ACI Interview with Angel de Dios

The quality of content in ACI is due to the rigor of our selection process and to the incredible scholarship and credentials of scholarly bloggers publishing in their fields. Due to this selectivity in content and academic contributions, ACI is proud to highlight exceptional blog authors in order to showcase their work and inspire other scholarly blog authors… and today’s author spotlight is onDr. Angel de Dios.
Dr. de Dios has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BS in Chemistry from Ateneo de Manila University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Georgetown University. In his blog, Philippine Basic Education, he writes about various topics and issues related to education in the Philippines and the United States.

Philippine Basic Education     Visit the blog  |   View in ACI

Read on for ACI’s full interview with Dr. de Dios.

How did your blog, ‘Philippine Basic Education’, come about?
I started my blog after I became convinced that education policies are often drawn without evidence from research. For this reason, the blog draws from peer reviewed literature to engage the public into what should be done in education based on what we know and not based on what is fashionable.
Although your PhD and active professorship are in Chemistry, your interest in education mirrors those for whom education is the primary discipline. Have your interests in those two fields always been synergistic for your interests and life goals? Which came first – your passion for chemistry or education?
I have always had the passion for both, chemistry and teaching. That is why I am in a profession that does both. The two are definitely synergistic. Being active in my field is a necessary fuel for effectively teaching chemistry. My blog, I hope, likewise illustrates that for someone to be effective in basic education, one must never stop learning. One must continue to ask the important questions and find the answers in the right places regarding education.
How much have your experiences as an Associate Professor of chemistry at Georgetown, and/or your experiences of the behind-the-scenes working of the higher educational system, influenced the topics or issues you cover in your posts?
I teach so I have experiences with students. I was once an elementary and high school student. I do research in the physical sciences, publish in peer-reviewed literature, and serve as reviewer for proposals and papers so I have an idea of what a good research paper look like. I blend what I know firsthand from my own experiences and those I learn from published research findings to provide my own insight or perspective on a particular aspect of basic education.
In the post Impact of Technology on Learning  you mention walking around the classroom in order to keep students engaged on the lecture and discourage them from browsing on their smartphones. Considering the changes in, and accessibility to, technology within the last 15 years, are there concerns regarding students’ non-classroom study habits and possible impacts on the self-guided learning processes students engage in?
My students generally do not browse the internet or use their smartphones during my lectures since I do walk around the classroom but I have seen such activity in classes I have visited. I currently use technology outside the classroom for communicating with my students, homework, and review of material. I rely on technology for instructional continuity in cases when classes are suspended because of bad weather. Student learning outside the classroom will always compete with other activities. There is nothing abnormal about that. They key is for a student to recognize what works and what does not work. In chemistry, I strongly encourage my students to work on problems outside the classroom. Most of my students are strongly motivated so what really helps them is guidance.
In addition to receiving the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Development Award, you’ve also worked with some sought-after institutions, such as a postdoctoral fellowship with the American Heart Association and a Visiting Scientist with the National Institutes of Health. What were your research focuses during these periods?
As a graduate student, a postdoc, and now as a faculty member, I work with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. I employ both experimental and theoretical methods to understand systems of interest. I try to elucidate how biologically relevant molecules, such as proteins, behave. For more than ten years now, I have been working on understanding at the molecular level how antimalarial drugs work.
How do you go about selecting topics for your posts?
My blog is primarily directed to teachers, parents and education policymakers in the Philippines so the topics I choose to post on my blog are generally in this area.
What would be the ideal response, or change in perspective, of your readership? In other words, if the “right” educators and policymakers were to read your blog, what would be the best possible outcome?
The blog is addressed to everyone who cares about basic education. The main message is to encourage the use of research-based evidence in drawing or designing reforms. Unfortunately, some educators and policymakers are making decisions based on hype and myths. With this in mind, it is perhaps too much to expect this blog to change people’s perspectives or opinions. What I hope is that the blog reaches those who are sincerely looking for answers to problems in basic education. There are teachers and principals who do. By engaging these readers with results from peer-reviewed research, the blog provides a bridge between those who sincerely seek solutions and those who work diligently to understand the challenges and find solutions. I am hoping that with the knowledge these teachers and principals acquire from this blog, these educators will become empowered in the future to make the necessary changes in Philippine basic education.