Thoughts on Relevance (part 1)

A few years back, my school went to ICLE’s Rigor/Relevance framework as a guiding principle of lesson and activity design.


Much talk of shooting for Quad D dominated evaluations over the next year with comments of “Try to get to Quad D” or “Where is the real world connection?” sprinkling administrator feedback forms on lessons. My own lessons settled into a status quo, offering occasional token gestures toward real world relevance. Examples might include having students draw on their own experiences and reading of Lord of the Flies to make a case for a new type of school governance. A worthy intellectual exercise with some relevance to the student’s life for sure, but is that the sort of real world “relevance” that appeals to students and sparks their passions?

I might have answered in the affirmative until recently, but my thoughts have begun to change on the subject of relevance. I recently attend the first ever High School Startup Weekend at the Clinton School of Public Service. My experiences there (which will probably dominate this blog in coming weeks) showed me a new sort of relevance. I saw students wrestling with issues that had real impact and potential in their lives (the starting of a real business) instead of intellectual exercises performed in the vacuum of the classroom but couched in terms of relevance to give lip service to real world practicality. When students were struggling with these authentically relevant issues at Startup Weekend, I saw the motivation, drive, and critical thinking that are all too often absent in the average classroom.



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