Category Archives: Education

On Philosophy and Teachers

 

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No two teachers are alike. Even if they are from the same race and culture and graduated from the same university, don’t expect them to embrace the same educational philosophies and to develop the same set of beliefs and values. You won’t see them apply the same methods and strategies in the classroom, approach teaching and learning with the same degree of passion, and treat the learners in the same manner.

Teachers are different in many ways.

Teachers decide which perspectives they would use in looking at their role as mentors and in treating their students. Such perspective depends on either the philosophical foundations upon which they are grounded or their personal set of beliefs… or may be both.

Teachers may have read too much of Hegel,  Kant and Plato that they may have developed idealistic tendencies indoctrinating their students into believing that they do not exist for themselves but for others and for a higher purpose. Or like Aristotle, Locke or Rousseau, who all tried to debunk the ideas established by Plato and company, the teachers maybe slowly training their students to subscribe to rational thinking, that the latter need to think critically and scientifically. They could be pragmatists like Dewey and Kilpatrick, guiding students to keep themselves in touch with reality for they believe that there is no other world aside from what can be perceived by the senses.

Their educational philosophies determine the way they talk, think, and behave as professionals.

Whatever values and beliefs teachers bring to the class don’t really matter for as long as nothing they say and do in the while teaching is inimical to the interests of the lerners. What is important is that everything that transpires in the classroom is intended to make the students the best persons they could be and make them prepared to live life.

So be it if  the teachers are like Satre, leaning towards Existentialism in guiding the students to take responsibility… in deciding who they are in order to make themselves authentic individuals.

Nobody can claim that this or that philosophical perspective in education is superior over the other. It’s fine if the teachers wish to embrace all the philosophies and combine their best features to serve and guide them in shaping their set of values and in choosing their methods and strategies.

Combining the philosophies, by the way, is not a novel idea. In Scholasticism, St. Thomas Aquinas, harmonized Idealism and Realism.

What about coming out with a philosophical perspective combining the four major philosophies in Education?

The philosophies aforementioned have shaped the teachers into the kind of educators that they are today. Whatever they knowingly and unknowingly say and do in the classrooms are offshoots of their set of values and beliefs. And this set of values and beliefs constitute their philosophy of education.

Teachers may have also accumulated  through the years a personal system of values that govern every decision they make in the classrooms. Thus we see them approach their teaching (and deal with their students) in different ways. We see them display different degrees of enthusiasm in teaching. Some display no enthusiasm at all.

There are teachers who are “sages on the stage” who believe, the way the realists and idealists do, that knowledge emanates from them being the authorities. So, the students should be spoonfed. Conversely, there are teachers, who, like the existentialists and pragmatists, act like “guides on the side” painstakingly guiding the students to self-discovery.

There are teachers who would choose specific methods and strategies without considering the specific needs of their students. But there are also those who would be conscientious enough to take into consideration the heterogeneity in the class before deciding what learning system they would put into effect.

There are teachers whose mere mention of their names would send shivers down the spine of students. Conversely, there are teachers who try to make learning fun making the students enjoy, and not fear, the classroom.

There are teachers who consider the classroom a workplace, while others consider it a playground. They work playfully or playfully work happy doing what they are doing in the classroom thereby rubbing off to the students their joyful spirit.

There are teachers who have seemingly forgotten that the students are not just empty sheets waiting to be filled-out as in Locke’s Tabula Rasa. The kids in the classrooms are not wax figures with empty minds which the teachers need to stuff with all the knowledge that the curriculum requires. These students are not just intellectual beings, they have emotions. They need more that education. They also need love and understanding. They should be treated the way parents treat their children.

Whatever the teachers decide to be… whatever system they implement… whatever method and strategies they apply… however they view learning… however they treat their students… would depend on their perspectives as dictated by their educational philosophy and their set of values and beliefs.

At the end, the way  teachers conduct themselves as professionals and the way they treat their students depend on whether they consider teaching a means of livelihood or a way of life.

Measuring School Effectiveness

Picture1The main subject  of the dissertation I wrote for my doctorate was “school effectiveness.” My choice of that subject was driven by a personal thesis that the school contributes the most in the development of an individual. It is in school where an individual acquires and develops formally most of the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need and they ought to have.

Emphasis is put on the word formally in the preceding paragraph for it could be argued that the home and the Church contribute also to the formation of an individual.

It is true, but not all parents are trained educators. Teachers (presumably) are. And not all families are functional. The dysfunctional ones may not help in the proper development of an individual. A school (presumably also) is always functional. This is not saying that the home does not contribute to the development of an individual. It does, but not as comprehensively as the school could.

What about the Church? An individual can not be forced to embrace religion. A lot of people do not have religion. And even those who profess to have religion can not be obliged to go to a church and attend masses during days of spiritual obligations. Thus, religious institutions may not help (or may contribute just a little) in the development of an individual. A young person can not avoid the school. No parents in their right mind would not want their children to get an education. For as long as the family can afford, a youngster will be forced to attend school from basic to tertiary education. And even if a family may not have enough financial resources, the public schools may serve as alternative for the education of the children.

