Active knowledge making is giving a chance to learners to build their understanding of the topic being taught rather than just telling them what it is. By empowering learners, we help them strengthen certain skills that are far more important than the amount of information they have memorized.
In a real life scenario, people (at work or anywhere) have to make their points based on some solid grounds, they need to know where to look for answers to any question, but not to necessarily have the answer in mind already, they have to provide kind of evidence for whatever their opinion might be, they have to read or see something with an open mind to accept or reject based on some logical reasons, and the list goes on and on for things we have had to do every step of the way in our lives. Then why shouldn’t our students be treated at the same level of democracy we would like to be treated ourselves? Why don’t we empower the skills that matter the most for their future rather than enlarge their memories in a world of lesser demand for memory skills?
I will give an example how I tried to change this in my classes. I used to be the expert in class that students would seek to get proofs for the many theories or opinions that I might have come up with myself, so in brief, I was the center of knowledge to some extent that my students always felt themselves unworthy of coming up with an opinion and even the ones who tried to do so, would be looking at me at all times as a source of verification and validity. I was aware of this problem but afraid at the same time as everybody else at that time that if we gave students freedom to interpret concepts and lessons the way they wanted, there was a huge room for error, and students might be misled in the end without any valuable knowledge in their brains, but that was the problem itself, we always saw ourselves as the perfect source of knowledge, and let me tell you that the moment I decided to break this concept in my mind, I have learned a lot more than I had ever imagined from my students. I have shifted the source of knowledge from myself to external resources, so I spent some time coaching my students on how to use these external resources, and then I helped them step up a level and be critical in their choices to some level where they could formulate their opinions and theories and try to prove them using any available resource out there, which I was one of, a trusted one I might add. And to be honest, that made me feel more valuable than before, my students took my advice over the advice of some very well-known authors, which made me feel proud. To transform from the only source of information along with the textbook to one valuable trusted source of information was my quantum leap in my teaching style. I will include an example of the change in the way I asked questions in the homework I give to my students:
(About Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare) (Questions ordered from my oldest reactive questions to my newest proactive questions)
- Why does Shakespeare compare her to a summer’s day?
- Where does the poet’s pride show in the sonnet?
- Why do we call this a sonnet? (My students would already know about meter and rhyme)
I think Sonnet 18 is a worthless poem; prove me wrong if you can. (By the way, only one student came back to me and said: “I agree with you, sir.” We all had a good laugh that day and he went on working with his friends on it)
I hope I was able to demonstrate my point. May we all love our jobs as educators.