Relevance Essay Writing

In education, the term relevance typicallyrefers to learning experiences that are either directly applicable to the personal aspirations, interests, or cultural experiences of students (personal relevance) or that are connected in some way to real-world issues, problems, and contexts (life relevance).

Personal relevance occurs when learning is connected to an individual student’s interests, aspirations, and life experiences. Advocates argue that personal relevance, when effectively incorporated into instruction, can increase a student’s motivation to learn, engagement in what is being taught, and even knowledge retention and recall. The following are a few representative forms of personal relevance:

  • Individual choices: A teacher might ask students to write about the United States presidency, but then allow them to choose which president they will study. A student with a personal interest in hiking and the outdoors might select Theodore Roosevelt, for example, because he was a naturalist and conservationist who led scientific expeditions and helped establish the first national parks.
  • Product choices: If a particular learning standard is being taught, such as “conduct historical research using original sources,” a teacher might allow students to demonstrate their research skills by creating different products. For example, a student interested in filmmaking might create a short documentary using archival photography. A student interested in music and technology might produce an audio podcast in the style of an old radio-news program or presidential address. Another student who aspires to be a writer might choose to write a historical essay or short work of historical fiction that incorporates period facts and details.
  • Varied content: In a news and journalism course, for example, a teacher might ask students to monitor and analyze news stories about current world events. Students might be allowed to choose an area of personal interest—e.g., politics, environmentalism, science, technology—and monitor news reports in those areas as relevant events unfold. Even though students are studying different news topics, the course teaches students about effective reporting techniques, how news is created, how to analyze news coverage, and how effective news stories are structured, for example.
  • Cultural connections: In a world-history course, a teacher might allow students to investigate certain historical topics or time periods through a culturally relevant connection. For example, during lessons on imperialism and colonialism, students from different cultural backgrounds might choose to write essays that explore the effects of imperialism and colonialism from the standpoint of their racial, ancestral, or cultural heritage.

Life relevance occurs when learning is connected in some way to real-world issues, problems, and contexts outside of school. Life relevance is generally intended to equip students with practical skills, knowledge, and dispositions that they can apply in various educational, career, and civic contexts throughout their lives. As with personal relevance, advocates contend that life relevance can improve engagement, motivation, and learning acquisition. Life relevance may also intersect in a variety of ways with personal relevance. The following are a few representative forms of life relevance:

  • Skill acquisition: While instructing students, a teacher might incorporate practical skills that students can apply throughout their lives. For example, students might be asked to use technology to create a variety of products that demonstrate what they have learned, such as audiovisual presentations, websites, software programs, databases, or spreadsheets. While the students are learning history, science, or mathematics, for example, they are also acquiring technology skills that will be useful in adult life.
  • Practical context: When teaching abstract mathematical concepts, a teacher might use practical life contexts to help the concepts “come alive” for students. For example, students might be asked to follow a favorite sports team and conduct mathematical analyses using team statistics. Similar teaching strategies could be used with a variety of different data, such as demographic, economic, or financial data.
  • Current events: In a unit on presidential elections in a social-studies course, students might be asked to monitor campaign advertising on radio, television, and the internet, and then research the accuracy of the statements being made. Students may then write an analysis of how campaigns manipulate the presentation of facts to influence voter opinions about a particular candidate or issue.
  • Community connections: In a government course, a teacher might draw comparisons between national governmental functions and how the government works in the local community. The teacher might ask students to study local politics, interview elected officials, and put together a citizen-action proposal that will be presented to the city or town council. As students learn about local politics, they get a more concrete understanding of how government works at the state or national level.
  • Career aspirations: In a business course, a teacher might ask students to develop a business plan for a proposed company. Students pick an industry that interests them—such as fashion, video games, or cooking—and then they research existing businesses in the field, determine how they will raise start-up funding, create a marketing campaign, and pitch their final proposals to local business leaders. While learning about business and economics, students also learn whether the career path is a good fit for them, and they acquire practical skills that will help them when they enter the workforce.