The school carries on its broad shoulders that task of ensuring that the students entrusted to them should acquire and develop the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that they ought to posses. The school, which is already acknowledged as the extension of the home, should even be ready to become a vehicle of the Church in spreading the gospel… except of course in societies where religion is not part of their culture.

Thus, the school cannot afford to be mediocre. The schools, as expected, should always be a paragon of excellence.

But how do we measure excellence in schools?

Excellence is an abstract concept but can be empirically tested. Excellence of schools can be quantified through existing measures of school effectiveness.

Existing literatures suggest that to measure school effectiveness the performance or achievement of students should be taken into consideration.  Scheerens1 refers to school effectiveness as “the performance of the organizational unit called school. The performance of the school can be expressed as the output of the school, which in turn is measured in terms of the average achievement of the pupil at the end of the period of formal schooling.”

Student achievement in the basic skills is undoubtedly the most popular criterion for defining an effective school.  Sergiovani explains that an effective school is one whose students achieve well in the basic skills as measured by standard tests. Thus, schools take pride whenever their students top government exams – proficiency in certain subject areas for basic education students and board exams for college graduates.

But are the students’ grades or scores in standard tests and government examination a valid measurement of school effectiveness?

Sergiovanni’s model (and similar approaches in quantifying school effectiveness) is being criticized as unidimensional and insufficient. Critics are saying that focusing exclusively on academic achievement ignores the relationship between achieving effectiveness in academic outcomes and achieving effectiveness among other dimensions like citizenship training and development of self-esteem, independence training, and the development of self discipline.

Focusing too much on academic outcomes have made society too obsessed about grades.

Schools are believed to have purposes and goals other than teaching basic skills. Schools effectiveness, therefore, should not be measured only in terms of whether the graduates could read, write and compute and could get good grades and perform well in government examinations.

The effectiveness of schools should be measured in other dimensions as well. Measuring school effectiveness through Sergiovani’s model is taking a myopic view of the purposes  of education. It takes into consideration only the intellectual purpose of schooling, which, according to McNergney and Herbert3, include the teaching of basic cognitive skills, such as reading, writing, and mathematics and the transmission of specific knowledge. There are other purposes of education which the two identified – political, social and economic.

A comprehensive measurement of school effectiveness should attempt to quantify the performance of schools in all the areas aforementioned.

It is hard to refute that schools play a very important role in the development of the individual and in nation-building. Thus they cannot afford to disregard their political and social purposes.

Measuring effectiveness of school should not stop after their students graduate. How their students perform in the workplace and in society as they grow older should be considered also.

The school is the vehicle in the delivery of education and the quality of education the citizenry and their leaders receive through the educational system determines whether a nation is destined for greatness or remain in socio-economic stagnation.

It is believed that a nation is as good as its citizens. One measure then that could be used to establish the effectiveness of schools is to determine what kind of citizens (and members of society) do they produce.

Whatever the status of a country is at the moment, whether it is politically stable (or not), economically progressive (or not), and socially peaceful (or not), is what its citizens made it to be and how the citizens made a nation to be reflects the kind of education they received from the schools.

Measuring school effectiveness in this way, admittedly, is difficult. But even the simplest of minds can easily answer the following questions:

Which school is more effective? Is it the school that produced graduates who topped board examinations or the school that produced responsible, productive and conscientious citizens and leaders?

Which schools are effective? Those that produced topnotchers in standardized and board examinations or those that produced citizens and leaders who are contributing positively to the betterment of society, nation, and the world?


References:

  1. Scheerens, Jaap,  Effective Schooling:  Research,  Theory  and Practice.
  2. Sergiovanni, Thomas, The Principalship: A Reflective Practice Perspective.
  3. McNergney, Robert & Herbert, Joanne Foundations of Education: The Challenge of Professional Practice.

Source: Measuring School Effectiveness

Technology and the 21st Century Teacher

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          The central argument upon which I anchored my previous research work entitled “Factors Affecting The Use of Computers for Classroom Instruction in South Korean Universities1 is “information technology has significantly altered the landscape of teaching and learning.” Indeed, it drastically changed the ways teachers taught and students learn thus school administrators and teachers need to respond accordingly and effectively.

          At the turn of the 21st century education leaders have been reconfiguring educational paradigms that became almost obsolete because of the rapid changes in technology. Nowadays, emerging models of educational frameworks have included technology in both the expected outcomes and support mechanisms of the new paradigms.

          The P21, a national non-profit organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student, developed the “Framework for 21st Century Learning” (F21CL) to define and illustrate the skills, knowledge students need to succeed in work, life and citizenship.2 The two parts of the framework (see figure below) are student outcomes (as represented by the arches of rainbow) and the support system (as represented by the pools at the bottom. One of the 4 clusters of student outcomes, is “Information, Media, and Technology Skills.” The article explains that to be effective in the 21st century, citizens and worker must be able to create, evaluate  and effectively utilize information, media and technology.

           And to be effective 21st century teachers, it has become A MUST that the teachers themselves should have those skills just mentioned. We cannot have “the blind leading the blind” scenario.

