Students need to find their purpose in learning to succeed both in terms of completion of classroom tasks and in the eventual long term application of their learning. Student often complain that they do not learn anything that is relevant to their lives during the formative primary and secondary school years. Current global challenges may transform this sentiment, but educators will be increasingly tasked with creating links between the curriculum and “real life”.
Beyond developing these linkages to student lives, it is critical to highlight purpose and impact from learning. Educators should start by understanding the student as a whole person, what is important to them, their values, beliefs, and goals in life. These conversations can begin to encourage students to connect values and goals that may be related to their purpose in life.1 These initial conversations can lead to a direct connection then to the disciplines taught in elementary and secondary school and then how their learning can be used to improve their lives, that of their families and communities.
The above discussion provides students the first opportunity to learn what it means to be a global citizen and the needed knowledge and skill sets to function in this role. Educators are encouraged to further extend the discussion to the 17 UN Sustainable development goals. As we know, in 2015, 193 countries of the United Nations launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to help find solutions for poverty, equality, justice, climate change, and to stop damage to the environment. The 17 goals include:
Goal 1: No Poverty
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 4: Quality Education
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
Goal 13: Climate Action
Goal 14: Life Below Water
Goal 15: Life on Land
Goal 16: Peace and Justice
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
In order to create a tangible link between student lives and these goals, the whole student concept continues to provide an excellent framework. By holistically understand the whole student's needs, experiences and context, educators can frame these goals as opportunities to augment the quality of life for those in their communities. Active learning, where students participate in the learn process, is paramount. Students need to be fully engaged in discussions, peer to peer learning, teacher to peer learning, external expert to student learning as they seek new opportunities to become global citizens. Story-writing, media arts, the visual arts, design thinking can be used to not only convey the focus of each goal, but the solutions that students are capable of implementing. If students are to accept the urgent need for global citizenship, the goals and solutions must be expressed from the student perspective namely-"What can i do today to enable their achievement? What knowledge and skills do I need to enable their achievement tomorrow?"
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1) Cox, J. Teaching Strategies to Help Students Find Their Purpose.