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Showing posts from March, 2018

Table of Hope: A Reflection

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"This painting reveals a story of greater hunger than a plate of rice could satisfy. What these children are starved for is love." - Joey Velasco

Today is Holy Thursday. This is a repost of Table of Hope: A Reflection.


This song was written in New York City Of rich man, preacher, and slave If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee, They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.
                                                                           - Woody Guthrie

Asian Americans Value "Elite Credentials": A Misplaced Belief?

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What matters to a person is shaped by what that person perceives as important to others. If a society places a high value on education then it is very likely that an individual that belongs to this community also values education. As I was growing up in the Philippines, one thing became clear - people in the Philippines valued awards or honors in schools. Elitism is ingrained among Filipinos. A college degree from either one of the perceived top schools, Ateneo, University of the Philippines, and de la Salle University, means a lot. This perception is actually not far from reality as JobStreet reports, these three universities do occupy the top spots in terms of alumni occupying top executive posts. It is no wonder then why Filipinos view education as a contest. And this frustrates educators like this principal from Claro M. Recto Memorial School:



The principal above is reminding fellow educators that the Department of Education had already removed ranking of students in basic educati…

Fathers Are Needed in Basic Education

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Being born poor in this world already limits one's future because of a general inequality in opportunity. Upward social mobility is often hindered by lack of success in basic education. Fruitful employment is less likely without finishing at least a high school education. Poverty, with its deleterious effects on education, is indeed a difficult challenge to address. Still, there are ways by which one can alleviate the effects of poverty on education. In the Philippines, the conditional cash transfer program is touted by the World Bank as an intervention "proven to keep poor children healthy and in school". Of course, surviving is different from thriving. One needs an intervention that have much broader impact. With this task, it is necessary to find other factors aside from poverty that can have a significant impact on education. Apparently, there is one that affects families, regardless of income: The presence of fathers in a neighborhood.

This conclusion comes from a r…

We Walk Out, We March, We Vote

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Protests can turn into meaningful change. Voices when united can wake up people who are standing on the sidelines. And in a democratic society, that change needs to happen in the ballot box. March for Our Lives, currently happening in the streets of Washington, District of Columbia and in hundreds of cities in the Unites States and around the world, is a continuation of the nationwide walkout held by students ten days ago. And this march is not the last step as the movement clearly states, "This fall we will go and vote like no generation has in history. It is only when we show the collective strength of our voices, in the streets and at the voting booth, will they start to listen."

Since the voting age in the United States is eighteen, some high school students can vote. The walkout, however, has inspired adults and they are now marching with these students. Patricia Lyons shared the following on Facebook:
Interfaith Prayer Service (against gun violence) tonight at the Nati…

How We Arrive at Solutions to Our Problems

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The non-governmental organization Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) has been calling our attention to the fact that teacher aspirants are not doing well in the licensure exams. Last year's exam has been especially disturbing with the passing rate for elementary teachers at 11%, and for high school instructors at 26%. The dismal passing rate is obviously a serious problem so it is good that an organization is taking note of these results. Being aware of the problem, however, is only the first step. Understanding the problem is a necessary next step. Otherwise, we will propose solutions that do not make sense. When it comes to solutions, PBEd does not really have a good record for it is one of the advocates of DepEd's K to 12. With teacher problems, PBEd likewise proposes the wrong solutions: Make the contents of the exam public and change it so that more teachers can pass.

Citing the problem
Proposing solutions
PBEd fails to consider that not all teaching schools are perfor…

Surrounding Yourself with Books....

