I’ve been playing around with the concept of Engagement for a number of years. This blog & wiki is my attempt to put that work in to some sort of framework that can be used to take a Big Picture look at the processes used by schools and teachers to improve engagement of students in their care.
One thing that has become obvious to me over the years is that there is no ‘magic bullet’ approach to improving engagement and results in schools. Every child is different, and comes to us each day potentially with a different mindset and attitude to the importance of education. On some days, we have to recognise that education comes way down the list of priorities. For this reason, we have to become the flexible part of the education process, be aware of how well prepared our students are to engage with learning, and be prepared to try different tools to achieve those aims.
As a quick summary, the first two rows in the Whole School Engagement Framework come from the work of Phil Schlechty, and define five different levels of engagement that students can affect. The rest of the table is my work, and attempts to line up different learning theories and teaching techniques with each of those levels of engagement. Note that for students that arrive to your class in one of the lower levels of engagement, Rebellion or Retreatism, no teaching technique is going to make them learn – they’re just not interested in learning. As the teacher, you must first attempt to move them towards a higher level of engagement using either pastoral or behaviour management techniques as appropriate.
To access the framework as a wiki, click on the box above that says “Whole School Engagement Framework”
One final comment. The first time I presented this work at a conference, a Principal made a comment that I initially found counterintuitive. He stated that teachers are most comfortable with students in the middle three levels of engagement. My first thought was that most teachers would love to have large numbers of students who were authentically engaged. On reflection, however, students at that highest level of engagement want to control their own education, and may well tell you so if you don’t meet their needs. Learning to meet the needs of the highly engaged student can be just as challenging as meeting the needs of the most disengaged students. I offer no magic bullet, but I do offer a range of resources and thoughts from other, more clever, educators than myself. I hope you enjoy perusing this blog & wiki, and please feel free to leave a comment.