Inspiring meaningful learning through continuity

A common phenomenon in teaching is that after spending time focusing on teaching a skill (or a standard CC), in the next couple of opportunities given to students to demonstrate and apply their new concepts, knowledge and understanding, we see little has changed. So how can teachers push students to remember or try harder to apply what was covered in class?

A skill I spent considerable time on during the first semester is presenting. An essential life long skill that students need to grasp so well, not only to be successful in the IB Diploma with TOK, CAS and other subject areas, but also later on in life, at university and in the working world where most people need to speak publicly in one way or another at some point. Telling students what Diploma expectations are or why presenting is useful is one way of inspiring them though not always enough. This semester I used a visit from a storyteller Niall de Burca to inspire them further. Most subject areas expect students to do presentations but do the teachers actually explain how to present well or simply focus on whether the knowledge presented indicates understanding of the unit content?

Naturally each learner needs a different amount of time to apply new skills so teachers can’t expect a whole class to present perfectly after spending time on teaching these skills or any other. Together with a colleague we created checklists to be used when the opportunity arises. Students can self evaluate, peer evaluate or teachers can complete them to remind the students where they are with a specific skill or concept. Rather than have to nag students about all the time spent on developing a skill, checklists can be available in the classroom and easily completed after a task. This way the learning is on-going and meaningful to students whether or not it is actually continuously being assessed. Another example of a checklist we created is a PEAS paragraph checklist which is also attached.

Whether its IB’s Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATL), Common Core or any other skill set or standards in education, they generally all cover the same skills students need to learn to become successful global citizens in our ever changing world. In Future Wise by David Perkins, a member of Project Zero and colleague of Ron Ritchhart at the Harvard School of Education, the question “What is worth learning?” is examined. Creating Cultures of Thinking gives a practical ideas of how to engage students and give units or teaching and learning meaning whereas Perkins invites you to think deeply about it. The point being that teaching needs to focus on Understanding, Inquiry, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Skills that can help students in life. The units or content covered are merely a tool to allow students to learn these. That’s why creating checklists are a useful method to allow students to monitor their progress after they have been taught.