You can’t throw a rock into the educational blogosphere without hitting the word “engagement” these days. It’s been that way since the mid-1990s but the recent interest in 21st Century LEARNing (or the “21C Paradigm”) means that it has got a much higher profile of late…
Today, in order to “compete” with the power of self-directed, edtech-enabled LEARNing, classroom TEACHers have to engage, engage, engage…and woe betide thee, Molly Woppy…if you are still using carrots n’ sticks to get your LEARNers to LEARN!
The problem is, in today’s brave new world of education, rapport just does not cut it – neither does a great curriculum or a great assessment matrix…if we ever get round to creating these!
Engagement has become the educator’s best friend in the “war on motivation” (or the lack of it). The real problem (yes, you knew it was coming) is that we seem to throw the term around so frequently and loosely that for many TEACHers it has lost its meaning.
Is it just topics that LEARNers find “interesting” or activities that they “like” or work that allows them to “express” themselves – even…shock-horror…“having fun” in the classroom and “working with friends”?
Of course, it’s more…a lot more.
Check out this summary from Wiki…I must admit these guys are still impressing me with some of their stuff…but do not tell anyone I said that! This time, however, I’m going to focus on those elements that impact LEARNers and TEACHers…in the classroom.
And, what better place to start than with Carl Rogers…and his insight into the “real” meaning of engagement:
…he gives us even more:
Now, I have to admit…when I first saw this (as a younger teacher), I thought “No way…no way is that possible in the classroom”!
I guess I am not alone…
Rogers’ comments highlight many of the key elements that educational researchers started to hone in on in the mid-1990s:
…a holy trinity that seem to fuel a visible delight in the LEARNers – and a persistence or resilience that allows these LEARNers to “see things through” to “success” and “achievement”.
Now, you see why this scared the bejeebers out of me!
Some of you – familiar with the work of Dan Pink – will have picked up on that last word, the title of his 2009 book. Dan writes a great deal about the changing work of work or what he terms “21st century work”. His book, Drive, was summarised in a “twitter post” he made at the time the book was published:
Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.
By which he meant (but could not fit into a 140-character tweet):
- Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
- Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
- Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Drive, of course, refers directly to “motivation” (more indirectly to “engagement” – the product of high levels of motivation), and Pink suggests that the keys to unlocking and sustaining this type of (intrinsic) motivation (at work, school and home) lie in focussing in on autonomy, mastery and purpose – the exact same thing that Carl Rogers was talking about.
Now, you might say – and would probably be very right to do so – Tony, surely this type of “engagement” is only possible out-of-school – when kids choose to “tune out” school and focus on things they “love”, their “real” interests, their own hobbies?
The thing was that early research into classroom engagement did actually show that it was possible in school…in the classroom.
We started to see that those students that were “engaged” in their school work seemed to be “engergized” by success, curiosity, originality and satisfying relationships. Richard Strong, Harvey Silver and Amy Robinson, for example, picked up on this and highlighted four core needs that these students seem to have – and explained them a bit more (we did not have twitter then):
- Success – the need for “mastery” (not just grades or exam passes)
- Curiosity – the need for “understanding” (not just “information” that has to be memorised)
- Originality – the need for “self-expression” (not just be a “good student”)
- Relationships – the need for “involvement with others” (not just be a “vessel”)
Obviously, all these elements basically touch on the issue of “motivation” and many TEACHers realised that it might be a good idea to start looking at the things that they were already doing “right” – and discover a few more ways to build on these things. By asking questions like:
…and more reflective (and disorientating) questions like:
…that only the bravest of us ask!
All of them…great questions!
What these teachers were realising was that student engagement also came from TEACHers engaging with their own TEACHing!
John Hattie, noted this:
He is right – on both counts!
BUT…there is another element!
TEACHers can improve LEARNer engagement by engaging LEARNers in conversations about what engages them. They can ask LEARNers to LEARN them!
…through direct approaches vis-à-vis “motivation”:
…and, also taking this…further:
It is exactly these types of questions – suggested by Julia Flutter and Jean Rudduck (in this instance) – that start to pull LEARNers out of their more traditional role of “outsiders”…and help them assume the role of an “insider” – an insider in the very process of their own LEARNing…
Julia and Jean also take this a step further – in their 2004 book – when they describe a great model that captures the very essence of engagement. They maintain that schools have been getting it wrong for years and suggest that children at school are “hungry” for the 3Rs – responsibility, respect and reality…and that teachers and schools can meet these needs by focussing on the 3Cs – choice, challenge and collaboration.
These 3Rs and 3Cs can be adapted into another group of questions that TEACHers can ask themselves:
…again, TEACHers engaging with their own TEACHing!
OK…so far, I have been doing most of the heavy-lifting in this post (or was that “heavy-asking”?) – let’s try a little task. Ask yourself those six questions inspired by Julia and Jean’s thunking – just give a “yea” or “nay”.
If you answered “yes”, try evidencing those answers with two other sets of questions:
…’cos we all need to LEARN how to do this better!
Now, I have just realised I have gone over my self-imposed word limit (again!)…and we haven’t got to LEARNacy…let alone the notion of a CULTURE of LEARNacy.
I did say, at the very start of the post, this was Part 01…
I’ll leave you with one last question…a question that might hint at where we are going with this:
…after all – we teach LEARNers, not COURSES – right?
- Consulting Pupils: What’s In It For Schools? by Julia Flutter & Jean Rudduck (2004)
- Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning – by John Hattie (2011)
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – by Dan Pink (2009/2011)
Bedtime Reading (saved for Pt 02):
- What’s the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education – by Guy Claxton (2008)