Engagement (not the kind involving a ring)

Lately there’s been lots of buzz about engagement in the classroom. It’s a word that’s been around a while, but it’s one of those vague words that has different meanings to different people. And I think that’s the problem. The different meanings.

I’m not an expert, but here’s my take on engagement in a nutshell:

* Active learning. Active learning includes talking and collaborating with peers and teachers. Think about it, when was the last time you worked independently on a project – when you didn’t consult a soul about it? Probably next to never. Taking notes from a SmartBoard or overhead is not active learning. That’s just writing.

* Relevancy. Remember when your children were three and they incessantly asked “Why, Mommy?” Well, they don’t outgrow that curiosity. They want to know why they need to learn about the Declaration of Independence or why they need to be able to make an inference. If you can’t give them a reason, then maybe it’s time to take another look at what you’re teaching and how.

If we make our students accountable for their learning by giving them opportunities to discover answers on their own and show them how finding those answers fits into their worlds, we are engaging our students. If we use multiple ways of teaching and provide multiple ways of learning, we appeal to the diversity of our learners and we are engaging them. If we let the students ask the questions and then show them how to find the answers, we are engaging them.

It’s not about fun, but, as a colleague pointed out, if they’re having fun, that’s just a bonus. What it boils down to is engaged students are learners. Sometimes, they don’t even know they’re learning until it’s too late!!