We, teachers, should always plan and present instructions that address both the learning needs and styles of our students. While we take our available quality courseware at STI as the minimum requirement to deliver content, I have always been supplementing my classroom instructions with a variety of materials (i.e., readings, presentations, worksheets, videos, handouts, etc.) and effective techniques especially tailored for diverse classes and learners.
As what I have written in my personal online portal (blog), modern-day teaching poses more serious challenges than teaching a few decades ago. Technological interference, student-centered academic policies, heterogeneity of classes, and millennial learners’ behavioral issues, all constitute these challenges and new expectations in the contemporary academic landscape. While instructions progress after the opening of classes, teachers must gradually establish knowledge about individual differences of the students, and employ teaching strategies that cater to these differences. In doing so, there must also be some sort of adjustments; however, irrespective of strategies and styles, all students, at the end of the teaching instructions, as much as possible must have realized and met all the learning targets required in the curriculum. In other words, the learning level extremes or the range between the highest and lowest learning levels has been narrowed down. In addressing these concerns, careful planning and implementation of instructions must be done.
In the context of teaching at STI where courseware materials are readily available, teachers and content developers should work hand in hand to achieve collective goals. Yes, it may be given that teachers, being not just mechanical implementers of curriculum, make personal adjustments because of various factors including students’ learning needs and styles, interests, classroom situations, availability of resources, and others, but it would always be better to conduct open discussions between teachers and content developers. In around five years of teaching in the academe, I have already provided our developers with some feedback on the courseware materials (e.g., on the content of presentations and handouts, and even on the quarterly examinations). I was also invited, along with other language teachers, for a consultation about courseware revisions and updating. Equally, I have always been engaged in many pilot implementations which include digital learning (use of tablets in classrooms) and even the senior high school pilot program as early as 2014. While such emphasized collaboration, I believe that there is still far to go before most of the teachers fully develop initiative to communicate courseware concerns.
While instructional planning and presentation are both critical and demanding in the modern-day teaching and learning settings, I have always kept myself abreast of the trends and innovations in English language teaching. For instance, I have always been considering the career paths of my senior high school students in the choice of reading materials in my Reading and Writing and English for Academic and Professional Purposes (EAPP) classes (e.g., articles about web development and technological innovations for Mobile Application and Web Development (MAWD), readings on scientific breakthroughs for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), and articles related to business and investments for my Accountancy, Business, and Management (ABM)).
In addition to these added instructional materials, I have been employing as well more effective and efficient teaching strategies and techniques I have recently learned from my graduate school classes and other continuous professional development engagements (i.e., seminars and professional discussions). In my classes, reading has never been a boring activity as most students would expect, rather it is exciting and engaging as I have been implementing varied instructional approaches (e.g., providing students with individual copies of essays, allowing them to share their understanding and analysis in three minutes, and giving them opportunities to comment on the presentations of their classmates).
Beyond the courseware requirements as well, I have modified I Learn and Share (iLS) performance tasks for the students’ learning styles and interests. Last semester after realizing that most of my students in almost all of my 21st Century Literature classes were both musically-inclined and tech-savvy, I decided to push a music video project promoting traditional practices, culture, literature, and arts instead of a classroom dramatic play; after all, the same learning competencies and skills were gauged. Not only that they really enjoyed doing the project, they were eager as well to compose their own songs, tape their music videos, and discover what their local communities have to be proud of.
Still about performance tasks, I have been initiating collaborations with other subject teachers so for the students’ multiple projects to be simplified in just one, however the same skills and competencies expected across different subject areas are integrated, demonstrated, and soon gauged. Recently, I have worked with my students’ Earth and Life Science teachers. Instead of requiring our common classes with two separate magazine projects (Earth Science and reading campaign magazines), we have come up with an integrated magazine where we would have a two-perspective assessment, the science teachers would focus on the content (i.e., articles and essays should be related to science) and I would then be in charge of the assessment of the structure (i.e., writing mechanics and application of reading, research, and writing skills). In the end, students would no longer be bombarded with several academic requirements that usually result in time management issues and poor quality outputs.