I was remembering several conversations I had with middle school students in a university campus-based summer program who consistently reminded me, “We learn when there is a reason to learn.”

Too often they followed that statement with others that focused on school not providing “a reason to learn.”

The corresponding lessons I learned from those conversations and experiences are core to strategies I find most effective motivating and educating others and myself.

It has been interesting over the past month to watch news programs, listen to radio shows and interact with colleagues as they focus on international events that lead to “a reason to learn.”

When the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union – Brexit – there was a flood of interest in finding out what exactly the European Union (EU) is, how many nations are part of the EU, how can a nation join and exit from the EU and of course what are the implications for the United States given United Kingdoms’ decision to exit the EU.

When David Cameron, United Kingdom Prime Minister, announced after the Brexit vote that he would “step down” (resign) feeling he was not the right steward to guide the United Kingdom through the EU exit process.  This announcement led many Americans to want to learn more about the parliamentary system of government, how a new Prime Minister will be selected and again what are the implications for the United States.

After the Brexit referendum, Scotland’s First Minister, that nation’s leader, suggested Scotland might either depart the United Kingdom or find ways to maintain its EU partnership.  These suggestions led to Americans asking how either decision is possible, what it would take for Scotland to depart the UK and/or sustain their standing in the EU and why is that nation’s leader designated the First Minister.

I am confident Americans are very capable of learning about the Brexit referendum, the composition and rules of the EU, Scotland’s potential decisions and the parliamentary system of government.  I also believe this may not be common knowledge because there was not “a reason to learn.”

Let’s circle back to my experiences with middle school students and apply how adults in this country also learn when there is “a reason to learn.”  We need to ensure in our school systems, across all grade levels, that we provide students with “a reason to learn” so that they acquire and enhance the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to be successful in school and life.

Teaching and learning strategies that are oriented to engaging student in activities that provide “a reason to learn” include:

  • Experiential Learning
  • Project-Based Learning
  • Service-Learning
  • Career and Technical Education.

These and other school strategies effectively demonstrate to students that there is “a reason to learn” as they are required to get things done, their results have consequences and they build relevant and generalizable skills.

We humans learn when there is “a reason to learn” therefore we need to ensure our schools integrate and sustain corresponding strategies for each student to build their knowledge, skills and dispositions because there is “a reason to learn.”

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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