Teacher Evaluation Systems that Actually Work

The quality of education or lack of it is often equated to inadequate resources. Lack of materials, a poor curriculum, being underprivileged are among the factors frequently cited as obstacles to good basic education. There is one factor, however, inside the classroom that can still make a significant difference even amidst dire conditions. It is the teacher. For this reason, numerous efforts have been made to design ways by which a teacher can be evaluated and then hopefully supported. Unfortunately, there is not much solid evidence of teaching evaluations that actually work. The National Council on Teacher Quality in the United States has recently released a report that cites six places that appear to have teaching eveluation systems that benefit both student learning, and teacher retention and effectiveness.

One of the six places is the state of New Mexico. Its teacher evaluation system especially caught my attention because it is definitely a system in which teacher evaluations ar…

The Internet Could Be a Good Thing Or Not

Having access to information at your fingertips sounds great. This is what technology has to offer. Of course, access comes with not so good things as well. In terms of privacy, using a global positioning system application, for instance, can collect and store data on one's whereabouts. And for information, greater access can also mean greater misinformation. With Facebook, sharing has become too easy that most do not even ask the question if something is indeed worth sharing or not, or more importantly, if the information is correct or not.

The innovative educator blog has provided the following rules:
If you have not verified something is true, keep it to yourself.
If you don’t have the time to verify it, keep it to yourself.
If you like the idea, and don’t care if it’s verified, keep it to yourself.
If you don’t care if it’s true, you think it is interesting and want to share, keep it to yourself.
If you can't help yourself because you love sending spammy chain messages to …

Engaging Students with Current Events

Teachers should teach children not what to think but how to think. At first sight, this statement may sound reasonable but it is in fact false. No one conceives ideas out of nothing. How we think is shaped by what we know. This is especially true when it comes to matters that are controversial or judgmental. How we think is also influenced by how we feel. More importantly, it is shaped by our beliefs. And when it comes to impressionable individuals, especially children, it is often a lot easier to copy how one thinks than to understand or grasp what one actually thinks. Young minds can be easily persuaded or even pressured to accept what adults say. For these reasons, a teacher inside a classroom of students must be careful, thoughtful and considerate since he or she is really in front of a captive and impressionable audience. Critical thinking should remain adherent to facts, but by its very nature, it should not likewise serve a teacher's set of beliefs or agenda. As teachers, w…

The Advantage of a Bilingual Program in Basic Education

English is considered as a primary academic language. Most books and journals on almost every discipline are often written and published in English. English, however, is not the mother tongue of a significant number of children. Even in the United States, one can easily find elementary schools where a significant number of students are not native English speakers. Although one may regard this as a challenge for schools, having a mixture of non-native and native English speakers in one classroom actually provides an excellent opportunity for a genuine bilingual education. Unfortunately, most programs choose either immersion (in which students abandon their native tongue in favor of English) or transitional (in which the language spoken at home is used in the early years simply as a support for instruction). This is perhaps due to practical reasons as bilingual education requires more resources. For one, teachers need to be proficient in the native language and culture of their students…

How Can We Help Students Learn?

More than four years ago, before my daughter started kindergarten, she had the opportunity to see the room where I give lectures to my General Chemistry class. She was surprised how big the lecture hall was and that seats were fixed in place and were arranged in rows. To her it was pretty clear that the classroom was mainly for students to listen to what I had to say. She said, "Your class just sits and listens to you. In my class there's playing, and reading books, and listening to teachers, and "circle time", and nap. And your class just listens. Why?"

Back in 2012, Richard Clark, Paul Kirschner, and John Sweller wrote the following in the American Educator:
"Decades of research clearly demonstrate that for novices (comprising virtually all students), direct, explicit instruction is more effective and more efficient than partial guidance." The authors, Clark, Kirschner, and Sweller actually wonder why educators and education policy makers are ignor…

Should We Worry About Our Children's Screen Time?

Earlier this month, this blog talked about the increased use of social media by teenagers in the United States over the past six years. A recent news article in Science adds to this concern. Citing a study published in the journal The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health, ScienceNews reports that children 8-11 years old in the United States are now on average in front of a smart screen for 3.6 hours a day.

It is indeed a matter of concern if a large chunk of a child's waking hours are now spent in front of a screen. The study also shows that only 1 in 3 children aged 8-11 years uses the screen for less than two hours. Clearly, some other childhood activity is losing time. The report also looks at physical activity and only about 1 in 5 children in this age group perform the recommended 60 minute physical activity per day. On the sleep recommendation, at least half of the children are still able to sleep 9 to 11 hours per day. Homework has also disappeared in a significant number …

"Don't Blame Heavy Workloads for Suicide of Teachers"

A headline of a recent news article on the Philippine DailyInquirer caught my attention this morning. The secretary of education, Briones, was reported to had drawn attention to the "unprofessional" correlation made by certain individuals or groups that connect heavy workloads to suicide incidents among teachers. It is true that the specific driving force behind a suicide is complex. It is often a combination of impulsiveness and a variety of external factors and circumstances. However, there is no uncertainty regarding the relationship between heavy workloads and stress. More importantly, heavy workloads are obviously not good for an effective basic education. A heavy workload, regardless of whether it is the primary cause of suicide or not, should be addressed for the well being of teachers and their students.

Therefore, it is not proper for the Department of Education to brush aside concerns regarding heavy workload simply because there is no "direct evidence" t…