How to ensure learning is relevant and meaningful for today’s students

Kara Dowson‘Why are we teaching the children what we are teaching them?’, asks Kara Dowson, Head of Junior School & Nursery at Akeley Wood School, UK.

Teachers spend an umpteen amount of time planning a progression of lessons for the children in their care to ensure they reach their full potential. What they teach is potentially pre-determined by the National Curriculum to check they are aligned to expectations. How they teach is a carefully considered practice to facilitate differentiation and ensure all children are challenged and supported appropriately, usually in a creative and engaging way. Teachers are skilled practitioners in both of the above, however, due to a number of factors, there is something that we don’t potentially take as much time and consideration as we should.

Consider the question why? Why are we teaching the children what we are teaching them? Also, somewhat more importantly, why are the children learning what they are learning? How is the Curriculum we plan relevant to their daily lives and the bigger picture? This, I pen, as relatability.

My passion for ensuring that learning is purposeful and meaningful stemmed from my early career working in the Foundation Stage. Having the freedom to plan from children’s interests resulted in a flexible and engaging curriculum, which inspired the children on a daily basis. I could ensure it was purposeful and also tackled current day interests and trends. We would jump from a week focused on Doctor Who to hatching butterflies and chicks.

We, as educators, have a responsibility to facilitate learning around modern-day issues and tackle them with children. We need to encourage students to be inquisitive, challenge respectfully and have the freedom to ask questions and debate.

Relatability ensures that children’s learning can be placed within a real-life context. They understand what they are learning, but also why they are learning and how this is relevant. This can be achieved by encouraging children to think about things from a different perspective, providing a purpose for learning with a tangible outcome or tackling current global issues in an age-appropriate way. From experience, when teachers have the flexibility and freedom to plan like this, not only are they much more enthused, classrooms are more engaged and learners are more enthusiastic.

You can read the full article published in teaching journal, Innovate, here.

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