Finding the Relevance
By Magali Saez-Cox
If you’re like me, you’re not sure what it means to be bored. My to-do list is so long that even when I find a few minutes to myself, I have a long list of fun things to do. So, what is boredom? According to merriam-webster.com, boredom is “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” Well, now that makes sense, a lack of interest. Hattie’s research mentions boredom having a -0.49 effect size in our classrooms; A NEGATIVE EFFECT SIZE!?! So, how might we turn a lack of interest into engagement and connection to the subjects in our virtual classrooms? The Distance Learning Playbook suggests finding the relevance. When students find the content relevant, boredom is turned into engagement. There are three aspects of relevancy: 1. personal association, 2. personal usefulness, and 3. personal identification. Combating boredom in the classroom is not about being entertaining or feeling like we have to move at the pace of video games. When we understand the depths of relevancy and how a stressed brain can feel like boredom, we can help our students connect to the content.
Relevancy is personal. What I find interesting may not be to someone else (I am keenly aware of my nerdiness). Same goes for each of our students. We can help them find relevance through personal association (Distance Learning Playbook, p.98). Personal association is when students can connect the content through an object, person, memory or something outside of the classroom. When this connection is made, a spark to learn more occurs. Personal usefulness is the second aspect of relevance. What personal goals have students set for themselves that tasks or assignments in our classrooms will help them achieve? A student who desperately wants a dog might engage in non-fiction reading to find reasons to share with his family to convince them to get a dog. A high school student who has goals to become a doctor will be vested in her biology class. The final and most motivating way for students to find relevancy is through personal identification. The Distance Learning Playbook says, “When students get to learn about themselves, their problem-solving, and their ability to impact others, relevance is increased” (p. 99). When the content or task aligns with students’ identities, boredom is not an option. Not all of the responsibility of relevance falls on teachers. Helping students identify feelings of boredom can help them refocus and find their own relevance.
Studies have shown that boredom is related to stress. When students’ brains are overpowered by stress, distractions from emotional trauma, and ADHD, they can disengage, feel distracted and bored. The answer is not to provide more assignments or to overstimulate which can create even more stress and disengagement. The key is to support students in identifying what is stressful, when they are bored, and what feelings of boredom are so they can self-regulate, ask for help and find ways to re-engage in tasks, texts and content. Helping students find their personal associations, personal usefulness, and personal identification can support their engagement.
As teachers, we strive to find the magic button to engage our students. Knowing more about relevancy, how to create relevancy for students and what might be causing boredom can be the key to engaging our students.
Curriculum & Instruction