One of the things I frequently experiment with in my classroom is ways to connect what my students are learning with the real world. It is a useful approach since it stimulates engagement and interest from students, it links in with instilling a sense of lifelong learning, and, ideally, helps to make classroom-based work much more relevant to learners’ own interests and passions. Breaking down these barriers between classroom and real-life offers great scope for personalized learning trajectories, since learners can see reflections from their own life, experiences, and interests. It is also a great way to introduce older students to a range of careers that they may not previously have considered.
In this post I will outline a few of the more exciting ways I have been trying out recently in order to break down these classroom-real world barriers.
Bringing in guest speakers is always a great way to focus learners’ minds on how their classroom learning can relate to the wider world. I am a biology teacher who works in a Thai high school in Bangkok, Thailand, where English is the medium of instruction for my learners. Last year I invited a Thai researcher from a local university to come and talk to my Grade 12 students about the evolution of drug resistant malaria on the Thai-Cambodian border. This served a number of purposes. It helped my learners to link their evolutionary theory with real-time evolutionary processes that have a direct impact on human health, it was a public health issue that was geographically close to them (the Thai-Cambodian border is only around 250 kilometres from Bangkok), and the speaker was a Thai scientist with an international research profile, who gave her presentation in English, and was therefore a great role model for my students.
This year we went a step further, and a colleague and myself invited a team of international researchers from the mathematical modelling group of the Mahidol-Oxford Research Unit here in Bangkok to run a day-long mathematical modeling workshop for our Grade 12 students. The workshop included both epidemiological and health economics modeling. Following the workshop, learners’ evaluation feedback suggested that they appreciated gaining insights into the lives of working scientists as well as the opportunity to learn about mathematical modeling....