“The GE conversations will continue because you have begun to craft the GE of the future. A GE that meets its objectives, including building a collaborative culture in search of solutions to the many problems plaguing the nation and humanity. In this time of COVID, we are tapping into the values, ways of thinking, and doing that we inculcate in GE,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Cynthia Rose Bautista during the successful conclusion of the UP System GE Conference 2021.
The Conference was held with the following objectives: a) reflect on the teaching of general education (GE) in a time of crisis; b) rearticulate the relevance of GE philosophy; and, c) reinvigorate the teaching and learning of GE. It was conducted via Zoom with a simultaneous YouTube live stream on the following dates: 26-27 April 2021, 5-6 and 10-11 May 2021. This was organized by the UP System GE – Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs (OVPAA) through the Technical Working Group (TWG). The TWG is composed of Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs (AVPAA) Prof. Evangeline C. Amor, AVPAA Prof. Alyssa M. Peleo-Alampay, Prof. Patricia B. Arinto (Member-at-Large), Prof. Leah E. Abayao (UP Baguio), Assoc. Prof. Shane Carreon (UP Cebu), Assoc. Prof Nancy A. Kimuell-Gabriel (UP Diliman), Asst. Prof. Mark Oliver S. Llangco (UP Los Baños), Prof. Maria Constancia D. Carillo (UP Manila), Asst. Prof. Nelfa M. Glova (UP Mindanao), Prof. Ricardo T. Bagarinao (UP Open University), and Assoc. Prof. Maria Severa Fe S. Katalbas (UP Visayas).
During the conference, the faculty shared their experiences through Baon-Bidahan, a series of conversations among faculty teaching the same System-11 GE courses. These conversations were followed by Math, Science, and Technology (MST), Arts and Humanities (AH), and Social Science and Philosophy (SSP) cluster-based discussions. The whole conference culminated in two plenary sessions. The first plenary session delved into the importance and relevance of GE; the second discussed the GE Program Assessment Framework (PAF).
Participants of the UP System GE Conference 2021. Screenshots taken during the Plenary 1 Conversations.
The first part “Baon-Bidahan: GE Conversations: How did you teach GE X in your CU?” served as an avenue for GE faculty to share their experiences and strategies during the pandemic semesters, including the opportunities and challenges they encountered. The first GE Conversation was ARTS 1, where AVPAA Evangeline C. Amor gave the opening remarks. In this and the following conversations, faculty-panelists shared the relevance of GE courses they are teaching; innovations, strategies, or resources explored in preparing course packs, assessment tools, and classroom management techniques. They also discussed opportunities and challenges related to the interdisciplinarity of GE and its modality. These conversations were held for 5 days:
26 April 2021
|ARTS 1 (8:30 AM – 10 AM)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Diego Silang Maranan (UPOU), Assoc. Prof. Shane Carreon (UP Cebu), Asst. Prof. Mars Edwenson Jo T. Briones (UP Visayas-Tacloban), Mr. Jaime Oscar M. Salazar (UP Diliman)|
|Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Pierce S. Docena (UP Visayas-Tacloban), Asst. Prof. Jessa A. Amarille (UP Visayas-Tacloban)|
|PHILARTS 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 NN)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Julie Prescott (UP Visayas), Asst. Prof. Gerardo O. Lucena (UP Diliman), Prof. Jeremy Dela Cruz (UP Los Baños), Prof. Grace Odal-Devora (UP Manila)|
|Moderator/s:||Prof. Mary Oveta Villareal (UP Visayas), Prof. Susan Mila P. Alvarez-Tosalem (UP Visayas), Ms. Elaine L. Montserrat (UP Visayas)|
|WIKA 1 (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Liberty A. Notarte-Balanquit (UP Los Baños), Asst. Prof. Efmer Agustin (UP Visayas-Tacloban), Prof. Jovy M. Peregrino (UP Diliman), Asst. Prof. Janus Cabazares (UP Mindanao), Asst. Prof. Jayson de Guzman Petras (UP Open University)|
|Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Odessa Joson (UP Manila)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Mx. Jessalyn Martinez Basco (UP Manila)|
