During an INSET day in September, I was reminded that students learn and remember best when the learning has meaning. Essentially, the learning undertaken within PSHE and RE should have meaning to all students, as both subjects explore contemporary moral issues and personal views and opinions as well as those of others. However, it made me think about how we can make our lessons even more meaningful to the students that we teach.
I decided to try an enquiry-based learning approach which focussed more fully on the students and their own individual learning journeys. Instead of a learning objective that stated ‘Today you will be learning about…’ I gave the students a question and told them their challenge was to be able to formulate a detailed answer to this question using the learning that they made in the lesson, e.g. Is a place of worship important for the local community? Can scientists be religious? Is peace achievable?
In pairs or small groups students start their enquiry by creating a circle map – a number of concentric circles in which certain pieces of information go. Each concentric circle has a different focus:
- What do I already know that can help me to answer the question?
- How do I know what I know? Where has my knowledge come from?
- What questions do I have about the topic/ learning objective question?
- How can I find out the answers to my question?
- Answers that I have found out/ learnt during the lesson to help me answer my questions.
Students initially complete circles 1-4 and their ideas, thoughts and questions and can be shared as a class. The main part of the lesson can take shape in any number of ways: research, experiential activities, a visit to the local place of worship, visiting speakers, card sorts, comprehension activities etc., but the key thing is that students keep adding notes/bullet-pointed pieces of information to the fifth circle on their circle maps. Not only will this show students the progression of their learning, but it will also encourage them to find more answers as it creates competition between the groups. At the end of the lesson, each group creates a 1 minute presentation to the rest of the class showing the progress of their learning, their initial questions about the topic, what answers they found, what worked well in helping them to find their answers and to ultimately give an answer to the learning objective question.
The students that I have trialled this with seem to find the learning more meaningful, as the learning objective question gives a sense of direction for the lesson’s learning, but it also enables students to have a sense of ownership over their learning, as they are creating their enquiry questions and trying to answer these too.
Head of Beliefs and Values
Clyst Vale Community College