Engagement and Context

I’m stuck on chapter 9 of Settlage and Southerland’s Teaching Science to Every Child.  In this chapter, the authors describe the five phases of a learning cycle model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend and Evaluate.  From my observations of classrooms, as well as my beginning observations of STARs, I wanted to discuss the first E: Engage.  Settlage and Southerland describe “engagement” as when the “teacher taps into student backgrounds as a way to lead into the topic they are to be investigating” (p. 220).

How do we engage our students into the conversations?  In looking at reform-based teachers, engagement includes framing the lesson within a cultural context that incorporates student experiences.  Meaning, drawing from the backgrounds of our students first and using this as a contextual framework to build our investigations.  Student experiences become the focal point and foundation, the “hook” towards grabbing their interest and engaging them into the culture of science and the culture of our classrooms.

How have we (you, I, all of us) done this?  What questions have you asked your students to understand their worlds and how they mesh with the constructed science of your classroom?  How do you incorporate these experiences to connect their context with complex, abstract and scientific ideas?  How do you support their connections in this mutual meaning-making experience?  I ask these questions rhetorically with the idea that they SHOULD be asked whenever we think about and plan classroom activities.  My point being, and one I have been thinking deeply on is this:  Are we teaching to our students, or are we learning with them?

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About Yen

I've taught for over 9 years as a high school Biology/Physical Science/Life Science/Biotechnology instructor, and as a curriculum designer and teacher trainer and director for a small career college in Maryland. I am now starting the next leg of my journey into the PhD program in the hopes that one day, I will be able to support, train and assist my fellow colleagues in their own career and educational paths.

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