A pandemic in a pandemic. The COVID-19 global outbreak unfolded the immemorial rotten disease of the education system. The insufficient funding to train teachers and to produce teaching and testing materials for the 21st-century learners are just two of the many major issues that have been neglected. These long-standing problems are present across the globe.
The vicious cycle of the exploited education system has been brought to everyone’s awareness by some advocates of quality education. Mr. Robert Sauder in Canadian International Development Platform, Mr. Larry Gordon of EdSource in California, Mr. Eliezer Yariv in Gordon College of Education-Israel, and Mr. Victor Ordonez with Mr. Rupert Maclean of UNESCO Asia are some of the advocates who have been creating a voice about it. A thorough discussion of the educational predicament’s root cause was even presented by Ms. Amanda Ripley. She even travelled to three countries and several states in America to produce a conclusive study on this.
In the Philippines, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian reiterated the teachers’ inadequate training and support that led to their poor teaching performance. He supported this with facts by reporting the results of Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) and Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). Further, he implicitly mentioned the delayed implementation of the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP) and the Teacher Education Council (TEC) that were created last 1992 and 1994, respectively. As a matter of fact, these two councils were only forced to commence last year due to the pandemic.
They are some of the big names who have been creating strong and significant voices to remedy the malady.
But why are we still in the rot?
Simple answer, we lack unity with accountability. This is evident with how we rectify the problem with another mistake – providing a patch to conceal the education leprosy.
That’s why despite the myriad pressing problems, the show must go on for our educational vanguards - our very dedicated teachers.
Although struggling, our steadfast educators underwent major adjustments and serious preparations for the inevitable educational reform due to COVID-19 pandemic. They modified their lessons and activities even though they were clueless of this seemingly ceaseless battle. For many of them, it was their first time to buy their weapons - the laptops that will be their new classrooms. Being meagerly paid, they purchased the cheapest laptops and availed internet connection that their loaned money could afford. In their own way, they tried to lessen the “digital divide”. They attended numerous webinars that can help them understand the online distance learning. In their brave hearts, to be prepared before the new educational norm starts is their only choice.
It may sound simple but it’s not.
Teachers from public and private sectors have different orientations and disadvantages. Public school teachers depended on the printed modules provided by the government. While, private school teachers created modules for their students. For both sectors, problems and complaints poured out before them.
In the public district, countless parents and students posted in the social media the grammatical errors, typographical errors, questionable claims they found on the modules. Numerous teachers complained about the hardships they endured in distributing, teaching, collecting, and checking the modules. Notwithstanding, teachers and principals vigorously reminded the parents not to do their kids’ school tasks.
In the private tract, everyone was reminded to be kind with one another as everyone was still adjusting with the new norm. However, many parents and students grumbled about the unreasonable and overwhelming online assignments. Some teachers lamented about the students' absences and assignments' late submission.
The battle against substandard education during the COVID-19 pandemic became a blame game. A lot of people forgot that quality education is everyone’s responsibilities.
Each of us has a significant role to play towards the creation of an education system that is progressive and worthwhile. Together, we have to work hand in hand. We (parents, teachers, students, administrators, and public officials) have to understand each other, adjust if necessary, and extend a helping a hand to one another. UNITY with accountability is the only way we can combat ‘The Pandemic’.
It all starts from sharing – sharing our expertise, our time, and our compassion to one another.
SHARING IS CARING
While private teachers are expected to create reasonable, productive, and interactive online modules, De La Salle University Academic Support for Instructional Services and Technology (DLSU - ASIST) reinforces their teachers by devising an AnimoSpace Camp.
During the online camp, attendees were given two learning tracks to choose from. Basically the camp’s objective is to optimize the teachers’ skills and experience in the online learning environment. Thereby, strategies, tools, and software were discussed by the invited experts and a few DLSU stakeholders. There were also an allotted time for workshops and sharing sessions. To prime us with a much better teaching strategies for the next term, student representatives were also invited so that teachers can hear their concerns and adjust accordingly. It was indeed inspiring and motivating to hear both sides, especially the teacher’s best used teaching practices. Hence given this platform, let me share what I utilized in my class. I hope this can somehow help or comfort you.
