‘A child’s day at school should make sense. It should be about something. ideally the various activities should work together, building upon one another for some purpose.’ M. Simpson. 1990
For students to become engaged in exploring and expressing ideas, their learning must be relevant and purposeful. relevance and purpose help children establish the connections between prior knowledge and experience and new learning. It is this endless blending and connecting which is central to meaningful learning. How children learn and build understandings is affected by the complex of meaning structures that they already have in place which are, in turn, affected by emotions and intentions.
The affective aspect of learning has, I believe, become the neglected sphere of educational planning and practice. With the emphasis on levels of achievement, outcome statements and standardized test results, curriculum planners have tended to concentrate on the cognitive domain in order to develop concepts.
Although I am no longer involved in classroom teaching (Phew!), I still work with primary school students on a regular basis. Talking with these youngsters about what they are working on at school is interesting and revealing. They can tell me what they are learning about and what the assessment piece is but they can’t tell me why they are studying the particular topic or how the study relates to their lives.
This concerns me. Their school days have little meaning to them because they are not making sufficient connection between what they are studying and their own life experiences. They are far too busy preparing for the dreaded standardised tests.
The use of narrative/stories is one way that the affective aspects of learning can be integrated with the desired cognitive outcomes. Stories provide information about feelings, motives and cause and effect situations in ways which pose few comprehension difficulties for children. Imagination is a powerful conceptual tool which is already well developed in school age children. It is, however, largely underused in the classroom. Children are expected to use their imaginations in creative writing lessons but they are not encouraged to be actively imaginative in other areas of study.
Why not? Why not use the existing imagination skills of our students to fire up their desire for knowledge and understanding?
Imagine the possibilities!