Physics Teacher Education Program in the Philippines
Ed van den BergAMSTEL Institute
University of Amsterdam
Jocelyn Locay-locay, Marilou Gallos
Cebu City, Philippines
Many high-income countries experience
great difficulty in attracting talented young people into physics teacher
education (e.g. Smithers & Robinson, 2005).
The USA and Canada even recruit science teachers in the Philippines which
itself experiences a serious shortage of qualified and competent physics
teachers. How can one develop an exemplary physics teacher education program
and attract a critical mass of students? The Philippine program described
below increased its enrollment from 1 to 30 students per year and provides
some answers to this question.
The Philippines is an island
archipelago with 84 million inhabitants in SE Asia. It was a Spanish colony
for about 350 years and then an American colony until 1946. The US established
an education system for all, which was functioning quite well at the time
of independence (1946) but has declined in quality since (Philippine Congress,
1993; TIMSS, 1999).
The Philippine High School covers
grades 7 - 10. The science curriculum consists of General Science (mostly
Earth Science plus some Physics) in grade 7,
Biology in grade 8, Chemistry in grade 9, and Physics in grade 10. Higher
Education starts after grade 10 instead of grade 12. Nationwide only 8% of
the Physics teachers majored in Physics and about 20% of the Chemistry teachers
majored in Chemistry. The other Physics and Chemistry teachers majored in
subjects such as Mathematics, English, Social Science and Physical Education,
and are forced to teach Physics or Chemistry. Even General Science teachers
are often poorly prepared to teach Physics, as non-physicists often teach
college level physics. As a result much High School physics teaching is superficial,
memory oriented, frequently erroneous, ineffective and boring (Berg et al,
1998; Somerset et al, 1999).
Few universities offer a major
in Physics or Chemistry teacher education because they lack laboratory facilities
and qualified instructors. Most universities, which do have teacher education
courses, have enrollments in the single digits. Thus Physics pre-service
students enroll in whichever physics courses are offered (usually engineering
physics) and then take teaching methods courses together with students of
other subjects such as English, Social Studies, and Mathematics.
Through a cooperation program
with the Free University (Amsterdam), financed by the Netherlands' Government,
The University of San Carlos (USC, Cebu City, Philippines)
invested in science teacher education. A deliberate choice was made to focus
on pre-service teacher education and on recruiting a critical mass
of 30 students per year. World-wide experience shows that several weeks of in-service teacher
education does not lead to major improvements in teaching, particularly if
the main problem of teachers is weak subject matter knowledge. Science concepts
take years to develop, just like trees. The key issues identified in developing
viable pre-service programs were: a) promotion and recruitment of students;
b) the development of special science courses for prospective teachers; c)
the development of science education courses which are subject specific;
and d) support graduates in their first years of teaching and professional
Promotion and recruitment
The first step in producing
better teachers is to attract top students for pre-service program. Every
year we run a massive promotion campaign. Lecturers visits High Schools with
a show of Physics and Chemistry experiments. Philippine students take great
interest in the shows and it is easy to maintain attention of 100 - 200 students.
Schools near the university are invited to semi-annual science exhibitions
put on by pre-service students. The shows and the exhibitions do stimulate
student interest and many take the selection test (500 - 800 annually). Only
10% pass and are interviewed. Of these, about half enroll making for an annual
admission of about 30 students. The typical enrollment before the project
was about 1 student per year.
Many students initially want
to become engineers, lawyers or accountants, not teachers. They enter the
program because of the scholarships and the possibility to go to the best
university in the province rather than a 2nd or 3rd rate
one. Through the block sections in Physics and Physics Education courses,
the group atmospheres, and the inspiring dedication of lecturers, most students
eventually commit themselves to a teaching career.
Science courses: Making science and mathematics interesting
Once you have top students,
you have to keep them by offering an attractive program. This matches neatly
with our first priority for improving Philippine science and mathematics
teaching: to make lessons more interesting.
Seventy percent of the Physics
and Chemistry teachers in our region are teaching more than one subject,
so we opted for a Physics-Chemistry and a Physics-Mathematics teacher education program. The Physics is offered in one block
section for the two programs together, while Chemistry and Mathematics are
taken together with the BSc in
these respective subjects so that class size is still about 30. An added
advantage of the teacher education double
science major is that the total number of required credits in science courses
remains below a BSc program such as BSc Physics,
so prospective teachers cannot apply for industry jobs. Many science
experts will consider this a "questionable" advantage, however we developed a Masters program for the alumni
that includes more physics content (see below).