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Surrounding ourselves with books we have not read has been recommended as a way to remind us of how much more we need to know or how little we actually know. Friends at Facebook have made me aware of an article in Inc. written by Jessica Stillman: Why You Should Surround Yourself With More Books Than You'll Ever Have Time to Read. An overstuffed bookcase (or e-reader) says good things about your mind. Stillman's article has been shared hundreds of thousands times. Of course, there are a lot more ways that are a lot cheaper that may keep ourselves honest about how much we realy know. Still, I have a feeling that some are actually sharing the article because of their belief that having books help motivate people to read. After all, even education researchers have correlated the presence of books at home with academic achievement. Thus, it is important to ask the question of whether surrounding ourselves with books really help us learn. This thinking obviously distills the probl…

There Is No Magic in Education

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We are obviously very much inclined not to believe that using a textbook as a pillow would somehow allow for the contents of the book to diffuse slowly into our minds. Still, we seem to be predisposed to anything that seems too good to be true. In education, we are often prone to get excited with simple yet seemingly profound perspectives. Take, for instance, the following phrases, "education for all", "praise the effort not the intelligence", "personalized learning", and "teach critical thinking". What we often fail to see is that these are ideals, not actual interventions. There is no doubt that teachers should adopt these goals for these are truly essential but one must still keep in mind that these principles are necessary but are not sufficient. We must still focus on what actually works in education.


I recently had a brief exchange with a school supervisor in the Philippines who was promoting "teacher collective self-efficacy". E…

What We Thought About "Growth Mindset" Is Not Supported By Research

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Praising a child's effort supposedly supports the idea of a "growth mindset" while saying that a child succeeds because he or she is smart only promotes a "fixed mindset" of intelligence. Further, a "growth mindset" is claimed to enhance learning. Well, a new paper scheduled to be publish in Psychological Science has just demonstrated that "growth mindset" poorly correlates with academic achievement. This paper looks at more than 200 studies on "growth mindset" which involve more than 360,000 paricipants, and finds that "Mindset interventions on academic achievement were nonsignificant for adolescents, typical students, and students facing situational challenges (transitioning to a new school, experiencing stereotype threat)." The paper in fact concludes with this sentence: "The evidence suggests that the “mindset revolution” might not be the best avenue to reshape our education system."

Browsing through one of …

What Happens in First Grade....

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It is not easy to tell what we are going to be twelve years from now. Yet, what happens in the early years of basic education can strongly correlate with what happens in the later years. For students who are struggling in the first grade, promoting or retaining a student apparently has long term consequences. Students who repeated a grade in the elementary years are more than twice likely to leave school when they reach the high school years. This is the main finding of a 14-year prospective study of more than 700 at-risk students in Texas.


What is especially interesting to note in this study is that school-leaving of these at-risk students mainly begin to occur in the later years of basic education, not in middle school nor in the later grades of elementary school. Unlike promoted students, retained students seem to drop out in a big wave at the beginning of high school or ninth grade. The authors of the study attribute this observation to the much higher academic demands of high sch…

Boosting Learning and Interest in Science

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Interest and Learning in a discipline can go hand in hand. With interest, there maybe a greater motivation to learn. The Education Development Center in the United States has recently published a report on What Parents Talk About When They Talk About Learning: A National Survey About Young Children and Science. This report highlights the finding that parents are indeed enthusiastic about helping their children learn science, but are not confident that they have the ability to teach science. Research shows that science activities outside school do enhance interest in the sciences but parents do have a reason to be reluctant because research also shows that the same activities negatively correlate with learning in the sciences. (See previous post, Raising Interest and Learning in the Sciences)


According to the authors of the report, here are the five key findings:
Most parents say they are confident about their ability to teach their young children literacy, math, and social skills, but …

President Duterte, Acting On Good Faith Is Not Enough

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Pia Ranada may be critical of President Duterte, but this is only apparent if the criticism favors people from the previous administration. Last December, Duterte's opinion on Dengvaxia was welcomed with open arms. When it comes to misdeeds of the Aquino administration, Duterte's favorable opinions are not questioned eventhough these are grossly mistaken. After all, Duterte saying that the purchase of Dengvaxia and its mass vaccination program were only "done in good faith" greatly helps the image of Rappler's idols. The problem is, "good faith" is not a good measure for public trust. It is always easy to claim that someone acts with good intention. And it is difficult to argue with that. For this reason, trust should not be solely based on "good faith". There are two more important elements: loyalty and due diligence. Loyalty can only be ascertained with no conflicts of interest and due diligence is based on evidence.


