The best JC chemistry teacher
This is a continuation of a series of posts to remind myself of good teaching strategies that i can use to engage and hold students’ interest.
This second idea from the book “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath talks about the curiosity gap, a gap which happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge. When we want to know something but don’t, it creates an itch, a desire to know the answer. Like “Why do men have nipples?” (Did it create an itch which you satisfy by googling the answer?)
This really is the reason why we keep chasing a drama series for hundreds of hours, because we want to know what happens next. Movies, football leagues, even Pokemon Go uses this concept. We want to know what happens to the movie protagonist, which team will lift the EPL Cup, which Pokemon characters am i missing?
The implication of this theory is that we need to open gaps before we can close them. Furthermore, we will need students to WANT to close the knowledge gap. One method is to post challenging conceptual questions and get students to vote on which is the right answer. Usually there will be more than one answer and the disagreements will cause students to want to find out if they are right.
I still remember one of my university Professor periodically giving us 20-30 conceptual MCQs (which makes up a percentage of our grades) whenever we finished a section. It wasn’t difficult to set or mark but it highlighted to me my knowledge gaps. I’m not sure if he was the most knowledgeable professor, but he certainly was the best chemistry teacher i’ve had in university.
To use knowledge gaps, students must first have some knowledge
Pokemon Go doesn’t hold any interest for me, for the simple reason that i don’t have any background knowledge of it. I don’t really care which team lifts the English Premier League Cup because i don’t follow or support any team. Hence it’s vitally important that teachers take the time and effort to build up certain knowledge or background context for the students. So that when we open the gap, they will want to close it.
The best teachers builds the background context/knowledge and uses conceptual questions to get students to commit to their answers. Step by step, arousing curiosity, creating, opening, filling their knowledge gaps. Let the thirst for knowledge ignite their passion for learning.
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