What Do Students REALLY Need to Learn?

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past 19 years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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defining disciplineWhat if a group of teachers got together and — in an hour or two — articulated the point of their subject area? How might it transform the way we frame work for our students? These “big goals” written in student-friendly language articulate what the discipline requires regardless of the teacher in front of you.

The following two examples were drafted in 60 minutes as part of a workshop I facilitated in DeSoto, TX.

Science Example (K-12):

  • I can write, talk & draw science.
    • I can write a detailed lab report following my rubric.
    • I can discuss my investigations using whole sentences and appropriate vocabulary.
    • I can make and use graphics to help my listener/reader to understand my investigation and conclusions.
  • I can act and think like a CSI scientist (Critical Science Investigator) using excellent lab safety and critical thinking skills.
  • I can make observations to help me understand the basic scientific concept being explored.
  • I can design and conduct my own experiments using appropriate lab safety and equipment. I can then use my data to draw a conclusion and accept or reject my hypothesis.
  • I can formulate my own informed opinions applying basic scientific knowledge and skills whenever I read or hear a scientific claim from any source including the internet, TV, news or even from my textbook.
  • I can analyze data to explain what happened (a concept, a system or phenomenon).

Career and Vocational Education Example (High School Only)

  • I can investigate career pathways to become credentialed in any career to determine my future goals and actions
  • I can take an unfamiliar situation or problem and resolve it based on training and experience
  • I can communicate effectively by connecting with an individual to include them in the decision-making process

Clarification comes not only from articulation of the goals, but how they are measured in authentic tasks that require application in a novel context. Imagine if, on the first day of school, the “syllabus” became these goals as well as a 1-2 sentence task of what students will produce throughout the course.

Be inspired to reframe how you introduce your discipline (as well as yourself) to your new students!


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