The importance of relevance in motivating student learning
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Kember, DR and Ho, AA and Hong, C, The importance of relevance in motivating student learning, Active Learning in Higher Education: The Journal of The Institute for Learning and Teaching, 9, (3) pp. 249-263. ISSN 1469-7874 (2008) [Refereed Article]
This article reports findings from a study which interviewed 36 undergraduate students about aspects of the teaching and learning environment which motivated or demotivated their study. It was found that students were motivated by a teaching environment characterized by eight main elements. This article reports in detail on the element of establishing relevance, as this seemed very important to the interviewees. The interviewees found that teaching abstract theory alone was demotivating. Relevance could be established through: showing how theory can be applied in practice, establishing relevance to local cases, relating material to everyday applications, or finding applications in current newsworthy issues. The traditional building block curriculum, which devotes substantial parts of initial courses to basic theory, could demotivate students if they could not see how the theory was applicable to the discipline or profession. The problem could be alleviated by a course which revealed a curriculum map showing the application of basic material in more advanced courses, or by early periods of exposure to professional practice in professional programmes. Professional programmes faced a double-edged sword with respect to relevance in that it could be established by demonstrating that material was relevant to a future career. However, students could easily become demotivated if they could not see the relevance of theoretical material, since they had chosen a professional programme in the expectation that it would prepare them well for their future career. © 2008 SAGE Publications.
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