Monday, October 12, 2009

What is the common assessment practice in schools? Teachers give a written ‘mastery test’ daily at the end of each lesson and a longer ‘unit test’ two to three weeks later. And whatever the results of those assessments, the teacher starts a new topic because she or he ‘has a syllabus to cover.’

What has been described above is assessment of learning. The assessment is used in grading and reporting student work. This kind of assessment does not tell us if students are ‘learning on track.’ Assessment cannot wait until the end of the topic. Instead, the teacher should diagnose what students already know and do not know at the start, and proceed to adjust previously prepared authentic learning experiences to enable students to construct the intended ideas/concepts. He/she must take frequent readings (assessment) along the way and these may be achieved through close observation of the students and by incorporating questions which must be answered in the course of performing the activities, among other methods. The teacher must then discuss the answers to these questions with the students subsequently processing and agreeing on acceptable answers. Processing or discussing either their answers or data results confirms or validates correct ideas formed. This prepares them for the next step or activity in the concept development process. Through this feedback, students are able to assess their own learning as well as that of their peers. This is what assessment for learning is all about.

On October 28-30
, NISMED will organize a national seminar-workshop entitled “Let Children Shine” with the theme: “Assessment for Learning.” Assessment for learning requires teachers to gather evidence from students regularly to identify problems and offer feedback to help overcome them. Other features include use of qualitative descriptions of students as well as peer and self-assessment. Studies in other countries have shown that lower-achieving children benefit most from this form of assessment, which places heavy emphasis on high-quality teacher feedback. The big idea about assessment for learning is that assessment should be used to provide information and feedback to teachers so that they can modify the teaching and learning activities and meet student needs. This is what is meant by assessment being used to ‘keep learning on track.’

The aim of the October seminar-workshop is not really to create teacher change, but to engineer situations in which teacher change can take place. We know that asking teachers to change their practices is like asking a bowler to change his or her style during a competition. This will be ‘scary’ especially if there are observers or evaluators inside the classroom. But when they are responsible for choosing what they will change about their practice, they feel empowered especially when they can choose among a range of techniques. The workshops will help teachers focus on what they want to develop in their practice and how to enact these in their classrooms. However, if we are to maximize the impact on student learning using ‘assessment for learning’, other parts of the education system must be ‘in sync.’ Teachers need a range of more formal assessment tasks and activities that support a valid and reliable conclusion about the extent of student learning. They need to focus on the ‘enduring understandings or big ideas’ rather than shallow aspects of learning.

It is important to remember that the two purposes of assessment (assessment of learning and assessment for learning) do not conflict with each other. Each represents an important part of a complex system providing information at the right level of specificity for the decision that needs to be made. Together they can produce marked increase in student achievement that benefits both the individual and society as a whole. But assessment of learning seems to be more understood by teachers than assessment for learning.

All elementary school science and mathematics teachers, supervisors, and teacher educators are invited to the seminar-workshop to learn more about assessment for learning. Attendance to this three-day activity will surely help them ‘let students shine.’

So let the blog begin! NISMED shifts its way to engaging the science and mathematics education community through blogs. In an initial effort to leverage the social Web, the Information Science Group formatted the UP NISMED Newsletter as a blog— transforming it into a participatory activity for teachers and other partners here and abroad.

The news blog, albeit quarterly at the moment, will allow teachers to exchange updates related to recently-completed events and activities. By posting comments to news stories, they can engage in further knowledge sharing and continue to collaborate on initiatives long after they have returned to their respective schools and institutions.

The blog is a type of website where entries are displayed in reverse-chronological order and has facility that allows readers to leave comments and replies — enabling multiple-way conversations and interactions to develop. This straightforward interface provided by blogs is hoped to make online engagement less challenging to teachers new to the technology. The news story can also be shared by forwarding a link through email. The blog site also usually comes with a social feature allowing readers to see who else is reading the blog, which adds to the community feel and makes subsequent interactions as easy as a mouse click.

