Mr. Jonathan Barcelo (left), Ms. Aprhodite Macale (middle), both PhD in Chemistry Education candidates and Ms. Dinah Vidad (right), a PhD in Mathematics Education graduate, present their studies. Photo Credits: Cledelyn Cuya, Aprhodite Macale & Dinah Vidad

On 5-6 March 2020, five scholars under the PhD in Education program of the Faculty of Education (FEd), University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) presented their studies during the 6th National Research Conference in Science and Mathematics Education held at Fort Ilocandia Resort, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. The scholars conference is annually conducted by the Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI); furthermore, it is an activity under the Capacity Building Program in Science and Mathematics Education (CBPSME) of DOST-SEI. This year, the conference centered on the theme of “Transdisciplinary Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Sustainable Development.” The scholars’ studies focused on various methods of learning strategies, instructions and assessments in science and mathematics education (SME) in response to the learning difficulties and gaps encountered by students in these academic disciplines:

  1. “Development and Evaluation of a Prior Knowledge of Chemistry Concepts Test (PKCCT) for Health Science Students Using Dichotomous Rasch Analysis” by Jonathan M. Barcelo, candidate – PhD in Education Major in Chemistry;
  2. “Transitioning from Senior High School to College Using History of Math: A Phenomenological Inquiry” by Nigel Glenn N. Javier, student – PhD in Education Major in Mathematics;
  3. “Effect of Flipped Classroom with Peer Instruction on Chemistry Achievement and Classroom Environment” by Aprhodite M. Macale, candidate – PhD in Education Major in Chemistry;
  4. “Experiential Learning Approach: Effects on Mathematics Achievement and Attitude” by Liel Gem V. Pondara, candidate – PhD in Education Major in Mathematics; and
  5. “Students’ Mathematics Problem Solving Difficulties and Coping Strategies: A Model Building Study” by Dinah C. Vidad, graduate – PhD in Education Major in Mathematics.

An Event Worth Remembering: Memories of the Scholars

The event proved to be a great and worthwhile experience for everyone given the abundance of academically enriching interactions with fellow DOST scholars, professors and officials. For Ms. Aprhodite Macale, this year’s conference was her most memorable one as it was her first time attending as a student of graduating status. Ms. Dinah Vidad thoroughly enjoyed the conference as well; this year marking her third time in attendance. As a resident of Ilocos Norte, “welcoming my previous mentors and schoolmates….was such a pride and honor.” 

Because of this conference, Mr. Jonathan Barcelo “became more critical about research in science education” and Mr. Nigel Glenn Javier realized that there is still so much to be done to develop SME in the country. Everyone further understood the essential values and responsibilities of being representatives and scholars of both UPOU and DOST; specifically that of improving and enforcing the results of presented researches. Summing it up in the words of Ms. Liel Gem Villaver-Pondara, it is their “responsibility to help the Filipino people in any possible way…especially in the field of SME.”

Research for a Reason: Inspirations and Motivations

Both educators in the field of chemistry education, Mr. Barcelo and Ms. Macale chose to focus their studies on the development and assessment of innovative methods concerning the instruction and evaluation of students in the classroom, dealing with the use of dichotomous Rasch analysis for PKCCT development and “peer instruction as the active learning activity in the flipped classroom”, respectively. 

As mathematics educators, Mr. Javier, Ms. Villaver-Pondara and Ms. Vidad all concentrated their researches on the learning needs of their students. Mr. Javier focused “on how senior high school graduates from different strands transition to college using history of math.” Being inspired by his course in History of Math at UPOU, he believed that the humanistic focus of Math’s history and its integration into a program curriculum “can help students, especially those who graduated from the non-STEM strand, appreciate math and persist in their Math Education program in college.” On the other hand, Ms. Villaver-Pondara’s research investigated the effects of an experiential learning environment on the overall attitudes and achievements of Grade 7 students in Mathematics. Her research focus was motivated by her belief that beneficial changes in Mathematics education can be brought about by matching specific teaching pedagogies with certain mathematical concepts. Lastly, Ms. Vidad’s research shed light on the most common difficulties encountered by students in each phase of any problem-solving activity “as described by Polya.” 

Both Ms. Macale and Ms. Vidad have cited their students’ learning difficulties in the classroom as the primary reasons for conducting their research. In Mr. Barcelo’s case, his research served as a response “to develop a science education research, which is novel, or is not a repetition of what has already been studied and could contribute to nation-building.” He aimed to empower students in making fact-based decisions on health or to enlighten people about the value of their health decisions. 

With years of experience in their chosen fields of study, these scholars continue to pursue their love for SME through classroom instruction and research. 

Scholars of the Nation, Sparks of Innovation in STEM Education 

When asked about the state of Philippine SME, they all acknowledged the need for its improvement in various areas. According to Mr. Barcelo, SME is detached from students’ real-life experiences while laboratory components are “too rigid.” Moreover, he has noted that academic content is “too disciplinal” and that there is a need to “redefine the role of basic education in preparing students for tertiary education.” Through her dissertation, Ms. Macale also noted a huge lack of teachers for SME and a mismatch of teachers and their taught subjects. Furthermore, she observed that although students may have interest in SME, they are hindered from realizing their true potentials due to several underlying socio-economic factors. 

Although the quality of SME in the Philippines still has a long way to go, the scholars are confident that through their execution and dissemination of researches and research outputs, problem areas and academic gaps will be efficiently evaluated and well-addressed. By focusing on a specific research area, proposing solutions, and encouraging innovations in program curriculums, Mr. Barcelo seeks to use chemistry concepts in the improvement of health literacy. For Mr. Javier, imparting the right philosophy of teaching mathematics to his students by connecting it to their daily experiences is essential in his role as an educator to ensure the relevance of his subject to their situations.

Furthermore, Ms. Macale, Ms. Villaver-Pondara and Ms. Vidad will continue to contribute to this cause by conducting classroom-based research, conceptualizing appropriate teaching pedagogies, maximizing available technological resources, and sharing their findings with fellow researchers and curriculum implementers. Ms. Vidad has also stressed the importance of disseminating research results and outputs to the fundamental stage of primary education. 

Ultimately, everyone has high hopes for the future of Philippine SME. As they envision its eventual rise on the global educational ranks, the scholars expect the nature of SME to become responsive, critical, realistic, and relevant to society. They also hope that more teachers will dedicate themselves to SME and help other Filipinos see these subjects’ values in their everyday lives; moreover, that existing avenues for research dissemination (e.g., seminars, conferences and conventions) will be sustained by institutions such as DOST-SEI. Coupled with these aspirations, of course, is their collective commitment to be “agents of change” as scholars of the nation. 

Because of their education and experience in UPOU, the scholars have the necessary skills, keen mindset, and resolute dedication to contribute to nation-building. Their efforts anchored by the “UPOU-gained reminder: ‘Para sa Bayan’”, these scholars pledge their unrelenting commitment to raise the quality of SME in the country; to impart their expertise and to be of service to their fellow Filipinos now and for the generations to come.