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Contextualizing lectures

July 26, 2019

TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

THE lecture is the usual medium of instruction in graduate classes. Lectures are usually delivered in traditional classrooms where students are seated in neat rows, some listening intently or writing notes frenziedly on what seems important to remember. Students who do not find a lecture of much value, hence to them is boring, may be tempted — being mostly millennials — to be on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, their laptops conveniently resting on broad tables. In this Knowledge Age, as mobile phones shrink in size and can manage more apps, laptops, too, come in all sizes. Some brands could comfortably rest on the narrow extension of armchairs. This generation of students would look to the lecturer now and then — to assure the lecturer they are heart and mind in class while 21st century topics spout from the horse’s mouth. If learners are so disengaged from the lecture, we would wonder how much learning these students have decided to learn. I would say that these students understand too well the usual advice in graduate school handbooks — that their learning would benefit their respective careers only if they can draw from it useful knowledge, and develop the skills and proper attitude called for in the job market. Is it really difficult to engage students to learn using the lecture to teach? One way to re-fashion the lecture is to consciously place it in context with the students’ major field of interest.

Contextualize students’ learning to their degree program. Among subjects for a practitioner’s doctorate, major in Leadership and Organization, is “The Philippine Values System and the Filipino Personality.” Syllabus topics include the typical major Filipino values which work as a system, and beliefs, postulates and traditions. Rather than beginning the lecture describing the four major Filipino values — family, hiya, utang na loob and pakikisama (Bulatao, 1966) — and from which are drawn secondary values such as respect, honesty, etc. or assigning a student to report on this system, the lecturer could assign the class to read ahead 1) what the major Filipino values system is and how the system works, 2) what a system is in an organization, 3) impact of an action in a unit in an organization on its other unit or units, and 4) how similar to Filipino values as a system is. The lecture could begin by focusing learning on how systems work, after which the class groups themselves into teams to discuss among themselves their respective readings on the assigned questions. The lecturer further clarifies or asks questions to enrich discussions. Team presentations of topics raffled, follow.

Engaging students for learning retention. Today’s graduate students, usually, are young professionals employed in organizations; hence, discussions would include examples based on their experience. As a system, values, as Clyde Kluckhon wrote, are mainsprings of action. Have the groups draw examples of situations which demonstrate how the four major Filipino values work as a system — which are family, hiya, utang na loob and pakikisama. Examples should demonstrate that behavior does not spring only from one value, but from the rest of the values working as a system. That is, how pakikisama demonstrated by an individual could be explained by the fact that the individual is mahihiya if he or she does not show pakikisama because he or she might have had utang na loob due to some great help extended to his or her family. The same examples could reverse situations where demonstrating a value is called for but was amiss and the impact on relationships of the parties concerned. Similarly, when a proper action in an organization is amiss, how this impacts on the organization.

Engaging students for learning transfer. Engaging students in their learning will likely help them to retain what they learn and transfer or apply their learning accordingly. Since the subject on the Filipino values system is for students majoring in Leadership and Organization, have teams discuss examples of organizational policies which embed the Filipino values system. Show the impact on units in the organization of non-observance or faithful observance of such policies. One such value-laden policy is punctuality in attending to one’s assigned task. A staff’s perennial non-observance of this policy shows hindi siya marunong mahiya, hindi nakikisama, walang utang na loob, suweldo para sa pamilya. What would be the implications to organizations as systems? How could leadership prevent systems breakdown or instability in organizations which, likewise, work as systems? Have teams give examples.

Placing students at the “center of our teaching.” Our students belong to the center of our teaching. The subject does not own them. They own the subject. This means that their interests, the context in which they work, the application of what they learn to further their career plans which could be their reason to take up graduate studies — all these are the focal points of discourse in which a subject should revolve. To consider these focal points, lecturers would better engage students in areas within the discipline students are interested in. One blog asks “How might graduate professors teach in order to promote the sensible goals of knowledge transfer and retention?” Graduate students need all our help, considering that 21st century knowledge, unlike in the past, could soon be obsolete. Hence, students need to be taught how to learn, unlearn what they know which is no longer useful, and relearn to make them relevant to the present and future.

Breaking up lecture topics to discuss these in the context of their professional settings would likely engage students in their own way of learning, thus make learning more personally meaningful.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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