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What Do Students Want?

I am just returning from a visit to five different schools where we had a chance to interview students about what they liked about learning. The most common answer was when they got to do work outside the classroom that helped somebody: real work for real people. That was no surprise. As Kurt Hahn, the founder of Outward Bound said, "There are three ways of trying to win the young. There is persuasion, there is compulsion, and there is attraction. You can preach at them: That is a hook without a worm. You can say, 'You must volunteer,' and that is of the devil. You can tell them, 'You are needed.' That appeal hardly ever fails."

God has created us all with a desire to play a part in his story of restoration. Our students respond when we give them that opportunity.

Students also talked about what we might call “instructional practices” – the way teachers taught, their teaching “techniques,” the way they managed the class. Their comments are instructive.

  • They loved working in groups.

  • They liked hands-on activities more than lectures.

  • “Don’t just tell us the answers; let us figure it out on our own.”

  • “We all want to have a chance to give our ideas – some people have answers, and then we don’t get to talk.”

  • “Worksheets all day are boring – maybe it helps the teacher, but not us.”

  • “…Taking notes – just goes in and out. We write it down but don’t really pay attention.”

  • “Don’t make assignments with just right or wrong answers. Help teach us how to think.”

Perhaps not as compelling as the student comments, here is a chart comparing deeper learning to more traditional instructional practices.


How do the ways we teach (beyond what we teach) reflect biblical principles? How can we plan learning experiences that honor, engage, and challenge all students? How can we design instructional practices that inspire students to care about their learning and work?


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