Old ways and new ways

I read recently on twitter someone state there are four levels of change  – conservatism (we keep doing what we are already doing), iteration (small incremental improvements), innovation and disruption (everything changes).  Each of these have their place in reformation of education and while you can find an awful lot on the internet about innovative and disruptive teaching practices, we have to be reminded that some of our tried and true current practices are, well, tried and true.  No sense in getting rid of things that work.  At the same time, as a profession we should be looking for constant improvements in our practice.

It occurred to me today that this list was similar to another I came across a few years ago; there are four ways we can do things at school

  • old things in old ways
  • old things in new ways
  • new things in old ways
  • new things in new ways

These two lists are effectively the same, and this is the schema I came up with to compare the two

Old New
Ways Old Conservatism Innovation
New Iteration Disruption


New blog site post

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.

About the Author

Stephen is Head of Science at Unity College, Caloundra.  He was previously Head of Science at a rural State High School in Queensland where he was heavily involved in eLearning, leading a team of eLearning Mentors to develop innovative and engaging curricula school wide. Stephen has taught in both the independent and state sector in Queensland, as well as abroad in the UK and at the Rotterdam International Secondary School.  At the Tertiary level, Stephen has worked at CQUniversity as a course facilitator with external students in both the Education and Engineering schools.  Currently Stephen is studying his Masters in Educational Leadership at ACU.

Tends to go on about student engagement quite a bit.