"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, May 31, 2013

Understanding Learning Styles

The first distinctive feature and guiding principle of the Philippines' DepEd K to 12 basic education program is its emphasis on the learner:
"The learner is the very reason of the entire curriculum system. Who the learner is in his/her totality, how he/she learns and develops and what his/her needs are were highly considered in the making of the K to 12 curriculum framework.The holistic learning and development of the learner is its primary focus. A teacher creates a conducive atmosphere where the learner enjoys learning, takes part in meaningful learning experiences and experiences success because he/she is respected, accepted and feels safe even if in his/her learning exploration he/she commits mistakes. He/she learns at his/her own pace in his/her own learning style. He/she is empowered to make choices and to become responsible for his/her own learning in the classroom and for a lifetime." (The K to 12 Basic Education Program, March 12, 2012)
All of these sentences sound good but what these really mean and demand from an education system warrants a closer look. For example, one of the sentences above, "He/she learns at his/her own pace in his/her own learning style", is quite loaded. Learning style is associated with preference. In this specific sentence, it is quite clear that attention to learning style is made at the individual level. This is largely different from choosing activities, media for delivering lessons, pedagogical approaches based on what the subject and what the student, in general, based on age and background, demand. The latter is illustrated, for example, by expecting chemistry to be taught differently in an elementary school, compared to how it is taught in high school or college. In the former, differentiated instruction will be employed within one classroom. Recognizing this difference is important since the resources required in terms of time, effort and materials are astronomically larger in an instructional setting that caters to the individual learning styles of the students.

There are also important questions that need to be asked when considering "individual learning styles". It is unfortunate that the phrase has become a buzzword because it somehow connotes paying special attention to the student and focusing on the learner. This fashionable slogan needs to be questioned. First, what does it really mean? And secondly, is there evidence out there that suggests that considering how a student prefers to learn leads to better education results.

There are business opportunities in education and "learning styles", as one can imagine, opening doors to a wide variety of materials and resources that can be developed and sold to the public. Thus, there are now inventories or questionnaires that are supposed to provide anyone an assessment of their primary and secondary learning styles. One example is provided by learning-styles-online.com, where the following learning styles have been defined:

The Seven Learning Styles (taken from Overview of Learning Styles)
  • Visual (spatial):You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.
I took the test and the following is a summary of the results:

Except for "logical", my preferences are really all over the place. And I have to ask myself whether I am really logical. Preference and ability are two different things. Choosing to be logical does not necessarily mean being logical. Learning styles should not be confused with learning abilities. Abilities are developed and learned while making preferences is just a matter of choice. One may guess that preferences can be a factor to consider in engaging students. But, then again, it is perhaps only one of so many factors that can help engage a learner in a given lesson. The subject matter, the topic being covered are equally or perhaps, even more important to consider. For education, the bottom line is how much does tailoring to match individual learning styles cost and how effective it really is. A group of cognitive psychologists (Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer, Robert Bjork . Learning Styles. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Volume 9, Number 3 (December 2008), pp. 105-119,<http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4F99A97E42AC70C56FC0>) provided the following answer to these questions:
"We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice. Thus, limited education resources would better be devoted to adopting other educational practices that have a strong evidence base, of which there are an increasing number. However, given the lack of methodologically sound studies of learning styles, it would be an error to conclude that all possible versions of learning styles have been tested and found wanting; many have simply not been tested at all. Further research on the use of learning-styles assessment in instruction may in some cases be warranted, but such research needs to be performed appropriately."
Rohrer and Pashler reiterated the above findings in a 2012 paper with the following bullet points (Rohrer, D. and Pashler, H. (2012), Learning styles: where’s the evidence?. Medical Education, 46: 634–635. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04273.x):
  • Whereas modern medicine owes much of its success to evidence-based treatments, most instructional techniques have not been subjected to empirical scrutiny.
  • At first blush, style-based instruction seems to be supported by a large empirical literature.
  • Our search of the literature on learning styles revealed that the appropriate design was used in only a handful of studies.
  • There exist a smattering of positive findings with unknown effect sizes that are eclipsed by a much greater number of published failures.
  • There presently is no empirical justification for tailoring instruction to students’ supposedly different learning styles
Rohrer and Pashler concluded, 
"In summary, there presently is no empirical justification for tailoring instruction to students’ supposedly different learning styles. Educators should instead focus on developing the most effective and coherent ways to present particular bodies of content, which often involve combining different forms of instruction, such as diagrams and words, in mutually reinforcing ways. Given the costs of assessing students’ supposed learning styles and offering differentiated instruction, this should come as good news to educators at all levels, from kindergarten through medical school."




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Philippines: Global Competitiveness (2013)

Last year, a post entitled "Philippines: Global Competitiveness" pointed out important details regarding the ranking of the Philippines in global competitiveness made by the International Institute for Management and Development (IMD):

Presented here are snapshots of the rankings including some detailed data pertaining to the Philippines (posted here with permission from the IMD). The Philippines fell two notches (from 41 to 43) in the recent rankings (59 countries are included in the rankings). What is highlighted here is the perennial low ranking of the country's infrastructure. Over the past five years, the Philippines has ranked 48, 56, 56, 57, 55 in this criterion. The country's competitive landscape is clearly pulled back by its low scores on basic infrastructure (56), science infrastructure (58) and education (57). The last table in this post shows in more detail what is involved in the education score. These are the 2012 numbers, which provide a good benchmark for DepEd's K to 12. These are measures that could be used to gauge if DepEd's program is enabling progress in education, which as these rankings show, is very much needed by the country. Time will tell.
This year, the Philippines supposedly climbed up 5 notches, from 43rd to 38th place out of 60 countries:

Figure above assembled from graphs by International Institute for Management and Development (IMD)
The performance of the Philippines Stock Market, of course, is largely behind this improved ranking. As in the previous post, it is important to focus on the factors used to arrive at these rankings. So here again is the landscape, comparing the Philippines' situation in 2013 against 2012.

