One of the first things you learn when studying adult learning is that adults need to know why they are learning something and how they can apply it to their lives. In other words, they need to know how something is relevant to their condition and context. It’s not only adults who need that. Humans of all ages need to know, too, why they are learning something and how it is going to change their lives for the better once they know it. It is the teacher’s job to help students establish relevance.
Please notice that I said “help students establish relevance.” I say that because teachers can’t open up a student’s head and put the information into it. Rather, they have to offer the tools by which the students deconstruct and reconstruct the knowledge for themselves. Tools include activities that are transferable, lessons that are well-organized and include materials and activities that are on point, and resources that students can explore outside the classroom. At times, we can all get lost in the details of a lesson or a unit while planning it. We generate an assessment and align it to the standards of the lesson. Then, we create these fun and engaging activities, or serious and challenging ones. In short, we do all the other things that lesson and unit planners should do, except we forget the part about helping the students answer the question, “Why do I have to learn this?”
Here are four ways you can use Moodle to establish relevance.
Take the mystery out of it by explaining the WIIFM of an assignment immediately. WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me?” It’s an acronym trainers and adult educators use, but K-12 educators can also use it. Essentially, you are telling them what you expect them to get from the lesson. Then, it’s up to them to verify that is what they got. In my classroom, I would expect my students to challenge me if my WIIFM statement doesn’t match their experience or understanding. I would also work hard to rectify that problem.
Competencies and Learning Plans
Do you share your standards with the students? Make it easier for the students to understand what’s happening in class! Share with them the standards you have aligned to the lesson and unit. Additionally, in Moodle, you can create learning plans based on competencies (Moodle’s term for standards) that administrators load into the software. These learning plans will show the students all the standards aligned to a course and the activities aligned to each standard. Be sure to explain all of this to the students when you share their learning plan with them. Otherwise, they might think this is nothing more than a checklist, and learning plans can be so much more useful than that. For more information on competencies and learning plans, please click this link.
Use discussion forums to address the “elephant in the room,” which is the usual question about relevance. In this case, peers can help peers; we often find that peers can teach one another just as much as the teacher can, so give them this opportunity to help one another.
You can download the journal plugin from Moodle.org at this link. Teachers use the journal activity to pose a question and review students’ answers to that question, which is a great way to do a little formative assessment! Explicitly pose questions such as
- “What do you think this unit is all about?”
- “How can you apply what you’ve learned during this unit to your life?”
- “In five years, what will you remember about this unit? Why?”
What Do You Think?
Do you think these four components of Moodle can help learners to establish relevance within their own minds? Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section provided.