Saturday, April 28, 2018

Staying relevant

One of the most important words to consider when designing learning experiences for students is whether these are relevant, and by this I mean whether they are linked to students prior knowledge and experiences.  In the PYP we talk about learning being not just relevant, but also engaging, challenging and significant.  Let's unpack a little about what these words mean.

In Making the PYP Happen, it states:
In developing an individual unit of inquiry, organized around a central idea, the following are proposed as useful criteria. Each unit should be:

Engaging - Of interest to the students, and involving them actively in their own learning.
Relevant - Linked to the students’ prior knowledge and experience, and current circumstances, and therefore placing learning in a context connected to the lives of the students.
Challenging - Extending the prior knowledge and experience of the students to increase their competencies and understanding.
Significant - Contributing to an understanding of the transdisciplinary nature of the theme, and therefore to an understanding of commonality of human experiences.
Learning, therefore, needs to be authentic and relevant to the real world - and it needs to be transdisciplinary because in the real world learning is not just confined within the boundaries of traditional subjects.  Relevant also means that the content is a genuine part of the world around the student, not just something imposed on a student in school.  Because of this the PYP framework is organised into 6 transdisciplinary themes that promote an awareness of the human condition and an understanding that there is a commonality of human experience.

Earlier this week I was reading a post about relevance by Eric Sheninger entitled Relevance is the Fuel of Learning. In this post Eric writes about the importance of focusing on the why.  He writes that if a student does not understand why he or she is learning something, then their chance of success diminishes - so relevance is the purpose of learning and without it students are less motivated to learn:
Getting kids to think is excellent, but if they don't truly understand how this thinking will help them, do they value learning? ... Relevance begins with students acquiring knowledge and applying it to multiple disciplines to see how it connects to the bigger picture.  It becomes even more embedded in the learning process when students apply what has been learned to real-world predictable and ultimately unpredictable situations, resulting in the construction of new knowledge.  Thus a relevant lesson or task empowers learners to use their knowledge to tackle real-world problems that have more than one solution.
He goes on to write that relevance must be student based, connected to the student's life, the student's family, friends and community, and current events in the world today.

On Friday we had a PD day at school.  In the morning our focus was on reading, and at the table where I was sitting we were talking about the fact that reading was something we all learned at school that was relevant and enduring - it was something that has since enriched all facets of our lives and that we use every day.  That can't be said about many other things that we learned!

What criteria do you use to determine what students should know, understand and be able to do?

Photo Credit: FotoGrazio Flickr via Compfight cc

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