Figure above assembled from graphs by International Institute for Management and Development (IMD) and the Asian Institute of Management (AIM)
Looking ahead, what counts more is the infrastructure. These factors are at the tail end of the graphs above. These are factors that strongly determine sustainability and future economic growth: basic infrastructure, technology infrastructure, science infrastructure, health and environment, and last but not the least, education. So below is a closer look:

Figure and Table from Asian Institute of Management
The Philippines dropped two notches, from 57 to 59 in education. Keep in mind, there are only 60 countries in this list.




Solon decries shortage of high schools, Calls for one high school in every barangay

Reposted from http://www.act-teachers.com/solon-decries-shortage-of-high-schools-calls-for-one-high-school-in-every-barangay/

Reference: ACT TEACHERS Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio (09209220817)
Solon decries shortage of high schools
Calls for one high school in every barangay
“Yes, we will still have a serioius shortage of classrooms for this school year. But it’s time we talk about a far more serious shortage—that of high schools.”
ACT TEACHERS Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio lamented that due to the gross shortage of public secondary schools, 4.6 million high school-age youth from 12 to 15 years old are not enrolled in high school. They make up a significant portion of the country’s 6.24 million out-of-school youth.
This school year, the Department of Education expects an enrolment of 7.45 million in public and private high schools nationwide.
Citing Deped figures, the legislator noted that there were 7,268 public high schools throughout the country in 2011. By contrast, there were 38,351public elementary schools.
“In short, there’s only one public high school for every five elementary schools. Almost all barangays in the country have at least one elementary school. By contrast, high schools may be found mainly in urban areas and population centers only. As a result, 91% of school-age children are enrolled in elementary, while only 62% are enrolled in high school.”
“The shortage of public high schools, particularly in rural areas, explains the alarmingly high number of children who are not enrolled in high school,” said Tinio. The existing high schools are simply too far away, making even free secondary education too costly for rural poor families,” said Tinio.
“Twenty six years after our Constitution mandated free high school education, government has not been able to make high school accessible to a substantial number of Filipino children,” said Tinio.
Tinio criticized the Aquino administration for pushing for K to 12, which will add two years to high school, while failing to address the continuing lack of access of millions of children to secondary education. “What is the Deped doing to enable 4.6 million children to enter high school? It’s current intervention, particularly the Alternative Learning System (ALS), is commendable but grossly inadequate, compared to the magnitude of the problem. Currently, ALS serves a mere 300,000 out-of-school children. Furthermore, there’s no substitute for schooling in the classroom setting. Children of the rural poor are as much entitled to quality teachers, classrooms, and textbooks as other Filipinos.”
The solon pointed out that failure to provide access to secondary education to the poor would worsen social inequality and hinder genuine national development. “If the shortage of public high schools is not addressed, we will see a further widening of the gap in educational attainment among Filipino youth in the urban centers and the countryside, and among the middle and upper income groups and the poor. At hindi uunlad ang ating bansa hanggat hindi sinisigurado ng pamahalaan na ang bawat Pilipino ay nakatapos ng hayskul.”
Tinio challenged the Aquino administration to embark on a massive program to establish high schools in the countryside. The rallying cry for education should be “one high school in every barangay.” #

Teachers on Pnoy’s K-to-12 and” bright future” for Filipino children, “wishful thinking”

Reposted from http://www.act-teachers.com/teachers-on-pnoys-k-to-12-and-bright-future-for-filipino-children-wishful-thinking/

Reference: Mr. Benjie Valbuena, ACT Chairperson (09162294515)
Media Liaison: Ms. Zeni Lao (09198198903,09174998608)
Teachers on Pnoy’s K-to-12 and” bright future” for Filipino children, “wishful thinking”
President Aquino recently signed a law on adding three extra years to the country’s 10-year basic education curriculum in a bid to make Filipino students at par with their peers in other countries.
Aquino said Republic Act No. 10533 institutionalizes a system of education that “truly imbues our youth with the skills they need to pursue their dreams.”
By signing this bill into law, we are not just adding two years of additional learning for our students; we are making certain that the coming generations are empowered to strengthen the very fabric of our society, as well as our economy,” he told lawmakers, Cabinet officials, diplomats and students.
“But teachers, students and parents said that everything about K12 is what Pnoy is as President of our country: ill-prepared and incompetent,” Mr. Benjie Valbuena said.
A case in point is the Universal Kindergarten Program. We lack trained teachers and there are still volunteer teachers who have not received their allowances last school year.
Grade 7 and Grade 8 teachers attest that aside from the modules for vocational trainings,equipment’s/tools for electrical, carpentry, and the like are not available. Classrooms for such trainings are non-existent. Teachers are challenged to be innovative but how can they impart skills when basic tools are unavailable in the first place?
“Imagine” is the buzz word for voc-tech teachers when lecturing or in supposed workshops sessions with students because equipment and tools for voc-tech subjects are grossly insufficient, Mr.Benjie Valbuena, Chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said.
“The President’s dream for globally competitive Filipinos is plain and simple, wishful thinking. Pnoy’s K12 must be junked!” Mr.Benjie Valbuena ended.#####