Science teacher education students
will teach the way they were taught in science courses, not how
they were told to teach in science methods courses. That is why
the science courses are more crucial as teacher preparation than the methods
courses: the science courses should be exemplary for the future teachers. They
should have a stronger conceptual emphasis (McDermott, 1990). All science courses try to model teaching methods, which
are possible and interesting, yet currently unusual, in the crowded and resource-poor
Philippine High Schools. This has necessitated extensive redesigning
of existing courses and in-class coaching of lecturers through team teaching.
The program starts with one
semester of physics based on Hewitt's Conceptual Physics (1998) and
in the spirit of that book presents many everyday examples of physics, exciting
demonstrations, activities, and lots of reasoning. Students find it interesting
and frequently read chapters other than the ones being taught. Laboratory
work and theory are integrated in 1st and 2nd semester.
In the second and third semester an Algebra-based Physics text is used but
we frequently use questions and readings from Conceptual Physics as well.
In the fourth semester we switch to calculus based University Physics of
Freedman and Young (1996). All these
books are available in low-priced Philippine black & white editions.
Although simple experiments with everyday objects are much emphasized, students
also learn to work with modern science equipment and computer-based experiments.
The Departments of Chemistry and Mathematics assign their best lecturers
to the program and offer varied courses as well. Throughout exciting demonstrations, non-cookbook laboratory activities, and small
research projects keep students stimulated and interested. Most science courses
emphasize linking of science concepts with everyday phenomena. Instead of
an abstract and deductive introduction of concepts, many lecturers try (and
were trained) to introduce new concepts inductively through experiments,
demonstrations, examples, and visualizations.
Pedagogical content knowledge,
the heart of the matter
A series of four courses taught
by Physics and Chemistry faculty provides a subject-specific introduction
to teaching Science. A first course emphasizes interactive presentations
and demonstrations and culminates in a small exhibition of science experiments
to train demonstration and explanation skills. A second course focuses on
selection and preparation of lesson materials, includes a first school teaching
experience, and culminates in a large exhibition and science show. The first
batch of students initiated a science theater tradition. Since then students
in this course write and perform a play as well with a plot that involves
many science experiments. The enthusiastic reactions of audiences reinforce
the motivation of the prospective teachers. A third course is on Alternative
Conceptions in Physics and Remediation and focuses on typical learning
problems in the different branches of physics including diagnostic assessment
and teacher feedback. The fourth course is on Assessment in Science,
which amongst others provides an opportunity to revisit the nasty scientific
details in school science. Throughout emphasis is on teaching methods, which
are realistic in Philippine High Schools: 50 - 70 students per class, heat,
noise, and lack of textbooks and of laboratory equipment. This means interactive
plenary demonstrations (Liem, 1987) combined with
individual and small group work during the lessons rather than lecturing
and dictation, which are so common (Berg et al, 1998). In these 4 courses
physics gets a lot more attention than chemistry and mathematics. Therefore
there is still a specialized Chemistry Education course (for PC majors) and
two Mathematics Education courses (for PM majors). In the final year there
is one semester of full-time student teaching split in two 8-week periods,
each at a different schools In spite of model lessons in their science courses
and emphasis on interactive and creative subject-specific methods, many students
initially revert to the boring and ineffective teaching they experienced
in their own high school before. Through intensive guidance from their university
supervisors (science lecturers) students improve and develop quickly.
Placement and aftercare
All graduates are required to
teach for at least 4 years in Philippine schools. During that time they cannot
obtain a passport. Our Dean works closely with the Regional Education Office
and with public and private schools in order to place students in High Schools
and if possible in pairs so they can assist each other during the difficult
first years of teaching. Our first batch established a good name and since
then alumni have been much in demand.
The most critical period for
the development of teachers' classroom practice is the first two years after
graduation (Eraut, 2000) when they learn classroom
management skills and gain mastery of the basics of teaching. We try to support
them through occasional alumni meetings and extensive networking between
alumni. Only after the first years can new teachers start applying the varied
teaching strategies and skills they learned in their pre-service program.
