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Showing posts from June, 2015

How Teachers Perceive Students

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When instruction is guided by where the learner currently stands, it is hoped that the teacher's perceptions are correct. A teacher's perception not only guides differentiated instruction, but also influences in general the future achievement of the pupil. Unfortunately, there are subjective factors that come into play in how a teacher may view a student. It is fairly common for favoritism to occur inside a classroom.

Yes, it is just a comic strip, but even published research shows how a child behaves affects a teacher's perception. The following is an excerpt from a paper scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology:

The above paper looks specifically at the preschool stage, but the findings are in agreement with those of previous studies done at kindergarten and elementary years:

The ability in both math and reading of children who are inattentive are often underestimated by teachers.The ability in both math and reading of children who exhibit defian…

Teaching Science to Young Learners

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A scientist like me is often not found teaching in a classroom with young pupils. Scientists when they do teach are usually standing in front of either graduate students or science majors. But when a scientist spends time with kids, the overall impression is frequently positive. Richard Felder wrote in "There's Nothing Wrong With the Raw Material." Chem. Engr. Education, 26(2), 76-77 (Spring 1992):
It was a remarkable experience---I couldn't hold those kids back. Early in the class I divided them into groups of four and gave each group two small closed vials containing colorless liquids, one labeled "H" (which contained water) and one labeled "V" (for vinegar). Before I gave them the vials I told them we would do some experiments to figure out which one was acid and which was just water. As soon as they got the vials, they took off. They shook them, sniffed them, held them up to the light. One child saw that one of the liquids was somewhat thick an…

How to Motivate Students to Pursue Science Careers

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A former professor of mine offered the following suggestion when asked what needed to be done to improve science education in the Philippines, "Let's not go the route of science quiz contests, please! We should discourage the practice of using quiz contests to show whether the science program is successful or not."

I graduated from Manila Science High School and during those times, one would certainly not miss the central role science quizzes and contests played in the consciousness of students, teachers and parents. The results of those competitions basically served as measures of how good our school was performing. Winning those contests seemed to be the main goal or prize of our basic education. As a recent paper scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, there is wisdom behind my former professor's suggestion.

The paper states in its abstract:
Using an expectancy-value perspective, we identified and tested 2 types of utility value: commun…

Something to Read on Father's Day

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Parental involvement is without doubt an important factor in basic education. Although gender specific roles remain in society, there is really no rule that says encouragement, support and inspiration are exclusively either feminine or masculine. Fathers are often mistakenly associated with discipline. On the other hand, mothers are frequently linked to warmth and support. It is therefore interesting to examine how much a father's involvement specifically influences a child's performance in school.

A study to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology from researchers at Harvard and Oxford looks at research over the past thirty years in the hope of answering the question of how much does a father really contribute to his child's education. The authors indeed found a difference between a father's involvement from a mother's. The father is seen less inside the school. Although fathers score less in school involvement, there is really no significant differe…

Voices that Need to Be Heard

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Right before classes started in the Philippines, Kristine Felisse Mangunay and Tarra Quismundo of the Daily Inquirer reported the following, "Unable to resist a last jab at the group of ralliers, the president said: “We heard they’re only about 20, but that they’re carrying five banners each. You just might hear them complain about unfair labour practice because of that,” he added, drawing laughter from the audience." This was apparently the president's response to a group of protesters from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers rallying against DepEd's K to 12 just right outside the Convention Center during his speech. The following photo does not show five banners for each person, but chances are high that such demonstration would draw a similar response from Aquino.

The above photograph was posted with the following notes from John Silva, a trustee with Synergeia Foundation, a coalition of individuals, institutions, and organizations working to improve the quality of…

Legislating Education

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A proponent of linguistic rights once told me that DepEd's K to 12 from his perspective was a lesser evil. The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 mandates the delivery of basic education in "languages understood by the learners". For kindergarten up to third grade, the medium of instruction is the regional or native language of the pupils. The law also prescribes DepEd to formulate a transition from fourth to sixth grade such that in high school, English and Filipino can be used as languages of instruction. It is then easy to see why in the eyes of those who fight for linguistic rights, DepEd's K to 12 is a lesser evil. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many provisions of the K to 12 law.

There have been several petitions submitted before the Supreme Court in the Philippines asking for the suspension of K to 12. What is quite clear in all of these petitions is the size and scope of DepEd's K to 12 reform. Perhaps, the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 i…

School Desks: Why Changes in Education Need to Be Conservative

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DepEd's K to 12 reform is enormous in its scope, yet it focuses only on the curriculum. The curriculum is only a part of a complex system. Changes in the curriculum can have unintended consequences on other parts of education. It is reasonable likewise to expect that for revisions in the curriculum to be effective, a thoughtful consideration of factors outside the curriculum is necessary. It is no wonder that Chapter 5 of OECD's Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Lessons from PISA for the United Statesstarts with the following: Finland, Slow and Steady Reform....


The curriculum is already a big part of an educational system. And one does not even need to look at something as complex as a curriculum to illustrate why changes in schools really need a thoughtful and thorough consideration. Take, for instance, the school desk. It is simply a furniture yet designing a good one is actually debatable. Back in 2006, the Guardian had the following article:


Those o…

DepEd's K to 12: Careers and Employment

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The last two years of DepEd's K to 12 offer four different tracks. Young students are therefore required to consider what career they want to pursue later in life. The tracks share a set of core courses, but the differences still matter and the question of how pupils can thoughtfully consider which track to choose remains to be addressed. In 2014, a study made by the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines recommended the opening of several jobs in the Philippines. One of the occupations listed as suffering from shortage is guidance counseling. With K to 12, this shortage clearly would be felt more strongly.