Solon doubts “zero backlog” in teachers, classrooms

Reposted from http://www.act-teachers.com/solon-doubts-zero-backlog-in-teachers-classrooms/
Reference:
ACT TEACHERS Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio (09209220817)
Despite proud announcements from the Aquino administration of a “zero backlog” in teachers and classrooms, ACT TEACHERS Party-List Representative Antonio Tinio lamented that public school children will still be facing severe shortages in these basic inputs this school year.
According to Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, the teacher and classroom shortages will be erased “by the end of 2013″ with the help of interventions from local governments, the private sector, and foreign assistance.
DepEd and administration officials told media that the teacher shortage was 145,000 in 2010, with 36,923 hired as of February and 61,510 others to be hired starting this month. Since 2010, government has constructed a total of 33,956 classrooms, which is still short of the total backlog of 66,800 classroom.
“In short, despite DepEd’s ‘zero backlog’ claims, there will be a shortage of 46,567 teacher items and 32,844 classrooms when public schools open on Monday,” said Tinio.
Tinio noted that DepEd continues to rely on 35,449 volunteer Kindergarten teachers, 4,828 mobile teachers and ALS coordinators, and 49,530 teachers funded by local governments, majority of whom are paid less than their DepEd-funded counterparts and have no benefits or job security.
“Government cannot claim that the teacher shortage has been addressed when it relies on 89,807 contractual and grossly exploited teachers, who are paid far below the minimum wage with no benefits and no job security.”
Government also touted as gains the outputs of PPP for School Infrastructure Project, most of which will not be realized by end of 2013. Its Phase I (for schools in Regions I, III, and IV-A) was awarded to two companies just last year while Phase II has yet to begin with the submission of bid documents on June 17.
“Nasa hangin pa lang ang classrooms na ito kaya mismong mga Division ng DepEd ay nag-uulat na para ‘resolbahin’ ang nananatiling classroom shortages, mapipilitan silang magdagdag ng shifts, mag-klase sa ‘non-classroom spaces’ gaya ng mga library o stage, at mas lalo pang palakihin ang class sizes.” ###

Science and Math Education: Content versus Skills

Science and math education requires both mastery of content and acquisition of skills. Unfortunately, education programs usually neglect one of these two, placing greater emphasis only on one. Skills required for scientific work also come in two flavors. Collection, presentation and organization are useful skills but these are oftentimes superficial. The connection between skills and content manifests in a student's ability to arrive at sound explanations and valid conclusions. Science is not just a thinking process. And so is math. There are things that are correct and there are things that are deemed incorrect.  Back in 1999, the National Center for Education Statistics in the US recruited mathematicians and mathematics education experts to view mathematics lessons taught in Japan, Germany and the US grade 8 classrooms, and the following graph summarizes the evaluation of these experts:

Above figure downloaded from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999081.pdf
With the above figure in mind, one can look back at how these three countries performed in the math section of TIMSS 1999 and arrive at a partial explanation as to why Japan outperformed both Germany and the US.

Above figure downloaded from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/1999081.pdf
In 2006, Roth and Garnier examined closely the science classrooms in Grade 8 in top performing countries and the US to see what sets US classrooms apart from this group:
What Science Teaching Looks Like: An International Perspective  
Kathleen Roth and Helen Garnier 
Using the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) video study, the authors compare science teaching practices in the United States and in four other countries that outperformed the United States: Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan, and the Netherlands. Their observations of videotapes from 100 8th-grade science lessons in each country revealed two major differences between the higher-achieving countries and the United States. First, each of the higher-achieving countries had a distinct core pattern of science teaching; in contrast the U.S. lessons were characterized by variety. Second, in all the higher-achieving countries, science lessons were content-focused—activities were closely linked to the development of science concepts. The authors recommend that U.S. schools improve their science education by adopting this focus on content.
The lack of emphasis on content is highlighted in the following figure from this study (Roth K, Garnier H. What Science Teaching Looks Like: An International Perspective. Educational Leadership [serial online]. December 2006;64(4):16-23. Available from: Academic Search Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 29, 2013.):


Yet, fads regarding science and math education reforms ignore the above. There is too much focus on inquiry, on process, on skills. Content is neglected. Exploring this disconnect in science and math education, researchers from Arizona went deeper and surveyed teachers' preferred observations of students (Talanquer, V., Tomanek, D. and Novodvorsky, I. (2013), Assessing students' understanding of inquiry: What do prospective science teachers notice?. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 50: 189–208. doi: 10.1002/tea.21074).

Abstract

The theoretical construct of teacher noticing has allowed mathematics teacher educators to examine teacher thinking and practice by looking at the range of activities that teachers notice in the classroom. Guided by this approach to the study of teacher thinking, the central goal of this exploratory study was to identify what prospective science teachers notice when evaluating evidence of student understanding in another teacher's inquiry-based unit. Our results are based on the qualitative analysis of 43 prospective teachers' evaluations of assessment evidence presented to them in the form of a video case and associated written artifacts. Analysis of our data revealed two major categories of elements, Task-General and Task-Specific, noticed by our study participants. Task-General elements included attention to learning objectives, independent student work, and presentation issues and they often served to guide or qualify the specific inquiry skills that were evaluated. Task-Specific elements included the noticing of students' abilities to perform different components of an investigation. In general, study participants paid attention to important general and specific aspects of student work in the context of inquiry. However, they showed preferential attention to those process skills associated with designing an investigation versus those practices related to the analysis of data and generation of conclusions. Additionally, their interpretations of assessment outcomes were largely focused on the demonstration of general science process skills; much less attention was paid to the analysis of the epistemological validity or scientific plausibility of students' ideas. Our results provide insights into the design of meaningful learning experiences for prospective teachers that elicit, challenge, and enrich their conceptions of student understanding in the context of inquiry. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 50:189–208, 2013
The following table from the above study illustrates just how little attention is given by teachers on skills that are in fact closely linked to content:


As the authors noted, "...attention to process skills related to the definition, setting up, and implementation of the investigation was more prevalent than attention to students' abilities to building explanations and generating valid conclusions."

