Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's also about team play

In a previous article (Tip to Top), I outline how should a student prepare for the board. Using basketball as analogy, preparation for board exam is like playing basketball ALONE against five opponents. The article proposes that the central figure in a board exam is the student himself. Preparation is the key.

A lot of events happened since I wrote that particular article. We were shocked to learn that a good number of USM's courses were beaten beyond recognition. When almost all of the exam takers flunked, it is a symptom of a systemic problem. It is no longer about individual's constraints but rather shared by the commune.

Since we have started discussing about board exam through basketball, let me continue my assertion through basketball as well. This time I'll continue with the role of team mates. The role of classmates and the student community as a whole. Your classmates and student organization also help a lot in supporting an individual. Using our hypothetical game, an individual strives to take a shot with the assistance of his teammates. It would be a lot easier right than playing alone? In what ways therefore the student community can help nurturing a future topnotcher?

Synergy of individual capacities. Through collaboration, one can increase its capacity. For example, one student can increase his knowledge by sharing with fellow students through group studies and intensified group learning activities. No one can muster all knowledge by himself. It is a given fact that everyone has its own competencies. One can excel in one area and maybe dumb in one area. In a solid learning group, everyone compliments their weakness with other's strength. Like basketball, there is a sharp shooter, a blocker, one with good assist skills, a ball handler, etc. The strength of the team is more than the sum of the individual players' strength.

Molding a standard. In a good group dynamics, we induced uniformity within a certain batch. We are creating a batch of more or less the same caliber. Is it in this state that we do not rely on the "star" players or the cum laudes to do the job for us. A star player-centered approach is like rejoicing one or two topnotchers at the expense of 100 or more flunkers. All the star players are with Miami Heat in the last season, but they still lost. It is already about the team.

For four to six years, a particular batch is nurtured to act as one. Let me illustrate an example. During our time, if we encounter a difficult problem, we usually retreat to a group and try to solve it. If we cannot solve it, we coordinate with other groups to find for answers. It is not really cheating because we understood what we are copying. At the end of semester, we have almost the same line of thinking. Our student organizations also are academically oriented. Fines are imposed on activities that nurture academic standard (convocations, seminars, etc.). When we took the board exams, our scores are close to each other . Needless to say, almost all of us pass the board (3 of us landed in top 10 and the rest are claiming they are no. 11). When we have created a "standard", the batch goes up and down together. Yes a batch can also go down together if they are not nurtured the right way.

Nurturing a positive synergitic power. In learning through groups, the disparity of knowledge among individual is narrowed but the knowledge has increased exponentially. In a synergitic environment, 1 + 1 is not 2 but 2 raise to a certain power. The sign of that exponent is crucial. If it is positive, the result is multiplied several times. If it is negative, the value is reduced as well. I think I have illustrated above how to nurture a positive power environment. It is group dynamics with a good content.

Let us take a look at how the negative power can come into play. The current student community dynamics is not really helping. When you have a student organization whose primary objective is how to win in beauty contests and sports activities; when you have an organization whose agenda is how to spend every last cent making acquaintance parties memorable, pasiklaban more bonggacious, and kick-out parties like there is no tomorrow, then I am afraid we assigned a negative coefficient to our synergetic power. What is worse is that societies and other organizations are forcing fellow students to attend irrelevant activities through the imposition of fines. Sadly, we only realize this after 5 or more years after the fact. At a time when this negatively signed powered activities have become the "culture and standard" of a student life. At a time when students are so addicted to it that taking it away will require a therapeutic session similar to that of a drug-dependent individual. 

Let the good times roll. Learning does not have to be dull. We also share the same laughs, and cry together for nothing. It is hard to infuse learning when the mind is not happy. Our minds are sometimes wired in such a way that we receive new ideas when we are happy. But all activities should conform to a goal of academic excellence. So that when an activity contradicts with our academic pursuit, we snub it.

Willingness to learn. I happened to teach for a year in USEP (currently, the leading university in Mindanao in terms of board exam results). I was so proud then. Coming from USM was like a giant entering a dwarf's house. The facilities there was not comparable to the ones we had in USM. The campus dean even warned us not to boast about USM because they already accept the fact that USEP is 20 years behind. But what strikes me the most is the students' willingness to learn. They make do of what they have. Students would join you in lunch and invite you to parties in the guise of asking question about lessons. They were eager to learn. Students there are good in befriending professors to learn new techniques. USEP students are clever enough to observe you when you go to library hoping that they will discover where did you got all those difficult questions. They even join USM for review to learn from USM. It is a closely knit community who thinks as one. Now if I visit USEP, I am the dwarf entering a giant's house.

In an engineering tradition, let me propose the following equation to describe a board exam performance:

Z = (aX + bY)exp (W * U * V)

where Z = board performance
X = individual taker's knowledge
Y = other takers' knowledge
a = individual taker's motivation to learn
b = other takers' motivation to share (b = 0, when there is no collaborative learning; b<0, when other takers are bad influence)

W = student community and supportive mechanism for learning
U = the teachers and their willingness to share knowledge
V = administration and its ability to provide a conducive environment for learning

Team spirit is one factor beyond the individual player. We still have to discuss the role of teachers (like the coaches) and the administration (team management). That would be discussed in the  next articles. I encourage you to share this article to those whom you know is interested about board exams too. The more shares, it will give me the synergistic power to write more.

Vis Unita Fortior. - United strength is stronger

(This is the second article of the board exam series. Please read the next article: Bored teachers)

No comments:

Post a Comment