NISMED’s newsletter can now be accessed at To view a news story, simply click on its link on the left sidebar. To leave a comment, click on the Post a Comment link at the end of each story, complete and submit the comment form. To forward it to a colleague by email, click the email post icon. To join as subscriber and receive notices when new issues are posted, click on the Followers link and sign up.

Under the “Systems Approach to Teacher Mentoring and Urban Poor Achievement,” a project being funded by the UP Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Development (OVCRD), NISMED is implementing Phase 2 of the Science component. The UP NISMED Director Dr. Merle C. Tan recently met with the principals of the two schools to explain the objectives and methodology of the project which was altered for Phase 2. Staff from the Elementary School Science and Earth/Environmental Science Groups have started mentoring Grade 4 and First Year Science teachers in Balara Elementary School and J.P. Laurel High School, respectively, with the ultimate aim of improving student achievement.

The mentoring activity alternates with classroom observation, both of which are being documented by the NISMED staff. Instructional materials needed in the lessons are provided by NISMED prior to implementation and delivery by the teachers. The mentoring session following delivery provides an opportunity for reflection and feedback on the previous observation as well as preparation for the next cycle and topic. NISMED staff review the teachers’ lesson plans, make suggestions on learning activities to address objectives including questions incorporated in the lesson or posed during discussion and processing, and recommend appropriate strategies related to instruction and class management.

Pupils perform an activity in science

The Mathematics, Social Studies, English, and Filipino components, and the teams taking care of community support, management, and guidance, are lead by faculty and staff of the UP Integrated School, College of Social Work and Community Development, and various departments of the College of Education which is spearheading this multidisciplinary project.

NISMED conducted a three-day training of trainers from Regions IX and XII, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on August 13-15, 2009 at the Science Teacher Training Center in UP Diliman. The emphasis of the training was the mathematics involved in selected science topics. There were 10 sessions per cluster of Grades 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6 participants for a total of 30 Mathematics in Science sessions.

Making a pictograph based on a set of data about a week’s day-to-day weather

Thirty (30) participants engaged in measuring, weighing, computing, estimating, tabulating, and graphing their data and results. Afterwards, these were interpreted and used to draw conclusions and formulate general statements. They were also exposed to various devices and equipment in making quantitative observations. At the end of the training, they presented their outputs, consisting of activities similar to those they experienced performing, which incorporated development of mathematical as well as science process skills in the construction of science ideas/concepts. About 20 regional and division supervisors observed the training.

Measuring and recording the temperatures of water and soil
exposed to sunlight

This was the third of three training of trainers (TOT) programs delivered by NISMED under the Education for Quality Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills (EQuALLs) 2 Project funded by USAID and coordinated by the Education Development Center. Partner NGOs were Save the Children, Synergeia, and ELSA. Science education specialists from the Elementary School and Earth/ Environmental Science Groups of UP NISMED served as trainers.

NISMED conducted a follow-up seminar-workshop on assessment practices for fourteen (14) elementary school principals of the Department of Education – Division of Limay, Bataan on July 22-23, 2009. This seminar-workshop was organized by Alstom Philippines Inc.

The seminar-workshop was designed specifically for school administrators and test formulators in mathematics and science. The content of the course was focused on student assessment to enable these instructional leaders to appreciate the crucial role of appropriate and effective assessment in raising student achievement. In addition, this seminar-workshop was meant to make it possible for the schools to have mutually supportive coherent and consistent assessment practices that can significantly improve student learning.

The two-day seminar-workshop consisted of a plenary session, parallel lectures, and workshops in science and mathematics. The plenary session on Assessing Student Learning Effectively provided the framework on which the workshops were anchored. It emphasized that assessment is the most powerful tool for influencing the learning process, since tests and measures of learning given by teachers define for students what they should learn.

A NISMED facilitator gives suggestions on how to transform
a multiple-choice item to a constructed-response item.

During the parallel lectures on developing constructed response and multiple-choice items, the participants were assisted by the facilitators in giving substantial comments and suggestions as they revise existing test items. They were likewise exposed to the process of developing assessment items that enable students to demonstrate higher-order thinking skills when challenged with problems using real-life situations.