This is the photo of a sample online module in my Reading and Writing Skills (RWS) class.
To walk you through this module:
1. At the start of the term, I give an orientation to my students about the four major sections of my module: Discover, Discuss, Demonstrate, and Deepen. Each major section has an indication of whether it is synchronous or asynchronous. This way, students immediately know what are expected from them.
These 4Ds originated from the research article written by Ms. Sally Graham, Ms. Nicola Lester, and Ms. Claire Dickson. Their article is entitled “Discover – Deepen – Do: A 3D Pedagogical Approach for Developing Newly Qualified Teachers as Professional Learners”. The title being so captivating may pertain to us, the teachers as the "professional learners" in the full-online distance learning setup. Hence, I modified their work to make it well suited to my target students and made it 4Ds.
2. Under Discover, there is a page entitled Objectives, Expectation, and Advanced Study. When the students click the page, this is what they will see:
The objectives followed the three domains of learning such as cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Expectations and advanced study were also provided to guide students on the ways they can maximize their learning.
By coming with this idea, we are implicitly teaching our students the value of bringing something with them before coming to a synchronous class. If students have background information about the lesson, they can prepare intelligent questions which they can raise during the synchronous lesson. Preparation before the class is an essential element to hone students holistically.
3. The synchronous section of the module is under the header Discuss. The students are expected to attend this class to further understand the lesson. This is the time when teacher thoroughly explains the lesson and the students are welcomed to clarify their confusions.
Since this is a recorded session, the students who will not get to attend due to internet disruption may rely on the recorded session that is also posted in this section.
This is my sample PowerPoint Presentation of the lesson (press the arrow to see the next slide):
After the lecture, sometimes, I also give a ten-minute quiz which may serve as a recitation or a quick review of that day's synchronous lesson.
4. The third major section is Demonstrate. This is the section where the students have to apply what they learned and the teacher can assess the students’ learning. Depending on the given task, the teacher can also consider attaching a sample work to demonstrate it to the students. This way, the students can better understand the requirement. Hence, there is “My Sample Paragraph”. By giving our own created example to our students, we can show them the value of "Practice what you preach".
Here is my sample demonstration (press the arrow to see the next slide):
The rubric is also indicated at this section. Before my student starts their task, I make it a habit to present this to them so that they are aware as to how they will be graded.
At same time, they can use this rubric as their guide or checklist as they do the given task. Most importantly, being transparent to our students about this can build a much stronger trust and smoother relationship with them.
5. The last section, Deepen includes either the student’s reflection or the teacher’s reminder. For example:
UNITY IN COMMUNITY
To be part of unity in our small community, I humbly shared my teaching practice to the RWS Team, headed by Ms. Jeanne Purpura. Together with the proactive team members (Ms. Lindsey Ng-Tan, Mr. Jolo Tamayo, Ms. Gina Ugalingan, and Ms. Eden Irag-Conopio), we created a 14-week module.
In creating our modules, we also considered some established principles like the rubric shared by The SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric OSCQR. These are the six major criteria they designed to guide us all in our online courses:
1. Overview and Information
2. Technology and Tools
3. Design and Layout
4. Content and Activities
6. Assessment and Feedback
We, the RWS Team, have the same teaching aphorism. We all hope to lessen other teachers' worries (especially during this pandemic) by imparting our teaching materials and strategies to them. Hence upon accomplishing the 14-week module, we shared it to the other 13 teachers who will also be teaching the same subject - Reading and Writing Skills (RWS) for Grade 11 students.
