Relational Learning

Relational Learning

WHAT DOES RELATIONAL LEARNING MEAN?
WHY? THE WAY WE ASSESS MATTERS—
HOW CAN WE SUPPORT RELATIONAL LEARNING GOALS?
WHAT DOES RELATIONAL LEARNING MEAN?

At the essence of relational learning is relationship— relationship of student to content material, student to student, and student to instructor. These relationships are dynamical.  Research links successful relational learning to intentional communication, brain-based instructional practice and thoughtful curricular design.

Curriculum at an appropriate level of difficulty. (Voke)

  • All teachers will teach the Michigan Merit Curriculum according to the content expectations for each subject area.

High teacher expectations (Voke)

  • Belief that all students can learn and will hold each student accountable to Michigan Merit Curriculum.

Backwards design (with desired assessments and end in mind) promotes intentionality in curriculum and teaching decisions. (Wiggins and McTighe “Understanding Understanding”)

  • Teachers have an expectation for student learning and purposely create lessons that address content expectations.

Teachers should inform students of what they will learn each day and why the leaning is important. Research has shown that the effective classroom to the one in which the students are kept aware of instructional objectives and receive feedback on their progress. (Wiggins and McTighe. “Put Understanding First.”)

  • Teachers will provide learning targets daily or explain the goal of each lesson.
  • Students are provided frequent feedback on their daily understanding and performance.

Transfer must be the aim of all teaching. (Wiggins and McTighe “Understanding Understanding”)

  • Teacher will provide opportunities for practice and students must apply learning opportunities to real world.

WHY? THE WAY WE ASSESS MATTERS—

Best instructional practice begins with a desired end in mind and designs learning opportunities towards preparing students to apply their understanding in meaningful ways. Assessment decisions and strategies are critical and intentional.

Evidence of understanding…involves assessing for students’ capacity to use their knowledge thoughtfully and to apply it in diverse settings—to do the subject. (Wiggins and McTighe. “Understanding Understanding”)

  • Design meaningful projects and products vs. worksheets or end of chapter/reading questions
  • Encourage hands on exploration of materials

Focus on assessment as an ongoing issue vs. assessment only at the end of a chapter. (Beers “Assessing for Learning)

  • Use a variety of formative assessments to gauge student learning such as—“ticket out the door” or thumbs up/down/sideways or paraphrase reports to show understanding of material

Teachers need to use appropriate curriculum with opportunities to make choices and receive feedback on their choices as they go through lessons. Allow students to use what they know and build on it, allowing students to think and hopefully increase motivation. (McMillan and Hearn)

  • Provide a variety of choices for students for final projects/products to evaluate understanding. Ideal choices include flexibility of mind such as portfolios, performances, and exhibitions.
  • Construct assignments that are open-ended enough so students can make it their own. While guidelines are helpful, strict parameters can stifle creativity.

Research in cognitive psychology challenges the notion that students must learn all the important facts and basic skills (direct instruction) before they can address the key concepts of a subject (facilitation) or apply (coaching) the skills in more complex and authentic ways. (Wiggins and McTighe. “Put Understanding First.”)

Direct Instruction— (facts and figures)
Facilitation—(meaning and understanding)
Coaching—(transfer learning to complex situations and application)

  • Encourage students to ask questions, form hypotheses and investigate theories.
  • Model the sense of wonderment that comes when motivated and intrigued by various subjects

HOW CAN WE SUPPORT RELATIONAL LEARNING GOALS?

The classroom climate must be safe to cultivate risk-taking and self-directedness in learning. For students to think creatively and express new ideas without fear of embarrassment or criticism, students need to be accepted and respected for their uniqueness. Optimal learning takes place in a where personal connections thrive.

Safe Haven—Teachers must use strategies to reduce stress and build a positive emotional environment. Students gain emotional resilience and learn more efficiently. (Willis)

  • For beginning of the year introductions, instead of asking students to write about themselves, ask students to interview each other and then introduce their partners to the larger class to build community.
  • Encourage a variety of input and accept a wide range of answers
  • Minimize bullying and put downs
  • Routinely greet students and hold conversations with them about topics other than the lesson
  • Create opportunities for students to get to know each other and you
  • Create a psychologically and physically safe environment

Schools should foster caring relationships (Voke)

  • Students feel especially connected when teachers show an interest in them during times of personal problems.
  • Create a classroom that is interactive, welcoming, and accessible to all students
  • Familiarize students with location of materials and routines for use
  • Handle discipline problems privately

Class change should be coupled with school-wide initiatives (Voke)

  • Stay up to date with School Improvement Team and Curriculum Council information
  • Significant curriculum changes must go through Curriculum Council
  • Update lesson plans to reflect school's mission and vision statement

All students have opportunity to be a part of decision-making process of the school and to regulate own learning (Voke)

  • Give students options to express what they know within their work
  • To encourage ownership, allow students to decide the rules of the classroom
  • Allow for student self-assessment of their progress/learning

“Make it Relevant” lessons are more personally interesting and motivating so that students should be able to answer, “Why are we learning this?” at any point (Willis)

  • Whenever possible, instruction should be tied to topics that naturally interest students
  • Projects can be organized around themes, which can lead to deeper understanding and engagement
  • Give real-life applications- answering the questions "Why is this important"?
  • Post learning objectives daily.  Tie it to why lesson is important for the students.