Each pair of participants were tasked to formulate one multiple-choice item with accompanying explanations of the options and one constructed-response item with the corresponding rubrics during the parallel workshops. One of the challenging aspects of the workshops was revising directions and questions to make these clear and understandable to the target students. Another challenge faced by the participants was the preparation of the scoring criteria (rubrics) for the constructed-response items. The items prepared by each pair of participants were then presented to the other participants and UP NISMED trainers for critiquing and giving of feedback in order to hone their pedagogical content knowledge.

Science Serving People (SciPol) is back on air over NBN 4 from 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon. This time, two episodes will be aired back-to-back to inform viewers on the latest development on science and technology and the various natural phenomena happening particularly in our country. Twelve episodes are expected to be shown until the end of the year. The afternoon program features topics like Tsunami, Typhoon, DNA Vaccine, Dengue, Underground Water, Coral Reef, among others.

The project team during the post-production viewing of one
of the episodes.

SciPol is one of NISMED’s extension projects. It had its initial screening over the same TV station on August 2008 every Friday at 1:30 pm. The program was conceptualized and developed through the joint efforts of the UP College of Science and the UP NISMED in Diliman and the government station NBN 4.

Dr. Merle C. Tan, UP NISMED Director, spearheaded the project while Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza, former Dean of the College of Science in Diliman, headed the team of technical script writers. Vizmalou E. Bonalos and Dr. Josefina Patron of NBN 4 lead the production team. Rosemarie Manalansang produced and directed different episodes. Armando Cos co-directed the production. Ma. Lourdes S. Agad and Lolita M. Mondigo of NISMED’s Audiovisual Group coordinated the activities of the project.

Pupils in special science classes are gifted. And so, they can be given more cognitively demanding lessons, activities, and assessments. This implies that their teachers must be competent in using the learner-centered approaches in which the pupils do not only do most of the thinking being done in the class but also, the quality of such thinking is of high level. This competence depends on the teachers’ mastery of both subject matter and pedagogical content. The above statements are the underlying principles behind the professional training program for teachers of the Lemery special science elementary school.

The training program was designed to: emphasize teaching through problem solving and scientific inquiry; address misconceptions; highlight connections of concepts, principles, and procedures in topics within the same grade level and across different grade levels; and engage participants in collaborative activities. Its organizing theme is assessment, since assessment greatly influences what is emphasized in classroom teaching and learning.

Science participants collect data from their grassy quadrant

The training program is divided into two parts. Part 1 covered topics for the second and third quarters. It was conducted on August 20-23, 2009 at the Lemery Pilot Elementary School, Batangas. Part 2, tentatively scheduled in November 2009, will cover topics for the fourth and first quarters. Sixteen elementary school science teachers and fifteen elementary school mathematics teachers participated in Part 1 of the program. The teacher-participants were divided into two groups per subject area: the Grades 1-3 Group and Grades 4-6 Group. At the end of the training program, the participants were expected to demonstrate improved understanding of important science and mathematics concepts/principles and their applications, and proficiency in development of assessment items that require higher-order thinking skills (HOTS).

Mathematics participants perform an activity that integrates
the concept of ratio and proportion and probability

From the three-day training program, the participants realized the importance of science inquiry/problem solving and its value in developing the reasoning ability of pupils and helping children apply science/mathematics in real life. They also gained confidence in being a science/mathematics teacher. As a result of what they have learned, the participants plan to provide various activities through which pupils can explore and discover different concepts.

The partnership between the UP NISMED and San Vicente Elementary School and Balara High School was officially closed with the distribution of Certificates of Appreciation/Participation to the principal and science teachers of the two schools in June 2009.

