A PROPOSAL TO MODIFY SHULMAN’S FRAMEWORK (Introducing the highest level of teaching mastery: THE ENLIGHTENED)

What is teaching to me? This question has been on my mind since the day I started teaching. And all throughout these years I haven’t had a concrete idea what it is to me. The reason probably is due to the fact that the meaning of teaching to me has constantly evolved as I go deeper into the practice. What I mean by this is that when I was a student, teaching to me was just that event where a person imparts knowledge to another person. This was how crudely teaching meant to me. But when I got hired in a University to teach, my view of teaching changed drastically. From just an event transpiring between two people, I started looking at teaching very shortsightedly as just an opportunity to earn a living. However, a year or so and several student evaluations later, I suddenly realized that teaching should be done skillfully so that students can appreciate what you are doing. By this time, I have come to realize that teaching is indeed a craft and not just an opportunity to tell someone what is inside your mind, nor is it just wasting 2 to 4 hours of a student’s life to present to them concepts in the exact way that is written in the book, something that so many university teachers still do. Teaching by this time to me has become something more than just an income opportunity… I have started appreciating teaching as both a profession and a craft.

 

First let us define what craft is. Merriam-Webster.com defines craft as “a job or activity that requires special skill”. With this definition in mind we can say that teaching becomes a craft only if it is DONE WITH SKILL. A skillful teacher is someone who can make use of his abilities better than most. Example, a skillful teacher can communicate better, can think better, can establish relationships with students better, and can even perform tasks better. Therefore a skillful teacher do things that ordinary teachers can’t do and as a result are more effective at teaching. Graham et al mentioned in an article that there are 7 Principles of effective teaching and these are:

1. Good Practice encourages student-faculty contact.

2. Good Practice encourages cooperation among students.

3. Good Practice encourages active learning.

4. Good Practice gives prompt feedback.

5. Good Practice emphasizes time on task.

6. Good Practice communicates high expectations.

7. Good Practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning. (Graham et al, 2001)

 

During my initial venture into teaching, I never came across these principles. But now that I am aware of them I can say that I have always followed them in my career, in my own way. And I have come to learn about these principles not from books or the internet, but from student evaluations since the University I was teaching in was very keen on evaluating their teaching staff and rightfully so. And so, by carefully dissecting each student comment, I can say that I was able to improve as a teacher, at least better than what I was in the beginning. Looking at the principles stated by Graham et al, I believe that it can be compressed into two main points, which are Communication and Respect. Because skillful communication begets rapport, effective learning and cooperation while respect begets discipline and motivation, which may result to better time management and better expectations.

 

However, let us not forget that skill alone is not enough. Skill must be supported with knowledge or training so that expertise can develop. For a Skillful Teacher without knowledge is just like a diamond in the rough. But all teachers have studied to become teachers and some even study further to acquire more knowledge. Because of this acquisition of knowledge through studies and training, teaching is considered as a profession. Just knowing how to teach alone though is again not enough to make an expert out of a teacher. What then is still missing in my belief? It is a trait which is very important in the acquisition of insight into the minds of students or people in general. This trait is as important as Skill, Subject Knowledge and Teaching Knowledge. This trait is called EMPATHY. The ability to put one’s self in the position of another person to gain a stronger understanding of that person’s difficulties and strengths.

 

However EMPATHY is not developed through training because it is NOT A SKILL. Neither can it be learned for it is NOT KNOWLEDGE. Empathy can however be acquired through IMMERSION, through constant exposure. But of course, immersion without genuine interest and sensitivity will still mean nothing. To gain Empathy, a teacher will have to be exposed to a vast number of students from different walks of life and cultural diversities and while in this process of exposure, make use of HIS HEART TO LEARN and not only his mind.