Intrinsic motivation=engaged student. (McMillan and Hearn)

  • Give students realistic goals to achieve and to boost self-confidence
  • Allow students to set their own goals
  • Praise students who show initiative and risk-taking in class

Questioning (Beers, “Assessing for Learning”)

Use the following techniques to check for student understanding:

  • Open-ended
  • ‚ÄčIncreasing wait time
  • Alternate ways of answering  (scrap paper, fingers/thumbs raised)
  • Thought-provoking questions
  • Balance calling on students

Teachers often plan for higher learning, but assess for lower levels, such as knowledge and comprehension (Beers, “Teaching for Learning)

  •  Assess students throughout a lesson or unit rather that just at the end
  • Make changes in instruction based on that assessment
  • Use assessment creatively in a variety of ways
  • Include student input into the assessment process

What does Relational Learning look like in the classroom?

  • All teachers will teach the Michigan Merit Curriculum according to the  content expectations for each subject area.
  • Belief that all students can learn and will hold each student accountable to Michigan Merit Curriculum.
  • Teachers have an expectation for student learning and purposely create lessons that address content expectations.
  • Teachers will provide learning targets daily or explain the goal of each lesson.
  • Students are provided frequent feedback on their daily understanding and performance.
  • Teacher will provide opportunities for practice and students must apply learning opportunities to real world.
  • Design meaningful projects and products vs. worksheets or end of chapter/reading questions
  • Encourage hands on exploration of materials
  • Use a variety of formative assessments to gauge student learning such as—“ticket out the door” or thumbs up/down/sideways or paraphrase reports to show understanding of material
  • Provide a variety of choices for students for final projects/products to evaluate understanding. Ideal choices include flexibility of mind such as portfolios, performances, and exhibitions.
  • Construct assignments that are open-ended enough so students can make it their own. While guidelines are helpful, strict parameters can stifle creativity.
  • Encourage students to ask questions, form hypotheses and investigate theories.
  • Model the sense of wonderment that comes when motivated and intrigued by various subjects
  • For beginning of the year introductions, instead of asking students to write about themselves, ask students to interview each other and then introduce their partners to the larger class to build community.
  • Connect with students by showing an interest in them during times of personal problems and absences.
  • Encourage a variety of input and accept a wide range of answers
  • Minimize bullying and put downs
  • Routinely greet students and hold conversations with them about topics other than the lesson
  • Create opportunities for students to get to know each other and you
  • Create a psychologically and physically safe environment
  • Create a classroom that is interactive, welcoming, and accessible to all students
  • Familiarize students with location of materials and routines for use
  • Handle discipline problems privately
  • Stay up to date with School Improvement Team and Curriculum Council information
  • Significant curriculum changes must go through Curriculum Council
  • Update lesson plans to reflect school's mission and vision statement
  • Give students options to express what they know within their work
  • To encourage ownership, allow students to decide the rules of the classroom
  • Allow for student self-assessment of their progress/learning
  • Whenever possible, instruction should be tied to topics that naturally interest students
  • Projects can be organized around themes, which can lead to deeper understanding and engagement
  • Give real-life applications- answering the questions "Why is this important"?
  • Post objective daily.  Tie it to why lesson is important for the students
  • Give students realistic goals to achieve and to boost self-confidence
  • Allow students to set their own goals
  • Praise students who show initiative in class
  • Assess students throughout a lesson or unit rather that just at the end
  • Make changes in instruction based on that assessment
  • Use assessment creatively in a variety of ways
  • Include student input into the assessment process

Bibliography of Research Articles

Beers, B. (2006). “Assessing for Learning”. Learning-Driven Schools: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Principals.  Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 60-74.


Beers, B. (2006). “Teaching for Learning.” Learning-Driven Schools: A Practical Guide for Teachers and Principals.  Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 41-59.

McMillan, J. H., & and Hearn, J. (2008, Fall). “Student Self- Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement.” Educational Horizons, 40-48.

Voke, Heather. “Student Engagement: Motivating Students to Learn.” Info Brief: ASCD Online. (online only).

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2008, May).  “Put Understanding First.” Educational Leadership, 36-41.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). “Understanding Understanding.” Understanding by Design. (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1-18.