The readings for this week all focused on the concept of what we teach in the classroom. A running theme throughout both chapter readings, as well as the article I chose (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/using-fundamental-concepts-essential-questions-promote-critical-thinking/) which was all about the usefulness of essential questions, is that what we teach has to be meaningful. It has to spark interest in the students and engage them. Chapter 4 of Understanding By Design offered a useful acronym for instructional planning: WHERE. The first H stood out to me the most, standing for “Hook” and “Hold” the students’ attention. Such ways this can be done is through the use of challenging and thought provoking questions, ones that don’t necessarily have one correct answer. Students become more easily engaged when a question is seen as a mystery they need to uncover. Through this, they will not only be forced to think analytically and come up with their own possible explanations, but they will also be excited to receive the new information being presented. This also ties back to using essential questions; the correct EQ’s can also spark students’ attention and, if presented at the right time and in the right way, can resonate with the students and hold their attention not only at the very beginning of a lesson, but throughout the whole unit. As quoted from the article I chose, “If students memorize concepts but cannot think critically using those concepts, then the concepts are meaningless to the student and will soon be forgotten.” Thus, the crucial need for making learning meaningful rather than just using the common practices of coverage and lecture, as discussed in previous chapters, is evident.
Both readings also brought up the idea of using simulations in class to further engage students’ interests. I really love this idea mainly because I can recall times in my high school and middle school experiences when such a tactic was used–I can specifically recall doing a court simulation as well as countless debates in my 9th grade history class. As long as there is a clear goal in mind from the teacher, rather than just hoping for a good outcome, such simulations can be very rewarding. Furthermore, a lot of what the UBD chapter talked about reminded me a lot of the documentary we watched in class about the technical school. The students at this school were being directly immersed in the material they were working on, much like how a simulation or hands-on activity in the classroom works, and were constantly having their work critiqued and revised so that they could go back and make it even better. As this chapter mentioned, feedback is not meant to scare the student away or intimidate them; rather, it is for their own benefit so that they can simply continue to improve upon their work.