Begin with the students and not the discipline: This is the third principle in Ken Bain’s book “What the Best College Teachers Do”, pp. 110-112):
…the best teachers begin with something that, according to Michael Sandel, [Harvard political theory Michael] Sandel, “students care, know, or believe they know… This approach often requires students to start to think about an issue from their perspective, even before they have a good understanding of it and get them to formulate a position.
Find out what students think is true
It is possible to ask students what their thoughts are about the problem before we explain it to them. Ask them to tell you what they think is causing this problem. Next, start to present ideas (theories and scientific findings) that shed light onto the problem.
The best teachers are deliberate and measured in their attempts to challenge any mental model or paradigm that students bring to class.
This could be combined with the “Think Write, Pair, Share” teaching technique. Talk to your students about the problem/issue that you want to address in class. Then ask them to think about it, write down some ideas, and then ask them to do the same (Think, Write). These two parts should take them no more than 5 minutes each. Next, have them pair up to share what they have written with their partner. You could even go further and make your groups of two into four. Then, the four groups could share their ideas. I wouldn’t recommend going beyond four. The groups can then share their ideas with each other. While this is happening, you might also put some key ideas on a board. These ideas can be incorporated into the theory or research that you are about to share once the sharing is completed.
A powerful way to change students’ minds (potentially) is to first discover what they believe to be true.
Bain, K. (2004). What the best college professors do. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.