The 4 essential elements of passion-based learning

Teaching students effectively means getting to know them — and their passions

Think back to when you were still in school. What do you tend to remember most? Do you think back to the unique field trips you went on? The cool science experiments? What about a favorite teacher?

For me, it was projects and Mrs. Gianni. That’s what I remember most about school and the teacher that comes to mind. Mrs. Gianni had blond hair that always looked like it needed to be dyed. She was young and energetic. I also remember the way she made me feel, her high expectations, how she was always smiling, and how I felt like I could be anything in her eyes.

Teachers have always had the ability to make a big impact on their students. The teacher chooses whether it will be a positive or a negative impact. Of course every year we start the year with the best intentions. We love all our kids the same. However, there is always that one student (sometimes more) that we just can’t seem to reach. We try different things, we ask for help, we learn their background, but we still can’t seem to figure out how to get through.

At the beginning of the school year, we spend a lot of time working on teambuilding activities and passing out questionnaires. Rarely do we ever stop and ask ourselves who this really helps. Are we trying to get to know them or are we looking for specific information and not what students actually want to tell us? After all, we’re the ones that write the questionnaires.

Perhaps it’s time for a new approach. Passion or strength-based learning is based on the idea that if you really want to get to know your students, you first need to find out what they are passionate about. Figure out why they behave the way they do and how they learn best. Then show them that you care. Instead of focusing on their deficits, focus on their strengths. Teach through their strengths to address their weaknesses.

Getting started

What is passion/strength based learning?  Passion-based learning is using a student’s passions to help them learn. Strength-based learning is using their strengths to teach to their weaknesses. For instance, if a student is struggling with counting but they love building, a teacher might have them count blocks as they build. Not only will they enjoy the exercise more—and not ask, “Why do I have to do this?”—but they will build up their weakness. These methods help students feel valued and they turn your classroom from a teacher-centered classroom into a student-centered one.

Next page: How to start using it in your classroom

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