Educators may use a wide variety of educational strategies to increase the relevance of what is taught and learned in schools—just a few examples include 21st century skills, authentic learning, career-themed academies, community-based learning, differentiation, learning pathways, personalized learning, and project-based learning. It should be noted that while there have been growing calls nationally for schools to increase their emphasis on teaching relevant concepts and skills, relevance in education is not a new concept—teachers have been integrating relevance into their lessons and teaching since formal schools were created, albeit to widely varying degrees. In addition, career and technical education programs have long been focused on career preparation.


While few arguments are made against the concept of greater relevance in education, there is often debate about the degree to which schools should address relevance and the best ways to go about it. In particular, there may be debate about or criticism of the specific strategies and practices used to increase relevance, some of which may be met with misunderstanding, skepticism, or apprehension. For example, in recent years many educators, policy makers, educational organizations, and philanthropic foundations have called on schools to focus on the “new three Rs”: rigor, relevance, and relationships—i.e., to make sure that (1) students are held to high expectations and challenged academically and intellectually, (2) what gets taught reflects both personal and life relevance, and (3) educators form strong relationships with students and get to know them and their specific learning needs well. While some may express concern that the new three Rs will replace the original three Rs—reading, writing, and arithmetic—advocates would argue that the “rigor, relevance, and relationships” concept does not in any way displace the necessity of teaching students how read, write, and do math. Still, the perception that students are not “getting the basics” is fairly widespread in the United States, and efforts to change or improve schools are often perceived to be in conflict with more traditional forms of education, which are associated in the public mind with “the basics.”

Other critics may argue that striving for greater relevance will introduce too much choice or flexibility in terms of content (what gets taught), process (how it gets taught), and products (what students do or produce to show what they have learned). Reforms, in this view, may “water down” courses, not teach the most important subjects, or fail to adequately prepare students. Increasing relevance in teaching may also require teachers to make significant changes to the ways in which they have traditionally taught. For example, lessons may need to be entirely reconceived or teachers may need to learn new instructional techniques. Given the numerous ways in which relevance may play out in schools, it is important to acquire a strong understanding of a particular school’s academic philosophy, how its program is structured, and what results it’s achieving.

Being Relevant and the Art of Selection

Writing is about decision-making. When you write, your mind will be constantly asking itself questions ; what you write will be your answers to these questions. Many of these questions will be concerned with the content of your work (What to include and what to leave out ? Have I said everything that I wanted to say?), and many will be concerned with its form (Is that idea adequately expressed ? Is that word the best word ?). These kinds of decisions are based on two very important and interrelated concepts: relevance and selectivity.

1. Being Relevant

What you choose to say will be governed by the task you are trying to fulfil by writing : everything which contributes to the fulfilment of this task is relevant ; everything which detracts from it is irrelevant. So, it is vital to develop the skill of judging relevance. It is important when writing to ask yourself again and again ‘Is this relevant ?’ which means ‘Does this sentence contribute to the fulfilment of the task I am trying to achieve ?’


The ENIGMA is in the city centre, next to a church. It’s a new building with bright neon lights. The church is protestant, I think. When I went there it was raining. You can take a bus or a tram from the station. It’s too far to walk and taxis are very expensive. You can ask for the number at the station. My memory is getting worse. You need to get off outside a big school and take the street which runs alongside it, there is a park on the left. There is a big fountain in the park. The ducks like the fountain. You come to a roundabout and turn left. It’s a beautiful city, by the way. The ENIGMA is on your right after 200 metres.

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I think that Laura is more sensitive than the rest of her family.She is interested in the workmen who come to put up the marquee. One of them is ‘pale and tired’ and Laura wonders what he is thinking.She is interested in other lives.She wants the party to be a success and talks to Kitty on the telephone.When she sees the flowers she thinks there has been a mistake.I don’t think they need so many flowers because the party will take place in the garden.Even though Laura isn’t hungry, she eats a cream cake just after breakfast. She is very disturbed when she hears about the accident, and wants to cancel the party.She notices that her attitude is different to that of her family; she can enter into the lives of others and feel what they are feeling.I think that the upper classes are often very cold. Money often divides people.It is a pleasure to be with happy people, but Laura has to go down the hill to the cottages where the poor people live. A big dog crosses her path.

