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There are seven ways to test the quality of a learning activity.

Dr. Peter Kelly wants us to run the learning tasks we design through seven tests so that we can decide if they are relevant and meaningful for our students. Which are those tests?

At school, often, we strip learning away from the context that makes it meaningful. As a result, children do not see the value of spending time in the classroom outside their success in tests. They rarely view their learning as usable beyond formal lessons. We looked at Dr. Peter Kelly's work on making learning joyful to understand what teachers can do to leverage the learning experiences we create in our classrooms to help our students view learning in school as learning for life and not merely for tests. Dr. Peter Kelly lists seven questions we can use to decide how meaningful and relevant the learning tasks we design are for our students.

Before we explore the seven tests of learning task relevance, we must consider two essential features of learning:

Feature One

Learning is ubiquitous.

Learning happens all the time because it means making sense of the world. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, throughout the day, in everything we do, all that we do is make sense of the world. Learning is ubiquitous as breathing. Yet, we tend to think we learn only in specific places, like classrooms.

Feature Two

Learning is intuitive.

Learning is a natural process. All of us can learn. Most of the time learning is intuitive, to the extend that we do not even think about it while we are learning. We only become conscious of it when someone asks us to focus on it. Research on brain-based learning makes it clear that learning sticks only when we make this unconscious learning conscious. Our jobs as teachers is to make intuitive learning conscious, which is possible if we design relevant and meaningful learning experiences for our students.

The seven tests of task relevance

Dr. Peter Kelly recommends that we can draw from our everyday learning experiences to improve learning in school. According to him, everyday learning draws from the following three principles. First, learning is a byproduct of engaging in an activity that may or may not have any explicit connection to what we are learning. Second, we learn only what is relevant to us. Third, interest drive learning. Dr. Peter Kelly aligned these three principles to design the following seven tests of task relevancy.

Test One

Does the learning task help my students make sense of their world?

Learning is the process of making sense of the world around us. We make sense of the world in two ways. First, we make sense of the world by reflecting on our experiences. Second, we make sense of the world when we listen to what sense others are making of the world. A relevant classroom task will provide students opportunities to reflect on their experiences and listen to how their peers are experiencing the world around them.

Test Two

Is the learning task locally relevant for my students?

We must go as hyperlocal as possible when we design learning tasks. They must draw from and build on the day-to-day experiences of your students. We must use local examples, resources, opportunities, interests, issues, and concerns to make a task relevant to the everyday experiences of our students.

Test Three

Does the learning task respond to the current interests of my students?

A need or interest drives everyday learning. Learning tasks can become relevant if they appeal to the needs or interests of your students. It means that the tasks you design must make most of school events, community events and national events when ever possible, to capture student enthusiasm. All these events provide opportunities for discussion, activity and learning, and we need to be flexible to make the most of such opportunities.

Test Four

Does the learning task relate to my students' immediate experiences?

Many things happen in your students' lives, inside and outside the school. A relevant learning task will provide opportunities for students to refer to or acknowledge these personal experiences. The birth of a brother or sister, an upsetting event in the playground, a recent or anticipated holiday, success in a weekend sporting event, or the death of an elderly grandparent - all are significant vents to some students in the class and can provide learning opportunities for all.

Test Five

Does the learning task relate to my students' past experiences?

Those of us who watched Never have I ever on Netflix will know how exactly this plays out in a classroom. Paxton Hall-Yoshida, a popular 16-year-old high school junior in the Web Series wants to become a sports person and does not like to learn. His life and approach to learning turns around when the teacher gives him an assignment where he has to go back and explore not only his past experiences but also the experiences of his uncle and parents. Learning is about making links. A relevant learning task will allow students to think about their past experiences and connect it to what they are currently learning.

Test Six

Does the learning task involve more than three or four senses?

We learn best through direct experiences. Experiences are sensorial. Therefore learning tasks must allow students to use at least three to four senses. Dr. Peter Kelly says, "Of course children will always need to spend some of their time learning from listening, watching, or reading –indeed these are worthwhile and valuable activities when learners engage in them actively. It is by drawing on a rich and full range of direct experiences and reflecting on these that children are able to become active listeners, watchers, or readers."

Test Seven

Does the learning task inspire awe and wonder in my students?

Tasks that do not capture students' imagination fall flat. They must spark excitement and enthuse them to explore what the world offers. As Dr. Kelly puts it, "Only then will we encourage them to have a passion for learning and so become lifelong learners."

Teach with Innerkern

This post is a part of #TeachwithInnerkern. #TeachWithInnerkern is our open social learning initiative to enable Indian school teachers to engage with each other on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram for their continuing professional development.


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