Given the events of the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, it is evident that, just like many aspects of our lives, education will have to be reanalyzed. While student-centred learning provided educators with tools to usher in the new century, as an education model it will have to be reorganized in order to fit the needs of today’s students and teachers. Given the COVID-19 pandemic that has crippled the lives of millions, it is also clear that many educational institutions are struggling to cope with the changing landscape of education and student needs. One trend that is central in this new reality is online, distance learning.
A strategy that is helpful when planning lessons is the WHY strategy, which, while incorporating student-centred learning principles, avoids some of the problems inherent in teaching from a distance.
One of the most central aspects of student-centred learning is that students are encouraged to ask questions that will help them arrive at a solution to any given problem. One of the best questions is Why? It is no secret that students can gain any information from the Internet via computers and smartphones. Our role as teachers has changed drastically because of this reality. With distance learning, we need to strive to encourage understanding of our subject, so that our students are not simply searching the Internet for quick answers.
Literature teachers can ask students to look at why certain characters of a story, novel, or any other narrative behave the way they do. It is not enough to ask students to summarize a text because the summary of any text can be found online, and students will skip a crucial aspect of education—arriving at their own conclusions or answers.
Because simple fact-finding can be done online and needs to be avoided, history lessons can focus on why someone did something, not when they did it. Through analysis of the specific behaviour of a historical figure, students learn the basic facts of who, where, and when, while going deeper into analysis of why something was done.
Physical education is very important in the time of distance learning. By providing students with specific guidelines as to why certain exercises are important and their effects on human bodies, teachers add value to the subject. Students need to understand why they are doing the exercises and how the movement will benefit them.
Distance learning will most certainly make its mark on educational institutions throughout the world, and we need to use a variety of strategies to address the changes we are all experiencing. Asking Why? is one.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Asmir Dzankovic was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but grew up in the USA. He started teaching in 2012 with a focus on ESL, English writing, and drama. Since 2017, Asmir has been teaching ESL in The Middle East.
This article is featured in Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Winter 2022 issue.