When it comes to teaching, our pedagogy is molded out of professional theories and practices paired up with our own personality and flair to assemble what we believe to be the epitome of solid teaching and learning. Through this experiment, we try on and test out a ton of ways, keeping those that brought the most success and weeding out those that didn’t. This is good teaching. But how do we get to the core of what our students really want out of their learning experiences? And what is it exactly that they desire? Students want to know that what they are learning matters. They are constantly wondering, “When am I ever going to use this?” and they make evaluations on the relevancy of the content through the answer they find. Meaningful learning experiences are essential. And it comes down to three things: relevance, experience, and impact. When we make content relevant to students’ lives, create experiences that are valuable and rich, and provide learning opportunities that have an impact, meaningful learning is bound to happen.

  • Make Content Relatable: Instruction should be designed with students’ prior knowledge in mind. Using a generous amount of analogies, metaphors, and practical examples enables students to connect material to knowledge they already possess and experiences they’ve had.
  • Don’t Underestimate Inspiration: Often instruction becomes relevant and interesting simply because a teacher exudes passion for the topic. A teacher can provide a personal connection to ideas that students may initially perceive as foreign. A great teacher can inspire us to see relevance where we thought there was none.
  • Lead With Engagement: A topic can be quite interesting simply by initiating that learning with an engagement hook. Instruction that effectively utilizes conflict, surprise, stories, mystery, puzzles, etc. is assured to generate significant learner interest while also helping to manufacture a strong learner desire to know.
  • Make Play a Part of Their Day: Active student participation in the learning process can create meaning and interest. Providing students with opportunities for play allows them to make connections with the learning concepts and construct meaning in a way that is both useful and purposeful.
  • Give Students Choice: Providing students some measure of meaningful choice and control over the learning process empowers them to make content relevant through their lived experience. As students develop their understanding of a subject they will often begin to identify with the ideas and see them as personally valuable.
  • Provide Authentic Experiences: When students can see that what they are learning in class is important and useful out in the community and world around them, they draw the connection that what they are learning has utility value.
  • Make Learning Involved: Active student participation in the learning process can also create meaning and interest. As students get involved in the nitty gritty of the learning, they visibly grow in their understanding of content and can make direct connections to why this content is important and impactful in the world in which they live.
  • Make Learning Matter: When students see that their learning can directly impact the world in positive ways, they learn that the content is both valuable and essential to being a successful citizen. The experience then becomes just as important as the learning. And that type of learning cannot be done without that valuable experience.
For more free educational resources, check out out these teacher-tested strategies from Blue Apple!