Remembering my research events

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Learning Styles and Gender

Is there a difference in the learning style between our male and female students?  I came across a paper by Wehrwein et. al. (2005) that explored on observed gender gap in math and science which is said to be widened by theories claiming that women are “biologically incapable of reason” or that men and women have different intrinsic aptitude. The paper asked whether gender is related with learning style preference and if difference in learning style preference exists.  The paper deemed that these questions be addressed in the study to result in quality education by looking into the learning style preference categories, namely: visual, audio, read, write, kinesthetic.  The findings suggested that teachers should adapt teaching methods to meet the different learning styles of the students.  Importantly, the paper found out that the proportion of males preferring multiple modes of presentation is higher than females but did not test for significant differences which could be more conclusive.

Other studies, however, run in contrast with the suggestion of the paper regarding tailor fitting instruction to student differences.  For instance, Felder & Brent (2005) said that it is futile and laborious to tailor fit learning style with learning preferences.  They actually saw this futility by saying that teaching style should provide access for students to be able to use learning strategies adapted to their learning style.  So how should a teacher handle learning styles viz-a-viz teaching style in the light of these two contrasting results?

Wehrwein, H. Lujan, and S. DiCarlo. (2005). Gender differences in learning style preferences among undergraduate physiology students. Retrieved on May 20, 2016, from http://advan.physiology.org/content/31/2/153.

Felder, R. & Brent, R. (2005). Student perceptions and learning outcomes of computer-assisted versus traditional instruction in physiology. Retrieved on May 21, 2016, from http://advan.physiology.org/content/ajpadvan/273/6/S55.full.pdf

 

What mathematics understanding means to Asians and to the West

The academic success in Mathematics of countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Korea over the Western countries in general sparked some research a few years ago.  Interestingly, there was a general suspicion that Asian learners are only used to drilling and may not be engaging in a deep level of understanding, though some are still cautious in jumping to the conclusion.

Generally high achievement in Mathematics among the mentioned countries may be partially attributable to how they conceive “understanding mathematics” which might be described as getting the right answer through revising and working hard.  Such thinking enables them to continually practice and to identify the right rules and apply them correctly to arrive at the correct answer.  It is thinkable that when mathematics is regarded as a body of absolute truth and a set of rules for playing around with symbols, students will learn through memorization and problem solving becomes searching for appropriate rules by picking up clues from questions.

In contrast, the Western view of understanding mathematics “is a sudden process requiring insight rather than effort” (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13632430050011407.  This can be seen at play when every time students in the West do arithmetic, they reach for the calculators and they tend to not memorize mathematical formulas.

On a Technology-Enabled Active Learning

Let me share a quasi-experimental study by  Shieh et. al. (2010 ), where they explored the learning outcomes and challenges of implementing a Technology-Enabled Active Learning (TEAL).

The study cited the essential role of educational technology such as Micro-Based Laboratories (MBL) and dynamic model building in a constructive and collaborative learning environment and its capability to draw student attention to the lectured topic and to facilitate learning.   The study introduced TEAL as an innovative format of teaching and learning, featuring media-rich software for simulation and visualization. TEAL was compared with didactive teaching by saying that former is an interactive system that is accomplished through the use of the personal response system (PRS).  It added that the PRS helps the instructor individually and instantly elicit, assess, and track all students’ learning progress.

TEAL, the study noted, aimed to overcome the prevalent problems of traditional lecturing, students’ passive learning attitudes, and rote-learning with understanding. Thus, it explained that TEAL helps students to better understand abstract concepts through a collaborative, interactive learning environment.

So what did the TEAL studio look like? Well, it was described as being equipped with eleven 9-seater round tables with 3 laptops each with internet access, seven large screens on the wall for viewing presentations, and then ten blackboards around the walls for group work.

The features of TEAL that I think as amazing are:

  • Integration of lecture and lab activities
  • Interactive learning and peer discussion
  •  Adoption of multimedia
  •  Hands-on experiments
  • Online learning

However, the study also said that facilitating students to learn in an interactive, collaborative, constructivist-based class is a challenging and a complex task for teachers because he/she must be able to identify an appropriate extent and timing of intervention during discussion.  Further, the teacher must need to acquire a thorough knowledge of the content, must have classroom management skills to facilitate the process of activities.

Constructivism in Math

There is an insightful study that looks at the application of the Constructivist theory in mathematics education which can be found in  http://ejournals.ph/article.php?id=222 . The study was conducted by Dr. Auxencia A. Limjap where she showed that the deductive reasoning of five teachers was significantly enhanced in a constructivist-based environment.  The study described deductive reasoning as a manifestation of logico-mathematical intelligence, the latter being one of the multiple intelligences identified by Gardner. It also further described deductive reasoning as the ability to reason from necessary premises to their necessary conclusion.  By invoking accepted rules of logic, teachers can infer statements from a given set of statements through different cognitive abilities.  The validity or invalidity of the premises and the conclusion are said to be establishable.  The enhancement therefore of proficiency in deductive reasoning is important as school mathematics has a strict hypothetico-deductive nature.

It was also argued that deductive reasoning can be best enhanced in an inquiry-based environment or the so-called constructivist environment.  If we check on Wikipedia,  we can see the philosophers behind the theory, one of whom is the eighteenth century philosopher Giambattista Vico who claimed that “humans can only understand what they have themselves constructed”.  However, it was really the French psychologist Jean Piaget who clearly developed constructivism as applied to classroom and childhood development.  Ernst Von Glaserfield also advanced the principle that “Knowledge is not passively received either through the senses or by way of communication.  Knowledge is actively built by the cognizing subject.”  It was further cited in the study that “the function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense of the term, tending towards fit or viability.”  And that “cognition serves the subject’s organization of the experimental world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality”. This contradiction is quite puzzling to me.  But the study explained the principle clearly as “knowledge is not transferred directly from the environment or duplicated from one person’s mind into the mind of another person.”  This is the reason why the “teachers communication does not transmit a single meaning to all learners, but rather evokes different meanings to different learners.”  It is therefore argued that ‘mathematical meaning is built up actively by the learner from pre-existing mental objects within his/her mind.” This may explain why teachers find it difficult to teach learners who lack a good foundation in math.

Most importantly, it was found out in the study that the constructivist-based instructional design moved the level of one out of five teachers to the reflective level.  Thus, it was maintained that “the best environment for the enhancement of deductive reasoning and most of mathematics learning is a constructivist environment”.

E-portfolio as the “got to have it tool”

I think e-portfolio is worth considering/exploring since some fellows, Cohn and Bernard (2004), described it as the new “got to have it tool” , equivalently, the “show-and-tell platform of the millennium”.  It is the digital counterpart of the paper port-folio but it is way more animated and buzzing because it can contain every work you did in multi-media.   It is something that you can carry around with you,  you can organize and enhance it at the same time, you can also show it to a person seated next to you in sky train.  In days that you feel amateurish, you can access it anytime and feel good about past accomplishments.

The capability of an e-portfolio is great in sharing your teaching philosophy and style while helping you to strive to be more knowledgeable with using technology.  You can always record, document, and video every work that you do and examine it for your purposes later on in life.