From Interest to Theory

A running theme of my training as a constructivist educator has been allowing children to explore their interests.  Allowing the children to explore what interest them creates engagement and autonomy.  A 2014 Edutopia article [Link] simply explains, “The first step to differentiate for interests is to find out what students care about and like to do.”

My thinking on student interest was stretched during a workshop with Anne van Dam, a PYP teacher in the Netherlands.  She suggested pedagogical planning should focus not on interest, rather the theories the children are exploring as they engage in their interests. 

For example, if children are interested in playing airplanes, throwing balls, or jumping off heights, they are exploring theories of trajectory.  If they play with train sets, legos, and magnets, they’re exploring theories of connection.  

The teachers task in this approach is to observe children’s interest and identify the theory they are exploring.  Thereupon, finding ways and resources to enrich their play which extend their experimentation and understanding.  

Moving beyond student interest and identifying the theories they are exploring, helps guide educators toward growing a culture of more meaningful engagement and inquiry. 

What theories are your children exploring?  How do you enrich their theory building?  Leave a comment.  

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