At the elementary level, the project was plagued by snags in terms of heavy workload and hectic schedules both on the part of NISMED and the teachers. As part of Phase 2 which started in August 2008, however, the NISMED staff were able to provide water plants and print instructional materials on coral reefs and small animals to science teachers, serve as lecturers on “Action Research” and”“Collaborative Lesson Research and Development” during the school-based INSET on interventions to achieve teachers’ peak performance, and observe one teacher’s demonstration lesson. The teacher partners of the two schools were also invited to attend the International Conference on Science and Mathematics Education held on October 27-29, 2008 free of charge. NISMED likewise extended the invitation to participate in the conference to mathematics teacher-partners and the other partner schools. A paper on forging school partnerships was presented by NISMED staff during the conference. Another paper based on the Chemistry Group’s experience in the project was presented at the International Conference on Lesson Study in Hong Kong on December 1-4, 2008.

The High School Biology and Chemistry Groups are set to begin a second phase in Balara High School in October 2009, following the same procedure as in Phase 1. The procedure then was for a cycle of collaborative planning, implementation, discussion of changes (if any), revision, implementation, and finalization to be carried out. The output will be written lessons that may be taught by others and/or taught again the following school year by the same teachers.

Three in-house seminar and lectures were conducted from July to August this year. NISMED’s academic and/or administrative staff attended the said activities which were held at the Science Teacher Training Center, UP NISMED.

Guillermo P. Bautista Jr. of the High School Mathematics Group conducted an in-house seminar on the basics of Moodle last July 9, 2009 at the Information Science Laboratory. Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment (Moodle) is an open-source internet-based e-learning system widely used for distance learning. It enables teachers to create virtual classrooms in the internet, and provides space for communication and interaction. The seminar included familiarization to the Moodle environment and its functionalities. In addition, NISMED staff learned downloading and uploading of files, and using forum and chat rooms. The participants were also introduced to Latex, a typesetting program that specializes in mathematical and scientific writing. NISMED plans to use Moodle in the future as part of its online support in curriculum projects and teacher trainings.

Dr. Amelia E. Punzalan of the High School Chemistry Group gave a lecture titled Hazards in Household Products on July 31, 2009 at the UP NISMED Chemistry Laboratory. In the first part of the lecture, Dr. Punzalan talked about the potentially hazardous products that are commonly used at home. She shared with her audience the four signal words to consider in identifying hazardous products, namely, explosive/flammable, corrosive, reactive/oxidizing, and
toxic. In addition, she presented some examples of warning signs and symbols of potentially hazardous products.

Dr. Punzalan likewise mentioned the possible ingredients of commonly used household products and discussed their potential harmful effects on health in case these hazardous substances enter the body through inhalation (breathing), ingestion (eating or drinking) or dermal absorption (skin contact). Towards the end of the lecture, Dr. Punzalan shared the proper and safe ways of disposing these hazardous household products whether in the bin; by burying, burning or storing them; pouring them down the drain in the sink or storm sewer in the street; or flushing them in the toilet. The safe use and alternatives to some household products that can be used were also pointed out.

The group of cleaners and janitors of the Institute joined the academic and administrative staff in this in-house lecture.

Dr. Fumihiko Shinohara gave an in-house lecture titled Application of ICT to Realize the Aptitude Treatment Integration on August 28, 2009 at the Information Science Laboratory. His lecture focused on the ICT pedagogy integration to promote Aptitude Treatment Interaction (ATI) and media study in science and mathematics education.

Dr. Shinohara is a Professor and Head of the Department of Education Studies at Tokyo Gakugei University in Tokyo, Japan and a former JICA consultant at UP NISMED.

NISMED Staff Attend Various Professional Development Programs

Employee Discipline vis-a-vis Institutional Values Seminar

Ms. Angelie S. Domingo of the Property Section and Ms. Wilhelmina L. dela Paz of the Printing and Desktop Section attended the seminar entitled Employee Discipline vis-a-vis Institutional Values held on August 18-21, 2009 at Cagayan de Oro City. The seminar provided the 111 participants opportunities to revisit, refocus and realign both the employee’s personal values system and that of the institution where he/she belongs.

