Category Archives: Reflections, Insights, Realizations

What I Am Taking Away From This Course (My Final E-journal Entry)

Another round of enriching, fruitful and rewarding trimester with my e-classmates and Teacher Malou is soon to conclude. I have not imagined (again) the bulk of learning I have gained from this course. Not only did I have a deeper appreciation of the role of assessments in education, this course was an eye-opener in that it taught me that teachers should not take the creation of assessment tasks for granted. The role of teachers in effectively delivering instructions is as vital as their role of creating, administering and interpreting assessment tasks that prepare students for their life after school. Together, curriculum (my next course, hopefully under Teacher Malou again), instructions and assessments spell an effective education that will produce responsible, productive members of society of the next generation.

As a young student up until my college years, I have come to accept poorly crafted assessment tools to be true instruments of measuring learned knowledge. Maybe because I am uninformed of their weaknesses, or maybe because I have so often come across these types of assessments that I thought there was nothing wrong with them. And I am not only speaking about objective and essay types of exams, but assignments, projects, portfolios and practical exams as well. As a parent, I have experienced doing my children’s projects just because they were not prepared and trained by their teacher to do the task. I had my resentments against such tasks but I could not challenge the teachers because I thought it was their way of teaching the students to learn on their own, and it was I who gets in the way. When it came to written tests, I have actually copied the teachers’ styles of picking up test questions verbatim from textbooks. This was how I tutored and trained my children to prepare for exams, simply because I know the test questions would be crafted this way.

This course has changed my views of assessments for the better. I am now more informed of the guidelines of creating traditional and alternative assessment tasks that will help train students to develop critical or higher order thinking skills. I now know that assessment tasks are designed depending on their perceived purpose, and that the results could be interpreted not only for grading purposes but for the improvement of the education system as a whole. I was also enlightened on the fact that misaligned assessments could negatively impact students’ motivation to learn, therefore it is a must that teachers are always conscientious of this aspect of their pedagogy.

In conclusion, I am once again grateful to my teacher and e-classmates for all the learnings I gained this trimester. As a fitting sign of gratitude to them, I commit myself in putting all these learnings into practice when I finally become a classroom teacher. It’s the least I could do to pay them all back. Any imprint I’ll have in my students’ success will have their imprint also. Together, we shall make a difference.

Making the Difference thru Assessments

As a student, I have encountered a lot of exams, some are nerve-wrecking, some are not. But mostly, I detest exams that require memorization of facts. I am more at ease with application and analysis-based exams. Maybe the reason was that I am not a bookworm (though I love reading storybooks), I used to procrastinate a lot and usually resort to cramming before exam day (a very typical student who doesn’t have enough time to memorize all the concepts covered in the exam), and lastly, I am not good in guessing (maybe because I sometimes have wild imaginations that interfere with my logical thinking, I don’t know).

Bottomline, I would prefer doing problem solving than multiple choice/ true-or-false/ enumeration/ matching type combined, anytime. Answering essay tests is torture to me as well, since I was not a skillful writer as a young student, though I would like to believe that I have improved a lot as an adult learner, attributing this to everyday practice in my previous job.

So, needless to say, Math and I are meant for each other, we’re destined to be together for life. In Math, my analytical abilities come to surface and shine brightly. Memorizing formula becomes easy as I get to use and apply them to so many problems, employing deep level processing and embedding them in my long term memory. I guess that’s one of the many beauties of math, you absolutely must not forget a concept even after the test, for the next lesson is likely linked with the previously learned concept. Unlike most facts and trivia where students hardly remember them after the test because they are not used in the succeeding topics anymore.

imageSadly however, I don’t share this feelings towards math with the majority of the school community, much less my students. I have to innovate ways to engage my students in listening to my daily lectures so that at the end of every day, they take something new from me (constructivist approach). I have to imagemake them appreciate the practical applications of math in their lives so that they’ll find meaning in learning them (intrinsic motivation). If I have to constantly give them short quizzes just to assess what they have learned so far and make any misconceptions visible, I will do it (formative assessment). They won’t hate me for it (I hope so), because I will explain my purpose and discuss my intention of dropping maybe one or two low exam scores. But I will make sure that my exams discriminate those who actively, eagerly study their lessons from those who don’t (properly crafted test items). Meaningful feedbacks will be given to both types of learners, with the intention of sustaining and/or increasing their motivation to study. It is my greatest dream that someday, my students will share my same passion towards math, that they will realize that the greatest barrier to learning math or learning in general, is attitude, and I am here to help them change that attitude. Together we shall conquer the world.

