The Relevance Gap
What is the relevance gap? According to Scott Scantlin, it’s “that gap between where you are now and where you need be in the future to stay relevant.”
So, why do some of the smartest students lag in grades? They are bored out of their minds.
Students can’t connect to what they are learning
What is the relevance gap? Parents may hear the same lament every night, “I try to pay attention, but it’s so boring! Why should I bother learning about the life span of turtles or the equation for an acute triangle or memorize dates of the Magna Carta? What’s any of that got to do with real-life?!”
Students of all ability levels may be able to regurgitate information to pass a test. However, this was not the original intention of the education system. The word “educate” as defined by dictionary.com is “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”
Preparing for life? When is the last time students felt that was happening in their classrooms? Their innate powers of reasoning and judgment say there’s gotta be something more. The relevance gap means that students want to learn something that is relevant to their own personal lives.
Many a talented student has “checked out” and only gives the bare minimum to keep their grades up. Tanner literally slept through some classes and still got all Bs. He assured his parents he would pay attention in college when the topic was related to his major/his interest and mattered to his future career. High school, to him, was a joke.
Being able to skate through school may seem like a gift until Tanner arrived in college and found himself ill-prepared. Not only did he lack a strong foundation of the material, but he also did not have good study skills or the knowledge of how to learn new information.
The origin of the word educate is from the Latin educere. It means “to lead out”. The best-intentioned teachers do indeed want their efforts to help lead students out into the world. However, they have been laden with the same old curriculum for too long and increased pressure to teach to the test.
Engaging our students
Making learning meaningful should be a priority in today’s schools. That’s not the case and the brightest students are often the first to tune out. To keep students engaged, they have to feel what they are doing matters. The energy they expend must correlate to their interest level.
Young children are usually most excited about field trips, whether it’s with their class or with their parents (those who are willing/able to take their kids on such outings.) As students get older, they want to explore on their own. Young people with the highest potential are now demanding relevance. They want real problem-solving, hands-on learning, and freedom to create some of their own projects.
To bridge the relevance gap that exists in standard curriculums, meaningful learning now often occurs beyond the confines of the school walls, in the one-on-one environment of tutoring.
Tutoring is often thought to be assistance to those who need extra help in “keeping up.” It’s also a way of keeping students connected to their desire to learn, grow, and expand. Any subject or interest can be explored via tutoring. This relationship can increase the attention span during school hours as well. Curiosity and enthusiasm can return.
Beat the boredom beast. Talk with your student’s teacher to see if independent study projects can be included as part of their schoolwork and consider finding a tutor to work with your student.