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Enhancing the relevance of new learning

Students need to see relevance in what they learn.

Learning can be relevant for a variety of quite different reasons; for example, it may relate to their circumstances, culture, locality, identity, history, or career or leisure pursuits. Teachers who know their students well are able to connect new learning to student interests. Sometimes, however, learning can be relevant for no other reason than that it is novel, piques curiosity, or offers a challenge that just has to be taken up.

When students see the relevance of what it is that they are doing, they are more likely to engage with and understand it. This in turn encourages them to take greater ownership of learning.

Students appreciate having input into the choice of a learning context, or to have elements of choice within a specified context.

How can I enhance the relevance of new learning?

  • Discuss with your students which film, novel, or other text to choose for study.
  • Seek input from your students when deciding the focus of an upcoming study. For example, which achievement objectives should be given priority?
  • Find opportunities to co-construct teaching and learning activities with your students. For example, the digital tools to be used, the criteria for assessment, the type of assessment, etc.

Read snapshot 5: Video gaming as a context to see how one teacher successfully engaged his students in a wide range of English learning using a context that they found highly motivating.

  • Encourage students to make connections between what they are doing in class and their own experiences.
  • Encourage students, when doing their own reading, to think about the ways in which their reading connects with their own life and experiences.
  • What tools can you use for learning that are familiar to your students, especially new media tools such as Facebook?

Read snapshot 3: Shakespeare on Facebook to see how students used a familiar tool, Facebook, as a means of immersing themselves in the characters and themes of Romeo and Juliet.

  • Choose texts that students are going to relate to and see as being relevant. If a particular text does not engage them, consider changing it.
  • Investigate connecting with writers and the community through audio or video conferencing or Skype. 
  • Make the learning come alive by inviting someone from local iwi or community to contribute their knowledge and expertise (for example, a soldier grandparent in the context of a study of Tu).
  • Instead of having everyone study the same text, allow students to choose from a list of suitable texts (or to negotiate the study of another suitable text with you).

Read snapshot 7: Film study to see how students responded when able to select their own film for study from a list of suitable films.

  • Find opportunities to use an authentic audience for student work; for example, students could write a letter to the local member of parliament or newspaper and then send it.

Last updated September 12, 2017