What on EARTH are we teaching?

When it comes to the concepts that I have been introduced to in the past few semesters of Education, I can’t help but evaluate how my past educators would stack up against the criteria we face today. There are very obvious traits that are considered ineffective teaching, such as 90 minutes of straight lecture. I can definitely think of teachers that have done this, and seen how the students suffered because of it. 

Some of the other methods are less obvious in my mind, yet are still remarkable in their ineffectiveness. My best example would be my 9th grade Earth Science teacher. He was a nice guy; approachable and well spoken. However, that class did not leave me with any sort of lasting impression, despite the content being my major now. My most significant memories of that class include hanging out with my friend and my boyfriend in the back of the room. I also distinctly remember learning the definition of viscosity INCORRECTLY. Such a simple concept, and yet I still get mixed up in whether viscous material is resistant or not, all because of learning it incorrectly over six years ago!

Looking back I can see that this teacher must have been more focused on coverage rather than understanding. The question for this week is “what do we teach?” but I think that question is more or less irrelevant without also asking “what are they learning?” An educator can teach as much as they want, but if their students are not grasping the concepts, all of that time has been wasted. 

teach the way they learn

For me this is an important idea because understanding earth science has so many real world implications. To understand atmospheric composition, climate, and historical warming and cooling patterns is to understand climate change and how it affects us. To understand resource scarcity in materials, food, and water is to understand an issue that seriously plagues parts of the world and even in the United States. In my opinion, to truly influence understanding in what our Earth is facing is one in the same as inspiring environmental stewardship. 

“Smart in the Middle Grades” chapter three states, “Teachers who develop curriculum that helps young adolescents understand themselves and the world around them in ways that are mentally energizing do more than “teach well”; they are catalysts for student investment in a fulfilling future.” This resonated with me because if my teacher had been more energizing with the topic I might have had an easier time figuring out my career path. Additionally, it is important to me to energize students not only to empower their future, but also the future of generations that will face a very different relationship with the planet than we do.

All of this points to how important it is to keep vigilance on understanding in the class. I found an article from Smart Brief that discussed the difficulty of gauging understanding in classes that make large use of technology. Leveraging technology is being implemented to “allow teachers and students real time feedback to aid in the modification and personalization of instruction in the classroom.” I think utilizing digital checks of comprehension is an awesome way to make the best use of technology while maintaining a check system on the understanding within the classroom.



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