Like any other teacher that has taught for 30 years, I have had both successes and failures in students engagement. Looking at my successes-vs-failure rate, I would rank me somewhere between my beloved Chicago Cubs and the World Series Champs (It’s early in the season – this might be our year!). In no way do any of my successes warrant calling me an expert on student engagement.
So why did I write this post? Like most of my other posts I have written, I wrote this to become a better teacher. If you happen gain something from this post, I’m humbled. If you can add to conversation, I welcome your thoughts.
“What this student needs…”
Recently, I heard a teacher explain to me that the reason a particular student was failing was his own fault. I was told that this student lacked motivation and organization. “RtI is what this student needs!”
I have no doubt that RtI could help this student. But, in my opinion, what this student really needs is for a teacher to find a way to engage him in learning.
All students have the ability to be engaged learners.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I believe that all students have the potential to become engaged learners. What we, as educators, need to figure out is how to engage students. Simply because we find something engaging, is by no means any indicator that our students will find our lessons engaging. Also, what is engaging for one student may not be engaging for another.
Does this put the onus of student learning solely on the teacher’s performance? No, but placing the onus of a student’s academic success only on the student is wrong or (Dare I say?) a cop-out.
An Impossible Task
Scoring student engagement is an impossible task. The purpose of writing this post was not to come up with a flawless tool to score student engagement, but to make me think of the many different factors that influence student engagement. Initially, I had a list of over 50 factors, but here I have narrowed it down to a few.
Scoring Your Student Engagement Score
Grab a piece of paper and keep score on how you did. Your final score will only be relevant to you. I gave this test to students in grades 7-12 and had a range of scores on both extremes. If an engagement factor is not applicable, just skip it and move on to the next. If you feel you are somewhere in the middle, then create your own score. In the end, the only purpose of your score is to make you think about student engagement in your own classroom.
Interaction Most students arrive at school not because they are driven to learn, but because their friends are at school. Students have a need to interact with each other.
- -15 Students were required to spend the entire lesson in one assigned seat – arranged in traditional rows. Yes , sometimes, arranging chairs in traditional rows and keeping students quietly seated in their assigned seat is a necessity, but just don’t expect that arrangement to foster student engagement.
- +10 Students were required/allowed to move during the period, and interact with other students.
- +10 Lesson included students digitally interacting with others outside of the classroom. (i.e. Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime)
- +20 Lesson included students digitally interacting globally. (i.e. Skype, Google Hangout)
Fair & Relevant ”That’s so unfair!” & “Why do I need to know that?”
- -30 Students resented the teacher for the amount of outside-of-class time that is required to complete lesson.
- -20 Students didn’t believe the assessment was fair.
- -15 Students felt mastering the lesson was either too easy or too hard (an obvious need to differentiate instruction for all three RtI tiers).
- -10 Teacher failed to give student feedback (including grading papers).
- -10 Students didn’t understand how the lesson’s objectives were relevant to their lives.
- +10 Students understood how the lesson’s objectives were relevant to their lives.
- +10 Students were held accountable and given feedback as their work progressed.
- +10 Students felt challenged, but not overwhelmed.
- +15 Students believed the assessment / assignment was fair.
- +30 Students voluntarily spent time, outside of classroom, engaged in learning! (Congrats, you did it!)
Creative Opportunities Even those who classify themselves as “not creative” want to put their on individuality (their own stamp) into their work.
- -5 Students were not given the opportunity to be creative.
- +5 Students were not given the opportunity to be creative, but were held within strict guidelines
- +10 Students were given a great deal of freedom to be creative.
- +10 Students created a project (digital or non-digital) that they had an interest in. (Building a shelf in wood shop-Yes! Creating a Venn diagram in language arts – No.)
- +20 Students were given a great deal of freedom to be creative with the created product shared online.
Delivery of Content Read the book “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess
- -30 Students believe the teacher is bored with teaching
- -25 Teacher lectured – “The sage on the stage”
- -10 Teacher did not use humor.
- -5 Students feel the teacher’s presentation of content was boring. (“Kill your Powerpoints and Teach Like a Pirate” by James Arvanitakis)
- -5 Teacher taught lesson in same manner as previous lessons were taught.
- +10 Teacher used humor (or tried to use humor) during the class.
- +15 Lesson had an exciting start that gained the students attention.
- +15 Lesson was taught with a fresh approach.
- +25 Teacher used interactive technology (i.e. backchanneling, polling) that required student participation.
