I have a quiz question for my fellow educators: Are your unit plans primarily designed to engage:
A) Your students?
B) Your curriculum guidelines?
At the heart, educators always prioritize answer A: your students. In practice, however, it may turn out that your plans more closely reflect your own learning preferences or the curriculum requirements.
If you want your students to maintain focus, stay motivated and truly absorb the learning, then it is essential that teaching practices focus on the kids rather than the curriculum. That means it’s important to consider how your units connect to the multiple ways that students prefer to digest information.
A Simple Framework to Improve Your Unit Plans
One of the common misconceptions about learner engagement is that you need to create a personalized lesson plan for each individual that speaks to specific interests. That approach would be very overwhelming.
What is important is that when you plan each unit you include at least one touchpoint that connects to each student’s preferred way of learning, so they feel motivated and stay engaged with the material. You can accomplish that goal using Emergenetics®.
Even if you do not have a Profile of your own or your students’ Youth Reports, you can still use Emergenetics as a guide. As you review lesson plans, consider the combinations of thought as well as Behavioral preferences of Emergenetics and make sure to include the following elements somewhere in the unit:
Convergent Thinking (Analytical and Structural preferences)
Students who prefer this combination of thought are often most engaged when they understand why they are studying a topic and how the knowledge will benefit them. Connect your learning target to a real-life, relevant goal and clearly describe the plan to achieve that objective.
Divergent Thinking (Social and Conceptual preferences)
Learners who prefer Divergent thinking typically absorb information best through visuals and by having a chance to connect with other students about their ideas. Provide opportunities to brainstorm or ideate as youth seek input from others in the learning community.
Abstract Thinking (Analytical and Conceptual preferences)
Abstract thinkers tend to enjoy engaging with new concepts in unique ways. Be sure to first explain the unit’s final project, describe the relevance of your learning goal and incorporate activities that are more inquiry based or problem solving focused.
Concrete Thinking (Structural and Social preferences)
Youth with this thinking combination often learn best when they understand the expectations of the unit and how they will work with others. Provide a clear description of what is expected of your students and share an example to model what success looks like.
Expressiveness explains how individuals prefer to interact with one another through verbal communication. As you prepare, include activities that honor those who appreciate time for individual reflection as well as those who enjoy sharing their thoughts with others in the classroom.
Assertiveness can be used to describe the pace at which the lesson will unfold. Be mindful about defining the tempo as well as accommodating students who appreciate a steady approach and those who enjoy completing work quickly so they can move on to the next task.
Flexibility sheds light on an individual’s reaction to change that is imposed upon them. Clearly identify and communicate your non-negotiables for the unit. Explain what elements are the “must do’s” as well as where youth have opportunities to make a choice in their learning experience.
With the recommendations above, you can review any upcoming unit and identify small ways to adapt activities so that the unit holistically speaks to the preferences of your students. By making these connections, you will enhance learner engagement and ensure that kids remain at the center of your teaching both in your practice and in your heart.
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