Thursday, August 29, 2013

Increasing student engagement

If you've worked in education for more than 5 minutes, you've probably had a conversation about ways and strategies to increase student engagement. For the record, I applaud all efforts and all initiatives that assist our schools in becoming more engaging. I think it's also safe to say that increases in student engagement are directly related to a more relevant and more purposeful learning environment for our students.

Perhaps I'm wrong and totally going in the wrong direction here, but I feel we aren't making nearly as much progress as we could be...

What I mean by this is that I think we have too many varying definitions of what 'engagement' actually looks like. I also think we are too varied in our beliefs about what 'relevant' and 'purposeful' really mean in the classroom setting.

via +John Spencer (@edrethink)
I have no doubt that educators are all committed to doing what's best for our students. My only concern is that since we all have varying and different definitions of what engaging, purposeful, and relevant mean, we are having difficulty moving forward with these initiatives and at times are spinning our wheels.

Now, one of the beauties of education is all the varying backgrounds and experiences that educators have that ultimately enrich and strengthen learning opportunities for students. We all bring a certain 'flavor' to the classroom and it's because of that unique flavor and perspective, we avoid possibly being replaced by robots!

So, when we sit down to talk about increasing student engagement, when we talk about making education more purposeful, and when we talk about making education more relevant, we first need to discuss what we as educators mean by engagement, purpose, and relevance.

We need to actually describe what we believe student engagement looks like in a classroom. We need to agree upon what a purposeful education actually means for students in the 21st century. Lastly, we need to come to some kind of a consensus of what is relevant for our students when it comes to preparing them for a successful life.

So, before we talk about strategies to increase engagement, strategies to make education more purposeful, and strategies to make education more relevant, we all need to agree upon what we believe they mean and what we believe they will ultimately look like.

Agree upon a mutual meaning and definition and then begin the strategies discussion... if we don't all agree upon a meaning, then the strategies aren't going to have much meaning and they will have a very inconsistent impact on student engagement.