Connecting Your Curriculum to Real Life Applications

If you have been following my work, you know I spent 7 years a K-12 teacher and 7 years as a university professor, eventually becoming the dean of a school of education. As a teacher, I was passionate about helping students reach their academic potential and become productive citizens. As a professor and education dean, I was devoted to developing the next generation of teachers and education administrators. For the last two and a half years, I have been an education entrepreneur, launching an education company, Lynch Educational Consulting, which also manages the following web properties: The EdvocateThe Tech Edvocate, and Edupedia.

However, I often miss being in the classroom, and when I do, I usually channel this energy in an article, resource, or project that will benefit educators everywhere. This time I decided to create a series of case studies that are meant to help pre-service teachers get a glimpse into the problems and issues that they will encounter in the field. These case studies will also give them a chance to reflect on how they can use each scenario to inform their own practice. Let’s get started.

For students to fully engage in the curriculum, they need to understand how it will help them in the here and now, and in the future. For an example of how you can connect your curriculum to real-life applications, read the case study below entitled “Mr. Rick’s Pragmatist Auto Shop—Teachable Moment.” Afterward, reflect on the questions below, using your thoughts to shape your own practice.

  1. Once you have learned and used the problem-solving method multiple times, it is likely that it is not necessary to recite the steps each time. Why do you think Mr. Rick clearly stated the steps each time?
  2. The students are living in the moment, but are also preparing for the future. How?
  3. What are some other instances in which Mr. Rick might provide the students with the knowledge it takes to make decisions?
  4. Was there any reference to character development in this lesson? If yes, what were they? If no, what could Mr. Rick do differently to incorporate it into the lesson?

Mr. Rick’s Pragmatist Auto Shop—Teachable Moment

Mr. Rick’s Auto Shop class, students learn much more than changing oil and rotating tires. Mr. Rick is a pragmatist teacher: he teaches them to find the solution to the problem, even if they don’t know what the question really is.

“All right, ladies and gentleman,” Mr. Rick introduces the lesson. “It seems as though there is a high-pitched squeal coming from this car. The client told me that it only seems to happen when the engine is first started. So, does anyone have any suggestions on where we should begin?”

One of the 2nd-year students, Donald, says, “Let’s pop the hood and take a look!” The class gathers around the Chevrolet Tahoe and peers inside.

“What is the first step to solving this problem?” Mr. Rick asks the class.

“I’ll bet it’s the fan belt!” shouts Donald.

“Good guess there, Donald, and we’ll look into that, but for these 1st-year students let’s back up a bit. Let’s think about the problem-solving method. Step 1 is recognizing the problem. We did that. The problem is that something is screeching when the car starts. Step 2 is clearly defining the problem. So how do we do that?”

Marissa, a 1st-year student, raises her head and says, “Shouldn’t we start the car and listen for ourselves?”

“Exactly right, Marissa,” he says, tossing her the keys. “Hop in and crank her up!”

Marissa starts the car, and immediately everyone jumps as the SUV makes a loud screeching noise. She shuts the engine off and jumps back out.

“All right, now, Donald, we’re ready for your suggestion. Step 3 is suggesting possible solutions. If we think it may be the fan belt, what could we do to make it stop?” Mr. Rick asks.

“Something may be loose!” shouts Owen, a 1st-year student.

“Maybe it just needs some lubrication,” guesses Donald.

“Both excellent guesses. But before we start tinkering under the hood, what would happen if we started playing under the hood and nothing is wrong? Step 4 is to consider the possible consequences. What could go wrong if we start tightening everything around the fan belt?” He pauses and waits for a response.

“Nothing,” says Donald. “Well, unless you tighten something too much and strip something, but that’s unlikely.”

“Good thinking. What else?” the teacher asks.

“What about if you knock something loose that has nothing to do with the fan belt?” Marissa speculates.

“Both of those technically could happen, I suppose. Probably won’t if you are skilled under the hood, though. What about the lubrication? What might happen if you try to lubricate?”

“Might spill it,” says Owen.

“And that’s about the only thing that could go wrong!” adds Marissa.

“All right, then, if all we risk is a spill on the lubrication, and we risk stripping something or knocking something loose by tightening, let’s get to lubricating!”

The class works through the steps again as they proceed to choose what the best type of lubrication would be for a fan belt. After settling on a lubricant, they spray the belt and try cranking the car again.

The squeal is gone! There’s just the smooth purring of a Chevy engine.

“All right, guys! Good going. The final step of the problem-solving method is to observe and experiment to either accept or reject the idea. So, what do you think? Did we fix it?”

“We fixed it!” the class responded in unison.

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