Photo Source:

(http://www.docstoc.com/docs/66079897/C183-H01ppt—From-Fear-to-Fun-From-Math-Anxiety-to-Math-Success

Norm vs. Criterion Referenced Tests

At the start of this course we were tasked to define and differentiate norm versus criterion referenced testing. Most of the materials I’ve read (and the posts of my classsmates) expounded on the scoring interpretation of these two types of tests. It is only through more detailed readings later (due to a question on issues confronting both tests) that I learned that the construction of these tests also varies significantly. Below are some major differences as extracted from the internet. Source is cited at the end of this article.

Norm vs. criterion referenced tests

Norm referenced test
– compares a students’ performance against that of a normative group

Test Purpose:
a. covers a broad cross section of the whole content domain
b. breadth but not depth (a lot of content gets covered, but no content is covered in depth)

Assessment Framework :
a. level of specificity of content is more global (larger grain size)
b. greater flexibility in item development/selection

Item Development/Selection:
a. items should maximize distribution of performance and discrimination among high/low ability learners
b. employs items of moderate difficulty and maximum discrimination
c. number of items for any specific objective is low

Score interpretation
a. results show “big picture” at level of content domain or subdomain
b. report by derived scores such as scale scores
c. Important for policy decisions

Citerion referenced Test
-compares a students’ performance against a content or performance standard

Test Purpose:
a. measures a narrower cross section of content domain
b. content is limited but what is measured is measured well.
c. depth but not breadth (intended to measure the content well enough to make important decisions regarding passing or promotions)

Assessment Framework
a. level of specificity of content is more focused (smaller grain size)
b. more limited flexibility in item development/selection

Item Development/Selection
a. items should align with content and performance standards
b. eliminates poor items and selects on contents
c. number of items for any specific objective can be substantial

Score interpretation
a. focused results reporting both “percentage meeting overall standards” or “percentage mastering a specific objective or cluster of objectives”
b. important for instructional decisions

Bourque (2006). Reflections on Norm-Referenced vs. Criterion-Referenced Testing in an NCLB Environment. Retrieved Nov. 10, 2013from http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/commit/c530/handouts06/100406.c530.BourqueML.pdf

Close Encounters with Assessments

Having had experienced a multitude of written/ oral exams, homeworks, assignments, projects, recitations, evaluations, interviews and almost every type of assessment to last me a lifetime, and looking back at these nerve-wracking events, I can only heave a sigh of relief that I’ve surpassed them all, though not all as successful as I ought to have. There were a lot of times that the results lifted up my otherwise low self-confidence, then there were times that I had accepted that I can’t and was not tailored fit to be a creative writer or eloquent speaker. You see, english literature is my least favorite subject back in school.

Then there were entrance exams. They have been good experiences for me. The first time I had to undergo one was after elementary graduation,wherein I was not at the top three of the class, top ten perhaps,maybe. Then, I and majority of my batchmates took the entrance exams at the nearest private high school. Imagine my mother’s surprise and pride when I landed at the top 4 of the examinees who passed. Needless to say, I outranked all my batchmates from my previous school. Lucky me ! (not the noodles). Then came the college entrance exams. Not being too proud, just focused on what university to go to, I took only one college entrance exams. Still lucky, I passed.

image

Then came the board exams. This time I can’t rely my fate on sheer luck. I had to study hard, burn the midnight candle, and really, really focus on passing. This could make or break my future. Lo and behold, I got the top 17th place in the nationwide exams. Sure enough, it brought forth a lot of opportunities. This result also made me leave behind the “low self-esteem me” and started moving on with my freshly gained self-confidence.

