TED Talk: Sparking Learning


Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher, explores how to spark learning and tells us that the greatest tool a teacher has is the questions their students have. As teachers we must not focus on content dissemination. Instead we must cultivate curiosity in our students by challenging them and getting their imagination going so that they ask questions and want to explore and interact with what we are trying to teach them.

This principle reminded me of Law of Need in the book 7 Laws of the Learner by Bruce Wilkinson. It is important to build a need in the student and motivate them to want to learn what you are about to teach them. As a teacher your goal is to make them want to know the answer to the questions you just got them to think about, before moving on to teaching them the content.

Here are three good ways to do that:

  1. Understand what students are facing in their life and what their pressing needs are. Make sure topics are focused on these areas.
  2. Get them to identify with a need (maybe even one they didn’t know they had) using challenging questions or presenting them with illustrations of people who have or don’t have what you are about to teach.
  3. Don’t just “talk at” students, get them involved in the learning process.

The Cyrus Cylinder and testable theories

Karl Popper pondered the question “When should a theory be ranked as scientific?” and came up with the following criteria (summarized from the article):

  • confirming a theory is easy.
  • a scientific theory should be falsifiable.
  • testing a theory means trying to prove it is false.
  • testing a theory means verifying its predictions are observed.

While not everyone holds to Popper’s philosophy of science the criterion of testability, falsifiability and predictability are considered important for any scientific theory. In fact the claim that is often leveled against “religion” is that it can’t do any of these things and thus can easily be dismissed by the scientific community. Continue reading