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The 21st Century Student Outcomes and Support Systems

          Schools need to respond by making the needed investment. They have to upgrade their existing facilities and purchase the necessary equipment in order to cope up with the demands of the new educational paradigms they have drawn up in order to keep abreast with the demands of the 21st century.

          Not only in terms of equipment and facilities that the schools should focus on. They need to pay attention also to their manpower – particularly the teachers  who plays the key role to ensure that success of the endeavor.

          I made an assertion (in the previous work aforementioned) that integration of technology in instruction and assessment is inevitable and the teachers, being at the center of the delivery of learning need to accept it. The F21CL clearly defines the responsibilities of teachers (Standards and Assessment, Curriculum and Instruction, Professional Development and Leaning Environment.) Much of the responsibilities will be shouldered by the teachers. The said framework even specified clearly what is the role of teachers in the attainment of cluster 4 of students outcome – that is to “Enable innovative learning methods that integrate the use of supportive technologies, inquiry-and-problem-based approaches and higher order thinking skills.

          But the application of technology in instruction is a contentious area that caused (or is causing) a lot of arguments and controversies in the academe. Despite the immense benefits that technology brings to education, some teachers are still either unwilling or hesitant to embrace the application of technology to the teaching-learning process.

          I specifically identified also (in that same work) the pedagogical benefits that computers and internet provide. For example, the internet has become the teachers and students’ virtual library. Projectors and media players make the interaction between the students and their mentors more efficient. For the teachers in particular, the educational and organizational softwares and web browsers give them more resources and enable them to create better presentations.

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          But apparently, not all teachers are convinced. They do not believe that computers benefit teaching and learning. They are the ones who do not use presentation softwares preferring to either just dictate or write on the board everything they wish to convey to their students. They are ones who refuse to use available course softwares opting to just open the prescribed textbook and read from it while teaching.

          But why?

          There are two possible reasons.

          First – these teachers were exposed to educational philosophies different from those of the ones to whom embracing technology is a welcome development . This could be the reason they have different attitudes and views about the value of computers in teaching and learning. Their educational beliefs just don’t jibe with using computers in the classrooms.

          Second and last – they simply (heaven forbid) do not know how to use any office software suites (word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentations applications) and specific educational software  provided for them. They have difficulty navigating around any computer-generated environment. They are so helplessly not computer-literate that no amount of tutoring would help them learn.

          Presumably, the reason they could not use the prescribed course software packages (that  make things easier for them and their students) is that they don’t have the ability to do so. Even if assuming a course software, at a particular time,  suddenly doesn’t work, its contents can be copied and pasted to any presentation software. But that again could be another problem… they probably don’t know how to create presentations.

          Worst, they could simply be just aversive to technology.

          Or maybe, they are simply lazy. They are computer literate but are not willing to try new systems being introduced.

          The question that begs for answer is, “How can a teacher without the required 21st century skills teach such things to students?”

           Professional competence for teachers is continuously evolving  as technology keeps creeping into the foundations of education. Alongside pedagogical skills, another skill through which competence of 21st century teachers should be  gauged is how extensive and effective do they apply technology (computer) to teaching and learning.

          Perhaps it’s about time that computer literacy be strictly considered when hiring teachers.

           On the part of school administrators and owners, they have a responsibility of ensuring that when they introduce a new computer application of learning the teachers are given enough time and sufficient training to become familiar with it.

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          The following is one of the recommendations I made in a previous  study I have been referring to.

          “It should be noted also that among noted also that among the variables that are significant statistically teachers’ perception on the value of computers has the positive influence on their extent of use of computers for instruction in Korean classrooms. Thus, it is important for school administrators to keep that perception positive.  The study also found out that a key factor in this positive perception is the teachers’ level of preparedness in using computers to facilitate learning. Being proficient in  using computers is different from being familiar in using a new computer application for learning. Even the most proficient among computer users need time to learn an application introduced to them for the first time. Teachers tend to perceive the value of computers for classroom instruction negatively if they were not given enough time  to acclimatize themselves with a new system being introduced.”

          According to Edwin Creely3, “I was challenged by the ideas from Don Idle that we are textured for technology and that technology has always been and will ever be part of the deepest learning that we do.  Learning to move technology and the digital technology of the 21st century into the heart of the learning process is an ongoing challenge for educators. So, the practice of being a literacy educator in the 21st Century must be, has to be, inclusive of digital literacies, including, most importantly, the use of social media.”

          As Janelle Cox puts it, “A modern teacher is willing to try new things, from new educational apps to teaching skills and electronic devices. Being innovative means not only trying new things, but questioning your students, making real-world connections and cultivating a creative mindset. It’s getting your students to take risks and having students learn to collaborate.”4


References:

https://madligaya.com/research-works/as-main-author/factors-affecting-the-use-of-computer-technology-for-classroom-instruction-in-south-korean-universities-journal-version/

http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework

(E.Creely)(https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_are_the_qualities_required_of_            teachers_to_teach_21 st_century_learners.

(J.Cox)http://www.teachhub.com/15-professional-development-skills-modern-teachers

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