These personal encounters with assessments had me realized what they can do to an individual. It had been a turning point in my life, a positive one at that, because the result is positive. But then, it could otherwise spell trouble, depression or misery if the results are negative.image Having considered these possibilities, I realized the heavy responsibility and challenge laid on a teacher’s shoulder. What may be the safest solution to this dilemma is to focus and design instructions with the aim that students will learn and pass. Not passing for the sole purpose of promoting them to the next level as mandated by the “No failing” policies, but passing because they have acquired the learning outcomes expected of them.

Image sources :
(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Z-YjkOzUTaQ/UXFKPbqBw0I/AAAAAAAAKiw/5m-XEqnvFj8/s1600/ECE,+Electronics+Engineer+National+Passing+Percentage+Trend.PNG
http://www.colourbox.com/preview/4457576-511772-pass-or-fail-keys-to-show-exam-or-test-result.jpg)

Collaborative Thinking on Assessment Construction

image            Source:   http://a4.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Purple/20/d9/10/mzl.jbjnvyze.175×175-75.jpg

My experience on the collaborative exercise was not an exemplary one. First, my partner, George Rivera, and I had to wait for each other’s reply before we can generate the draft and improve on it. Second, we, at least on my part, were caught up by doing assignments on our two courses and beating the deadlines. Good thing that George took the initiative to make the initial and final draft based on both our suggestions. Nevertheless, it took weeks to come up with the final output.

The process of collaborating ideas was beneficial for the task. As the old adage goes, two heads are better than one. More ideas, more improvements, better results. This exercise gave me a glimpse on how I can effectively group my students in performing a task and what benefits collaborative thinking can give to students that classroom discussion alone cannot suffice. Of course, they can voice out their opinions,comments and questions as I go through my discussion, but this collaborative task gives students who are shy or hesitant to speak out, an easier avenue to express their opinions.

We have decided to tackle the topic on driving lessons’ assessment for this collaborative task. The questions which seem to be the hardest to address was “how can i assure quality in this assessement process?”. It is not uncommon knowledge that some licensed drivers who frequent our roads do not have the courtesy and/or discipline necessary for a smooth traffic flow. How can we then design assessment so that those who will pass would really be qualified and worthy of owning a driving license? Take out the corruption in the system? That maybe a good point, but I suggested including an interview on psychological testing that will gauge an applicant’s mindset on how he will conduct himself on the road. George agreed on this one. Sort of like a performance based task, though most of the scenarios would be included in the written test, a psychologically designed oral questioning would shed light on the applicant’s would-be-conduct on the road.

Based on your casual observations or day-to-day experiences, how do practicing teachers actually construct their assessment tools? What are the implications of your observation?

I have been brought up in the traditional method of assessment. Teachers give objective type of tests like they were eating nuts. My children were brought up in a mix of traditional and alternative assessments. However, the alternative kinds do not always assure quality in the information provided. Most projects assigned by my children’s teachers were done at home, and much as I would like my children to personally do their projects, I had to intervene because there were some tasks in which the students were not properly instructed/prepared to do. Secondly, it had been observed by my children that projects obviously not done by students themselves get higher grades than those with the students’ “handprint” imprinted on them. The traditional tests, on the other hand, as I have realized on this course, do not also assure that students who appear to have learned a lot can actually use this “learning” in applications later on.

Well that was before. Now, with the advent of K+12 program, I have noticed a great deal of improvement. My two high school daughters were engrossed on doing individual/group projects which she/the group itself chose, created and performed. So parent intervention flies out of the window, but nevertheless, the moral support is still intact. And I am more confident than ever that they would be globally competitive as young professionals when their time to shine should come.

Misaligned Assessments

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Source:http://cdn.acidcow.com/pics/20110606/hilarious_animation_before_and_after_test_00.jpg

During my journey as a student, I’ve had a phletoria of experiences with assessments. There were teachers who gave too easy, average and mind-wrecking exams. Surely everyone has had these experiences one way or another. The sad thruth is, some misaligned assessments continue to be a part and parcel of a student’s life. I’ve had it then, my daughter still experiences it now. Her teacher in Chemistry seem to have a knack for giving insanely hard exams. Their section, the cream section of their level, had an average of a barely passing score. Their mostly low scores would translate that they barely understood the lesson. It would be wrong to assume that it was due to “a misaligned preparation on their part on account of an erroneous anticipation about the nature of the upcoming test” (Juachon) but rather on a misaligned instruction and assessment. When majority of the students do not get the lesson, it’s a wake up call for the teachers to reassess their own instructions.

