Showing posts from September, 2015

What Do Students Expect and Value?

"Thank me later." This is part of Robin Berman's book "How to Raise Your Kid with Love and Limits". The phrase acknowledges that being thankful oftentimes requires time. How we see things change as we grow older and become more experienced. Asking students about a class they are taking can sometimes yield different responses depending on when such questions are asked. Instant gratification leads us to favor what appears to be pleasing at the moment. Challenges, on the other hand, appear exactly opposite to what we expect based on a sense of entitlement. But looking back, after years have passed, we may actually thank those who have helped us grow stronger and even happier.

Helping a child grow and mature is a challenge to every parent. It is likewise a challenge to a teacher. Going through kindergarten, the elementary and high school years, a child also learns what to expect and value. Education at home and school can help determine whether someone will grow u…

Good Days, Bad Days, Good Moments, Bad Moments

We all experience "ups" and "downs". It should not be surprising then to see the performance of children in school to fluctuate from time to time. Measuring these changes to extract useful trends requires a good experimental design and statistical analysis. How the working memory works can be measured by tests that require remembering numbers (numerical) or positions of objects (spatial). These tests can be administered at different times of the day over several days and the variations in the scores can then provide a rough sketch of how working memory performance changes with time. Such an experiment has been performed on third and fourth grade students in Germany. The results suggest that mornings are better and that the degree of variation decreases as one goes from third to fourth grade.

The study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, investigated empirically how working memory performance in both numerical and spatial tasks changes in children m…

Pope Francis Was Not Exactly an Angel in Elementary School

"He was a devil, a little devil, very mischievous, like every boy," said Sister Martha Rubino, mother superior of De la Misericordia school, as quoted in an article published by Agence France-Presse. Sister Rubino continued, "Who would have known that he would become pope!" Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, apparently practiced the multiplication table aloud while skipping steps inside the school. Not much is known about the childhood of the current head of the Roman Catholic Church, but pictures do portray a happy childhood.

The pope remembers his early years of education and credits his first grade teacher as the person responsible for making him appreciate and love school. 
Without any doubt, the young holds a special place in the heart of this pontiff. During one weekly address, Pope Francis said,  "...But children are never a mistake, and their sufferings are only reasons for us to love them even more. Every child who begs on the streets, who is de…

Learning by Teaching

Being expected to teach a material can lead to better learning. There are studies that actually demonstrate improved learning outcomes when the students are told beforehand that they will be asked to teach the same material they are trying to learn sometime in the near future. Undergraduate students from the University of California, Los Angeles and Washington University in St. Louis have been shown to perform better in recall tests when informed at the beginning of the study that they would teach the material to others. (John F. Nestojko, Dung C. Bui, Nate Kornell, Elizabeth Ligon Bjork. Expecting to teach enhances learning and organization of knowledge in free recall of text passages. Memory & Cognition, 2014;  Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 1038-1048)

How the expectation to teach helps in learning remains an active area in education research. And with technology, the possible ways of incorporating teaching into the classroom have considerably expanded. Chris Berdik at Slate talks about…

"Salvaged Memories, Salvaged Lives"

At age 28, Randalf Dilla has created an 8' x 18.5' oil mural to help remind Filipinos of the dark side of the Martial Law years. Being only 28 years old, it is obvious that the artist has neither first hand knowledge nor experience of the Marcos regime. The painting therefore depicts only what Randalf has learned or heard from his own research. The dictator takes the central part of the mural with gold bars falling down in front. The Philippine flag appears to be used as a table cloth and portraits of military men cover part of the mural. But most of the canvass is really littered with images of victims of human rights abuses, hence, the work bears the title, "Salvaged Memories, Salvaged Lives".
Rose de la Cruz writes in the Manila Bulletin "Remembering Martial Law and the Value of Freedom". Two paragraphs in the article describe how some in the Philippines nowadays regard the Martial Law years.  To those who like to see the “bright side” in dark days, the c…

A School That Takes Student Learning Seriously

Actions are supposed to speak louder than words, but words are seen in media much more often. Worse, society with its limited attention span and general lack of critical thinking is now at the mercy of sound bites. What works in education is therefore frequently missed as a careful and thoughtful attention to details is usually absent.

Twenty years ago, the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools published a report synthesizing education research to find what it takes to reform schools successfully. The main authors of the report drew the following diagram to highlight what is necessary for improving schools.

At the center, the main goal or focus must be student learning. This vision alone, however, is not sufficient. The first layer required to achieve this goal is, of course, teaching (or pedagogy). This component requires research- and evidence-based approaches that promote high quality learning. It starts with proven or promising practices that can be implemented by a …

"Technology Can Amplify Great Teaching But Not Replace Poor Teaching"

A study sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has arrived at the conclusion that the use of computers in school or at home does not necessarily improve student learning outcomes. One plausible explanation offered is that learning requires an interaction between teacher and student which computers cannot simply replace. Another explanation is that the appropriate pedagogical use of technology is yet to be mastered by educators. One thing, however, is clear, proficiency in the use of technology still hinges on basic proficiency in reading and mathematics. Those who are good in reading text in print are found to be likewise proficient in digital reading. Technology is here to stay and to address the widening digital divide, the study points out that "ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in reading and mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than can be achieved by expanding or …

General Antonio Luna

Back in high school, I submitted a report in Social Studies in which I claimed that Emilio Aguinaldo was responsible for the death of Antonio Luna. My teacher was not really happy with my report since my reference was only a comic book. I thought that was a fair assessment. I also did not bother to tell my teacher then that in addition, my father was also a source. I figured my father would not have been considered by my teacher as an authority in Philippine history. Of course, my impression of how accurate the stories related to me by my father were had changed when I discovered that the parts of Philippine history my father had shared with me when I was young were actually supported by evidence. For instance, what my father had related to me about Andres Bonifacio turned out to be true when I finally had access to scholarly resources in college.