Hands-on activities, real world examples - these are spices. Focusing on these is like looking at the trees and missing the entire forest. Math and sciences have a story line. There is a sequence, otherwise, the big story is not seen. Math and sciences are not just random collections of chapters, each one having with its own plot and seemingly attractive activities. There is coherence and learning both math and science requires such connections. Skills and content are both important. One cannot sacrifice one for the other.

Roth and Garnier summarized the difference between the high performing countries and the US in the following paragraphs:
These comparisons of science lessons in five countries reveal striking differences in middle school science instruction. All the higher-achieving countries in the video study shared high content standards and a content-focused instructional pattern. In Australia and Japan, for example, teachers carefully and thoughtfully developed just one or two science ideas across a lesson, presenting the ideas in a logical, coherent sequence. They expected students to understand science concepts and be able to support those concepts with specific evidence. In the Czech Republic, teachers sometimes presented content conceptually and sometimes by introducing many facts, theories, and terms related to a given topic. But in both cases, Czech teachers held their students to high standards for mastering challenging, often theoretical content through frequent oral reviews, assessments, and public student work. In the Netherlands, science content expectations were high in terms of holding students responsible for their own independent learning. 
This focus on high content standards distinguished science instruction in the higher-performing countries from that in the United States, where content was often secondary to activities. Each of the other countries had a distinct instructional approach, but all of these approaches strongly focused on developing science content and connecting that content to activities, in contrast to the fragmented variety of pedagogical approaches and activities that characterized U.S. science lessons.





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Brain-Targeted Teaching

Science teaches in so many ways. Research informs. With the findings provided by neuroscience research, the question is how to apply these studies to improve learning. Dr. Mariale Hardiman, co-founder and director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education's Neuro-Education Initiative, has been working over the past decade to connect brain research with effective teaching. Her model is called "Brain-Targeted Teaching:®  A Comprehensive Model for Classroom Instruction and School Reform", illustrated in the following figure:

Above figure downloaded from http://braintargetedteaching.org/index.cfm
To help explain the above six targets, several examples of lessons have been provided by Hardiman on the BrainTargetedTeaching website. One example is for first grade students, submitted by Alysson Eno, "Where We Are in Place and Time". 

Lesson: Different Landforms

Figure downloaded from Where We Are in Place and Time Presentation

The first brain target, emotional climate, requires helping the students establish ownership of the material that they are learning. This begins, however, with clear instructions or procedures. Students are given choices to develop a sense of ownership, but the choices are well-defined. Students are not finding their way in the dark. As seen in the background information provided by the above figure, there are various landforms and a student can choose from these for further exploration. This establishes ownership.

The second brain target, physical environment, deals with what a teacher must do to keep the lesson alive and interesting to the students. Watching a video or listening to music, which in some way is related to the lesson, helps. Eno does both with the following video:


The third target, learning design, ensures that students are aware of the "big idea" behind the lesson. It involves recognizing what the students already know after each day and constantly asking what students want to find out more. This part requires first of all that the teacher finds out where the students currently are. The following is an example of a drawing that a first grade student made, which helps inform the teacher of what the student currently knows regarding this lesson:

Figure downloaded from Where We Are in Place and Time Presentation
Each student also diligently writes down every new piece of information he or she has learned throughout the lesson.

The fourth target, teaching for mastery, requires exploration or deeper inquiry into the subject matter. In this particular lesson, students browse through the internet, looking for various landforms from various places around the world:

Figure downloaded from Where We Are in Place and Time Presentation
With GoogleMap, one can indeed browse through different places, with different pictures. Eno even found a song that matches this lesson from the web (http://www.totally3rdgrade.com/Audio/W_landforms.mp3):
And there is a site that provides videos that are appropriate for this lesson:
http://www.brainpopjr.com/science/land/
The fifth target, application, allows students to extend what they have just learned. The learning activity suitable for this particular lesson is students creating models to represent what they have just learned. Children can easily make models of volcanoes, mountains, hills, desert and other landforms.

Figure downloaded from Where We Are in Place and Time Presentation
The last target, assessment, allows for students to see how much they have learned. This can happen by simply allowing each student to see each other's work, notes, models. One important note is that such evaluation must be done regularly and frequently. Feedback received after a substantial amount of time has passed is similar to reprimanding a toddler for something he or she has done several days ago. This delayed feedback does not help.

Thus, the question, does this strategy work? Peter J Bertucci of Johnson & Wales University did his dissertation on evaluating this teaching model. The following is the abstract of his thesis:


A mixed-method study of a brain-compatible education program of grades K--5 in a Mid-Atlantic inner-city public elementary/middle school

