Learning How to Learn: Teaching to Engage Students - Digital Promise

Learning How to Learn: Teaching to Engage Students

four high school students standing around a table collaboratively working on an engineering project

November 1, 2022 | By

A. B. C. D. F. How did five letters of the alphabet become a measure of one’s capabilities?

In today’s day and age, grades have become everything; people are practically defined by the grades they earn in school, leading to academic competition to be the top of the class. But is the emphasis on a mere letter or number worth it? In many instances, grades become counterintuitive as they lead to more students cheating; in other situations, too much stress on grades can lead to depreciating mental health. While grades enforce learning in schools, there is too much stress on “getting an A” and not enough focus on actually learning. But what does it really mean to learn?

Today’s classrooms are usually set up in the following way: Take notes on a specific subject,
do homework, study for the test, repeat. Familiar, right? The problem with this approach to learning is the fact that it simply does not prioritize setting kids up for success in the real world. Preparation is often overemphasized in school, when in the real world, one must know how to correctly act on good instincts, think in unique situations, and expect the unexpected. According to a recent study by Forbes, “While 86 percent of 4th grade teachers said they put ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot of emphasis’ on deductive reasoning, that figure fell to only 39 percent of teachers in 8th grade. Deductive reasoning is one of the key skills in critical thinking, as it requires students to take a logical approach to turning general ideas into specific conclusions.” In today’s society, one of the main skills that employers look for is critical thinking and the ability to “analyze evidence, question assumptions, test hypotheses, observe and draw conclusions from any form of data. Critical thinking is not just a skill, but a habit formed to help with problem-solving.” It’s been established that critical thinking is very important in society, so the question arises, how can this importance be displayed in classrooms? How do we reinvent the classroom to better prepare students for the real world?

high school student wearing a red hoodie smiling standing in front of a red brick wall

Sunitvir Taunque, a Junior from Lakota Local School District, is a member of Digital Promise’s National Student Advisory Council

One major aspect that needs to be addressed in many classrooms is the teaching style of the instructor of a specific subject. Educators should consider how to better engage students in challenging and unique situations that require proficiency and understanding of the subject being taught. This can be improved by changing the way instructors are taught to teach; instructors themselves should be exposed to different teaching styles, as well as to students of different ages and competency levels in order to gain experience in teaching in a variety of ways. Experienced teachers should be able to support future instructors in how to create learning experiences for students that are both engaging and beneficial in the long run. The role of a teacher should not be simply to help kids pass a specific course, but rather to ensure that kids are able to apply what they learn. The “why” is much more important than the “what” in education.

Another aspect that should be addressed is the variety of tools used in the classroom; I’m sure everyone has had that one teacher who simply acquires learning material, tests, and homework from other sites and teachers—meaning minimal effort is applied. While it is encouraged to use other teachers’ material for teaching purposes, teachers should put in effort and thought into making their own relevant and meaningful material. Additionally, technology—specifically, the internet—is an amazing resource for learning as it offers a limitless amount of information to students. This can be seen through the now relatively common practice of handing out school-owned laptops to students.

One piece of technology I believe should be leveraged more to enhance learning is virtual reality (VR). Virtual reality, though still an emerging piece of technology, can be used to get students out of their comfort zone and into the real world while in the classroom; it could allow teachers to create specific learning experiences that require a mastery of learned material and knowledge of its applications. While a major obstacle is feasibility, I believe that this could be solved by creating exclusive partnerships between school districts and reliable VR technology providers such as Oculus VR and iTechArt. These partnerships should be encouraged and created through Digital Promise’s huge outreach and expertise in incorporating technology into learning.

Learning. Not memorizing. Not simply passing a unit test. Learning.

Learn more about the League of Innovative Students and check out the League of Innovative Students application. This opportunity is currently open to high school students who attend school districts in the League of Innovative Schools. We will be announcing the first student network at the Spring 2023 League of Innovative Schools Convening in Talladega, Alabama.

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