Having my computer in and out of the repair shop for the last 12 days has been frustrating on many levels. First there is the obvious, I am taking an online course. Second, there is the unedited photo work that my clients have been waiting for. Last, but not least, is the total lack of online contact with the world. It has been a learning experience.
It has also given me time to research, read and think about what I have been learning and the concepts that have stuck with me.
This course asked us to think about strategies to engage and motivate our students. What has stayed with me most are the bigger picture concepts of Metacognition, Essential Questions and the biases that stop our students from being fully involved in the learning process.
“If the content you are expected to teach represents “answers,” then what questions were being asked by the people who came up with those answers? This conceptual move offers a useful strategy both for seeing a link between content standards and important questions and for coming up with ways of engaging students in the very kind of thinking that is required to truly understand the content.”
The act of teaching requires you to impart the information your students need to know the answers… but the expectations of institutions, students and our culture, require much more.
One British study finds…
“A major finding from study was that dominant across all student year groups, institutional types and subjects, students have a consumerist ethos towards higher education, wanting ‘value‐for‐ money’…. The question of what is ‘quality’ or ‘good’ about a particular institution should thus be framed within the contingent question of what a student is looking for in an institution, which may or may not be academic reputation.”
” Students wanted options for a ‘tailored’ education… the diversity across the sector indicates there is no one “student experience” rather each individual student has his or her own experience.”
This is a clear indicator that to engage and motivate our students, we must try to find a way to ‘tailor’ the experience to their expectations.
To do this, I believe, it is necessary to tap into their motivators by having them ask the big, or Essential Questions of themselves. When you get them to ask themselves why they are learning what they are learning and what it means to them, you engage them in the very thinking that motivates them to find meaning in the content.
Our students bring with them many obstacles to the engagement process for us to overcome. From cultural to socio-economic, time to technological access, all in their own way barriers to a perfect class experience. It is not easy to help them to get past these obstacles to engagement.
Then there are the myriad of cognitive and perceptual biases, from psychological to experiential. We are now learning, through neuroscience research, that some of these biases are hardwired into us. What kind of questions we ask matters when it comes to even beginning to model a metacognitive practice of ‘thinking about thinking.’
Here is one of my favourite thinkers and neuroscientists site:
His clear, deeply informed opinions are an example of one of our culture’s best minds.