There is a wealth of strategies that are designed to induce, support, construct and develop understanding among learners. Let me review some of them briefly below. While reading please keep in mind the big picture of the meaning –making process (connecting new information to already existing knowledge in a functional way) – explained in our previous newsletter- and the barriers that learners face as they engage in it.
In every classroom and in every subject there are students who understand and do well, and they tend to be the ones who are already equipped with effective learning strategies. As most teachers know only too well, however, not all students voluntarily retrieve relevant prior knowledge, choose to focus on the key aspects of the learning experience at hand and challenge themselves to think deeply. We cannot assume that these mental processes take place so, teachers and school leaders are responsible for our students’ education, as we should design activities to encourage them explicitly.
I would like to introduce a couple of ideas about how to apply these ideas in the classroom, strategies that highlight several key stages in the process of making-meaning.
- Warm-up activities: to get the students to think of the topic that we, as teachers, want to introduce, which is also a good technique to get the prior knowledge out from the students.
- Explanation: teachers ask open-ended questions to get some explanation from the students then the teachers explain the topic clearly and explicitly
- Concrete examples and models: these may help the students to see the deeper features of the new concept, and encourage transfer to other context, when used wisely.
- Elaboration: it is the students’ turn to practice their understanding by trying to create their own explanations.
- Prediction: testing whether they can build hypotheses and prediction then testing them, identifying gaps and missing information. That enhance meaning.