Sometimes irrelevant material can be made relevant by explaining more and adding greater detail. Here is another sentence from the same essay : ‘Laura wants to stop the party but Mrs Sheridan gives her a new hat.’

The sentence seems irrelevant because it lacks detail and focus. But by adding more explanation we can easily add to its relevance : ‘Laura wants to stop the party, but Mrs Sheridan gives her a new hat and Laura is seduced by her own beautiful image ; egotistically, she forgets about the accident and conforms to the selfish standards of her family.’ Now the hat helps the essay to achieve its aims.


3. Making Relevant with Examples

Very often the relevance of a sentence or group of sentences can be increased or made clearer by adding an example. In the same student essay, we find the sentence: ‘Laura feels embarrassed and ashamed when she visits the poor people.’ Now this statement is only half relevant to the essay question, which asks about the difference between Laura and her family and the themes of class and death. We need an example: ‘Laura feels embarrassed and ashamed when she visits the poor people, and this is shown when she apologises to the corpse for wearing her mother’s party hat.’ Suddenly the relevance of the sentence to the essay question is dramatically increased.


4. Selecting the Right Word

The quality and efficiency of your writing will obviously depend on your ability to select the right word. There are various techniques which can help with this, which we will look at in a moment; but it is important to realise that your word-power in English will develop in proportion to the depth of your experience of the language. Listen and read very carefully, and develop the skill of discovering what individual words are doing in a particular context, and how they combine with other words. An essential tool to acquire is a thesaurus or dictionary of synonyms, which you should always consult when you are preparing a text.

When choosing the right word you should take into account the following three factors:

When re-reading your work before submitting it you should ask these questions systematically about your choice of words. The following exercises are designed to help you develop this habit.


1. T, the leader of Graham Greene’s congregation of destructors is evil incarnate.

2. It is because of their insolence that the Sheridans continue with their garden party in spite of the fatal accident.

3. William’s ‘This is Just to say’ is a plain poem recounting an everyday experience. It is written in vulgar language which we can all recognise.

4. Auden’s ‘Song’ (also entitled 'Funeral Blues') combines an atmosphere of holocaust with infantile imagery. It is about grief and the impossibility of adjusting to loss.

BAC1 students in English Literature MUST click HERE to do this exercise interactively and will have to enter their ULg "identifiant" and "mot de passe" to access the page. Others, whose work need not be monitored, can click here.


1. Doris Lessing describes a young man, Charlie, who has a problem with his family. He is upset by their expectations and suffering from anxiety. ('England versus England')

2. Mr.Duffy, a dull man, is bored with his family, and has conventional attitudes regarding social opinion. (James Joyce, 'A Painful Case')

3. The tone of Hemingway's story 'The Killers' is not very nice and its protagonists have a poor attitude concerning human life.


BAC1 students in English Literature MUST click HERE to do this exercise interactively and will have to enter their ULg "identifiant" and "mot de passe" to access the page. Others, whose work need not be monitored, can click here.


1. The narrator of Ray Bradbury's 'The Beggar on the Dublin Bridge' is a very sympathetic person, he feels very sympathetic towards the beggar on the bridge.

2. At the end of ‘The Garden Party’ Laura finds the dead man’s body marvellous, she tells her brother that it is ‘simply marvellous’.

3. In ‘England versus England’ Charlie is a student under pressure. He is suffering from anxiety when he is with his family and the thought of going back to Oxford fills him with anxiety too.

BAC1 students in English Literature MUST click HERE to do this exercise interactively and will have to enter their ULg "identifiant" and "mot de passe" to access the page. Others, whose work need not be monitored, can click here.


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