Three Rules to Spark Learning

If you’re in the mood for a little inspiration this morning, take a peek at this 2013 Ted Talk from chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam. In it, he reminds us to not confuse technology use with innovation in education.

Flipping your classroom, for instance, so that students watch video lectures at home rather than in class, is just the same instructional practice wrapped up in a new package (an iPad).

It’s not that technology is not useful, or can’t help us teach and learn in new ways, but that it takes more than a flashy device to drive learning.

How does Musallam spark learning? In three simple words, he: Puts. Curiosity. First.

Check out his three rules to spark learning below:

#1: Curiosity comes first. In many ways, the trendy practices of writing objectives and standards on the board, backwards planning from a learning goal, and issuing “exit slips” to make sure they “got it” have caused teachers to ignore the most important motivator of learning: curiosity. How many lesson plan templates have you seen that begin with: What will make students curious about this topic? What questions do they have? How do you know? My answer: none. I haven’t seen any lesson template, or teacher, really, put curiosity first. But just imagine if we did. 

#2: Embrace the mess. Teaching and learning are not linear processes. To truly put curiosity first, we need to be a bit blind to our “curriculum map,” making room student interest to drive the pace, direction, and outcome of a class period, unit, or course.

#3: Practice reflection. Perhaps you can run on autopilot when implementing a scripted curriculum or marching through a textbook chapter by chapter, but teaching without thinking is not a possibility when you build learning from student curiosities. When you make curiosity the center of your practice, teaching becomes a much more intimate act, dependent entirely on your relationship and interactions with students as people. You have to get inside their heads to see what drives them, and it will be different from year to year and class period to class period. Heck, it will be different from student to student. Reflecting on your choices, seeking new learning for yourself, and pushing to refine your craft is a must.

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Categories: Stage 1: Adult Learning and Leadership, Stage 2: Active Processing

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