Why We (Students) Want You To Tell Us About That Time You Went Hiking

Students love it when teachers sidetrack and tell them stories that are personally relevant to them. Well, if the story hasn ‘t been repeated twenty times in class already, that is. Although I imagine that excessive sharing of personal lives may jeopardise the managing of a certain teacher-student dynamic that needs to be maintained, I can testify as a student that the emotional distance between the teacher and student affects the student’s willingness to participate in class.

“Tell us more stories irrelevant to class material!” isn ‘t the message I’m trying to get across here.

I ‘m saying that as much as teachers want to keep close to the content that needs to be taught — so do things relevant to their jobs — students want to listen to things that are relevant to themselves too. Much like how listening to a personal story from a teacher and hearing them as a human being rather than a figure giving you homework makes the teacher more personally relevant.

It should “matter” to us

Yes, indisputably, studying and learning from teachers are definitely a student ‘s duties. However it takes a driven student to realise that the possibly boring content and coursework being covered in class is actually, in fact, supposed to be a step-by-step process to benefit the students. What ‘s worse, sometimes, very unfortunately, what students do in class simply does not seem like it could bring the students anywhere, even to the most studious ones.

Although there are many ways in which student engagement is encouraged, I believe a student feeling like something “matters” to them is a large part of where intrinsic motivation comes from. When a task, or the material being covered is personally relevant to a student, they ‘re much more likely to realise the value of the efforts they could potentially put in.

It can sound like something so obvious. Even if you exclude their individual interest from consideration, a student who wants to become a doctor will definitely be much more willing to listen to a public health lesson than a student who aspires to become an accountant.

(While this would be a tangent, I feel that this is precisely why there needs to be so much more discussion on careers than colleges in class. Subconsciously students can be detracted from culturing future-oriented motivation and encouraged to attempt to reach short-term thresholds such as certain scores on standardised testing.)

The inevitable, but unfortunately poorly answered — Why, are we learning this?

Similarly, students that are forced to excel by showing interest in the small picture (aka the bits and pieces of materials covered in class usually for tests and exams) without understanding the big picture and how they are relevant to this world and moreover students themselves, can be left very frustrated.

Integration of different learning aids and teaching media can definitely enhance the engagement level. However I feel that teachers helping to link learning or practicing of studies to students ‘ self-reflection can really make a class focus-worthy for the students.

Only a blessed few are in love at first sight with mathematics

Perhaps the appropriate analogy to the message I ‘m trying to deliver is the common joke regarding mathematics — “Just a question, when will we EVER need this, EVER, in our lives?!”

“Eigenvector” alone, is a mess to us. Eigenvector, however, in JPEG images — now that becomes a different story. I would say that the sentiment of “I now understand how JPEG works” certainly exists on a different plane from “I can recite how “Eigenvector works.”

“Relevance” and learning linking in with personal reflection also, I think, explains why students need to be presented with fascinatingly difficult materials at times — maybe this is for another post.

So that ‘s it for my first perspective. To capture the studious and the not-so-studious, please try to show us how it matters, just like how the guitarist you met in college matters to you.

Disclaimer: Ideas and opinions in the blog posts are the work of the author and do not necessarily reflect the ideas or beliefs of 21CLI.

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