27 April 2021
|COMM 10 (8:30 AM – 10 AM)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Jerry R. Yapo (UP Los Baños), Mr. Jermaine Beltran (UP Baguio), Ms. Merle Dawn S. Comidoy-Acol (UP Mindanao), Prof. Mishima Z. Miciano (UP Manila)|
|Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Nelfa M. Glova (UP Mindanao), Ms. Michelle Gay M. Nidoy (UP Mindanao)|
|ETHICS 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 NN)|
|Panel Members:||Assoc. Prof. Ma. Paula G. Sioco (UP Manila), Assoc. Prof. Ma. Liza Ruth A. Ocampo (UP Diliman), Asst. Prof. Olivia Mendoza (UP Baguio), Prof. Krissah Marga B. Taganas (UP Los Baños)|
|Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Vlademire Kevin Bumatay (UP Baguio)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Ms. Karen De Castro (UP Baguio), Asst. Prof. Bernard N. Caslib (UP Manila)|
|STS 1 (1:00 PM – 3:00 PM)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Alvaro N. Calara (UP Los Baños), Prof. Migel Catalig (UP Manila), Prof. Mark Albert Zarco (UP Diliman), Prof. Ronnie Calugay (UP Baguio), Prof. Rene N. Rollon (UP Diliman), Asst. Prof. Victor M. Romero II (UP Tacloban), Prof. Jack Medrana (UP Baguio)|
|Moderator/s:||Prof. Ruth G. Gamboa (UP Mindanao)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Nelfa M. Glova (UP Mindanao)|
5 May 2021
|MATH 10 (8:30 AM – 10 AM)|
|Panel Members:||Assoc. Prof. Ariel L. Babierra (UP Los Baños), Prof. Jose Maria P. Balmaceda (UP Diliman), Asst. Prof. Therese Basco-Uy (UP Manila), Asst. Prof. Cherrylyn Alota (UP Cebu), Asst. Prof Joy Ascano (UP Baguio), Asst. Prof. Alexis Erich S. Almocera (UP Visayas), Asst. Prof. Annie Lyn Oliveros-Yusiong (UP Tacloban), Asst. Prof. Ritchie Mae. T. Gamot (UP Mindanao), Assoc. Prof. Ariel L. Babierra (UP Los Baños)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Editha C. Jose (UP Los Baños)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. John Mark T. Lampos (UP Los Baños)|
|SCIENCE 10 (10:30 AM – 12:00 NN)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Mary Joyce Flores (UP Cebu), Asst. Prof. Jumar Cadondon (UP Visayas), Asst. Prof. Kevinilo Marquez (UP Los Baños), Prof. Marie Josephine M. De Luna (UP Manila)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Jonnifer Sinogaya (UP Cebu), Asst. Prof. Fleurdeliz Maglangit (UP Cebu)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Mr. Ariel Raye Rica (UP Cebu)|
|SCIENCE 11 (1:30 PM – 3:00 PM)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Ivy Amor F. Lambio (UP Los Baños), Asst. Prof. Angel Queenie Dequito (UP Visayas), Prof. Annabelle U. Novero (UP Mindanao), Prof. Zenaida Baoanan (UP Baguio)|
|Moderator/s:||Prof. Aimee Lynn Dupo (UP Los Baños)|
6 May 2021
|HIST 1 / KAS 1 (8:30 AM – 10 AM)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Jely Galang (UP Diliman), Mr. Jose Matthew Luga (UP Baguio), Asst. Prof. April Hope T. Castro (UP Los Baños), Asst. Prof. Alena Novillo-Macasil (UP Cebu)|
|Moderator/s:||Prof. Neil Martial R. Santillan (UP Diliman)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Francis Justine Malban (UP Diliman)|
|SAS 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 NN)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Aniceta Patricia T. Alingasa (UP Visayas), Assoc Prof. Josephine C. Dionisio (UP Diliman), Prof. Enrico U. Baula (UP Manila), Prof. Dan Paolo R. Yema (UP Los Baños)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Rozel S. Balmores-Paulino (UP Baguio)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Prof. Evangeline C. Amor (UP Diliman)|
10 May 2021
|AH — PS 21, ENG 13, PAN PIL 19, SPEECH 30, SEA 30 (8:30 AM – 10 AM)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Karlo Mikhail Mongaya (DFPP-UPD), Assoc. Prof. Rose Arong (UP Cebu), Assoc. Prof. Pauline Mari F. Hernando (DFPP-UPD), Asst. Prof. Raymond Macapagal (CIS-UPD), Asst. Prof. Charles Erize P. Ladia (DSCTA-UPD), Asst. Prof. Grace Saqueton (DECL-UPD)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Nancy Kimuell-Gabriel (DFPP-UPD)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Mary Grace Concepcion (DECL-UPD)|
|MST 1 — MS 1, GEOL 1, NASC 4, DRMAPS, L ARCH 1 (10:30 AM – 12:00 NN)|
