We all know that students need a clear learning objective and success criteria and most observers in a classroom will ask students questions to check their understanding of our expectations. But, have you ever asked a student: “Why are you learning this?” The answers might well be limited and sadly easy to guess: “Because we have to”, “Because it’s written on the board”, “Because it might be in the exam”.
What really upset me about this realization, is that I don’t just blindly teach the units as the came up in the syllabus, hoping my students will be ready for the test. The truth is, in my last post, I spent 3 months designing a curriculum starting with the really big ideas and enduring understandings. I have wrestled with the WALTs and assessment criteria and felt I had a petty good grasp, or at least a good defense, of why I was teaching each specific concept and skill. But none of this did I pass on to my students.
From now on each of my learning objectives and success criteria will be accompanied by its justification. And all will be on display to my students and available prior to each lesson. So to all those teachers who are faced with the question “Why do we need to learn this?” try adapting one of these three responses to suit your objective; and if you can’t… then why are you teaching it?
If your justification does not reduce to one of these, please share it in the comments.
3 Reasons To Learn X
1) The learning of this concept will affect our understanding of the world.
(help us make decisions or judgements, make sense of new data and question past experiences)
2) Whilst doing this, a skill will be learned or practiced along the way.
(this may be a practical skill or an interpersonal or learning skill – think De Bono’s HoMs)
3) The learning of this concept or skill is necessary to allow us to get to here.
(next step/ end goal)
**quick tip** Get the students to come up with their own justification from time to time, just as you might get them to devise their own success criteria or discuss what the learning objective was.