Question: How to make students engage in learning? How to make a unit/lesson look more relevant and more meaningful?
Answer: One of the problems faced by teachers is when the topic taught seems irrelevant or devoid of a meaningful context. The students seem indifferent because the content, at first sight, looks rather severed from their needs and backgrounds. This is often the case in our schools because teachers become more concerned with covering the whole curriculum rather than mediating a learner-oriented content.
Becoming a better teacher: eight innovations that work by Giselle O. Martin-Kniep addresses this and other problems as well in a comprehensive and thorough manner.
To make sure that students identify with the subjects that are taught and engage in the curriculum, teachers can use what Giselle calls "essential questions". These questions "allow teachers to tackle the curriculum while helping them treat it as something to be discovered and negotiated." They can help generating debates and raise the level of discourse in the classroom and can also serve as a good way to relate previously taught topics to the currently taught one.
Giselle argues that these questions have the following criteria in common:
- They are universal
- They are never fully answerable
- The more we grow mature, the more we discover we still have more to learn about the answers
- They lead to the realization that knowledge is an ongoing process and one that makes life worth living
Here are some examples by the author about what essential questions look like:
- Are we really free?
- What is the meaning of life?
- Do we have control over our destiny?
- If we are so alike, how do we explain our differences?
- Can there be good without evil?
- Are all cultures equally valuable?
- Can you win and lose at the same time?
- When is cheating not bad?
- Is education essential for success in life?
How can we use these questions? It depends on the topic or unit that is going to be taught. For a lesson talking about the merits of the Internet, one may start by asking the question: Is technology a foe or a friend? The question: are humans inhumane? Can provide a framework for a lesson about "crime", etc..
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