Monday, April 13, 2015

Student Engagement

Students become engaged and invested for a variety of different reasons.  While the initial “hook” varies widely from student to student the professional challenge of leveraging student investment for academic achievement takes deep thought and continuous work. 

A few years ago Dr. Rodenburg was wondering what student responses would be to the question “What are you most excited about when you walk through the school door in the morning?”  For fun I remember asking my then 9 year old.  His response, “Breakfast and the conversation.”  His hook was conversations about whatever was happening in the sports world with a morning supervisor.  This hook played out throughout the next few years as my son, a reluctant reader, got up each morning to review the sports news in the newspaper so he would have the information he needed to engage, at a highly competent level, in the conversation.

Over this past year, we (Technology Department Staff) have had an opportunity to interview a hundred or so students about what engages them academically.   I don’t think it will shock anyone to learn that technology, in and of itself, was not an academic engager.  Being engaged as a contributor to the “conversation” was a theme from many students.  The students we spoke with had ideas and wanted to be able to contribute their ideas and expand on them through deep discourse with others.  These students also reinforced many of the key factors from research on student engagement.  Students insisted they want to be self-directed and competent.  Students who were provided online environments indicated a feeling of being more independent and this gave them a sense of control over their learning.  Our whole team was impressed with our students desire to have ownership in their learning. One big take-away on student engagement was the progress we could make by building relationships with students that leverage what already “hooks” them.

Use the hook to get students actively involved and emotionally committed.  Then, as a professional community, collaborate together to leverage this student energy for cognitive investment across all subjects.

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