Misalignment had several implications on students’ learning. In my daughter and her classmates’ case, the result is that most of their class, the cream section at that, got low grades in the quarter report card. Another result is that most of her classmates either just accepted the fact that they cannot do well in Chemistry exams or worse, they failed to make it to the honor roll because their Chemistry grade did not meet the minimum grade requirement. In both cases the students, though I hope not, may be disheartened and lose their motivation to excel.

Conversely, if a teacher gives too easy exams, the result is that students may not be motivated to study hard since they know they can either get a passing score in a snap, or a higher one if they were lucky enough to remember the lesson well.

Therefore, in both cases of poor alignment, the result is that the students may lose their motivation to study.

For the teachers, poor alignment will give poor feedback on whether or not their students had acquired the expected learning outcomes. For those who give too easy tests, they may have the misconception that their students had learned well even if they did not, and no modification of instruction is necessary. For those who give too hard tests, they may think that the students failed to comprehend the lesson, and a lot of modification in instruction is necessary.

God is the ultimate assessor

I have always dreaded long tests which dealt with a lot of memorization and composing thoughts. I would rather take on two or three problem solving tests than one with fill in the blanks. But then tests are tests. They cannot be separated from anxiety and stress, can they? Even with these math tests, of which I can say I am very comfortable with, I still feel anxious. What if I forgot the formulas? Or if I jumbled the variables in my mind? What if I pressed the wrong keys on my calculator without my noticing it and ended up with the wrong answer? What if, what if, so many what ifs. This stressful feeling lingers on even after the test was administered. So yeah, the feeling only gets better when I get the results. Then for so many occassions, results affect my attitude towards a subject. High grades, naturally lift up my confidence in that subject, makes me believe in myself and want to duplicate the effort and the result. Not so very high grades, either makes me want to double/triple my effort, or just accept that that was not my field of expertise, so be it. Then for the very few times that I had a failing mark, well, it haunted for me several days, until I was able to compensate it with a high mark to get a passing average.

I don’t think I have ever positively anticipated assessment of my performance. Reasons? Well firstly, I may not have the “best performance of my life” to be assessed of. Secondly, even if I thought I did good (or great), the assessors may not see it that way, so assessment would basically be subject to their judgment. Whatever the result is, if I know I did my best, that was enough for me, I knew God knew better than any assessor.

Changing Perspectives?

EDS103 has been an enriching journey. So much insights have been discussed, elaborated, pondered upon, and debated on, with much enthusiasm from the class. I must admit, I have never anticipated that it will be this enriching. I had been to school for a good sixteen years and I have never encountered such an overwhelming yet exciting subject that has nothing to do with numbers. It has certainly changed my perspectives on how to teach effectively. I have tutored my youngest sister, my four kids, my nephews and nieces, and about 30 students in our learning center, but I had never imagined how I lack so much more teaching skills.

First, I have always thought that multitasking is a good ability, and I am quite proud that I can do certain household chores at the same time (though it sometimes ends up with burnt meals and too long laundry time). But nevertheless, I had accomplished so many tasks all at once. I guess I was just trying to convince myself that this is a better option. Now, I have admitted to myself that the reason I had to do multitasking was because I procrastinated earlier.

And then, with regard to learning styles, I used to study in front of the tv or anywhere but quiet, because otherwise, I will just fall asleep. Now, with the many modules and assignments I had to complete, I had learned to value the quietness of solitude studying in order to focus, concentrate and have a deeper level of comprehension of my lessons. There is no other way. I had also said in my earlier post that I prefer studying alone than with a group. With so many enthusiastic classmates in the discussion fora, I had found myself enjoying reading their posts, sometimes agreeing, other times opposing insights. It somehow motivated me to take part in the discourses. To belong to this circle of eloquent speakers, was a challenge. And I have always faced challenges head on, so I took great effort to respond intelligibly, or so I think.

