In the November 2017 edition of Eric Jensen’s Brighter Brain’s Bulletin, the topic centered around Behavioral Relevance. Behavioral relevance can be referred to as “buy in” or “why”. Children are naturally inquisitive and often demand to know relevance of events as any parents of a two year old can attest to experiencing first hand. Part of our job as educators is to link this natural craving for “why” with the standards we are required to instruct.
While we may think this is a waste of precious learning time, the research suggests that when a teacher builds in this relevance, the brain is more able to learn and retain the information presented. We are inundated with so much information, we can only retain the ones that are going to be the most important. This holds true for children as well. If a student sees no purpose in learning, the information has a harder time getting into long term memory.
There are some conditions that need to occur before learning can take place. A person must first be paying attention. Once you have the students’ attention, we must do our best to give students a strong sense of relevance. There is no one phrase or statement that will always work to insure relevancy. This is where the art of teaching comes into play. Having a relationship with your students allows you to be able to determine what is meaningful for them.
I think it is important to note that this idea of relevancy or “why” is not restricted to the classroom. Understanding why is just as important in the boardroom. In his very famous TED talk entitled “How great leaders inspire action” (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action), Simon Sinek discusses what he calls the Golden Circle. At the center of this Golden Circle is an understanding of why. He goes on to detail how customers are far more attracted to why a company is doing something as opposed to just what they are doing. By providing students with a deeper understanding of why we are learning a specific skill, it will ultimately save time and help to better prepare students to become successful members of society.