 

So I would like to redefine Shulman’s Framework to include EMPATHY as a separate knowledge since it is neither a Skill, an Information, nor is it teaching knowledge, but still an essential differentiating factor between an Expert and a Novice teacher. Actually I would like to extend the categorization of teachers into NOVICE, EXPERIENCED, EXPERT and the highest level which I shall call the ENLIGHTENED teacher. A level that needs time to master. A level that requires HEART to become one.

 

It is said that teaching is a lifelong learning and I couldn’t agree more. Most teachers however stop at learning WHAT TO TEACH and learning HOW TO TEACH. I believe EXPERTISE stops here. But if one desires to go beyond EXPERTISE one must embark on an even longer and more tedious learning process. Because I strongly believe that the highest form of learning and probably the most important of all learning, is learning WHO TO TEACH and this learning I believe requires a very strong passion even an obsession for the acquisition of knowledge since this learning consumes the most time and also demands emotional commitment from the teacher. And only teachers who have been in the practice for decades can gain access to this knowledge. This is the only knowledge that cannot be learned in school for this knowledge can only be gained through encounter with the various idiosyncrasies of learners and the more the encounter the deeper this learning becomes. But the fruit of this learning process which I have identified earlier on as EMPATHY, is worth the time spent learning, for it will ENLIGHTEN a teacher in more ways than CONTENT AND PEDAGOGICAL knowledge can give. To better understand the difference of an enlightened teacher and an expert teacher we have to look at the ENLIGHTENED TEACHER as an Expert teacher with a HEART.

 

RESOURCES:

Charles Graham, Kursat Cagiltay, Byung-Ro Lim, Joni Craner, and Thomas M. Duffy “Seven Principles of Effective Teaching: A Practical Lens for Evaluating Online Courses” The Technology Source, March/April 2001. Retrieved March 31, 2014 from http://www.technologysource.org/article/274/?utm_content=buffere64be&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

The Curriculum of the Future

I find the phenomenological aspect of a curriculum extremely important. The way I understand it, phenomenology involves responding to the needs, and in the case of curricular development, the needs of the times. For decades, in fact centuries, curriculum development was highly compartmentalized. This can be best seen in the curriculum that used to be offered by sectarian universities here in the country. I have observed this when I saw the subjects offered by a catholic university during the 80’s up to the early 90’s where incorporated in the ENGINEERING curriculum were subjects like SPANISH 1 and SPANISH 2, Theology 1, Theology 2; subjects that obviously had nothing to do with engineering but more to do with the philosophy of the university.

Curriculum development I believe, should follow the demands of the times and not be rigid. Otherwise, it would become stale and useless, not to mention a waste of valuable time. I even envision schools of the future where the choice of the subjects to take would be given to the student themselves and with this, defining a totally individualized course. Example, a student may choose to study metallurgy, chemistry, and quantum physics and define this combination of subjects as Bachelor of Science in Alchemy. What I am saying is that there will come a time when students will be the ones designing their courses and not the institution and when this time comes, curriculum development will be done by the student themselves. However, this is not possible at the moment since curriculum development here in our country is directed by politics (e.g. K+12 and the other “curricular advancements” offered by the government).

The Masterpiece: EDS 113 Final Entry

I was asked to state my philosophy about teaching. And at 2 am in the morning, here I am writing about it. It is all about creating a masterpiece. Assessment is to the teacher as a masterpiece is to an artist. A masterpiece is a legacy that an artist leaves behind for society to behold and admire and learn from. This being the case, care must be taken in the design of this piece of art, from the initial concept to the final design. Each step of the way, the artist putting his soul into it with perfection as a goal. There may even be times when the artist has to start all over during the process of creation until the outcome fits his concept.

So much of the artist’s spirit goes into every materpiece that long after the artist is gone, much of him still remains. This is how assessment tools must be. Long after the teacher is gone, the effect of these tools, specifically, how it changed a student’s life will be talked about and remembered forever.