|Panel Members:||Asst. Prof. Franklin S. Fontaza, Jr. (UP Diliman), Assoc. Prof. Lilibeth Salvador A. Reyes (UP Diliman), Prof. Edanjarlo Marquez (UP Manila), Prof. Leopoldo P. De Silva Jr. (UP Diliman), Prof. Aurora Odette Corpuz-Mendoza (UP Diliman)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Rachel Ravago-Gotanco (UP Diliman)|
|SSP — KAS 4, SOC SCI 30, MIN STUD 1, SOC SCI 5, SOC SCI 2 (1:30 PM – 3:00 PM)|
|Panel Members:||Prof. Alejandro Ciencia, Jr. (UP Baguio), Asst. Prof. Kennette Jean I. Millondaga (UP Mindanao), Dr. Mary Barby Badayos-Jover (UP Visayas), Asst. Prof. Enrico V. Gloria (UP Diliman)|
|Moderator/s:||Assoc. Prof. Mary Dorothy Jose (UP Manila)|
|Asst. Moderator/s:||Asst. Prof. Alvin Campomanes (UP Manila)|
Relevance of GE courses
“Art is essential, especially during these difficult times,” Asst. Prof. Pierce Docena, moderator of the ARTS 1 Conversation, said.
This sentiment echoed across the GE conversations, as the faculty inquired into the relevance of GE courses not only during the pandemic but also before and beyond. Dean Arinto, in synthesizing the conversations, stressed the enduring and particular relevance of GE courses amidst the crisis. The faculty also recognized the resonance of GE courses in everyday life, especially in the pandemic times, and encouraged further discourse on imparting the courses’ relevance to the students.
Dean Arinto also cited several illustrations shared during the conversations on the relevance of GE. For instance, the necessity of locating art in everyday context and the participation in the making and writing of history. The faculty also emphasized on situating ethics and ethical dilemmas in crisis situations — both big and small — and the construction of identity in scarcity and struggle. Communication is a discourse, according to faculty teaching Comm 10; while mathematics is in and for human flourishing, as described during the Math 10 conversation.
Challenges of Online Remote Learning / Teaching
The COVID-19 pandemic has been the prevalent challenge for the teaching and delivery of GE courses over the past semesters. Due to the pandemic, face-to-face classes were not allowed, necessitating online remote learning and teaching. Faculty members had to respond to the shift accordingly. The shift, however, comes with its own set of challenges.
The pivotal role of GE faculty in the new teaching and learning set-up was brought to light in the conversations. Even before the shift to online learning, one of the concerns of faculty teaching GE is encouraging their students to appreciate the course. This concern has been amplified by the pandemic. Now, communicating, motivating, and engaging with students must be prioritized in spite of the physical separation and failures of technology.
One of the biggest obstacles cited by various faculty during the GE conversations was the difficulty in engaging students in both synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Some faculty members had difficulties with the limited number of students attending the synchronous sessions. However, most faculty members still affirmed the importance of having synchronous sessions. Synchronous sessions were identified as a venue for clarifying concepts further, answering unclear questions, and even as centralizing or synthesizing ideas that the students picked up during the asynchronous sessions. In the end, extending patience, sensitivity and compassion are crucial for the online remote learning mode as some students face their own problems during this difficult times.
For instance, the issue of mental health was frequently brought up. Few faculty members discussed the need to understand a student’s mental health, which could affect performance and engagement. This issue is all the more relevant in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, especially with the anxiety of contracting the disease. Heavy workloads were identified by many students as a challenge. Faculty members have to extend sensitivity and compassion, and make do with reduced and/or revised requirements to their students. Similarly, this role entails greater responsibility among the faculty for students who tested positive for COVID-19.