- 21st Century Classroom Remember that none of your students ever attended school in the 20th century.
- -30 The classroom resembles a classroom from 1980.
- -30 Students were told that their personal technology devices were not allowed in the classroom.
- -25 Scantron forms were used during the lesson. (Do you honestly believe anything that resembles a standardized test could possibly be engaging?)
- -15 Students were not allowed to use school-owned technology
- 0 Your classroom is a steller example of a 21st century classroom. (It’s 2013 why should get bonus points for having a 21st century classroom?)
- +5 Students were allowed to use school-owned technology.
- +20 Teacher used social media (or LMS) in class (FB, Twitter, Edmodo,…)
- +30 Teacher incorporated student-owned technology.
- Visually & Aurally Stimulating
- -30 Poorly made slide presentations were used during lesson.
- -30 The presentation, of a slide presentation (even a good slide presentation), was done poorly.
- +10 Teacher incorporated music into the lesson
- +10 Teacher incorporated video into the lesson
- +15 Students perceived the lesson as visually and/or aurally stimulating
- +30 Teacher used of student-created videos
- +30 Teacher used student-created music
- Return on Investment - How often have you started reading an article and then stopped midway through because you felt you weren’t getting anything out of it?
- -30 Work was submitted to teacher without the world ever knowing the quality of the student’s work
- -30 Teacher only recognized disengaged students and ignored the students who were engaged
- -25 Student worked hard and received no recognition by the teacher
- +20 Final work by student was published online
- +20 Work in progress was published online
- +25 Student worked hard and received recognition by the teacher
- +25 Student worked hard and received online recognition
- External Issues - Problems that the student is facing outside of class (e.g. illness, death in the family, parent unemployed) that is beyond your control.
- -15 Major problems
- - 5 Minor problems
- 0 No problems
- Compassion - When a student tells me that their teacher doesn’t like them, my first reaction is always, “Oh that’s not true.” Even if the student is mistaken, it’s sad that the student felt that way. My biggest failure is when students leave my program feeling unvalued.
- -30 Student believed he or she had no value in class
- -30 Student honestly believed that the teacher disliked him or her
- -10 Student had no idea if the teacher was concerned about him or her
- +10 Student knew the teacher was concerned about him or her
- +10 Teacher had appropriate personal interaction with students about the student’s personal life (“You played a great game!” “You did a great job in the school play!”…)
- +20 Student felt he or she was a valuable part of the class
- Classroom stress - “Sit down, be quiet, and complete your worksheet!”
- -15 Students perceived the classroom as stressful.
- +15 Students want to hang out in your room.
- Teacher Conduct - Almost always, students know right from wrong.
- -30 Teacher acted unprofessionally by verbally bashing a colleague(s), department(s), or administrator(s)
- -30 Teacher loses self-control
- Percent of Students Engaged - Similar to the business theory of ”Diffusion of Innovation” Adoption (engagement) breeds adoption (engagement).
- -30 Very few students in class were engaged learners – most “could care less”
- +30 All students in class were engaged learners (tough 30 points to earn)
- Repetition of work - We’re taught that students need a routine, but adding something new is exciting.
- -10 The lesson format had been repeated many times in the past (sometime repetition is good, just don’t expect students to find it engaging)
- +10 The lesson format included something new
- Excessive Amount of Paper - The rigor of your classroom should never be judged by the amount of paperwork you give your students.
- -30 Teacher required a separate three-ring notebook specifically for the class (The teacher may have a valid reason, but 21st century students are not as excited about three-ring notebooks with dividers like 20th century teachers are.)
- -25 Large packets of paper were distributed.
- -15 Students believe the teacher used an excessive amount paper.
- +10 Digital assignments were implemented
Add and score your own student engagement factors …
Final Thoughts …
Spring break ends today – classes resume tomorrow morning. Tomorrow, I’ll see if the lessons I have crafted engaged my students.
I encourage everyone to read “Teach Like a Pirate” by Dave Burgess. and to follow the #tlap hashtag on Twitter. Dave’s website is http://daveburgess.com/ and on Twitter he is @burgessdave.
If you’ve made it this far – thanks for reading my post! If you would like to add to my post or comment on something I have written, I welcome your thoughts.
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First photo. photo credit: [personal photo] cc
All photos other photos. photo credit: dcJohn via photopin cc
“Diffusion of Innovation” photo credit: marcoderksen via photopin cc