Friday, August 8, 2014

Where does the act of teaching begin?

Some brief notes/ideas from my reading of How Students Learn. (ongoing)

Students come to class with preconceptions about how the world works.

This is a huge idea that all teachers must consider.

I am examining this idea from the perspective of a social studies/history teacher.

This idea is likely the most fundamental idea that enables one to teach. You must start by recognizing that each learner is NOT a blank slate. Rather, learners bring a variety of existing ideas into the classroom, wherever that may be. Teachers must decide what to do with these existing ideas, especially since many of them are likely not aligned with the objectives of their teachers, especially given that many disciplinary ideas are not obvious and are, in fact, counterintuitive.

As history teachers, we need to spend a considerable amount of time getting students to expose their existing ideas about how the world works. In our classes we must craft situations that allow our students to reveal their ideas about how the past works, how the discipline of history works, and, more generally, the structures and elements of the social world that students currently inhabit.

So, in sum, the act of teaching must begin by discovering what ideas student already possess about the topics and questions you are exploring. If you do not take this step seriously, there is small chance that meaningful learning will occur.

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