Last Friday, I participated in a career fair at Mason Crest Elementary School. The fair was organized by the school's two guidance counselors. Fourth and fifth graders went through more than a dozen booths, each one showcasing a particular career. I was there as a scientist and professor.


With each set of students visiting my booth, I started with a quiz aski…

Education Is a Continuous Sustained Task, It Is Likewise Personal

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During the early seventies, access to a television meant a child could watch Sesame Street, an American children's television series that focused on helping young children prepare for school. Using the television, Sesame Street was designed as an educational tool that made use of muppets and animation to capture a child's attention. For those of us who grew up during the seventies, the television was the technology that could have disrupted education.


With hindsight, one can now evaluate how technology as applied in Sesame Street affected education. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research by  Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine accomplishes this by looking at educational outcomes as functions of access to this television show. Jim Tankersley describes the results of the study in a Washington Post article:
The most authoritative study ever done on the impact of “Sesame Street,” to be released Monday, finds that the famous show on public TV has delivered…

To Be a Citizen in an Independent Country

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I was greeted this morning with the following photos. Paete Municipal Tourism was sharing a building decorated for the celebration of the Philippines' Independence Day. In another set of pictures, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers is calling teachers, parents and students to participate in a "Family Day Against K to 12".



Independence Day is celebrated by every independent nation, after all, it is a day when a nation expresses its self-worth and responsibility. The Philippines celebrates independence on June 12, a day in 1898 when revolutionary forces in Cavite formally announced a Declaration of Independence.

It is only expected that citizens in an independent country share the same aspirations and sense of freedom during such a joyous commemoration. Sadly, there are reasons not to be filled with joy. When some of the citizens are not truly free, and in fact treated as non-citizens in their own ancestral lands, Independence Day loses its meaning.

On this 117th anniversa…

How We Could Help Children Appreciate Science

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"Disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence" is how dictionary.com defines critical thinking. Most people may easily appreciate the adjectives clear, rational and open-minded. Most may even jump hastily to the conclusion that students need to be taught in school how to think and not what to think, and not notice that they may have left out one important point: Critical thinking is informed by evidence. There are currently various issues society is confronting which require critical thinking. Unfortunately, without knowledge, thinking can hardly work. Take, for instance, the issue of climate change. There are various facts that are necessary. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide has a longer lifetime in the atmosphere than water which is also a greenhouse gas. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen dramatically during this century because of human activities. Without these facts, one cannot possibly unde…

Instead of Showing Errors in the English Module, Here Is a Graph that Shows Something Much More Important

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Janvic Mateo of the Philippine Star reports that DepEd Secretary Luistro "has challenged an academic supervisor of a private school in Quezon City to show him the errors in the final version of an English learner module released by the agency". Recently, an editorial from the Manila Times questions the reasons provided by those who oppose DepEd's K to 12 and concludes that critics of the new curriculum are "condemning the poor to a lower standard than the rest of the world".  Rudy Romero of the Manila Standard provides a classic example of the false analogy logical fallacy as he equates opponents of K to 12 to Luddites who opposed the Industrial revolution.

Sound bites and logical fallacies may indeed persuade but a picture based on facts can still deliver far more powerful words than a sentence or even a paragraph.  This particular one comes from an article by Eric A. Hanushek, Dean T. Jamison, Eliot A. Jamison and Ludger Woessmann published in Education Next:


What Really Influences Learning Outcomes in Basic Education

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The Department of Education in the Philippines can now take credit for a new word in the English vocabulary, "multiculturism". The word shows up on the cover of a textbook in English for Grade 10 pupils. The book also comes with more than a thousand errors, according to Antonio Calipjo Go, academic supervisor at Marian School of Quezon City.

Low quality textbooks and unavailable learning materials are clearly problematic but not for the reasons most may think. DepEd Secretary Luistro quickly responds to the news of errors in school textbooks by stating that any textbook remains a work in progress. Newspapers as well as posts in social media often highlight inaccuracies or errors in textbooks.  Readers are then left to extrapolate what these findings actually mean. And most may be surprised that textbooks are not really known to impact learning outcomes significantly.

A study in 2011 (NBER working paper 17554) by Paul Glewwe, Eric A. Hanushek, Sarah Humpage, and Renato Ravina …

Actions Speak Volume

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They built on their own eleven schools. Lumads (indigenous peoples in Mindanao) of Talaingod, Davao del Norte have been receiving elementary education since 2007 from schools operated by the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC), in line with DepEd's National Indigenous Peoples Education Program. With DepEd unable to answer to the needs of the children in these indigenous communities, tribal leaders took the initiative to make education a reality. Sadly, these schools are now at the crosshair of various interests, none of which concerns the future of Lumad children.


One may actually find the statement from DepEd, "were not closed, just not opened", hilarious if only the situation is not serious. Nevertheless, such action speaks volume. When proponents of DepEd's K to 12 speak of an education that puts learners first, when those who promote the new curriculum speak of promises to the youth, it becomes clear that this is all just talk.