Have you ever had a student who can’t see the relevance of what they’re learning?
Teachers can improve student learning by connecting student experiences to lesson plans and other “teachable moments” – a practice outlined in this Edutopia article:
“Frequently ask your students questions that invite them to share their emotions and feelings about anything and everything happening in the world (their school, city, neighborhood). This will give you so much to work with as you plan lessons, and when those magical ‘teaching moments’ arise, you can refer to something a student (or two or three) in the room has shared.”
Plenty of research backs up the assertion that personal relevance to learning, like building neural connections and improving long-term memory, is important.
As student support professionals, we have a number of opportunities to find out what matters to our students, and we do this to build relationships, connections and understanding of the students’ strengths and challenges.
So how can we help our students integrate their learnings – academic or otherwise – into other areas of their lives.
The more we can take advantage of those “teachable moments” by pointing out (or, better yet, asking the student to point out) how their own experiences tie in to what they are currently learning, the more opportunities we have to ensure our students don’t just learn and lose it later. A question like this can go a long way:
“How do you think what you learned in this experience might be useful to you in future courses/your career?”
And if a student is struggling? The more you know about a student’s past struggles and overcoming obstacles, the more you can help them reach back to those moments when they need a reminder of their capacity for growth and perseverance.