Rebooting Undergraduate Teaching in the Philippines

Planning for change.

September 17, 2014

Of late, I have found the teaching end of my job as University Professor becoming more stale. I belong to a 6-member Political Science cluster running one of the majors of a BA program which has only seen two curricular changes since the 1980s. I increasingly struggle with teaching undergraduate students while growing more and more specialised in my research undertaking. As I was relating to a newly-minted Ph.D. and research collaborator from Ateneo, teaching a bunch of 16-year olds (freshmen age) compels one to be more of a performer of the artist variety, which  a certified old-school professor like myself neither has the talent for nor inclination to. Undergraduate teaching is difficult to marry with the time demands of field work and writing. The task becomes particularly challenging when teaching a general education course to those from diverse academic programs. GE courses require a certain level of hand-holding and one-on-one treatment with students; one cannot assume either the independence or grounding of what it takes to do academic work, at least not at that young age. Teaching at the undergraduate level also requires familiarity with textbook-type, generalist reading material, as opposed to the very narrow concerns of one’s research thrust. Save for the senior research courses  which feature 19-20 year olds (they at least last have that kind of maturity and built-in capability to do independent work), I have never found many occasions to make use of my materials on civil-military relations.


Thankfully, some deliverance will come soon. As we in the tertiary education gear up for the first intakes of K-12 graduates in 2018, we hope not only for older, more mature students but also for higher level instruction as most of the general education courses will now be taught at the junior/senior high school level. It should give us more legroom in redesigning and retooling our major undergraduate programs, perhaps with a built-in honours program to help us level up. With added emphasis on outcome-based education, I am also excited in fashioning out more skills and attitude building into lessons. Without the old “thou-shall-cover-all-Political subfields” in the curriculum, there will be room for me to develop upper level seminar courses that build more on my specialist orientation. Our recent workshop with a colleague from De la Salle University (whose department has pioneered the conversion of Pol Sci courses into OBE formats) gives me hope that I will find renewed interest in undergraduate teaching beyond my favourite research course.


Piqued I may be, I never expect to come near the performance level and enthusiasm of colleagues whose entire career in the university spans unflagging dedication to the craft for 30-40 years. They taught, authored textbooks and manuals and never seemed to tire from handling the same set of courses over and over again within a curricular framework that saw none or little changes. I think I would go bonkers if undergraduate teaching is all I would do; which makes me equally glad that I have research and writing from where I could derive an extra dose of buzz. Thank goodness I have  occasion to get out and spend time in the real world, and be able to to do it in between a reduced teaching load and flexible schedules. I truly appreciate some novelty on my teaching side for a change.


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