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“Relevance” & Student Learning

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“Why are we learning this?”

“How am I going to use this in my life?”

“What’s the point of doing this?”

I’ve certainly heard these comments, or similar ones, from students over the years. Relevance is an important concept to our students, and many of us could probably do a better job at helping our students make those real-life connections to what we’re doing in the classroom.

I share some ideas about how to do that in my new book, and I’m trying out a new idea tomorrow in class. We’ve been learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy (you’ll also find that lesson in my book), and students are writing a short paragraph responding to the question “It is important to to learn about Bloom’s Taxonomy?” In addition to writing these paragraphs in an “ABC” form (Answer the Question; Back it up; Make a comment or connection), some will be recording what that wrote in a Fotobabble. You’ll be able to see their responses in our class blog on Friday.

Coincidentally, today I learned about a recent study that documented how helping clarify relevance can directly lead to increased student achievement. Chris S. Hulleman and Judith M. Harackiewicz wrote about it in Promoting Interest and Performance in High School Science Classes (you can access the paper after free registration, but it appears you can get “The Supporting Online Material” without registration.

Basically, they had students write a paragraph after science lessons saying how they could apply to their lives. Writing one-to-eight of these during a semester led to positive student learning gains.

Seems like a simple exercise that shouldn’t take up too much time (having students write about Bloom’s and then share them with a partner took less than fifteen minutes), and it certainly can’t hurt.

I’m adding this post to “My Best Posts On “Motivating” Students.”

Thanks to Carol Dweck for the tip on the study.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. It is obvious that relevance is an important factor in motivating students. We know that learning which is motivated by personal meaning… ‘intrinsic motivation’… is much more effective than learning which is moitivated by external demands and pressures… ‘extrinsic motivation’.

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