Category Archives: Insights and Realizations

Going Back to the Start

I look back by assessing myself with how well I did this term by taking a post test on time management, which was the first thing I did at the start of the term. My score was better than the last time!

You’re managing your time very effectively!

Goal Setting: Your score is 14 out of 20   

Prioritization: Your score is 30 out of 35   

Managing Interruptions: Your score is 11 out of 20   

Procrastination: Your score is 6 out of 15   

Scheduling: Your score is 9 out of 15   

I still have a lot of room for improvement, but somehow this term was more manageable than the last time. I could have done a bit more better, but being so swamped with work (my workload is quite unbelievable), I find myself finding less time than I would have wanted allocated to studying. I met and shared a insights with more students this term, than the last time. I wished I could have had more interaction with them through the discussion forums. But having the opportunity to interact, even if it was required, was a good experience. It finally felt like I wasn’t alone struggling to find time for school.

Learning about assessments made me reflect about my own views on assessments as well. It opened my mind to new possibilities of dealing with assessments for school, or for work (or for my life). In particular, the realization that assessments happen all throughout the learning process, and not just at the end of a term, made me more aware of what I was bringing into the learning process, what my learning objectives are for this class, and gauge how well I was doing. I also learned to respect traditional assessments, after several discussion posts arguing against it in favor of alternative assessments. I realized the relevance of traditional assessments while working on rubrics. I guess I have more appreciation for the teaching process now, because setting out learning objectives and preparing assessment rubrics is not that easy!

On a more personal note, working on the assignments, especially on our chosen topic on literacy made me reflect if teaching literature and languages to younger kids is really something I want to do in the future. I am also glad that I was able to work for a bit on adult learning, because it’s something I indirectly deal with for work on a daily basis, and the skill in developing rubrics is very handy too when developing new projects on training adult learners. I would have liked as well to have completed all the modules set out for this course. For some reason, it was cut short. Not that I am complaining, but learning about them would have been fun.

All in all, despite the setbacks, this class has been fun to learn with. Thank you Teacher Malou and classmates! Hope to learn with you again next term!

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Adaptable Assessments

With our country right smack on the typhoon path, and right within the Pacific Belt of Fire, we are no strangers to natural calamities. With the advent of climate change, natural disasters such as excessive flooding, extreme typhoons, and landslides are becoming more frequent than ever. Man-made calamities such as conflicts and wars are often just as destructive.

Whenever natural or man-made calamities occur, classes are often disrupted.  Classrooms are designated as evacuation centers, and there are incidences where school property is damaged as a result. The constant class disruptions has led to more than missing a few days in the total school calendar. In instances when a community and its infrastructure are heavily damaged whether by a strong typhoon, earthquake, or warfare, class disruptions go for weeks or months at end, making schools and teachers cope up by extending their school calendars or starting their lessons all over again. This is on top of low attendance rates due to after-effects of such calamities such as illnesses. It is the students who suffer most, as shown by school drop-outs, low retention of lessons and the like. According to an article by the World Bank (2013) on the impact of climate change in education, reports from organizations like Save the Children and UNICEF, “the cumulative effect of these disturbances on students’ education performance is not well-known, it is certain that interruptions in attendance can only have detrimental consequences for learning outcomes.”

In the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013, the law allows for the development of “programs for learners under difficult circumstances (Section 8.5)In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the Department of Education (DepEd) allowed student transferees from affected schools to unaffected areas. Meanwhile, an alternative means of learning for students is through module-based learning called the Alternative Learning System (ALS), as a way for students who are not able to attend school regularly. However, there is still a need to improve the design of ALS to address the needs of students in primary and secondary levels whose education has been disrupted by calamities. The IRR also does not specify programs that can be implemented by the government in “difficult circumstances.

It seems that for a country like the Philippines who experiences an average of 18-24 typhoons a year, our educational system is not yet adaptable for climate change, or even man-made calamities. There is still a strong preference for classroom based learning, even if previous experiences have shown that it takes a longer time before schools, students, and teachers recover and hold regular classes.  In particular, the assessment of ALS is primarily geared towards assessing the promotion of a student from one level to the next. But this may not be an appropriate measure of learning if the entire educational system in a particular province or region is disrupted, as with the case of Leyte and some parts of Samar after Typhoon Haiyan.