Abstract

Interdisciplinary research advances have fostered theoretical conceptualizations of brain-compatible practice that promotes neurological changes. As unaligned practices are questioned, skeptics warn brain research is being misinterpreted. Valid brain and learning data are needed. The primary research question of this study was: How can best educational practices supported by neuroscientific research be separated from overstatement of educational applicability?A mixed method research design qualitatively prioritized an explanatory critical case study of the phenomenon, brain-compatible education. A single case type II design with embedded analytical units was employed (Yin, 2002). A brain-compatible program at a Mid-Atlantic inner-city elementary/middle school was studied. The embedded units were staff perceptions of the program and associated student outcomes. The theoretical proposition was the program was implemented to improve teaching and learning by taking advantage of how the brain learns. Data collection included document analysis, observation, interviewing, and surveying. The Stufflebeam program evaluation assessment model was used to evaluate the program (Madaus, Scriven, & Stufflebeam, 1983). Participating teachers were purposefully selected program practitioners from grades K-5. Five of those participants were randomly selected for observation. The principal, arts integration specialist, curriculum specialist, and observed teachers were interviewed and fifteen remaining program practitioners self-administered surveys. Qualitative data were analyzed utilizing content analysis, pattern matching, and thematic coding. The quantitative ex post facto component descriptively compared 2003 through 2005 grade 5 study site state assessments, advanced aggregate and subgroup performance, in reading and mathematics to a similar in-district school and the state respectively. No causal representations were offered.  The findings suggest innovation requires integrative research utility. Further, it was found that, combining charismatic leadership, voluntary staff participation, a shared vision, adequate resources, and community involvement fosters educational change. Moreover, brain-compatibility requires a positive emotional climate and interactive teaching to engage students and promote deeper learning. Positive state assessment trends were described in mathematics and reading. This research assists educators in refining practice through brain-compatible alignment, presents conditions for innovation, provides a case for multiple-analysis, and adds to the extant data base. Recommendations from this study propose brain-compatibility advocacy and enhanced educator training around research, the brain and learning, and cognition. Future research should investigate other variables within the program, additional in context brain-compatible programs, emotional learning climates, and early brain-compatible intervention.

Dr. Mariale Hardiman nicely summarizes Bertucci's findings through the following graphs:

Maryland School Assessment Scores for Advanced Level of Reading: Comparison of Aggregate Scores for State, Control School, and Study Site

Maryland School Assessment Scores for Advanced Level of Reading for Students Receiving Free and Reduced Meals: Scores for State, Control School, and Study Site




Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Deped K to 12 Modules for Sale, in 2013?

Someone posted the following on my Facebook timeline:

Mga kapwa-guro, magulang at mag-aaral: Noong nakaraang taon laganap ang Bentahan ng MODULE ng Grade 7....
dahil walang module na natanggap ang ibang subject area....
ngayon ang mga Grade 8 bumalik galling ng K -12 Seminar ng walang dalang Module para sa mga bata....
It says, "Fellow teachers, parents and students: Last year since there were no modules provided, widespread selling of modules for Grade 7 happened.... This year, teachers who recently attended a K-12 seminar also did not return with modules for Grade 8. So the sign says, "Do not make vendors out of teachers, A module should be free and not for sale."

It is troublesome if indeed modules are not going to be available again this year. I am reposting an article from this blog which questions not just the availability of the modules but also their quality and accuracy:


No, this blog is not selling modules for DepEd K to 12. Although, it is noteworthy to point out a comment that I recently read on the Facebook page of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. The comment describes how some division offices are distributing the new materials. A new workbook apparently costs 160 pesos. Of this price 120 pesos go to the supplier or publisher and the remaining 40 pesos are divided among the teacher adviser (20 pesos), department chairman or head (10 pesos), office of the principal (5 pesos), and the remaining 5 pesos go to the cooperative that sells the workbooks. This is rumor, of course. The fact, however, is that the new curriculum, with its spiral approach, creates the need for new instructional materials. The unique character of the new curriculum makes it difficult to resort to already available teaching materials. For example, the modules shown in the figure above comprise the first quarter of the science subject in the new grade 7 of DepEd's K to 12. This coverage is quite different from grade 7 science subjects in other countries. It is different from the science subject that I took when I started high school. And this will be followed by three quarters on entirely different topics in biology, physics and earth science.

The word "Diversity" in the title is highly appropriate since this set of materials for the first quarter already covers a very wide array of topics and concepts in chemistry. It illustrates one of the dangers of the spiral approach. It easily lends to a "mile wide and an inch deep" coverage. As a result, students fail to master the necessary skills to progress from one level to the next. The desire to cover something complex at the beginning disregards the need to acquire basic skills and understand the fundamentals of a science discipline. One can browse any general chemistry textbook and see that the topics covered in these modules are found not near the beginning of the book, but in much later chapters. The following are the chapters, for example, of Chemistry: The Central Science, Brown, LeMay, High School Edition:

1 Introduction: Matter and Measurement
2 Atoms, Molecules, and Ions
3 Stoichiometry: Calculations with Chemical Formulas and Equations
4 Reactions and Solution Stoichiometry
5 Thermochemistry
6 Electronic Structure of Atoms
7 Periodic Properties of the Elements
8 Basic Concepts of Chemical Bonding
9 Molecular Geometry and Bonding Theories
10 Gases
11 Liquids and Intermolecular Forces
12 Solids and Modern Materials
13 Properties of Solutions
14 Chemical Kinetics
15 Chemical Equilibrium
16 Acid–Base Equilibria
17 Additional Aspects of Aqueous Equilibria
18 Chemistry of the Environment
19 Chemical Thermodynamics
20 Electrochemistry
21 Nuclear Chemistry
22 Chemistry of the Nonmetals
23 Transition Metals and Coordination Chemistry
24 The Chemistry of Life: Organic and Biological Chemistry

Chemistry likewise depends on basic concepts and notions provided by other disciplines. It relies on arithmetic and geometry. The foundations of chemistry rest on the laws of physics. For this reason, chemistry usually begins with a review of fundamental forces, work, energy, space, time and measurements. Then, it marches to what chemistry is all about: atoms and molecules. The above modules are clearly on the surface and does not provide the pupils an opportunity to be immersed in the discipline. This is akin to teaching students what prime numbers are without teaching them first what whole numbers are and how numbers are divided.