I have great admiration for Antonio Luna. After all, Antonio Luna was a chemist and he actually worked with malaria.

There is a new film in…

Philippine Universities and Mass Media

The QS World University Rankings® 2015/16 is now available. And GMANewsreports that universities in the Philippines have dropped dramatically in the ranking. The drops in scores are shown to be huge.

It is true that Philippine universities have dropped in the QS ranking, but the drop is not as big as reported. The error comes from the fact that the report is using last year's ranking in Asia, explaining the huge disparity between the scores. Using the world ranking for last year, there is indeed a drop, but it is much less dramatic:

The news item has received three comments that are posted online. One says, "I am not sure which is more convincing proof of the decline of Philippine education: the drop in rankings of its top universities when measured against a global yardstick as asserted.....or the apparent poor basic reading comprehension skills of the assumably Philippine university-educated "journalist" of this article. Oh the irony."

Is Boron a Metal?

In DepEd K-12,  learners should be able to "distinguish mixtures from substances through semi-guided investigations" at the end of Grade 7. In Grade 8, students should "recognize that ingredients in food and medical products are made up of these particles and are absorbed by the body in the form of ions." Grade 9 introduces atoms and compounds and in Grade 10, pupils are taught "the importance of controlling the conditions under which a chemical reaction occurs." These italicized phrases are copied directly from the DepEd's K to 12 Science Curriculum Guide. The phrase "absorbed by the body in the form of ions" is, of course, a colossal error. Still, this mistake is dwarfed by how the science curriculum is structured.

DepEd K to 12 uses the spiral approach which provides students, one quarter of every year to learn chemistry during high school, which means students have passed two years hearing about mixtures, substances and ions before being…

"Undelivered Books"

by Joy Rizal

Another year of meaningless DepEd promises and still no learning material for our children.suffering though the implementation of the K-12 program. This is the third year the same set of students will probably not receive any learning material until December with the rest delivered the next calendar year (The third and forth quarters of the school year)

Earlier this year when questioned by CNNabout the lack of learning materials delivered to schools thorough out our nation, DepEd responded by saying:

"I would not call it shortage. It's just a delay in the delivery," says DepEd Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo.

Perhaps an almost semi-true statement when one considers that apparently nothing had been printed for this school year. Based on another statement by DepEd that was also reported by CNN:

DepEd says the lowest bidder didn't pass the rule that a supplier must have completed a recent project worth at least half of the P1.2 billion deal, leading t…

"Your Rod and Your Staff Will Comfort Me"

Michael Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, once wrote in the New York Times, "Like many biblical literalists, lots of black believers are fond of quoting Scriptures to justify corporal punishment, particularly the verse in Proverbs 13:24 that says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” But in Hebrew, the word translated as “rod” is the same word used in Psalms 23:4, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod was used to guide the sheep, not to beat them."

Dyson continues by returning to the origins of the word discipline and punishment, "The word “discipline” comes from the Latin “discipuli,” which means student or disciple, suggesting a teacher-pupil relationship. Punishment comes from the Greek word “poine” and its Latin derivative “poena,” which mean revenge, and form the root words of pain, penalty and penitentiary."

There are likewise two terms that may sound similar …

Youth Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency

There is ample research that shows a strong correlation between being maltreated in early life and being delinquent in adolescent life. Children, who are either neglected or have been emotionally or physically abused before they enter kindergarten, are more likely to miss school, do poorly in reading and math, and exhibit behavioral problems. What is particularly interesting in one study in this area is the stronger correlation seen among minority children.

The above graph suggests that there is a factor among minority children that significantly enhances the correlation between maltreatment at home and problems in schools and in the community. One quick guess is not having a sense of belonging. True enough, a more recent study by Kimberly Bender of the University of Denver shows conclusively the mediating effect, for instance, of school engagement in the relationship between youth maltreatment and juvenile delinquency.

A school can indeed provide an avenue for a child to feel a sense…

Science Achievement Gaps

The place of science in the 21st Century cannot be overstated. If equity in education needs to be addressed then achievement gaps in science are worth the attention. A disparity in scientific understanding does not bode well for the future especially with the increasing role of technology in the economy as well as the central role science plays in some of the pressing issues or questions society faces.

Researchers from Harvard and the University of Texas at Austin have recently examined science achievement gaps in great detail. Their work, scheduled to be published in the journal Educational Researcher, looks at the nationally representative data, NCES’s ECLS-K:99, which follow more than 20,000 kindergarteners through eight grade. The primary objective of the work is to quantify science achievement gaps and explain their causes. The study finds numerous gaps in science achievement according to gender and race. These gaps are presented in the first column of the following table.


When Mass Media Fail: Blaming Teachers

Reading primary literature requires careful attention to details especially when the paper remains to be peer-reviewed. Working papers are quite common especially in the field of education research. It is therefore important for mass media to be thoughtful and critical when disseminating information based on social science research that is yet to be critically examined by experts.

One recent example comes from the NPR in the United States. The report entitled Hard Evidence: Teachers' Unconscious Biases Contribute To Gender Disparitytalks about a research conducted in schools in Israel.

Fortunately, there is a comment section in the online edition of the above report where a real informed remark from a user named Rational Discoursecan be read. Obviously, such comment was not part of the original airing. Those who heard the story are therefore quite unlikely to have seen this important comment. The comment from Rational Discourse, first of all, provides a link to the primary literat…