Beyond the Objectives—Practicing How to Learn

October 30, 2018


One of the purposes of classroom walkthroughs (i.e., 5-minute classroom visits) is to recognize patterns in the rhythm of instruction that can guide professional growth. Recently I witnessed a prime example of a pattern worth mentioning while observing a cadre of middle school science teachers. Though the teachers were from different schools within the same district, their shared professional learning experience with student questioning in science classrooms was evident.

I visited no less than five science classrooms at different schools where the content varied (e.g., laws of motion, scientific method, International Space Station), yet all classes consistently challenged students to "think outside the box" using some form of Socratic questioning. I heard questions such as:

  • What does friction have to do with it?

  • What could we assume instead?

  • Why does that matter?

  • Is that always the case?

  • Why do you think I asked that question?

These staff members not only demonstrated the science of teaching by activating prior knowledge, eliciting student feedback, and using well-timed formative assessments, but they also embraced the art of teaching that extends beyond simply teaching to their required science objectives. These science-based teachers cleverly employed concepts such as experiential learning, expressive outcomes, and, in some cases, student-led questioning to pique student engagement in the content.


Though maintaining the pacing required to navigate the curriculum map may sometimes seem overwhelming, it's important to remember that—beyond the objectives—lifelong learners also need practice in how to extend and connect what they are learning.



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