In the context of broader societal issues, some AH and SSP courses also identified the problem of red-tagging and the harms it presents to the faculty teaching the course as well as the students. Particularly in the AH Conversation, Asst. Prof. Karlo Mongaya from UP Diliman shared how PS 21 was red-tagged even before it was offered. Ideological differences were also seen by some faculty members as challenges faced by students in relation to their family members.
Assoc. Prof. Kimuell-Gabriel underscored how the faculty were able to hurdle the challenges of teaching during the pandemic, crises, and calamities. The panel members even expressed support for academic ease and shared several steps they have taken to ease the burden of studying under critical times while striving to maintain criticality and quality. The nationalist and people-oriented framework for GE is reiterated once again in the context of the growing fascist authoritarianism, right populism, further encroachment of neoliberalism, as well as old and new foreign interventions. It was also affirmed that there is a need to always take a critical stand against foreign interventions, inequality, human rights violations, economic oppression and gender discrimination.
Meanwhile, non-course related factors also presented significant challenges for the online remote learning. Chief among these factors was the interruption of internet connectivity. In the Science 10 Conversation, for example, it was shared that students did their requirements at night since the connection was faster. Various considerations such as extending deadlines were given by many faculty members to cope with this reality. Finally, there is the issue of typhoons and disasters that hit various parts of the county last year which greatly affected deadline dates and requirements given to students.
In spite of adversities, the faculty expressed how the GE courses, their students, and themselves thrived. Innovations and strategies on preparing course packs and assessment tools were shared, classroom management techniques were imparted, and various opportunities during the online remote learning mode were discussed.
Strategies on Preparing Course Packs, Assessment Tools, and Classroom Management
The new set-up also demanded the faculty to craft new strategies in teaching, assessing their students’ performance, and managing their online classrooms.
GE faculty made sure that their students are engaged in the online classroom. Prof. Notarte-Balanquit from UP Los Baños shared that “Zoom-talakay at Kwentuhan” encouraged UPLB students to participate in class discussions. Nonetheless, students are not required to open their cameras, to be fair to those who do not have reliable internet connectivity. Some faculty, on the other hand, give incentives to those who open their cameras during class.
The faculty also used applications and websites for their class activities. The popular video clip-sharing service — TikTok — was mentioned as a platform for engaging students. Lectures were also uploaded on YouTube while other faculty members utilized videos in the same platform for additional resources. Of course, a few faculty members also discussed their experiences with University Virtual Learning Environment (UVLe) and Google Classroom. Others preferred the use of Canvas for classroom management.
To ease them and their students from unnecessary burden, some faculty members took out quizzes, final exams and papers from their course requirements. They also limited the required readings to one to two sources, as the topic can be discussed and enriched by the teacher and students via Zoom. Other faculty members also “digitized” their requirements by asking their students to submit video logs (vlogs) and digital posters.
Students value immediate feedback to their output. Thus, Mx. Jumar Cadondon from UP Visayas provides comments in their LMS, especially for questions that the students answered incorrectly. Asst. Prof. Bernard Caslib from UP Manila uses SpeedGrader, an embedded application in Canvas to give timely feedback to the students.
The pandemic produced a valuable opportunity for the faculty to critically reflect on what, how, and why they teach. According to Dean Arinto, they were compelled to think about the essentials and most critical lessons that students need to learn at this time. On the other hand, the role of the learners — the students — was emphasized. “[It] is not all about the teachers. Students need to take an active role in their learning,” Dean Arinto added. Thus, the faculty must develop in their students skills on learning how to learn and to instill passion for learning.
Some faculty members also took the opportunity to extend support to their students, not just academically, but also emotionally and psychologically. Assoc. Prof. Shane Carreon from UP Cebu shared that he waits for 15-20 minutes in the “office” (meeting room) should students be able and willing to attend the synchronous sessions. He encourages them to drop by the “office” to provide comfort and support to his students.
Greater collaboration across GE courses was also mentioned in some GE Conversations. This is particularly true for STS 1, Kas 1 and SEA 30. Collaboration among experts was seen as an opportunity for strengthening interdisciplinarity. Asst. Prof. Macapagal from UP Diliman even shared how the online remote learning mode in SEA 30 can lead to an easier facilitation of lectures from foreign professors.
