One of the most important considerations in education would be “how to produce the maximum outcomes with the materials and strategies on hand”. Maximizing outcomes is not simple tasks due to the limited resources. Schools design the curriculums, develop teaching materials, and improve teaching methods to improve outcomes. With all the efforts to improve outcomes, some schools increase the number of different courses for students to select and some schools narrow down their focuses to certain fields instead. It is very difficult to identify which one of these approaches is better for students but it is very clear that all schools set their strategies to provide the best education with their current resources. Then, we can ask a question – Why can’t we find which strategy is better? The reason is that most of the strategies are focused on building knowledge.
Lectures are very effective when real life examples are connected with the lecture materials. Many teachers connect the real-life applications with the lecture materials to improve the outcomes. Only the problem is that not all the lecture materials are easy to connect with real life applications. If somehow, teachers could connect all the lecture materials with the real-life application, the outcome of each lecture would be very different. It seems that making connections between lecture materials and real-life applications are not as simple as it sounds but very important factor in improving the course outcomes. The question is – Is there any way that is similar to this but very common regardless of the subject being taught. The answer is “YES”.
Before we discuss about education, we will need to explore what people are doing in the real world and we will focus on leaders as an example. The job of leaders is to make decision based on the data analysis. The process of analysis is the process of establishing the connection among the data sets collected. Based on the connections made, leaders draw a big picture and make decision based on this picture. Connecting data is same as the process of thinking and the logic development. While connecting data, leaders build knowledge on each data set. In short, leaders (or their assistants) collected data, analyzed the data while making connection on each, and ultimately make a decision. During these processes, leaders think logically and expand their knowledge as they explore each data set. This explains why making connection between the lecture materials and real-life application produces better outcomes during the class. While connecting lecture materials with real life application, students think and build logic between the two. Here we see the very same process in two completely different fields. Students in schools and leaders in organizations seem to have very different work to do. However, students learn better when they connect lecture materials with real life application and leaders make better decisions when they connect each data set. This indicates that teachers can train students to be leaders during the lecture. What they have to do is to guide students to make connections.
Connecting lecture materials with real life application is a challenging job since not all the lecture materials are easily connectable. Teachers will not be able find connections for all their lecture materials. Then, what would be the solution to this problem? The solution to this problem would be connecting lecture materials each other. In other words, connecting facts and theories each other. Teachers understand the theories are not perfect. The imperfection leads to the development of new theories repeatedly. This indicates that the theories are connected each other. Since the making connection is the most important factor in learning, the process should not be limited to the real-life application. For example, many people know that deforestation is one of the problems in greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere. It seems to be easy enough to understand. However, not many people would be able to answer why the disappearing rainforest is big problem compare to any other areas on earth. This is because people do not have connections among the rainforest, amount of sunlight throughout the year, and evolution of the plants for the given environment. With a question like, “Why is the rainforest the big problem?” and with the teachers’ guidance, students will make a connection with the constant amount of the sunlight over the year and the plants in this region adapted to maximize the photosynthesis evolutionarily. With the teacher leading the class, students will see the connection between the cycle of the seasons in different regions of earth, and plants’ adaptations to the constant sunlight environment throughout the year. Even teachers can guide the students to explain that many plants found at the equator have bigger leave size to accept maximum sunlight and transpire in the humid rainforest.
Exploring a teaching subject by following the connection is simple way to stimulate students’ will to learn. With an example above, students can explore the connections between the global warming and rainforests, plants’ evolution, and characteristics of plants near the equator. This seems like a pure science topic but the process of connecting each concept is not only found in science topics. As the theories developed by setting up hypothesis based on previous theories, most of the theories are connectable in the given field. Thus, connecting the theories and facts in the given field should be the core of the learning. Once students establish this skill, applying the same approaches is very simple; only difference is the subject matter that they are dealing with. Also, this is the key skill that leaders should possess.
Nowadays we have various subject to teach and learn. This is due to the growing number of theories. However, it is impractical to try to cover every field in detail. Thus, we need to narrow our focus on what to teach. The only common teaching method among so many different subjects is “Making Connection”. Once students learn how to connect in each subject, they will be able to find their own connections when they face a new subject to deal with. Dealing with various different subjects can truly help students when the teaching is focusing on how to connect in the specific topic.
To see how to teach by ‘Making Connections’, please see next article ‘Delivering concepts?’