However, many may tend to adopt the more traditional teaching practices of
senior colleagues, and assume that the new methodologies, which did not work
for them in the first year of teaching, will never work. Therefore within
two years, new teachers might benefit from a professional development program.
A concrete method of sustaining long-term professional development in a private
university is through a Masters program where expenses are covered by tuition.
There was a Masters program but it suffered from poor quality control. The
Masters program was revamped, better tailored to the needs of teachers, and
designed to include a no-thesis option. Enrollment immediately increased.
In 2004 about 40 of the then 139 alumni were enrolled. Many alumni are eager
to advance their credentials before starting families. The science component
of the Masters program requires a BSc or beyond
level in several courses.
Support and faculty development
The following forms of outside
support have been received during the development of the program: The Philippine
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) donated science equipment, student
scholarships, and faculty scholarships. The Philippine Commission on Higher
Education has provided student scholarships. The University of San Carlos
provided a new building and laboratories. The Dutch Government through the
Free University provided funds for equipment and facilities, a long-term
consultant (6˝ years for physics education
and 2 years for mathematics education), short-term consultants, and
short courses for faculty.
Faculty development in the project
was focused on gaining knowledge of typical Philippine classroom conditions,
on developing pedagogic content knowledge, and on coaching lecturers to improve
teaching. This was accomplished through Masters and PhD studies with research
closely linked to the development of courses and teaching strategies for
the science courses for teacher education, through team teaching in physics
and physics education courses, and through joint course development. One
Physics lecturer trained for 6 months with Fred Goldberg in San Diego and
then implemented a Constructing Physics Understanding optics unit with extensive
monitoring of conceptual development of individual students (Rosaroso & Berg, 2003). Teacher education students vividly
remembered the intensive reasoning about concepts two years after the experience.
Copying the Experience
The promotion and recruitment
campaigns would do well in low-income countries as for many students the
scholarship is the only way of continuing their studies. In high-income countries
it may not work, as there are many other ways of getting into more attractive
and high status studies. However, just like in the Philippines, high-income
countries have to invest heavily in promotion and recruitment and once a
program is running, its students can take part in this. The important message
is that one should strive for a critical number (20 - 30 per year) of students
and thus concentrate physics teacher education programs at only a few universities
per country. In that way one can create the needed special physics and physics
education courses. Alternatively different institutions with small numbers
of physics teacher education students could cooperate and organize a joint
intensive summer program which emphasizes physics
pedagogy and teaching ideas. A large investment in one program is better
than spreading investment over many programs with sub-critical mass. In the
US one might want to focus recruitment on freshmen and sophomores rather
than on High School students.
Berg, E van den., Alfafara, R., & Dalman, T.
(1998). Case studies of science and mathematics teaching
in the Philippines and lessons for teacher and school development. Paper
presented at the annual conference of the National Association of Research
in Science Teaching, San Diego, USA.
Congressional Commission on Education. (1993). Making
Education Work: An Agenda for Reform. Congress of
the Republic of the Philippines. Quezon City,
Eraut, M. (2000). Teacher education
designed or framed. International Journal of Educational
Hewitt, P.G. (1998). Conceptual Physics 8th edition,
Liem, T.K. (1987). Invitations to Science Inquiry 2nd edition. Chino
Hills (CA): Science Inquiry Enterprises.
McDermott, L.C. (1990). A perspective on teacher preparation
in physics and other sciences; The need for special
science courses for teachers. American Journal of Physics,
Rosaroso, N., Berg, E. van den (2003). The
evolution of Philippine student conceptions of the formation of shadows
Smithers, A., Robinson, P. (2005). PHYSICS IN SCHOOLS
AND COLLEGES Teacher Deployment and Student Outcomes. Research University
of Buckingham: Centre for Education and Employment . Carmichael
Press University of Buckingham Buckingham MK18 1EG UK. http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/education/research/ceer/pdfs/physicsprint.pdf
Somerset, A.H., Alfafara, R. & Dalman, T. (1999b). Teaching and Learning Science and Mathematics
in the Classroom: Effective and Ineffective Pedagogy Compared. Cebu City:
SMEI-USC, Talamban Campus.
Third International Mathematics and Science Study (1999). International
Study Center, Boston College.
Young, H.D., Freedman, R.A. (1996). University
Physics 9th edition. Addison-Wesley.
Extensive documentation on project, program, and courses exists and
is available from the authors.