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Teaching in Context

Teaching in Context is an important skill for educators to understand. The idea of teaching in context means that we teach new information, knowledge and skills in the context of what the student already knows. This helps students in many ways.

Benefits of Teaching in Context

Helps students retain information

Ryan Woll, high school principal, says, “Science shows that when you [teach in context] a student is 20 times more likely to remember it.” This makes sense because teaching in context means that we are not teaching concepts in isolation; rather, the concepts being taught are linked to things the student already knows and understands.

Helps students understand what is being taught

This experience from Ryan Irelan illustrates how teaching in context helps students understand:

"I had [a] teacher in high school …who taught Geometry. All of his examples had to do with him and his Dad working in their carpentry business during the Summer months when school was in recess. Whether it was the Pythagorean Theorem or finding the area of a rectangle, he always had an example about a problem he faced in the previous summer’s carpentry work.

I … was more attentive in my Geometry class. I also did better in my Geometry class (although I was never a great math student in general).

My geometry teacher gave me a real world situation with which to frame the geometry he was teaching. The context he used help me relate the geometry concepts to something I’d better understand.” (Source)

When teachers show how the information they are teaching can be used, and even better, students will naturally be more attentive. They can then conceptualize and understand the information on a deeper level.

Helps students apply information

From this deeper understanding, students are then able to apply the information in a variety of situations. Rather than just learning the definition of a word, for example, they can actually understand how to use the word in a story they are writing.

Applying information not only helps further retention, it also allows for true learning to occur. This is part of a cycle of true learning, says Ryan Woll. Students learn, connect what they are learning to what they have learned previously, apply that information, and then revise. From revision, they can start the learning process again, continually adding to the knowledge that they have as they continue to apply it.

Helps students seek learning

It is through this process that students will want to gain an even deeper knowledge and will seek it out from teachers and other resources. When students are involved in a project and need answers to complete that project, they will search out answers and solutions. This hunger for learning, means that students want the answers. They will be listening and seeking knowledge if they are engaged and needing this information for a real world issue or problem.

As parents and educators, the more we apply learning in context, we will truly trains and educate students that are ready for the challenges of life ahead.

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