Of course, the modules we presented were not perfect for two major reasons:
there is no one-size-fits-all teaching approach especially that we are dealing with humans and not machine or a software; and
sometimes technology can be deficient and can fail us.
Looking on the brighter side, because of these two limitations, we are all given an opportunity to adjust and be more creative. In the same manner, we should also be open for any suggestions. We should always give ourselves a room for improvement.
That's why after the term, we solicited our colleagues’ perspectives on the module we shared to them.
Ms. Melba Dizon commented:
“Wow, much help for me. For instance, the modules are organized and covered with complete topics. So the preconceived modules helped me focus more on the implementation part. Another thing, it gives a good impression for the students as regards our credibility as a teacher and department as a whole because the modules were well prepared and well-thought out. I really appreciate the Team’s effort. It was a big help to the faculty especially during this ODL situation. Indeed there are no perfect modules, but there are feasible ones. Therefore, I encourage the Team to continue creating modules. Cheers!”
For Ms. Ivory Sioson, she responded:
“Because I am a bloomer, I tend to discover some things late. Thanks to the Subject Module Team because Canvas navigation became “navigational” and I saw other Canvas features, too. They prepared modules with well-organized lesson and activities to which saved me time from PowerPoint Presentation preparations. Thank you and congratulations to the Team. Cheers!”
Mr. Jefferson Acala affirmed:
"The modules were very helpful. I had four preparations last term and definitely, the modules made things easier for me. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Team for your efforts and assistance. Know that I highly appreciate each of you."
They also provided thoughtful points for improvement which may also help you in doing your modules for your students.
Ms. Melba Dizon propounded:
“Although the faculty has provision for revisions depending on the needs of their target students, maybe we can lessen some asynchronous tasks or performance tasks (e.g., quizzes, reading, or assignments tasks). Teachers have the liberty to adjust. We just need to always make sure that alterations are still aligned to the course guide!”
Ms. Ivory Sioson recommended:
“Reflection papers are helpful, but it could be minimized. This could lighten the load of both the teacher and students.”
Mr. Jefferson Acala suggested:
"Allot 2 weeks for note-taking strategies. One week should be for summarizing and paraphrasing. Another week must be spent for APA in-text citation and referencing. Give a maximum of 2 activities per week; there were modules which had 3 to 4 activities. Beautify and unify the appearance of the modules. Using icons and GIFS would help."
Ms. Melba, Ms. Ivory, and Sir Jeff shared astute insights that we can all bring with us as we do our own modules.
Indeed, welcoming honest feedback and humility are both essential for the improvement of our education system. In our small community, we tried to harness open-mindedness and development. We hope that this will always be present among all of us regardless of our status in lives.
While we try to do our very best to improve our lessons and use modules as a patch to bridge the gap, let’s not forget that there is a much bigger problem that we still need to address.
Surely, there is no instant remedy to the education pandemic. However, in our own simple and sincere way, we can make a difference.
Let’s unite as we fulfill our roles conscientiously.
Share with us your teaching practice.
Gordon, L. (2017). Teachers' training needs improvement so students benefit, new report says. EdSource Highlighting Strategies for Student Success.
Graham, S., Lester, N., & Dickerson, C. (2012). Discover - deepen - do: A 3D pedagogical approach for developing newly qualified teachers as professional learners. Australian Journal of Teacher, 37(9).
Ordonez, V. & Maclean, R. (2000). Some current issues, concerns and prospects. Prospects, 30(3), p.1-8.
OSCQR SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric. (n.d.). The SUNY Online Course Quality Review Rubric.
Philippine News Agency. (2020). Gatchalian seeks probe on declining quality of teacher education.
Ripley, A. (2013). The smartest kids in the world: And how they got that way. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks.
Sauder, R. (2017). Teacher training as a critical response to challenges of poor quality education. Canadian International Development Platform.
Yariv, E. (2011). Deterioration in teachers' performance: Causes and some remedies. World Journal of Education, 1(1), p81-91.