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Relevance

Provide opportunities for learning science that students find personally meaningful, interesting, and/or culturally relevant

Relevance Overview

Overview

Relevance is reflected in a student’s answer to the motivational question Is this interesting, relatable, important, and/or useful to me? It stems from tasks/topics/activities that are:
  • Enjoyable and interesting
  • Useful for students’ current or future goals, or are related to their everyday lives or community
  • Relevant to students’ experiences and worldviews

How to support confidence: Principles

Make connections to students’ previous experiences, interests, goals, and real lives
  • Design assignments that allow students to pursue their existing interests, progress toward their goals, and/or make their own connections between the science content and their experiences
  • Explicitly discuss with students the purpose, importance, and scientific authenticity of activities/skills and how new concepts connect with phenomena, design problems, and previously learned concepts
  • Discuss why phenomena are valuable and relevant to the real world (and more specifically to the local community) and invite students’ perspectives on these connections
  • Consider whether all students can relate to relevance connections provided in the curriculum. Use strategies from equitable teaching frameworks (e.g., culturally responsive pedagogy) to learn about students’ personal interests/values/home cultures and communities and to encourage students to generate their own examples and connections to ensure personal relevance
Principles: Make connections to students’ previous experiences, interests, goals, and real lives
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Science instruction is oriented toward acquiring disconnected academic skills that students need to do well in school. The teacher invites students to reflect on the interconnection between the three dimensions of NGSS and how they can be used together to make sense of the world.
The scripted curriculum and/or teacher’s interests drive students’ sense-making and problem solving, or the teacher uses learning materials without considering students’ interests, assets, or experiences and making appropriate modifications. Learning materials may rely on a relevance connection that only some students can relate to (e.g., cultural references that not all students share), or that the teacher has assumed students can relate to because of stereotypes about student identity. The teacher focuses classwork on making sense of phenomena or solving problems that are personally relevant to students and can develop student interests beyond the initial “hook.” The teacher learns about students’ lives and interests in order to design or modify learning materials and accompanying instruction to be relatable for all students, such as by providing multiple examples/prompts or asking students how they relate to the content.
The teacher assumes that students recognize and appreciate the relevance and value of exploring phenomena or designing solutions. The teacher clearly conveys the goals, purpose, and importance of the lesson to support students’ perceptions of real-world relevance and ability to connect science learning to personal values and interests.
The teacher imposes her/his own vision of a limited type of relevance (e.g., preparing for a career in science) or dismisses relevance connections articulated by students. The teacher provides students with opportunities to make their own connections between their learning and the outside world, their personal experiences, their interests and questions, and the importance of developing skills for science.
  • Think about topics that could inspire wonder in students, and include demonstrations, videos, photos, and whole-class activities that invite student wonderings
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm for the content, as students often feed off of the teacher’s excitement or interest
  • Sustain student interest beyond the initial “hook” by building on student curiosity to generate questions, and by connecting introductory activities to the ongoing development of students’ science understanding and practices. Avoid using rewards as the “hook”; instead, focus on curiosity, authentic applications, and personally meaningful connections
Principles: Use exciting and/or enjoyable activities to draw students into further inquiry and ongoing science learning
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The teacher provides fun activities as a reward or treat after the completion of a learning task or unit, and/or the teacher distinguishes between science learning and “the fun stuff.” The teacher triggers interest with attention- and curiosity-sparking activities (e.g., demonstrations, videos, questions, etc) and makes connections between those initial hooks and the scientific concepts and practices that follow to help students develop a more sustained interest in scientific phenomena, sense-making, and problem solving.
Students passively receive science information from their teacher, or the lesson presents science to students as an individual, disconnected, abstract study of facts and information rather than a disciplinary community of shared practices and understandings that students can direct and participate in. The teacher designs activities that offer a variety of ways in which students can participate (e.g., hands-on labs, educational videos, group posters, gallery walks, “free” peer collaboration time) and help students to see themselves as scientists.
  • Keep up with new developments in science by reading magazine or news articles and watching educational films
  • Visit museums, nature preserves, open houses, or talks at local institutions related to content you teach
  • Relate science topics to contemporary culture (e.g., pop culture) that students are familiar with
  • Follow local news and current events within the school district to look for opportunities to connect science to issues in the students’ home communities
Principles: Use exciting and/or enjoyable activities to draw students into further inquiry and ongoing science learning
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Learning materials and resources are outdated. The teacher’s discourse and instructional priorities focus on science as a set of facts. The teacher does not introduce science-related current events or does not invite/acknowledge student questions that arise about science in the real world. The teacher facilitates students’ ability to follow current events or community opportunities in science (e.g., providing an area with recent science articles or magazines for students to browse, or a bulletin board with information about museums, parks, community science events, etc).
The teacher facilitates students’ ability to follow current events or community opportunities in science (e.g., providing an area with recent science articles or magazines for students to browse, or a bulletin board with information about museums, parks, community science events, etc). The teacher learns about local initiatives and issues where science is relevant in order to show students how science can be used to develop solutions to problems they care about in their home communities.