(By the way, if one of the cups in the figure above contains coffee with cream - this is not a solution. See http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/gen99/gen99499.htm)




Video Games for Science Education

My six-year old son is currently fascinated with the Wild Kratts section of PBSKids. With my son's interest in wild animals, Wild Kratts clearly provides a learning platform for science concepts that is combined with adventure and fun. In the adventure, my son tries to collect all sorts of creature powers. After getting all these resources, he then proceeds to the final challenge of rescuing entire habitats:

Above picture captured from http://pbskids.org/wildkratts/home.html
Throughout the games, a wild animal is featured, highlighting its physical features and abilities. For each animal, the habitat is likewise touched upon, revealing its defining characteristics and the adaptations of its creatures. The following are the learning goals of this program (http://www.pbs.org/parents/wildkratts/about/learning-goals/):
The learning goals of Wild Kratts are to:
  1. Teach six to eight-year-old viewers natural history and age-appropriate science by building on their natural interest in animals. 
  2. Develop and strengthen basic skills of observation and investigation that children will use increasingly as they continue their study of science.
  3. Build excitement in science that will remain with them throughout their lives.
Animals can take you anywhere in science. This series now takes the natural appeal of animals and harnesses it towards the goal of teaching science concepts to children ages 6- 8. 
Educationally, Wild Kratts is timely, focusing on science just as educational indicators show an alarming trend of low performance and interest in science in today’s children in international comparisons (NSF Indicators 2004). The smart, fun, confident, enthusiastic characters of Wild Kratts provide role models that are culturally diverse to ensure that a wide range of viewers can identify with, and thus learn with, the characters in the show. 
In Wild Kratts, science content is always seamlessly integrated with the stories. As they learn about the world and science through animals, the characters actively apply their new knowledge to achieving their goals and completing the mission – whether it be exploring the never-before-seen deep sea in search of new creatures or finding out why worms come out from their underground home when it rains! New understandings or questions are closely tied to plot points that send the characters in new directions in their adventures of mystery, discovery, and rescue. 
Science content is focused to support curriculum standards as laid out by the National Science Education Standards (NSES) from the National Academy of Sciences and with the Benchmarks for Science Literacy from American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Of primary importance for this age group is to provide an inquiry- based educational approach: encouraging viewers to ask questions, complete investigations/observations, answer questions, and present results. This process is modeled by the characters and is central to each and every story. The fact that our successful heroes use an inquiry-based approach to life and learning, and our perpetually unsuccessful villain does not, sends a clear message to children about the inherent value of this critical thinking skill.
My son also watches videos from this program. One example is about animals from the Arctic, a preview of this episode is shown below:


I have not applied assessment tools to determine how much my son is really learning from these games. By simply judging from some of the conversations I have had with him especially the questions he ask, it is quite clear that he is learning something from this program.

Technology does provide a new route to education through video games. This is different from slide presentations or online textbooks, which are basically just changes in the medium. Games, by their very nature, engage whoever is playing. During the past few years, video games designed for science education have been active areas of research. And research so far has shown that there are indeed positive outcomes on science education from video games. A recent paper in the Journal of Research in Science and Teaching, "Game-Based Curricula in Biology Classes: Differential Effects Among Varying Academic Levels", for example, provides a multilevel assessment of how a video game benefits science learning:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/tea.21085/pdf
The game explored in the above study is called Mission Biotech, which has the following as one of its introductory videos:


The game can be downloaded from http://www.mbt-download.com/ and I went through solving the first mission, which required knowledge of how to extract nucleic acids (DNA) from a patient's sample. I basically went through the steps necessary to separate DNA. This part of the game essentially covers important aspects of DNA extraction, as described, for example, in one of the lessons in the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah:

Visit http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/labs/extraction/ to view this lesson
The game is designed to go along with a number of mini-lectures as well as short specific laboratory activities. Three groups of high school students are included in this study, all had at least one year of biology class. The results are summarized in the following tables:

Table downloaded from Sadler, T. D., Romine, W. L., Stuart, P. E. and Merle-Johnson, D. (2013), Game-Based Curricula in Biology Classes: Differential Effects Among Varying Academic Levels. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 50: 479–499. doi: 10.1002/tea.21085
As the abstract states:
Results indicated statistically and practically significant gains in student performance on both a proximal (curriculum-aligned) test and a distal (standards-aligned) exam of biological content knowledge.






Monday, May 27, 2013

Early Childhood Education in Math and Science

Like other institutions of higher learning in the United States, Georgetown University has a child daycare - preschool program on campus. The challenge, of course, is availability of slots. Early childhood programs are in great demand that high quality day care centers are usually full and the waiting list is especially long. The high subscription for these services come from the fact that both parents are usually working. With the relatively small size of US families, daycare centers also provide a social setting for young children who may not have siblings. Good early childhood programs usually incorporate activities commonly regarded as interesting to young minds and hands like arts, crafts and music. These are certainly beyond mere baby-sitting. Incorporating math and science into these programs may appear challenging, but is certainly feasible.

Lillian Mongeau at EdSource notes in "Pasadena center at forefront of early math programs for young children" that while preschool programs in the US are still fnding ways to integrate early math and science in their programs, the Children's Center at Caltech, established forty years ago, has long managed to engage children as early as six months old in math and science activities. One important aspect in this program is that the integration is clear. Children are indeed introduced to math and science. Children and parents are made aware that they are seeing math and science at work. This is important as it gives both children and parents correct notions of what math and science really represent. These disciplines are as integrated in human lives as arts and music. Math and science are not confined to geeky individuals wearing white laboratory coats who seem to be doing things only they can understand. The early integration plus the awareness brings both math and science to the minds of young children and their parents as essential human endeavors. It is not something mystical or magical, but in fact ingrained in our humanity.

