Learning Giant

Tallish. But, BIG on learning.
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Focusing on Learning, One Class at a Time

I’m Mark Heintz, a social studies teacher in a suburban high school district in Illinois. In my school, I formed coaching partnerships with over thirty teachers from every discipline in the school.  Those partnerships worked towards common language and beliefs on teaching and learning. Furthermore, each coaching partnership involved students to ensure they were central to the learning environment and had a voice in the process. I attempt to make learning transparent by partnering with my students to create conditions that develop students as learners, have the flexibility to let them pursue their interests, give them the ability to make choices about how they learn best and expand their curiosity, while still developing the communication and analytical skills sets they need to be successful in their lives.  

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Human Geography Course Overview

Here is the syllabus for the course that I teach. This course is based on the foundation of conditions under which people learn best.

The purpose of Human Geography is to examine how humans develop, control, and use power, placemaking, and identity in the context of a given environment.  This course analyzes these constructs through various contexts and scales. At the same time, the analysis is through each students’ own understanding in order to help create the world they want to live in.

Exploration vs Discovery

Discovery and exploration almost have the same meaning. But, when used to motivate or punish students, the distinction matters. Exploration is the action of traveling in or through unfamiliar areas in order to learn. Discovery is the action of finding something unexpected in the course of a search. Again, the major problem in most classes is that schools have already “found” the unexpected for them. This results in students failing to come to the same predetermined conclusions in the curriculum.

Right Answers are Wrong?

I was taught the right way to eat a Snickers bar in second grade. While I would like to tell you how to do it, I promised Mrs. Meadowcraft I would never tell, and out of my deep respect for her, I won’t. At seven years old, I felt special that I knew the right way to eat it and I was grateful for her sharing the secret.

Teaching children a particular way to eat a special treat was pretty innocuous.  But now that I am in charge of my own class, I realize that I teach my students the right information and the right way to do something. For my subject — history — that is anything but innocent.

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