How on Earth do we teach?

“We must be mindful of who the users are and design so that they are all maximally engaged and productive. Our design must be truly user-friendly, in other words, not just intellectually defensible.”

This quote is taken from the very beginning of the Understanding by Design chapter for this week and I think it covers the foundation of how teacher’s need to go about teaching. It is impractical to go into a classroom knowing exactly how you are going to teach before you even know your students. How you teach is completely reliant on who you are teaching. A class full of visual learners is going to need much different instruction than a class full of readers, and a mixed class is even more so demanding of specialized instruction. This chapter also instructs that educators must include opportunities for feedback into their instruction. This way, teachers are given the chance to “rethink, revise, and refine.” This is so important because teaching should never be a static course of action. Whether it is a teacher’s first year or 40th year, they should always be making changes based off of evolving content (especially true in Earth Science), evolving students, and evolving teaching resources (Technology, AH!) How teachers chose to teach is going to vary extensively by their content area and their audience but some things must remain constant; we must teach effectively, in a well-rounded manner, and we have to be flexible in how we teach. I think that is one of the most fundamental truths of teaching; flexibility is key.

The Hook section also touches on a fundamental truth of teaching; “the design challenge is to tap intrinsic motivation more effectively.” Like we discussed in the Understanding blog post, what you teach is more or less irrelevant if understanding is not gained. This holds true for motivation. What you put out into the classroom means nothing unless you create an environment where the students are hungry enough to pick it up. The chapter says “the best way to create interest in a subject is to render it worth knowing.” I love this because students so often come into the classroom and say “why do I need to know this?” or “when will I ever use this?” When it comes to Earth Science, my students may not become the next generation of geologists, but they will certainly leave with an understanding that the geosciences affects them every single day, in ways they did not even realize.

The Essential Questions chapter had one part that particularly interested me. It is a common point of discussion on the news where the US falls in comparison to other countries based on Education. One country we are often regarded as falling short of is Japan. The chapter quotes a study that says “In the US, the purpose of a question is to get an answer. In Japan, teachers pose questions to stimulate thought. A Japanese teacher considers a question to be a poor one if it elicits an immediate answer, for this indicates that students were not challenged to think.” I think this is huge and also ties in perfectly into the “what do we teach discussion.” How we teach should yield to what we teach in content, as well as problem solving and thinking skills.


I found an article called “12 reasons student’s just aren’t that into you” and every single reason is a reflection of how a teacher teaches.

1 They think tests reflect my overall knowledge

2 They tell stories more than they teach

3 They end it early (the class or the lesson)

4 Favoritism

5 Put you on the spot

6 Take forever to grade or return work

7 Pick on silent students

8 Be so textbook, like not fun or just everything is so strict or boring

9 Trick answers in multiple choice questions

10 They are not prepared

11 Too much unnecessary work

12 Expect our lives to stop…

All of these reasons are in response to how the teacher behaves, evaluates, performs, or is organized. What I think is interesting is that not one of these reasons is related to what we teach. Students come into classrooms with assumptions about whether or not they will enjoy the subject or if they are good at it or not, but when it comes down to it, how a teacher presents the material is the real defining factor of how successful a student will be.

dont care science


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