Having math and science in preschool education does not require expensive laboratories. The following is a photograph of the science laboratory inside the Children's Center at Caltech:

Above photo downloaded from Children's Center at Caltech
What it demands, however, are teachers who have had training in early math and science instruction. It requires teachers who in fact have a healthy and favorable impression of both math and science. Training of preschool or kindergarten teachers along these lines is necessary. Hence, the difficulty of finding available slots in these high quality preschool programs is not due to challenges in infrastructure or physical resources, but in the lack of personnel who are trained and qualified to teach young children math and science. In "Pasadena center at forefront of early math programs for young children", Lillian Mongeau writes:

...While basic mathematical ideas like counting and shapes are often part of preschool instruction, far more time is spent on literacy skills, researchers have found. A study of programs in North Carolina and Tennessee found that half-day preschools spent only five minutes a day on math, compared to nearly 20 minutes on reading. 
The idea at The Children’s Center is that the scientific method – ask a question, guess an answer, experiment, observe, conclude – provides the best basis for learning any topic, including math. The center’s director, Susan Wood, designed the curriculum with a focus on allowing young children to predict how something will work, test their idea and observe the result as a part of nearly every activity....
The following is a photo tour of the Children's Center at CalTech:



Lillian Mongeau correctly identifies what sets aside the program at Caltech from other preschool programs:
...Such open-ended questioning – encouraging students to puzzle through problems – is considered a best practice among early childhood experts, but the method is not always in evidence in California’s many preschool classrooms. Part of that may be that many teachers have less training and aren’t as well compensated as those Wood employs. She requires and provides ongoing professional training for her lead and assistant teachers and asks all her teachers, even assistant teachers, to hold or be working toward a child development permit, the state’s minimum requirement for lead teachers. She also pays them on a sliding scale based on experience and qualifications that ranges from just under $40,000 to nearly $50,000 annually. That’s more than twice what a Head Start teacher in the state can expect to make....
The teachers make the difference....






Sunday, May 26, 2013

Digital-Literacy Skills

Resources and learning are two different things. The internet indeed offers greater access to information on any topic. The depth and breadth of information it provides at anyone's fingertips is simply astonishing. Internet usage in countries is continuously increasing over the years. Access and speed are both improving. Its penetration among youth is usually higher. The internet is quite different from television and radio, from cable or network broadcasts. The information in these older media is limited in scope and variety compared to what is stored on the world wide web. Without doubt, the internet provides a treasure of resources for education. One can read a newspaper, an encyclopedia, a journal. One can chat with friends, share videos and photographs, without leaving home. The Philippines is no exception. The following are data compiled by the Asia Digital Marketing Association for internet usage in the Philippines:



Unfortunately, quantity does not usually mean quality and resources do not necessarily translate into learning. More importantly, not everything found on the internet is correct or even useful. "Separating the wheat from the chaff" is much required. Leslie Harris O'Hanlon in "Teaching Students Better Online Research Skills" writes:
Sara Shaw, an elementary school teacher in Avon, Mass., realized she needed to teach online research skills several years ago when her students kept turning in projects riddled with misinformation. The flawed material often came from websites the students used. They took the information as fact, when it often was just someone's personal opinion. 
Ms. Shaw thinks teaching online research skills is even more critical than it was just a few years ago. More than ever, information is literally at the fingertips of students through smartphones, tablet computers, and other digital devices. 
"They will go on Google and type a word, and that is the extent of their research skills," said Ms. Shaw, who taught 5th grade for 10 years and now teaches special education at Ralph D. Butler Elementary School. "There is so much more to doing research on the Internet."
The above is the situation in the United States, a country with a relatively high functional literacy (above 80% of the population), yet literacy in the digital world is being questioned. In fact, in a survey of Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project teachers, serious reservations have been raised regarding how students use the internet.

Visit http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2012/PIP_TeacherSurveyReportWithMethodology110112.pdf to read this report
The above reports the following as the overall impression of how well students in these writing courses (These courses are already selective towards better performing students) are using the internet for extracting information:


The amount of gray in the above figure is significant, demonstrating a general lack of confidence among teachers in how their students use the internet for gathering information. These are students who are enrolled in advanced writing courses.

One may ask what the situation is in the Philippines. I am not aware of any survey similar to what the Pew Research Center did in the US. However, the fact that publishing in peer-reviewed journals is not that common, the fact that most are not aware of where reliable information could be found enables one to guess that the situation is unlikely to be better than in the US. Recently, I received a comment on one of the articles in this blog, "Paths To Math: Engaging Students and Teachers", from a student in the Philippines:
"I had learn a lot in the information given on this site by Mam Angel C. de Dios, im glad that K to 12 was implemented in the Philippines despite the hardship and many critics who are against it. The Philippines is one of the two the nation around the world that have only have until grade 10, we lack 2 years in our educational system, and many studies confirmed that this one of the factors that decrease our performance in science and math in the findings in TMSS. The lack of preparation to go to college since we lack two years in grade level make it difficult for students to adjust college life and also poverty on which also factors that decrease the student to go to school. I just hope that mam angel would give me more information on the K to 12 for im undergoing my research study on this area."
I think the above comment says a lot. How many can actually read and understand what is inside this blog?

The internet is indeed a rich resource. Unfortunately, not everything on the internet is correct. On top of all of these, there is also the concern for distraction and poor time management. One simply has to visit Facebook to see all of these concerns. And yes, these are very serious concerns.






Saturday, May 25, 2013

Spiral Curriculum: When and How? Redundant versus Progressive?

