"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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Teachers Matter?

Mrs. Mazo was my first grade teacher at Centro Escolar University. She was my first teacher since I did not attend kindergarten. She helped me build self-confidence. She achieved this by showing her own confidence in me and at the same time, handing down both skills and knowledge so that my self-confidence would in fact be based on substance. Of course, there are so many other teachers later along the way who have helped shape me and made me realize my potential.

As a new school year starts in the Philippines, it is important to remind ourselves of how important teachers are in education. A teacher is so much more than just a textbook. A teacher is so much more than just a laptop. Oftentimes, we are blinded by loud voices that champion technology or other factors in school. We are frequently lured by studies that promise dramatic improvements in learning. There are times when we strongly embrace innovations and curricular reforms. With all this excitement, it is important to have a reality check. More often than not, the success related in these studies are actually due to one factor, the teacher. It is the main reason why innovations that seem to work usually fail in transferability. When innovations are examined, the studies usually miss controlling the teacher factor. Any new pedagogical technique or resource can easily look promising if this is implemented first by an effective teacher. It really makes no difference if a class has an effective teacher. This is not an opinion. It is based on evidence.

Linda Darling-Hammond and Laura Post wrote a chapter more than a decade ago in Richard Kahlenberg's "A Notion at Risk: Preserving Public Education as an Engine for Social Mobility". That chapter, "Inequality in Teaching and Schooling: Supporting High-quality Teaching and Leadership in Low Income Schools", is a must-read especially during this time when public basic education in the Philippines is in a dismal state and is sadly heading in the wrong direction. One reason why reading this chapter is important is that it is a collection of data from good studies that in fact tell us accurately what is happening inside schools. The chapter reminds us of what really counts. Here are figures from that chapter that drive a message so important yet we often miss.

Copied from Inequality in Teaching and Schooling: Supporting High-quality Teaching and Leadership in Low Income Schools

The above figure looks at students scores' in 5th grade math, distributing these according to the quality of teaching a student has received in the past three years. One conclusion is that the influence of teaching on learning is cumulative. The other important lesson is that the effects of teaching quality on learning is very significant. The two school systems in the above study are districts in Tennessee. System B, whose students score lower than those in System A, has schools that have higher percentages of minority children. System B also has a smaller share of effective teachers. The impact of teaching on learning has been quantified:

Copied from Inequality in Teaching and Schooling: Supporting High-quality Teaching and Leadership in Low Income Schools
Nearly half of the differences in math scores can be attributed to the teacher. The other half, home and family factors, is where poverty is accounted for. It is very difficult to address and solve poverty in a society so it is a pity that education reformers are not focusing on the other big factor. Improving teacher quality is a far easier goal than eradicating poverty in society. Addressing the teacher factor also proves to be an efficient way of improving education"

Copied from Inequality in Teaching and Schooling: Supporting High-quality Teaching and Leadership in Low Income Schools
The above are not simply anecdotes. The above are data that help inform what is important in basic education.

It is indeed sad that at this coming school opening in the Philippines, teachers have to wear a black armband, just to remind us of something we should already know:

Photo copied from ACT-Davao Facebook page




No comments:

Post a Comment