Ministry of Education, Guyana

More Than Just Eyes and Ears

Experiential learning is powerful, and you can create ways for students to learn with all their senses in and out of the classroom.

Every teacher knows that kids love to give their opinions. Opinions end up getting shared whether you’re asking for them or not. Sometimes they’re yelled out in class, and other times they’re shared through assignments. If you’re lucky, they’re on topic, but sometimes they come out of left field.

Hearing what’s in a student’s head is one of the joys of the job. I love rich discussions. I love them in classroom discourse and online discussion groups. I’ve learned from my students arguably more so than they’ve learned from me.

But what happens if the opinion that a student shares is one that you totally disagree with? The answer, of course and it’s hard sometimes is to keep that to yourself.

That isn’t to say that we do nothing, but as role models in academic discourse, it means we have to honor opinions and focus on learning and sharing diverse viewpoints, even if that means a student settles on a viewpoint we do not share.

1. A student’s opinions most likely come from the home: Students build opinions based on those around them. They overhear, they are actively taught, and they acquire their opinions by listening to and interacting with the adults in their life. It can be difficult, but our task is to be someone they want to listen to because they trust our objectivity. It’s our job to inspire, not convince.

2. Give feedback on the quality of communication, not the content of the opinion.

3. Teach about bias, not just false information: We’ve all been warned about helping students recognize fake news, but it’s also vital to continue teaching about biased reporting. This kind of news isn’t necessarily fake, but I tell students that in an argument, any argument, if we want to be respected for sophistication, we must find ways to gather evidence through true data, not biased opinions.

Help students learn to identify the publisher of websites so that they can cite from more objective sources. Help students be more critical of those who counter with opinion, not fact. Help students learn to tell an emotional argument from a logical one, a manipulative strategy from one that is straightforward in its persuasiveness.

4. Teach the art of the counterargument: Help students recognize that the other side no matter what side that is has a point. Those who disagree with you aren’t crazy. That also means pushing back when kids are aligned with what you believe. Make sure that any student who gives an opinion must not only back it up with fact-based evidence, but also must acknowledge the other side and be able to cite at least one fact-based resource that supports that opposing side.

This not only challenges students to argue at a higher level but also encourages empathy.

Student’s Ideas Are Works in Progress

A child brought up one way may go through their life collecting facts and opinions from others and, as a result, may come to an entirely different decision by the time they reach adulthood.

But we must celebrate diverse views without being a voice of bias. Students are getting enough of that already. May our schools be safe places to learn facts and take risks, places where students can try out their own opinions. We want to help our students gather the strategies they need to one day make any argument they wish.



Read 6227 times Last modified on Monday, 09 October 2017 09:35
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