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close this bookHow Children Learn (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 32 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe International Academy of Education
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. Active involvement
View the document2. Social participation
View the document3. Meaningful activities
View the document4. Relating new information to prior knowledge
View the document5. Being strategic
View the document6. Engaging in self-regulation and being reflective
View the document7. Restructuring prior knowledge
View the document8. Aiming towards understanding rather than memorization
View the document9. Helping students learn to transfer
View the document10. Taking time to practice
View the document11. Developmental and individual differences
View the document12. Creating motivated learners
View the documentReferences and further reading
View the documentThe International Bureau of Education - IBE

3. Meaningful activities

People learn best when they participate in activities that are perceived to be useful in real life and are culturally relevant.

Research findings

Many school activities are not meaningful since students understand neither why they are doing them nor what their purpose and usefulness is. Sometimes school activities are not meaningful because they are not culturally appropriate. Many schools are communities where children from diverse cultures learn together. There are systematic cultural differences in practices, in habits, in social roles, etc., that influence learning. Sometimes meaningful activities for students coming from one cultural group are not meaningful to students who are coming from another cultural group.

In the classroom

Teachers can make classroom activities more meaningful by situating them in an authentic context. An example of an authentic context is one in which the activity is typically used in real life. For example, students can improve their oral language and communication skills by participating in debates. They can improve their writing skills by being involved in the preparation of a classroom newspaper. Students can learn science by participating in a community or school environmental project. The school can be in contact with local scientists and invite them to lecture, or allow the students to visit their laboratories.

It is also important for teachers to be aware of the cultural differences of the children in their classroom and to respect these differences. They must see them as strengths to build on, rather than as defects. Children will feel differently in the classroom if their culture is reflected in the common activities. School routines that are unfamiliar to some children can be introduced gradually so that the transition can be less traumatic for ethnically diverse groups.

References: Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989; Heath, 1983.