Relevant Teaching

While I am picking up literature again and exploring more recent developments in creativity in higher education, for the purpose of this writing challenge I am going back to the roots and take it from there. The concept of creative learning and teaching I have translated into HE over the last years is that developed by Jeffrey and Woods (2009). I have written about this before, so just a brief summary the elements of creative learning and teaching the authors define are relevance, ownership, control and innovation.

To me the most fundamental aspect within a teaching situation is relevance—or real life context if you want. When I taught on our postgraduate certificate I asked the colleagues if they had ever been asked: ‘Why are we doing that?’ there is usually laughter. While in a secondary classroom the lack of relevance might lead to behavioural issues, in higher education it might ‘simply’* lead to disengagement.

Last semester, when teaching on a course called Student Engagement, I asked the participants why they choose this particular course. They were honest. Seriously, I need to stop building trust, they were really, really honest. I mean it’s a good thing my course fit into their timetable right? And it is really positive that this course was the lesser evil to choose from, isn’t it?

Rise above it, sunshine! Rise above!

Just kidding. We all know the realities of our roles, and I very much like the meta-level. Sometimes the friction this causes, bruises my ego. Och well, so far the ego as survived and is still going strong. And a meaningful learning experience (both mine and the learners’) is worthwhile a bit of pain. The participants’ honesty enabled me to create relevance. Because when we (as emerging academics) undertake this certificate in learning and teaching in higher education we go back to being students. And boy did I become a student! I think when I undertook this qualification I skipped undergraduate and went straight back to stroppy highschooler. Anyway, I was able to turn their responses around, initiating a reflection on why they thought their students chose the courses the participants were teaching: and here I was glad about the trust again.

Hail to the meta-level

Creating this relevance to their experience as students in this situation, enabled a really engaged in depth discussion about student motivation and engagement. Connecting the content of the session with the participants’ own experience of being a student again and then making a link to the perspectives of their own students. This created context and relevance to our session. This is a fairly unexciting example of how relevance can work, and make a learning situation more meaningful to the learners.

Now imagine the power of relevance in more complex situations!

*We can debate semantics later

PS: The quoted text is the unseen commentator

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