Productive Identity Work Classroom Series #2- Knowledge

Written by Katie Schenkel

Welcome to my second post in the Productive Identity Work Classroom Series. In this post, I am going to talk about leveraging your students’ knowledge to promote positive outcomes. Teachers know that knowledge is important for students’ success in science and engineering. Standards and textbooks point to the specific types of content knowledge that students will need. However, everyone has other important and valuable types of knowledge that is sometimes ignored by traditional curricula. This post is going to focus on ways class communities can value the various types of knowledge that students bring into the classroom. Just like you, students know many things from their family, experiences and everyday life! When students can combine this knowledge with their new science and engineering practices, transformational learning and doing can occur.

Here are three tips for helping your students utilize their different funds of knowledge in science class:
1. Connect the unit goals to your students’ community. For example, during your ecology unit, have your students investigate invasive species in your community and design plans to mitigate the problems caused by the species. Have your students draw upon what special characteristics they know about their community. Have them share their ideas, proposed solutions and engage with local experts.
2. Highlight and use your students’ contributions to class to guide the class flow. For example, if a student describes a scientific phenomenon they saw at home or another parts of their life, bring it up multiple times later on in the class discussion and link class activities to that phenomenon in future activities. This could be as simple as working to understand as a class why the school’s basketballs seemed flat right when they were taken out of the coach’s car, but seemed to magically inflate as practice continued. It could be part of the day’s discussion then be incorporated into gas law experiments in future units.
3. Provide opportunities for your students to showcase their other skills, interests and talents in science class. For example, I knew some of my students were enthusiastic about creating computer slideshows while some of my artistic students enjoyed making informational posters. Therefore, I would occasionally give students the option to complete their assignment using the format they preferred. I provided them a rubric so they knew what information was needed on their assignment. To really help students to showcase their skills, interests and talents, you can even invite them to come up with another way to share their knowledge that fits their expertise better. They can use the rubric as a guide to know what information they need, but can use their own experience to determine the best way for them to meet the criteria of the assignment. Finally, remember to celebrate their expertise by providing opportunities to share their work in a meaningful way.


Jennifer helping other youth makers using her sewing skills

What ways have you found to value and leverage all of your students’ knowledge?

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