism as highly effective and compatible in preschool education. But somehow, I cannot require myself to go beyond smiley stamps, verbal encouragement and a pat on the back (it’s a high-five nowadays).

Not to mention that I have to pay for the stickers myself.

McLeod, S. A. (2015). Skinner – Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/operant-conditioning.html

EDS 111 Module 3A: “I’m not YouTube-ing; I am TEACHING!

I have to shamefully admit that I have never heard of the TPACK framework until now. I am sure that I am not alone in this course who had eureka moments and found themselves nodding in realization in identifying that the use of Youtube in their classes already has a name in theoretical education.

In my personal point of view, I can see a few implications of the usage of the internet (TPK) at my school where I teach. For those who wanted to know, I teach reading to toddlers here in Manila. Our school caters to very young but technologically exposed learners. In seeing them begin or grow into their big schools (transitioning from a preschool to formal education), I
have had a few observations how their iPads too big for their hands had influenced the knowledge they bring into our classrooms, and into their kindergarten schools.

I have encouraged the teachers to use videos in teaching reading and comprehension to our young ones, especially in attempting to teach difficult to explain concepts such as this book we have about Paris (some of them have never been to Paris, or even if they have, they don’t know what Paris is. “Teacher, is Paris food?”), or where you need a bug hut for
(someone asked me why would you need to make a home for insects when they are, apparently, “yucky”). So useful, yet, what are the positive and negative implications of the internet?

I have divided them into two as I have seen how it can be a double edged sword. In our context, there are:

1. Con- extremely shortened attention spans
2. Con- increased demands of high- end, top- shelf wants such as expensive toys and figures
3. Con- addiction to visuals that promote unrelated lessons, borderline obnoxious
4. Pro- high technological knowledge
5. Pro- students can travel outside our classrooms thru videos
6. Pro- interesting class format
7. Pro- social tool in making the students more well rounded and in contextualizing our
content

A negative effect of exposing students to Youtube is somehow an observed correlation of short attention span in children. They start craving dynamic visuals and loud audios instead of sitting down in a quiet corner to quaintly open a book in peace. Young children also see all sorts of new and expensive toys on website advertisement and I think it can encourage materialism. Addiction to attractive and slapstick humor that are available on the internet also makes a lot of students
trade informational videos to one that don’t really have intrinsic value except being “silly- funny”.

There are definitely good things that come out of using videos in class, such as a sense of informational technolgy at an early age. The pupils can also “travel” outside the class through videos that are rich in experiences and being able to create a vicarious learning atmosphere, which makes for a more interesting class. Lastly, we teachers strive to plan our video- added lessons accordingly to shape the computer as a social tool to let them contextualize the abstract concepts in their heads.

Although in no way we encourage nor foster a computer-culture in our lessons by giving them freedom to use the electronic resources in school (or outside, for that matter), there is an unavoidable effect that we are possibly making them think that Youtube-ing is without limitations. Anyway a teacher uses it, there is always danger that the learners might misinterpret this as a good tool as long as you know how to click and play. Number one hazard is since it is easy to use, Youtube can offer children easy access to anything.

An informed and responsible utilization of technology as a lesson tool is the whole point of the TPACK. Its theoretical framework posits that if teachers meet the required knowledge base of a rich TK, PK and CK and the merger of the three, then effective teaching should take place. As far as our school goes, we try to continually discover the correct synthesis of the TPACK in order to foster the more positive implications it creates and mitigate the bad.

EDS 111 Module 2: Championing teacher professionalism is important

After studying the literature on the different perspectives defining it, I have come to understand that what shapes teaching professionalism has been clouded by paradoxes on what between a strict and quite literal perspective, and a more accommodating, free ranging set of parameters.

Assuming we accept the arguments of Etzioni (1969), David (2000), Leiter (1978) and Samuels (1970) and put teachers under de-organization in order to attain autonomy in their decision making (which is a major criterion, and is a huge critique from the traditional list) is inherently flawed. It is but natural for teachers to be organized under a governing body, be it the school, PTAs and or teachers’ collectives themselves to maintain standards.

Without this no school, no institution can market a specific brand of education, and this is important to be able to cater to particular learners’ needs. A multiple intelligence preschool needs to have teachers maintaining the same standard in order for them to market themselves as a legitimate MI facility. A university professor needs to set objectives for his or her class in order to achieve university standard targets .

The argument that de-professionalizes the teaching occupation because of the unmet autonomy criteria is far from enough to overlook the other, in my opinion, more important qualifications such as its nature as a public service, selfless intention, the strict ethical code it upholds, and having an element of recognition for its achievements; not to mention it is a far too traditional an approach to return to this sort of model.

I feel that the freedom the democratic professionalism approach offers is now much more timely in this post-professional age we are in now (Hargreaves, 2000). But would the profession elitists in contemporary society who are stuck in the ages even be a tad bit willing to consider this kind of “professional debauchery” of traditions?

Demirkasimoglu, N. (2010). Defining ‘Teacher Professionalism’ from Different Perspectives.
Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences Vol. 9 pp. 2047- 2051. doi:
doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.12.444