Passion-Based Learning

I decided to become a teacher because I love learning, and I want kids to discover that they love learning too. I think that passion-based learning is the key to developing a love of learning in children.

In looking at passion-based learning this week, three things resonated with me.

 Have a passion for learning


Photo CC- by Chris Lasher

I had teachers who would talk about what they were learning and doing on the weekends. This excitement spilled over into what they taught.

For example, my 7th grade English teacher would take crazy trips on long weekends. She would then come back, and the two sentences we had to correct every day would tell a story about what she did on that mini vacation.  Her trips were always adventures, and she drug those stories out for weeks. Our daily grammar lessons revolved around her passion – travel. We always wanted more of the story, and looked forward to it.

I am not necessarily advocating that teachers share details of their personal lives with students. I am saying that a love of learning in our personal lives will spill over into our professional lives.

In 25 Ways to Institute Passion-Based Learning in the Classroom one suggestion is, “Indulge in your own passions when you are outside of the classroom. Whatever your personal hobby is outside the classroom – whether it’s yoga, cooking, music, or gardening – be sure to make time for it. The energy you put into something you love outside the classroom will find its way into to your lessons.”

If I continue to follow what I am passionate about, that will influence how I teach, even if I never share details.  Excitement is contagious.

Encourage the pursuit of the student’s interest

Passion Photography

Photo CC- by Patrizio Cuscito

This is just common sense, but so hard to put into practice.

I was a student tutor where I attended my freshman and sophomore years of college. One of the things I did was edit English papers. I have been able to read some really interesting papers. I have had to read papers that were so boring. I mean four pages of comparing hand tools to power tools boring. This student was so excited about his topic though, and his paper was well written. Who am I to say that he can’t be passionate about tools just because I am not?

If I am to encourage my students to pursue their own passions, I need to accept that I will not share some of their interests. I also need to adopt their excitement for their particular interest. For passion-based learning to work, the students need my support and encouragement.

25 Ways… puts it this way, “Value all passions equally. Try not to let any bias creep into the picture when it comes to student passions.”

In the end, it does not matter that I like the topic. What matters is that students are becoming learners as they pursue what they are excited about.

Use student passions to teach the core curriculum.

“It’s not about ignoring the testing, the core curriculum, or the standards. It’s about allowing them to pick an entry point they’re really excited about.” Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, from Passion-Based Learning for the 21st Century

As teachers, we will be held accountable to teaching students content that reflects certain standards. This does not need to be an enemy to passion-based learning. This is how we hook the students. They need to learn certain things, so let’s use what they are passionate about as a way to engage them.

I was a paraprofessional for a year, and there was a student that we could not get interested in anything. The teacher, though, kept working to figure him out. Finally, he showed interest a book called “James Meets the Prairie.” That was it – westward expansion. We used his passion for westward expansion to teach writing skills, vocabulary words, and some math. We looked into history, geography, and zoology. As long as it related in some way to westward expansion, the student stayed engaged. Core content was taught in a way that was relevant to the student.

Now we can’t make every learning experience about a student’s interest, but allowing the student to pursue his interest can be the entry point to learning the content that must be taught.   If I am wanting students to think that the core content they are learning is relevant to them, I need to do it in a way that reflects their interests.

Passion-based learning gives purpose and excitement to my teaching, my students, and the content. I want to inspire my students to continue to learn and do things they are excited about through their lifetime. That can start in the classroom with passion-based learning.

Powerpoint Slide:  "After School Learning"

Photo CC- by Ken Wytock


2 thoughts on “Passion-Based Learning

  1. I’m always excited to see someone passionate about something, even if it’s something that I could never be interested in. Like the power tools paper you read, I’ve had professors that were genuinely passionate about cellular biology – not my bag, but good on them. I’m more inclined to listen if I feel like that person isn’t wasting my time by not caring whether I learn or not.


  2. Passion does seem to add some spice to an ordinary topic, and it is easier to talk or listen to to someone who is passionate. As for teachers or professors, I find it easier to become involved in their subject of interest when they are passionate about their area of study.


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