Students and subject
Relational learning between students and their subject refers to the process of building connections with the content they are learning. This approach emphasises the importance of personal engagement and relevance in facilitating students’ learning and understanding of the material.
There are various opportunities to enhance students’ relationships with the subject matter in a higher education environment. Creating opportunities for students to engage in authentic learning activities is one such strategy.
“Authentic Learning describes learning activities that are either carried out in real-world contexts, or have high transfer to a real-world setting. Authentic learning activities should have both personal and cultural relevance.”1
Students can be given the opportunities to research, create and present on topics that relate to the use of real-world, authentic examples and connections. This encourages students to play an active role in their learning and develop a deeper understanding of the material by making connections to their own interests, experiences, and the world around them. There are strong connections between students and subject and students and their place.
If the subject is of personal importance to the students, they are more motivated to engage in the topic and retain it longer.
Some practical tips to enhance your students’ relationship with the subject matter.2
- Making the subject relevant to students’ lives; invite connections between the subject matter and students’ experiences.
- Sharing your own enthusiasm for the subject.
- Encouraging the students to talk about “big” ideas in the field.
- Discussing researchers in the field as embodied people who lived in particular times. Making them “real” people with whom students can interact and seeking diversity amongst researchers represented.
- Treating students as members of the disciplinary community, inviting and respecting their contributions alongside – and in dialogue with – some of the leading thinkers in the field.
- Involving students in authentic inquiry, which may involve changing the setting, such as going into the field, a laboratory, a library, or the community.
- Using a variety of media to support teaching – images and videos can be more emotionally engaging than text alone.
Authentic learning experiences for students
Professor Andrew Luxton-Reilly from the School of Computer Science was a recipient of a Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award from Ako Aotearoa in 2019. In this video, Andrew talks about how he creates authentic learning experiences for students.
Students and subject in practice
CASE STUDY – Jayden Houghton aims to make human connections with his students and encourages them to reflect on their values and their Law School experience.
CASE STUDY – The Faculty of Engineering has developed novel physical tools for teaching the properties of structural steel.
CASE STUDY – In Mechanical Engineering, students apply 3D printing technology to real-world industrial applications.
CASE STUDY – Maxine Lewis discusses relationality in her teaching practice within Classics and Ancient History.
CASE STUDY – In this practice example from DANCE 101, Associate Prof Alys Longley describes how she embeds relationality in her teaching practice.
CASE STUDY – Learn about a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) training programme within the Faculty of Engineering.
CASE STUDY – Anuj Bhargava employs a constructivist approach to teaching, in which students interact with their experiences and their surroundings to build knowledge.
Page updated 21/03/2023 (minor edit)
- Galindo, J.H. Authentic Learning (Simulations, Lab, Field). 2023; Available from: https://ablconnect.harvard.edu/authentic-learning. ↩
- Quinlan, Kathleen, M. “How emotion matters in four key relationships in teaching and learning in higher education.” College Teaching, 64, no 3 (2016): 101-111. doi: 10.1080/87567555.2015.1088818. ↩