Planning for Emergencies: Seminar Workshop on Disaster Preparedness Response and Recovery

Mr. Rodolfo V. Sangel, Jr. of the Worskshop Section attended the Planning for Emergencies: Seminar Workshop on Disaster Preparedness Response and Recovery at Cagayan de Oro City on August 10-12, 2009. The seminar was about understanding the nature of emergencies and disasters that may arise in archives, rare books and special collections, and paper/office records. The seminar was attended by office personnel, archivist, record officers, librarians, curators, and other heritage professionals/workers caring for heritage collection.

Short-term Courses on Information and Communication Technology

Dr. Kathy A. Josue of High School Mathematics Group and Ms. Ma. Laura V. Ginoy of the Art Section attended the Basic Web Development Course while Dr. Erlina R. Ronda also of the High School Mathematics Group attended the Project Management Course. These short-term courses on ICT, which were conducted on weekends for 5 to 6 days, were offered by the University of the Philippines Information Technology Training Center (UP ITTC).

Assertive Written Communication Seminar

Ms. Lolita M. Mondigo of the Audiovisual Group and Ms. Ma. Laura V. Ginoy, head of the Art Section, participated in the four-day seminar on Assertive Written Communication held at Bohol Plaza Resort, Panglao Island, Bohol on September 15-18, 2009. The seminar provided them the opportunity to: internalize the meaning of assertive communication, develop assertive and effective oral and written communications, work collaboratively and interact professionally with other participants, and explore/appreciate the natural wonders of Bohol. One hundred hirty-two participants from private and local government units in different regions of the country attended the seminar.

Stepping Up to Help

NISMED provides immediate relief to some residents of Brgy. Manggahan, Rodriquez, Rizal who were affected by flood brought about by Tropical Storm Ondoy that devastated Metro Manila and nearby provinces with its heavy rains on September 26, 2009.

The NISMED staff (left photo) distributed packs of ready-to-eat
meal, bottled water, used clothes, blankets, and other relief items
to residents (right photo) who lost their valued possessions
and have to rebuild their lives

NISMED Joins Bowling Tournament

The NISMED Bowling Team joined the 2009 UP Open Mixed Team Bowling Tournament sponsored by Senator Chiz Escudero and Quezon City Vice-Mayor Herbert Bautista. The competition opened last August 28, 2009 at the UP Alumni Center Bowling Alley. Sixteen (16) teams from different UP units, colleges, offices and organizations that joined the tournament were classified into two groups: A and B.

The elimination round is still ongoing. The top eight teams after the elimination round will advance to the championship round. After playing the first four games, the NISMED team was able to land in the seventh spot. Its goal now is to get higher scores to stay in the first eighth spots to qualify for the championship round which will be held in November 2009.

The NISMED Bowling Team: (Front row left to right) Wilhelmina L.
dela Paz, Alberto C. Falcon, Ferdinand C. Damasco, Nilo M. Rocas
(Standing left to right) Doddie C. Bergado, Cherry A. Velasco, Regino
L. Lamorena, Mariel T. Atregenio, Mario C. Gallardo, Renante N. Lunas

In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, the IYA 2009 National Organizing Committee (NOC) will hold the IYA 2009 Philippine Olympiad. The IYA 2009 NOC was created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in December 2008 and is being chaired by Dr. Prisco Nilo, DOST-Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Director. The members of the NOC include the DOST-Philippine Council for Advanced Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCASTRD), National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), Rizal Technological University (RTU), UP Training
Center for Applied Geodesy and Photogrammetry (UP TCAGP), UP College of Science, and UP NISMED.

The Olympiad will be conducted in two stages: regional and national, and in two levels: secondary and collegiate. The contest is open to first year, second year, and third year secondary school students; and to college students who are presently enrolled in any undergraduate program. Deadline for registration is on October 23, 2009.

The regional elimination will be held simultaneously in participating regions of the country on November 7, 2009. The finals will be held at UP NISMED, Quezon City on December 11, 2009. Prizes for the national winners include plaques of recognition and cash prizes.

For more information regarding the venues of the regional competition, mechanics of the contest, and registration details, log on to