Next, we move on to learning theories. This encompasses behavioral, cognitive, social and constuctivist learning theories. Although this module dealt with all these, a more detailed discussion came later in the course. Reviewing my blog on this, I now know that I have substantial learning on these theories. Whatever insights I earlier had on guided opportunity (guided learning), critical thinking, and academic success, still holds true up to now.

On motivational discourses, I found it extremely challenging to connect motivational theories to experiences. It would seem too easy to connect almost every experience to self-efficacy, or self-worth theory. But then, if I dissect experiences and try to connect it to a certain theory, I find that another theory is most probably a better expalanation of the outcome than the former I am eyeing on. I am trying to distinguish self-efficacy and self-worth from each other (and goal orientation and self-determination) and define the border by which they differ. And so with social persuasion, is it under cognitive motivation or under behavioral perspective, or humanistic perhaps? And then again, I have yet to find a fitting experience to the expectancy X value theory.

Still on motivation, I may be in favor of using extrinsic reinforcers in motivating students to study (as it is an easier option), but I firmly believe that intrinsic motivations have a longer lasting effect on individuals. Intrinsic motivations drive a person to self-regulation and then eventually to self-actualization.

Now on behaviorism, I have always acknowledged the benefits of giving rewards and the positive results of punishment, but although I am aware that these rewards and punishments lose their effectiveness eventually, I have never thought that scheduling could be the answer to prevent this loss of effect. Nor did I have knowledge of the more positive impact of scheduled versus continuous reinforcement.

Social Learning Theory comes next, or more commonly known as observational learning or modeling. This theory, I can easily relate to, as I had a role model since I was about 7 or 8 years old which had shaped what I had become now. But social learning theory deals more than just imitation of the model. It goes on with the improvement of modeled behavior, owning it and eventually regulating one’s action so goals are achieved. My take on this is that teachers as role models should be credible and worthy of emulation by the students. They should exhibit an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a formidable character.

The module on cognitive theories reaffirmed my earlier views on how information is stored in memory. I may not know the terms rehearsal, implicit/ explicit memories as applied to memory retention and recall, but I somehow have an overview of their applications on memory construction. Mnemonics and drill-and-practice skills, I have been using since way back when.

Now, constructivism, it is my view that this theory is an application and improvement of Robert Sternberg’s triarchic theory, since both theories deal with acquiring knowledge (knowing and understanding counterparts in Bloom’s taxonomy), applying or relating it to experiences (analyzing , evaluating and application) and innovating (creativity) solutions to novel situations. Constuctivists approach to teaching had been discussed as early as Huitt’s definition of learning, and I have since then been an advocate of this teaching strategy. I definitely do not agree with direct instruction approach because first, it is boring, second, it is boring, and lastly, IT IS BORING!

In summary, I can conclude that the learning theories I have studied in this course made me recognize the role that cognition, experience and environment play in the costruction of information and development of skills. I have also learned the importance of developmental stages and maturation’s impact on learning events. I also learned to value that higher order thinking skills can be developed through social interaction and the structuring of experiences within the learners’ zone of proximal development or readiness sphere.

Now, with all that has been said, am I a better learner and teacher now? I would assume so. Not only do I have the know-hows of teaching math, I also take into consideration various factors that may affect learning of my students. I had long wanted to optimize their learning, and now I have the perspectives to do it. In fact, I have started to incorporate these learnings I had in my dealing with students now, and I would say it is very effective. Once I understand where they are coming from, it is easier to lead them to where I want them to go in their studies. And that is towards academic success, in all its true essence. So, onwards we go, may the Good Lord be with us in this journey.

P.S. Since this is my final blog for this course, please allow me to extend my warmest gratitude to Teacher Malou and to all of you, classmates, for a very fruitful course. I shall carry the learnings I gained here all through my lifetime, maybe even use them to my grandchildren someday. Teacher Malou had been so effective in nurturing us all, not only did she walk the talk, she walked before she talked. She had been employing most of the teaching strategies even before we discussed them, so it was easier to connect the theories to her teaching style. Great job, Ma’am! And to my classmates, I know you’d be great educators someday. I hope we’d get to be classmates again soon (if I pass this trimester’s courses, hahaha) So, see you around guys. Ciao!

