Raise your hand if you have ever sat at home and thought to yourself ‘You know what would improve my learning experience? Meaningless, but fun, detours from the curriculum to subjects just barely related. That will definitely benefit my knowledge of the actual class-related material.’
Never? Huh, me neither. I wonder what school was like in the olden days when these teachers were students and decided these enhanced the learning experience. Don’t mistake me – I love spending an entire class period learning about something irrelevant that slightly ties into the class. I am extremely thankful when my teacher turns on an interesting documentary or movie that I barely have to take notes on because it will definitely not be on an exam. It’s the perfect opportunity to finish the last few problems of the math homework I did at midnight.
But, come exam week and we are still learning the actual material because the detours left us several days off schedule. Or, come exam day and I am frantically flipping through pages of rough notes from aforementioned rushed final week in a hopeless attempt to cram more information into my full brain, and I am not quite so happy.
I understand that these detours help engage some students (and are probably easier to plan and grade for, but we’ll brush past that), but fall into the trap too often and we are left vastly unprepared. If the goal is that students do not just “memorize” the information, but fully understand it, a teacher cannot present important information to us in a hurried lesson the day before.
I get that it is difficult to plan everything, teach the lessons, and grade work effectively and efficiently – and believe me I have no envy for the stress teachers must go through – but they should try to ensure students get the most from their class time.
At the very least, strive for the detours to truly add something more to the class material. Gearing the entire class towards an exam does provide a limited education, and teaches people they should focus on grades and not learning. But it is far more beneficial to have this extra information support what we have already learned. If a science video uses some of the theory we have learned in class in a unique way, I will remember it far more than one that does not.
This goes double with excluding videos that add something less factual to the curriculum. If the class goes into other country’s cultures, these added segments do not need to make claims that our country’s way of doing things is better – that is an opinion for everyone to decide for themselves.
Keep these sources relevant, unbiased, and limited in number, and there is very little to complain about. I might even set my math homework aside and give the detour my full attention.