Concluding the Conference: Plenary Conversations
The second part was dedicated to Plenary Conversations with the theme “General Education in/and the Next Normal.” It served as a platform to discuss the GE Philosophy, the importance of GE, and its intersectionality/interdisciplinarity in the morning, and the GE Program Evaluation Framework in the afternoon.
The morning session was graced by distinguished personalities in UP, including Professor Emeritus Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr., University Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad, Professor Emeritus Michael L. Tan, UP Diliman Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo, and moderated by Dr. Maria Cynthia Rose Bautista, the current UP Vice President for Academic Affairs.
To commence the program, Dean Patricia V. Arinto synthesized the conversations previously held. Dean Arinto recounted the salient points discussed during the conversations in connection with Michael Moore’s theory on transactional distance, which is precisely highlighted by the remote teaching and learning mode. She described this space as a “psychological and communications space to be crossed,” which potentially produces a dissonance between the inputs of the instructor and the learner. To bridge this distance, there must be dialogue between the teachers and learners, structure in the course design elements to determine its responsiveness to the students’ needs, and learner autonomy, or the students’ ability to control and manage their own learning. These three factors are addressed accordingly by the GE faculty through constant communication with their students, creation of course packs, and limited synchronous sessions and consultations.
Dean Arinto reaffirmed the crucial role of general education in developing essential capacities for human flourishing, as evidenced by the GE Program objectives such as developing not only breadth of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the disciplines but also critical and creative thinking skills, scholarship, passion for learning and values such as nationalism, a sense of social justice and independence.
Thereafter, the speakers shared the importance and relevance of GE courses. The first speaker for the morning session was Professor Emeritus Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. who imparted 12 life lessons to be learned from GE courses. He was followed by Professor Emeritus Michael L. Tan who gave a speech on solace and strength drawn from the liberal arts. Then, it was followed by UPD Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo on discussing the relevance of GE courses. Last but not the least was the speech of University Professor Emeritus Gemino H. Abad on the nature of language — or rather, what is it “to write”.
In summing up the morning session, VPAA Bautista said that “liberal education is the hallmark of college education.” VPAA Bautista also stressed the timely relevance of the GE Program, adding that it develops “not only measurable competencies but critical and creative thinking and a capacity for transformative action”, as well as promoting the “loftiest principles at the core of a UP education of pagiging makatao at pagiging makabayan.” Finally, she affirmed the role of GE Conference 2021’s as a “wellspring of rich insights and also brings us closer to crafting our strategies for the future” — a critical event as the transition to the next normal begins.
The afternoon session was dedicated to the evaluation framework of the UP GE program, presented by the Technical Working Group (TWG) on GE Evaluation. Prof. Fernando Paragas shared the 2021 Framework for the evaluation.
The main objective is to determine the extent and depth to which the GE Program meets its expected outcomes. Specifically, they monitor how GE courses are meeting the expected students’ learning outcomes, evaluate how the GE program has met its expected program outcomes; and assess the implementation of the GE program. The preliminary results of the UP System’s pilot implementation of the survey was presented by Prof. Paragas.
In the open forum, the participants shared their recommendations on how to assess GE. For Prof. Mendoza, every evaluation is meant to provide feedback. Thus, the parameters (i.e. purpose, research design) must be set holistically if the data will be used to improve the GE program. In the same vein, Prof. Pacheco recommended that a climate survey be conducted, an alternative method that can be used in response to the sentiment that evaluation is tedious, so the appreciation for the data presented must be tempered. He suggested the use of SET data on GE courses vis-a-vis non-GE courses that can be useful for context and comparison.
AVPAA Amor formally closed the GE Conference by thanking the TWG on GE Implementation and the secretariat who worked behind the scenes throughout the event. While being “apart but together” she reiterated the objectives of the Conference – reflect, rearticulate, and hoped that the reinvigoration would be the next step of the teaching and learning of GE coming from the Conferences. Borrowing Prof. Alvaro Calara’s takeaway during the first plenary session, she ended: “Think well, think of others; and think together.”
Individual synthesis, as well as relevant resources to the concluded UP System GE Conference 2021, can be accessed on UP OVPAA’s website. For the recap video, please watch below:
GE Conference Summary, Technical Working Group on GE Implementation