Teaching Tools

A basic set of teaching tools brings our design principles and content anchors into local classroom practice. They help students and teachers connect content through big ideas and essential questions. Our evolving collection of lessons provides examples and guidance on how to use these teaching tools across content.

Tools for noticing behavioral variation

With the help of activities, images, videos, and stories, students notice behaviors and other traits in themselves and in the world.

We identify specific materials within our content anchors that have the potential to connect to students' classroom or everyday experience of social behavior. By noticing behavioral variation in a given context, students have a platform to begin interpreting their observations.

Tools for interpreting behavioral variation

Tinbergen's questions

When eliciting, noticing, and reflecting on particular social behaviors with students, the natural question is - What caused this behavior? Since when do we, and humans in general, have this behavior?

Students, as all humans, have some answers to these questions, and teachers can help students sort their answers into different types of causes, making them aware that some causes lie in the immediate environment, some have to do with individual experiences in the recent and not-so-recent past, but, perhaps surprisingly, some causes also originate much further back in time.

Tinbergen's questions help students and teachers in this process of understanding and sorting the complex causality of (human) behavior and other phenomena in biology and society.

Analogy Maps

If the aim of education is for students to transfer their learning to novel contexts, we need to practice this transfer continuously by relating diverse content examples to overarching principles and processes.

Analogy maps and tables are a tool to engage in these transfer tasks. Students are encouraged to inquire beyond surface features to uncover general principles, processes, conditions, and behaviors in the world.

Causal maps

Understanding how behaviors, their causes, and their outcomes interact requires other tools, because in the biological and social world, we are dealing with complex causality.

Causal maps are one way to visualize this complex causality. With the help of scaffolded materials, students build causal maps between conditions, behaviors, and outcomes, and recognize the role of feedback loops.