Would I want me as a teacher?

In the first and only edition of “WIWMAAT?”, we’ll explore the intricate world of how a biology teacher with a short attention span, a laid-back attitude, and a deep-rooted desire to stay indoors, still manage to give students the best learning experience that a Lycean Science Educator has to offer.

Various challenging tasks are faced by teachers, such as keeping students engaged with sleep inducing topics, and acknowledging the existence of “down days” when we encounter subjects, we’re less enthusiastic about, along with dealing with challenging students. If difficulties like this arise in the classroom there are several ways to make the teaching-learning process enjoyable and at the same time fruitful. Below are five not-so-cliché measures I employ, that you can also try, especially for those with laboratory sessions.

  1. If you can’t beat them, join them.
    Majority of the students at LPU-Cavite are part of the Gen-Z, some are Generation Alpha, and as a millennial teacher who can’t keep up with these fast-changing times, I try my best to speak their language. And by language, I mean, converting technical lessons into something that they can understand by using analogies. Say for example when I teach the physiology of muscle contraction to my Biology Students, I always relate it to famous movies about forbidden love, where the actin and myosin proteins that allows our body to move are always blocked by troponin and tropomyosin, just like how Romeo and Juliet are. In this way they can easily grasp the concept because they are familiar with the related scenario. According to Shana & El Shareef (2022), the use of analogies in teaching science has been attested to be more enhancing to the teaching-learning process than conventional instruction.

    Also, students love integrating technology to subjects, may it be an interactive simulation laboratory or an online game. So why not take advantage of this? There are a variety of online simulation lab that are already gamified, and some are customizable like that of LabXchange, a simulation app developed by Harvard University (Listiawati, 2022), where students can try tasks for prelab so that in the actual face-to-face lab, they are already familiar with the experiment. In terms of assessment, I also use the app called “Flip”, where, instead of writing essays, they can submit video essays of around 2 to 5 minutes. Not only does this simplify assessment, but it also enhances students’ communication skills.
  2. Divide and conquer!
    Laboratory and hands-on tasks are a common sight in a science classroom, but not all science subjects have this. Traditional lectures act as sleep inducers, particularly for non-science students, resulting in boredom. One of the ways to encourage student participation and sharing of ideas is through debates, dialogs and a thing called “Jigsaw.” Jigsaw collaborative discussion method was developed by Elliot Aronson in the 1970s (Warfa, 2016) it involves breaking the class into small groups, giving them an assigned topic, and then reconvening them into new groups where each member are “experts” in their assigned topics. These new groups will then share their expertise with the group, thus completing the “jigsaw puzzle” of knowledge. This technique has been proven to be remarkably effective in teaching Science, Technology, and Society, a general education subject that covers a wide range of topics for which students already have a schema. Also, this can be quite helpful if a teacher is experiencing some “down days” (when you are not in the right physical and/or mental state to discuss.)
  3. Stepping into the unknown…
    Subjects like Ecology and Environmental science often incorporate fieldworks. These are hands-on exploration and data collection in natural environments to study ecosystems. As a lab-rat Biology teacher, I find it challenging to conduct fieldworks due to its time consuming and exhausting nature, especially when overseeing students in various areas with a diverse array of organisms to consider; however it is imperative to be done, so this leads to occasional team-teaching efforts for specific topics in the abovementioned subjects. Team-teaching is a collaborative teaching model where two or more teachers work together in the planning, teaching, and evaluation of the course (Mariën, D., et al. 2023). In our case, we adopt a semi-team-teaching approach where a faculty member specializing in fauna collaborates with a counterpart focusing on flora, or vice versa. This can potentially foster a deeper conceptual understanding among students of the diverse organisms present in the fieldwork area.
  4. It takes two to tango.
    The teaching-learning process is a two-way street. They learn from me; I also learn from them. This is a pivotal factor that builds-up good instruction practices. For our students we implement several reporting and case presentation activities. Not only does it promote independence through discovery learning, but it serves as a form of assessment that is immediately followed by feedback, which is an important educational aspect. In an article of Hattie &Timperley (2007, as cited in Adarkwah, 2021) feedback is a process when a teacher, provides corrective information to clarify ideas, encourage, and evaluate a student. This practice allows us instructors to convey what I term to as our “ERE”, what we Embrace, what we would like to Refine and what they should Expound from their presentation. 
  5. Tough love
    Teaching is like parenting non-blood-related individuals. In the classroom, we impart knowledge while also fostering discipline and cultivating Lycean aptitudes. During the first day of classes every semester, we conduct a thorough orientation in-class on the house rules for lecture and laboratory time, emphasizing most importantly, the proper decorum a student should uphold both inside and outside of the university. We strictly enforce rules to help students simulate real-word scenarios they may encounter in the future. For instance, if a student fails to bring proper protective equipment (PPE), they are not permitted to perform inside the laboratory. Our students understand that these measures are for their own safety, much like how a mother will stop her child from crossing the street without looking at both directions first. While some initially perceive these rules as unnecessary, they eventually recognize its importance. Upperclassmen in the Biology program that I handle, have now taken on the responsibility of guiding freshmen, reminding them of proper procedures and safety protocols.

Now the question remains, Would I want me as a teacher?

I guess, yes! Because what I am implementing are approaches that I would’ve appreciated as a student. By prioritizing methods that might have engaged and benefited me personally, I aim to create a more stimulating learning environment for my students.

References:

Adarkwah, M. (2021). The power of assessment feedback in teaching and learning: a narrative review and synthesis of the literature. SN Soc Sci 1(3), 75. DOI: 10.1007/s43545-021-00086-w

Listiawati, M. et al. (2022). Analysis of the use of LabXChange as a virtual Laboratory Media to Improve Digital and Information Literacy for Biology Education Undergraduate Students. Scientiae Educatia, 11 (1), 56-64. DOI: 10.24235/sc.educatia.v11i1.10278

Mariën, D., et al. (2023). Teaching in a Shared Classroom: Unveiling the Effective Teaching Behavior of Beginning Team Teaching Teams Using a Qualitative Approach. Educ. Sci. 2023, 13, 1075. https://doi.org/10.3390/ educsci13111075

Shana, Z. A., & El Shareef, M. A. (2022). Science teachers’ use of analogies: Findings from classroom practices. European Journal of Educational Research, 11(2), 1023-1036. https://doi.org/10.12973/eu-jer.11.2.1023 Warfa, A. (2016). Using cooperative learning to teach chemistry: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Chemical Education 2016, 93, 2, 248–255. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.5b00608