Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Student Engagement-From Dating to Commitment

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Student Engagement-From Dating to Commitment

Article excerpt

Acronyms and buzz words abound in education: PBIS, RTI, CCSS, differentiation, PLCs. One of the latest buzz words getting a lot of airtime is engagement. Teachers strive for student engagement. Administrators evaluate student engagement. Yet, does anybody know what student engagement really looks like?

Some people describe student engagement as student activity. Others describe it as joyful learning. If you were to ask 10 different teachers to describe student engagement, the odds are you would get 10 different responses. The same is probably true if you were to ask building administrators-the very people charged with evaluating teachers on whether students are engaged in their classrooms-to describe student engagement.

We need a uniform definition, a consistent measurement so that teachers everywhere who are working to increase student engagement (an agreedupon best practice) can actually know what they are working toward.

Terms of Engagement

I like to describe student engagement using a fairly simple analogy. If you are married, what did it mean to you when you "got engaged"? If you are single or dating, what will it mean to you to "get engaged"? How does being engaged differ from dating or getting married?

Dating is about getting to know someone better. Engagement is about making a commitment. Marriage is about a commitment to learn and grow together. And so it is with student engagement in their learning.

Dating. When my wife and I were dating, I did not wake up every morning and ask myself if I was happy in my relationship and whether I wanted to continue with it. We simply spent time together, got to know each other better, and began to understand each other on a deeper level. Eventually we both knew it was decision time.

We needed to decide if we were willing at that point to make a commitment to make things work even on a bad day, to continue to learn and grow together, even on those days when we didn't really like each other. When we decided this was the commitment we were ready for, we got engaged.

In a classroom, the initial learning about a topic is the equivalent of dating. …

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