Intelligence Strategies

What strategies do you use to learn?

When studying, I usually find a quiet place of my own. But if I cannot do this, I can substantially filter environment noise and just concentrate on my work. When my mind is busy reading or thinking, outside noise doesn’t matter anymore. I also do visual images in my mind for a better comprehension of what I’m reading.

How do you know how well you have learned; what are your indicators of learning?

If I can apply previous knowledge to novel situations or problems and emerge successful, then I can say that I have learned. Moreover, if I can successfully recall past informations, then I believe learning has taken place.

According to your learning strategies, where do you (in practice) seem to stand in the nature-nurture debate?

I stand in the middle, but more inclined towards the nurture side of learning.
I believe genetics play a substantial role in one’s intelligence, but without proper nurturing, optimization of potential is not possible.

Discuss your own perspectives about intelligence. In this light, address the following questions:
o How have your personal views about intelligence affected the way you approach learning?

With my view of learning as nurtured, I am motivated to always exert my best efforts in learning. I welcome new strategies that may help me optimize my potentials, I very much welcome challenges (mind exercises) which I know will hone my critical thinking skills.

o What are your ideas about the way teaching or testing can be done best?

Teaching or testing for transfer can be done best by assessing if learner can apply previously acquired information to novel situations. Essay questions define more of the learners’ knowledge than objective type of questions.

3. Are there ways in which you have already experienced multiple intelligence approaches in school, either with or without realizing it?

Yes, in school, we were taught different skills aside from academic ones. Physical education classes improved our mobilities and agility. Practical arts classes taught us vocational skills and life skills like minor house repairs, sewing and gardening. Music lessons enhanced musicality of each student. Social interactions between students developed my inter/intra personal skills.
Religion and values education provided me with existential knowledge.

4. How can you design your own learning (in your present courses) so that you can tap your multiple intelligences?

In my present courses (two subjects), I have involved myself in discussion fora with my classmates. It may be an asynchrounous discussion, but it has developed my interpersonal skills, and of my self-worth, my intrapersonal skills. Since most of my classmates can converse well in their discourses, and some module discussions use unfamiliar words, I have devised a vocabulary list to enhance my linguistic skills.

Insights on Complex Cognition

Reflect on your learning habits and strategies. In what ways might you have you been either nurturing or neglecting your own complex thinking processes?

I have always regarded myself as an analytical learner. I am more inclined to subjects requiring analysis, calculations and problem solving more than subjects requiring memorizations and generating opinions or sypnosis. But over the course of time, as I guide my children through their lessons and assignments, I have learned to express my thoughts in writing with ease. What used to be a hard endeavour in answering essay questions, eventually became a second nature to me. This improvement came as a result of my carefully understanding discussions on my childrens’ textbooks in order to help them answer assignment questions. (Oops, I realized a few weeks back that this was not truly helping them). But it has definitely honed my skill in comprehension and application.
With regards to creativity, I admit I have yet to conquer this stage of complex cognition. I am more comfortable with doing things conventionaly, following known systems and being assured of positive outcomes. I will usually do new things (for me) if there are already credible testimonials to its positive effects.
I guess I should be more experimental and explore situations I have never imagined possible.

What strategies are you currently using to promote critical thinking among students (peers/ siblings, if not yet a teacher)?
Are your current teaching methods effectively meeting / approaching critical thinking goals? How do you know that your students are utilizing critical thinking strategies?

Eversince I learned from this course the different perspectives of teaching strategies and their learning outcomes, I have started to incorporate them in the way I handled my children and my students. I have learned to appreciate the individual learning styles of each of my students, I have been properly scheduling the reinforcements I give them, and I have more than ever exercised guided learning to optimize their learning. I am now more patient in establishing basic math/algebra skills in them so they would be ready to tackle advanced lessons, where I just point out basic rules to be used and guide them to discovering answers on their own. This usually gives them pride and a feeling of self-worth and makes them eager to tackle more challenging problems.