As climate change becomes a glaring reality, with storms becoming more ferocious and flooding a regular occurrence, schools and the learning curriculum should be more adaptable. Psychosocial activities are often incorporated by schools into their lessons during the aftermath of disasters and wars to help school children cope with their experiences. Often this has been through a form of art therapy, wherein students are encouraged to draw or paint their emotions. However there is less information on how schools should tackle alternative assessments in the event of a school interruption/disruption in an event of a disaster. While there is a lot of momentum for DepEd, the schools and the teachers to explore how to measure learning in such adverse conditions, in light of the recent catastrophic events,  this also means that designing learning and learning assessments should be more flexible and less traditional. It should also give a particular focus on students’ ability to adapt to their changing environments and experiences.

Assessments through the use of Rubrics

There was a particular question in Assignment 2 that I am not sure if I was able to answer properly. The question was on the value of the course itself to learning about assessments.

In most of my years in a formal school, I am only familiar with one or two grading system. That is getting grades in a form of numbers. I am happy when I get a grade better than 85% or 2.25. Then when the going gets tough, I am happy when I get a passing grade (better than nothing, right?). I am quite aware that there are a lot of other assessments behind those numbers. But being very young and carefree, I don’t really care about it that much. For me then, it’s the final grade that matters.

In my professional life, I encounter rubrics at work due to our regular performance assessments. We also develop our work plans at the start of the contract, and this gives us and our boss basis to review our work performance and outputs. Our HR also regularly gives out the proficiency rubrics to assess our growth in the career ladder, which will eventually be used to assess if we need to move a step up in salary grade.

Learning about alternative assessments, however, made me understand the critical functions of rubrics.  While it took me just a day to work on the reflection portion of the assignment on alternative assessment, it took me a week to think and re-assess the development of rubrics. I find it easy to work on developing a “rubric” for traditional forms of assessment. But it was “trickier” develop rubrics for alternative assessment. I cannot just rely on number of missed answers. I have to be careful on the language I use, lest I miss out on the objectives. What a heavy responsibility it is to develop rubrics that would allow a teacher to properly assess a student’s performance, beyond test scores.

Marrying the Traditional with the Alternative

I recently read an article shared by a friend over Facebook about Sugata Mitra. He is an education scientist who has done work on what he calls Self-Organized learning, wherein children’s curiosity and peer-interest can foster learning through the use of information technology. His work, while recognized, has roots in theories in student-centered learning. You can view more of his TED speeches in this link.

While browsing around his blog, I came across two of his posts. The first one was written in 2009, presented his proposal for a cloud-based learning environment, which eventually received funding from TED this year. The second one, written in 2012, tackled self-organized assessment, which he wrote in his post to have “correlated” with the scores the students received after the end of the course.

Mitra’s ideas while not entirely new, is quite relevant in the age of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and online learning. In some of the MOOCs I’ve taken, peer evaluation did helped a lot in refining and setting my pace of learning.

While we may still have to rely on traditional assessments to validate and triangulate results, alternative assessments like the ones proposed by student-centered learning advocates and Mitra, would do well to enhance learning assessments.

The Habit of Attribution

A few months ago, a Senator was accused of plagiarizing some parts of his speech from another person’s blog and translated parts of another famous person’s speech without proper attribution. He went under a lot of criticism and he didn’t apologize because he felt that he didn’t do anything wrong. If a Senator could get  away with plagiarism, then what would that say of our country, wherein a lot of students (and academic institutions) take the issue of plagiarism very lightly?

When I was in college, a news article would appear once in a while in the college paper about so-and-so professor being stripped of his/her tenure or a student expelled from the university after being found guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism was a crime and nobody could say they are ignorant of it.

Proper citation and awareness of plagiarism goes beyond the professional and academic setting. With the internet becoming a necessity and permanent fixture in our lives, it is easy to copy, cut or paste, words, ideas, photos and claim them for our own. Fortunately, the easier it gets to find information to copy and paste, the easier it gets for teachers or individuals to spot plagiarized words on the internet (through Google, of course!).

I was a victim of plagiarism too. Though it would look more like online theft and non-attribution. I had a landscape photo that I took during a summer vacation stolen through Facebook. I learned about it after a friend alerted me that a tourist page on Facebook was using my photo as their profile picture! I wasted no time in reporting this to Facebook “authorities” and they removed the photo and notified the page owner of their offense. More and more photographers and writers and personalities on the internet have raised the issue of copyright on the internet, how do we get into the “habit of attribution” as my current boss puts it?

it starts first with instilling respect for others ideas and being humble enough to acknowledge ideas that are not your own. It would be easy to say that this should start in school, as it should be. But also parents should get into the habit of teaching their own children responsible and ethical use of “copyrighted materials” that they encounter daily. If culturally, everyone gets into the habit of respecting what is not theirs, ideas included, I think the world would be a much better place.