Sherry St. Clair
Tips for Creating Relevant Learning Experiences
In my coaching of instruction, I will frequently help schools design more relevant learning experiences for their students. Relevant learning tasks help students utilize the content skills teachers have taught them while also developing much needed career skills. It moves instruction from the abstract to the concrete. There are three main types of relevance one should consider: 1) Personal Relevance is connected to a student’s individual aspirations, interests and experiences. 2) Cultural Relevance is connected to a student’s culture and background and 3) Global Relevance is how we connect to a broader world. Global relevance incorporates real-world challenges and problems. Here are some tips and reflective questions I frequently share with teachers and instructional leaders when coaching them in the area of relevance.
1) Focus on Coaching Students to be Lifelong Learners. Consider the learning materials (magazines, websites, videos, reference materials, etc.) a professional would use in the field of study being emphasized in the course. Do students have access to those materials and are they frequently utilized for lessons? Do these materials embrace a variety of cultures? Are lessons focused on helping students understand how to read and analyze those materials? When a student leaves the course will they know how to continue to find and study quality, professional materials related to their field of study? In other words, is the class setting them up to successfully be lifelong readers in that field?
2) Create Authentic Learning Experiences for Students.
Consider the learning tasks given to students. Are students engaged in authentic project-based learning experiences or does the teacher control the learning? Are students learning the process of furthering their own learning or are they simply learning to create a product? Do students have a choice in their learning? Are students given opportunities to extend their learning outside the walls of the classroom? Are they given opportunities to engage with professionals in the field they are studying? Is there evidence that students are given opportunities to apply today’s career skills and if so, which ones?
3) Routinely Use Authentic Tools and Resources.
Review the materials students utilize when completing learning tasks. Are lessons structured so students have an opportunity to use a variety of authentic tools and resources? Is there evidence that students understand the need to proficiently use the tools in the field of study? Are students using the same tools professionals would use to complete the task? Are students able to use these tools proficiently? Can students independently choose the correct tool to use for the task?
As teachers and instructional leaders focus on creating more relevant instruction, students will have more opportunities to practice the skills being taught in classrooms and engage in authentic classroom instruction.