• Learning or reporting?

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    WHEN the use of the power point was quite new, I assigned “reporters” like most lecturers did. In the reporting method, students utilize the power point for their presentation. They are each assigned a topic and each takes his/her turn to stand before the class and present his/her slides. As technology communications available to us became more developed, and surfing the web became a past time, I began to be uneasy using this method. Uneasy because clearly the slides were mere power point versions of word. Uneasy because I was unsure whether some significant learning takes place while students prepared slides for their reports. Usually, the student reporter is armed with a usb, clicks his/her laptop to project on the screen the “masterpiece” prepared for the session. (A blank wall in other classrooms serves as a screen as well.) Complete sentences fill up the slides which the reporter read to the class. Like I wrote in a previous column, I had the students undergo a session on the proper way of preparing slides such as translating the ideas in a list format or what one may call listing them “bullet” form. My thinking was that some learning, some grey cells would be set to active mode since outlining will do away with much of the “cut and paste” and where we lecturers would be assured that indeed some learning would take place “between the ears.” However this kind of slide preparation did not seem to ensure maximizing learning because the presentors became more adept in the use of the power point application by making use of the provision for notes below each slide which served as their report. Others relied on a “codigo” – a textual rendition on hard copy on word of the power point presentation which could easily be again a cut and paste from a source or sources. I also noticed that most presentors were nervous standing alone amidst a big class. You would of course agree with me that usually while a presentor dishes out the prepared slides, not all class members are necessarily concentrating on the on-going presentation. Those assigned for the same session are busy preparing for their own turns; still one or two others who may have been assigned in later sessions would have the temerity though unostentatiously to operate their own “machines” (ipod or laptops), to visit their fb’s, twitter or whatever social media they are fond of. Sometimes one is drawn to think that either the teacher or subject matter is lousy or that the graduate students (who these days are just over their baccalaureate, hence in their early twenties with a sprinkling of thirties and forties) are merely passing their time before doing some serious rite of passage to masters-hood.

    The next trimester, having doctoral level classes to conduct, I was led to introduce the symposium format for reporting. This mode is popular in international fora. The group or panel consists of four or five members. Two panels could be assigned for a class session. So

    how did this symposium mode work out? In the initial session while orienting the class to the course syllabus and with students contributing topics they wish included, they divide themselves into groups, choose their theme and spend one and half hours in the graduate library or search in websites to better orient them to their group theme and its subtopics, ensuring that they have APA data for their list of references used. They return to class usually coinciding with the after-lunch schedule, then share comments on sub-topics with potential relevance to their work-world. The groups compare topics/sub-topics to be sure none are duplicated. The next step is for each group/panel to organize themselves for the series of symposia scheduled for succeeding sessions.

    Let’s describe how the symposium is conducted. The chair introduces the theme and its relevance to the course objectives and the student learning outcomes (SLO’s) expected to result from the theme and subtopics after which the chair introduces each of the other panel members and their respective topics.

    The chair begins the symposium with an overview of the theme and the subtopics. Each presentor briefly introduces himself/herself citing his/her work experience and work-world; then begins presenting the assigned topic and closes with implications or applications of the piece to the personal or work-world. Presentations could be up to twenty minutes maximum especially if illustrative examples are appropriate. Appropriate means that what is being reported can be better understood in context of Filipino contemporary realities. The next presentor begins by connecting his/her presentation to the previous one and finishes by pointing out the presentation’s connection to course objectives and expected SLO’s. The same procedure is repeated. When all members have presented, the chair (who may or may not have his/her individual assigned subtopic) renders a synthesis of the panel’s assigned theme and summarizes the contribution of the group’s presentation to the course objectives as well as a “loud thinking” on the extent to which the session has contributed to the SLO’s.

    A ten-minute open forum follows where questions based on Bloom’s revised taxonomy are given increasing value points from 3 points for knowing (level one) to 13 points (last level). Panel and class members may answer questions during the open forum. Two panels are assigned every session with the last class hour ending with all students writing down their most significant learning with brief illustrations.

    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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