Republic Act 10533 of the Philippines, otherwise known as the "Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013", not only adds two years to basic education and reiterates universal kindergarten, but also prescribes the standards and guidelines the Department of Education must follow in developing curriculum. One item under this prescription is:
"The curriculum shall use the spiral progression approach to ensure mastery of knowledge and skills after each level."
The following is an example taken from a presentation given by Merle Tan, illustrating how chemistry is integrated into the new DepEd K+12 curriculum:



In the same presentation, it is also mentioned that "Science curriculum framework of high performing countries (Australia, Brunei, England, Finland, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, USA (3 states)) follow a spiral progression and integrated approach at least up to G9". The presentation, however, fails to cite that in Singapore, for example, "Teachers for early grades are trained and teach in either math and science or in languages and social studies, not all subjects." (Schools in Singapore may provide lessons for educators here, Cleveland.com). The presentation also does not mention the following observation highlighted by the US National Science Board's Science and Engineering Indicators 2002:
Analyses conducted in conjunction with TIMSS (Schmidt, McKnight, and Raizen 1997) documented that curriculum guides in the United States include more topics than is the international norm. Most other countries focus on a limited number of topics, and each topic is generally completed before a new one is introduced. In contrast, U.S. curriculums follow a "spiral" approach: topics are introduced in an elemental form in the early grades, then elaborated and extended in subsequent grades. One result of this is that U.S. curriculums are quite repetitive, because the same topic appears and reappears at several different grades. Another result is that topics are not presented in any great depth, giving the U.S. curriculum the appearance of being unfocused and shallow.
The above is summarized in the following figure:

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind02/c1/fig01-14.htm
The spiral curriculum is in fact viewed as one of the problems of basic education in the United States. This is likewise emphasized in a study on curriculum coherence (J. CURRICULUM STUDIES, 2005, VOL. 37, NO. 5, 525–559) where the following table (for the physical sciences), illustrating coherence in curriculum in the top performing countries (Singapore, the Czech Republic, Japan, and Korea) and the lack thereof in the United States, is presented:

In the above table, the topics covered by curriculum in the top performing countries are enclosed. The US curriculum is redundant while those of the top performing countries are coherent. Comparing the chemistry curriculum of the top performing countries against the Philippines' DepEd K+12 curriculum, it is clear that countries like Singapore are already teaching atoms, ions and molecules to Grade 7 students, which makes sense since these are the fundamental concepts of chemistry.

To understand the very important yet subtle considerations behind designing a spiral curriculum, excerpts from the following book by Cathy Seeley may be of assistance:

http://books.google.com/books?id=6xvkJNWTErAC&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Spiral curriculum, when and how? These are in fact very important questions which can easily decide whether a curriculum will succeed or fail. First, for most countries including the top performing ones, the spiral curriculum is only applied up to middle school (Grade 8). The international exam, TIMSS, is given to students in Grades 4 and 8. Students from the US are only average among developed countries in the Grade 8 exam, suggesting that problems lie mainly in the later elementary years and middle school. In the top performing countries, the foundations of physics (forces, time, space and motion) are first introduced in Grade 5, while the fundamental building blocks of chemical knowledge (atoms, molecules and ions) are taught in Grade 7.  Although these topics are likewise covered in the US curriculum, a little bit about everything is also presented to children during these years. The US curriculum is quite diffused. The top performing countries pay attention to coherence in the curriculum. Perhaps, this is the reasoning behind less breadth. These countries choose to emphasize instead depth in the foundations of these science disciplines. Along this line, the sequence is very important. Chemistry is taught first with atoms, molecules and ions. This is one major characteristic that is lacking in the Philippines' DepEd K+12 curriculum.

Another significant difference between the science curriculum in DepEd's K+12 and those of the top performing countries is the obvious fact that the Philippines curriculum is two years behind. The integrated science approach adopted by the US and other countries stops at the end of middle school (Grade 8) while the Philippines expects to achieve this only at the end of Grade 10.

These differences between curricula of countries, however big, may still not be the explanation behind student learning outcomes. Human learning requires steps. We learn to walk before we run. Coherence in curriculum is therefore a must. Coherence in a curriculum can be a given with instructors who are specialized to teach a particular subject. A teacher who has an education degree specializing in chemistry, with or without a curriculum, would know what to teach first. This, in fact, is one major difference between teachers in Singapore and those in the United States. Teachers in Singapore, even in the elementary years, are subject experts. Teaching science in an integrated approach requires specific training. Drawing a curriculum that recognizes the hierarchical nature of topics within a discipline not only provides the conditions helpful to learning, but also facilitates the required teaching abilities. A spiral curriculum that deals with a mile wide range of topics on various disciplines requires too much from any teacher. A spiral progression approach must consider the resources available. There is no point in introducing a curriculum that cannot be possibly implemented correctly. There is wisdom in "Less is More"....







Friday, May 24, 2013

In Photos: The Book Bridge in Puerto Princesa, Palawan and Brigada Eskwela in Paete, Laguna



The Book Bridge 

About

The Book Bridge is a community library and center (located in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines) that aims to give an opportunity for children and others to learn how to read, to empower them, and to enrich their lives.

Mission

Literacy is a basic human right, the bridge to achieve one's maximum potential, a way out of poverty, a tool that empowers.

General Information

How you can help:

1) You may donate books or ask your friends and family to do the same. (Send us a private message if you have any question).

2) Make a monetary donation, no matter how small. The funds received will be allocated to materials, supplies and various projects of the Book Bridge.

3) Volunteer - Send us a private message or write in our wall if you are interested in volunteering in our various activities and projects.

4) Spread the word - help us promote this library project by sharing the news among your friends and families.

Thank you in advance.















Brigada Eskwela in Paete Central Elementary School (May 2013)