Perspective, Empathy, and Depth

LENS LOOKERStudents need opportunities and encouragement to look outside of themselves and consider how others may understand and feel about the world.  Classrooms can offer such opportunities and encouragement.  In the book Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making, authors Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver share the following five strategies for for helping students use perspective and empathy to more deeply engage in content (pp. 102-111): 

  1. Questioning prompts:  Asking questions is a great way to engage students in the content.  Asking questions that cause students to consider the point of view of others may increase the depth of their engagement.  Other ways to engage students with questioning is to ask how others may feel about an issue or have the student argue a perspective that differs from their own.  These types of activities move students away from a single view of content.
  2. Put the “You” in the Content:  After exploring content, ask students to tell a story about a time they were able to apply the content.  Ask students to report on content as if they were part of the experience or as if they were reporting on the experience for a newspaper of the time.  These types of exercises help students change the lens from which they view the content. 
  3. Perspective Charts:  A perspective chart puts the content or issue to be examined in the center of the page.  Above, below, and to either side of the issue, students write the name of someone or some group with a differing perspective.  In the space between the issue and the noted individual or group, students write a statement or two to represent the possible perspective each takes. 
  4. Meeting of the Minds and Mock Trial:  Meeting of the Minds is a role-playing type experience where notable individuals with differing perspectives – perhaps Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates – come together to discuss the nature of learning.  Students would have to present perspectives from each with a goal of reaching some point of consensus.  A Mock Trial also helps students see through different lenses, as they have to build a case based upon content understanding and different points of view. 
  5. A Day in the Life:  This activity encourages students to become another person from the content they are studying.  Students have to dig deep to understand all the context – historical, social, emotional, intellectual, and so on – of the individual they are to portray.  

As you prepare for upcoming lessons, think about ways to incorporate these strategies.  Your students will be glad you did!

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