Legalized Answer Peeking

Most students hate tests. In fact, I am yet to see a student that really loves to be tested and I mean love it to the point that he would be willing to take tests on a daily basis. Unless he is one of those few that have been hypnotized since preschool to love tests more than candies and cartoons :). I sometimes wonder what makes taking tests unpalatable to many. One idea that keeps popping in my mind is that the reason why students abhor test is that most tests are done singly. I mean tests are given to know how an individual performs.

What if tests were done in groups. Would this make any difference in the result? I read somewhere (unfortunately I forgot where I read it) about a testing idea wherein students are grouped together and given an initial assessment together. During this assessment they will produce a common answer to the questions posted. After which, they will then answer the same question individually. I believe this is a brilliant idea and this needs consideration when planning for assessment. By modifying the question and by telling the students that the average score of the group effort will be added to the raw score of the individual exams (or vice versa), students will exert more effort to understand the topic. And it will be more fun since the tests questions will be answered with peers. It would be like a legalized answer peeking hehehehe.

Teaching-To-The-Test Has Its Own Crowd

There are a lot of criticisms about teachers who “teach to the test”. The strongest one being that this teaching style forces teachers to limit what they teach to a set range of knowledge or skills just to increase student performance on a certain test. The argument is that this “drill and kill” method produces robots that lack holistic and deep understanding of the subject matter. The harshest comment I read about this method is that teachers who engage in it are lackluster teachers who themselves do not understand what they are teaching.

My take on this is that Teaching-To-The-Test has its own practical application and has its own target population. I agree that curriculum teaching should be the way to go when you are teaching “STUDENTS” still learning the subject matter and should really be exposed to all
the concepts so that they will develop deep understanding of the subject. However, when it comes to students who have finished the course and about to take a licensure exam, I would say that Teaching-To-The-Test is the most appropriate approach. It would be ridiculous and impossible to teach an entire curriculum during the review for Professional Licensure Exams because it would be tantamount repeating the course all over again. In review, EX-students need to focus their attention on subjects that matter most with regards to the Board Exams and not on subjects that appear in the exams. This does not mean that I support targeted learning, it is just that I believe that the school where the EX-student comes from is the one responsible for doing curriculum based teaching not review schools.

Implication of Assessment on Learning

I have always wondered what can be done to improve how teachers do assessment on their students. There have been many theories, proposals and guides introduced about it. But technicalities aside, what really should be done to make assessment proactive instead of just a reflection of what has been learned. With so many theories around, why is it that so many teachers still assess to identify the students who are doing better and not assess to improve the students who are doing worse. Yes, it is true that assessment identifies both the laggers and the standouts but what do teachers do after knowing who the laggers are aside from penalizing then with bad grades. Do teachers go out of their way to modify their teaching method to allow the laggers to catch up to the standouts? Once the assessment is done and the results are out, a lot of teachers move on to recording without making use of the assessment results to find out where lagging students failed.

One day when it is my turn to give assessments, I shall make use of the result not only to determine who lags or who stands out, but I will make use of it to identify what made my lagging students lag so that I can adjust my teaching method and without changing the goals, reassess the students. I believe that in the same way that sudents have different learning styles, students also have different responses to assessments and some prefer certain assesment methods over others. This is where I will focus my attention on. Finding out the assessment methods that fits lagging students’ style so that they can bring out what they have learned without the stress of “standardized” tests. This can be time consuming I know and may use more effort but if it helps improve a person’s performance, not to mention self-esteem, it is well worth the effort.

Reflecting on Assessment AS Learning

I have always tried my best to approach teaching in a way that doesn’t  force upon my students my ideas. I don’t want to create clones of myself (the idea alone gives me goosebumps hehehe) and would prefer see my students have their own unique identity and style. I would love to see my students create their own ideas and me learn from these. What I am saying is that given a choice, I would want teachers learn from students after their students learn from them. The implication of this thought would be infinite learning since there will exist a learning loop that never ends. Teacher teaches student then student teaches teacher so forth and so on… INFINITE LEARNING just a thought 🙂