Although Dengvaxia costs…

How Can We Prevent Bullying in Schools

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Bullying in schools is a continuing concern. In the Philippines, a video of one student slapping her classmate several times has become viral. Sadly, being harassed or hurt by classmates is not uncommon. It has been reported that about one out of three adolescents experiences bullying. The school involved in this incident is a Catholic school, Sacred Heart College in Lucena City. What causes bullying? Dr. Gail Gross answers this question in the Huffington Post with one sentence: "Children model what they see."


Some children bully because they actually think it is the right thing to do. Oftentimes, it gives them power. And bullying makes them popular. Making the above video viral probably does not help in our quest to stop bullying in schools. Recent research shows that bullying often happens with opportunities. Victims of bullying are often socially isolated. Bullying also correlates with homophily - when "birds of a feather flock together". In the above video, one…

Pearson and Ayala: Making Profit out of Education

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No one that I know joined the teaching profession to become rich. A teacher's profit lies in what students learn. Yet, companies have long been affiliated with education as businesses often provide textbooks, infrastructure, software and other learning resources or materials. What requires critical thought is the recent push by for-profit enterprises to control fully what is happening inside a classroom. In an article I posted on this blog almost two years ago, this concern has been raised. "A public education system in decline, a government that is more than willing to lift restrictions just to entice privatization of education, and a globalized economy that now can easily dictate what wages should be and not ought to be can easily combine to form a destructive corporatization of basic education. Learning outcomes in basic education are closely tied to the quality of life of children both inside and outside schools. This is a fact strongly supported by research. No corporati…

Problem Solving Before Instruction

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While there is no doubt that direct instruction is most effective in education, improving its effectiveness remains an important area for research. Another question in education is the usefulness of homework. Although this has already been settled in research in some cases, one still wonders how and why homework is useful in higher education. Learning, as opposed to teaching, does occur inside the mind of a student. Thus, work done individually by a student must still have an effect on learning. One promising avenue that tackles both areas involves "problem solving before instruction" or PSI. Loibl and coworkers have summarized research on PSI and have suggested a "productive failure" mechanism that includes prior knowledge activation, awareness of knowledge gaps, and recognition of deep features.

Doing a quantitative research on how well PSI works is of course extremely challenging. The topic or subject could easily be a factor. Obviously, the teacher is also impo…

It Was a Windy Day

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Schools in Fairfax and neighboring counties were closed today because of high winds. My son took the opportunity to work on his science project. His project was to measure what happens to the freezing point of water when substances are dissolved. Included in his study was a sample of crystals from WinterMelt. He wanted to check if adding these crytals would indeed lower the freezing point of water.



To do this project, my son therefore went with me to work this morning. We had everything he needed in our laboratory at Georgetown. The following were the materials he used:


He would work with sodium chloride (NaCl), starch, sucrose and WinterMelt. To measure the freezing point, this was his setup:


He thought it was fancy to use a digital thermometer. He also learned what freezing point really meant. It was the temperature at which both solid and liquid could be present. The photo below was a sample that was partially frozen. Both metal stirrer and thermometer could be seen in this picture…

How Much Should Parents Be Involved in Their Children's Education?

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Placing blame is an exercise we never shy away from. When schools are failing, we may be quick to point our finger to teachers. And for some, we may hold the parents or the lack of good parenting accountable. It takes a village to raise a child so I guess we are all indeed responsible. In response to the recent school shooting in Florida, there is a Facebook post made by a schoolteacher that caught my attention. Amie Diprima Brown, a teacher in Cartersville Middle School, notices how much has changed in terms of how involved parents are in their children's growth and development. 
Amie Diprima BrownFebruary 22 at 8:50pm · Rome, GA · With all of the talk about guns in schools, why it’s happening, and how to solve the issue let me offer a little different perspective. I’ve been teaching since 2003. This marks my 15th year in the classroom. Everybody always talks about how schools have changed, and it’s true, they have. Yes, there’s the “crazy new math” and “bring your own device” ch…