Enhancing the relevance of new learning

It is not surprising to see relevance of learning in the effective pedagogy section of the New Zealand Curriculum. A lot of research was undertaken in the 1990’s in New Zealand on this and hence teachers in New Zealand have long discussed how relevant and meaningful learning will increase interest, engagement and motivation for learners. What is of interest here though, is that the NZC explanation expands from just relevant contexts for learning to include ideas such as curiosity and learner agency.

Effective teachers stimulate the curiosity of their students, require them to search for relevant information and ideas, and challenge them to use or apply what they discover in new contexts or in new ways.

Curiosity is a bit of an enigma in schools. Speak to any teacher and they will say they value it, but often it is not high in our priorities when designing learning experiences for our classes. Susan Engel’s research found that students’ curiosity decreased as they grew older. She does believe that adult influence is a factor in this. This paper by Engel suggests 4 ways that educators can help students become more curious again.

Sparking curiosity in Science

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How Might We make the 100th Anniversary of World War 1 more relevant for students?

Monday August 4th 2014 is just a couple of days away. It’s also an incredibly significant day as the 100th anniversary of Great Britain declaring war on Germany so marks the beginning of World War 1.

Much of the plans around remembering this event in New Zealand are centred on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings on April 25th 1914. There are however some major events to think of before then.

Aug 29th 1914 forces capture German Samoa – the start of a long and storied relationship between New Zealand and Samoa.

Feb 3rd 1915 first time NZ troops engage in combat during WWI at Suez Canal against Ottoman troops.

The important part in bringing these (and other events) into the classroom is making them relevant for students. Rather than just lets have a minutes silence, draw a picture, write a diary entry – think about how you can get students thinking critically about events from the past and how they relate to today and in the future.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to join a group writing education guides/resources to prompt inquiry learning about the 100th anniversary of WWI. I am looking forward to getting the resources ready and accessible for teachers to be able to adapt for their classrooms.

In the meantime, check out the great NZ’s First World War Centenary website at http://ww100.govt.nz/ and start thinking about what prompts you could give students.

Is it a celebration?

Is it a commemoration?

Would you sign up to fight in Syria today? How is that the same or different to signing up for WW1?


This post is my catch up post for Day 29 of my Questioning Quest.