Teaching for meaning is an engaging idea, but many teachers find it problematic in this age of mandates and standardized tests.
Teaching is more than covering content, learning is more than merely taking in, and assessment is more than accurate recall. Meaning must be made, and understanding must be earned. Students are more likely to make meaning and gain understanding when they link new information to prior knowledge, relate facts to “big ideas,” explore essential questions, and apply their learning in new contexts.
Consider the following classroom scenarios (Tharp, Estrada, & Yamauchi, 2000). A 6th grade teacher asks students to collect data from home on the height and weight of various family members. Students discuss the following questions in groups: How could we represent these data? What is the most effective way? Students decide on specific approaches and share them with the class. A spirited discussion takes place on the best approach.