But then it dawned on me one day. Don't the kids have a right to know why what they are learning is important? Is it not our duty, our obligation to provide context and relationships so that learning makes sense?
When was the last time you stopped to think about what exactly what you wanted the kids to take way from your teaching. And I am talking about something deeper than just the knowledge and facts in the lesson. How do you want your students to feel and think after they complete (either successfully or unsuccessfully) a lesson?
This week's #edchat centered around just that question. What should be the essential outcomes students take away from what we are teaching? The conversation was fast, and, as a few points, filled with so many good thoughts and statements. It really is worth your time to check out the archive.
At one point in the conversation several participants attempted to list their Essential Learning Outcomes. Many provided real insight into exactly what students should take away from our teaching. Here is just a few of what was suggested:
- I think of the essential outcome as the goal for the end of the unit. Kind of like the objective(s) for the whole unit.
- Understanding by Design says to plan our units with the end in mind. Start with essential outcomes, make the assessment, then lessons.
- Essential outcomes should be focused on students applying their learned knowledge to their real life experience.
- The outcomes of each lesson may vary but the lessons should be working toward the common end goal.
- I'm a big believer that if you can't explain to me what you're doing, then you don't really understand what you're doing. But kids need to be taught HOW to explain their thinking. It doesn't come naturally, must be modeled.
- I think essential outcomes & learning objectives need to be more specific than just producing critical thinkers, questions, etc.What does a critical thinker look/sound like? What kinds of questions do we want them to ask? It's hard to think specifically, to imagine an end when we don't exactly know how it will turn out. But makes for better lessons
If we are going into our classrooms and simply teaching content, without any depth or meaning or without making any connections we might as well pack it in and go home.
Someone suggested lessons should provide more questions than answers. If students are just taking knowledge in and repeating it back then we can't now call that learning, can we? Learning should be about discovery. Learning should be about wonder. If kids are not asking questions then we, perhaps are not focused on what is essential.
While providing for more higher level thinking (as in Blooms) it is more than that. For me essential is making connections. Am I ensuring my students can connect what we are learning to themselves, their community, globally? Am I helping them understand how what we learned yesterday connects to today and how it leads us to tomorrow? And most importantly, have I helped them see why all those things are important? And have I instilled in them the thirst and hunger to want to know more?
Do essential outcomes vary from lesson to lesson. The outcomes may vary but the essential ones are always the same.
Why do we have to learn this? Not because we have to, but because we want to...