A rigorous and engaging classroom….what does that look like? Recently I tweeted a link to an article by David Price that challenged the current perception of what student engagement looks like.
The article was a summation and analysis of a 20 year longitudinal study of Australian students. Using the study, David’s article addressed the following myths.
1. I can see when my students are engaged
2. They must be engaged, look at their test scores
3. They must be engaged – they’re having fun
The article (found here) was an incredibly interesting read but the Twitter conversation after my post was for me the most interesting part. A good friend of mine, Richard Olsen posted the following responses to David’s piece (first tweet at the bottom).
Richard’s responses threw my initial reactions to David’s article in a tailspin. Is engagement an important metric? Is as David states our understanding of engagement misinformed? I know myself that I have relied on my own judgement to gauge the engagement level of students and used this level as an important barometer of the student buy-in to learning. However is it more important to deep learning than rich student questions or other such metrics. Is it the level of compliance that is important? Is it the level of self direction? David’s response to Richard’s tweet shone another light on the discussion.
According to David’s analysis the correlation between engagement and rigor is extremely high and as such, engagement is and should be an extremely important measure for learning. Deeply engaged learners learn deeply. It makes sense. However, I can think of a multitude of instances within my classroom where I perceived a student to be deeply engaged and the depth of learning was shallow or in other instances, a student who was clearly unengaged but their learning was deep. Maybe I misread the situations here. Maybe my metric of engagement is the area that is off here. Britt Gow then weighed in on the discussion (read tweets from the bottom up first).
Britt’s perspective highlighted the “game of school” where compliant students who listen and do the right thing are revered by certain teachers and perceived to be the “good students” who will go far in life. This sat perfectly with David’s first myth dismissal where students can seem engaged but are “asleep with their eyes open”. Personally I base the engagement with learning in my classroom with the “fringe” students. I think that they are a better barometer. One thing that I think all four of us would agree on is that “active, curious and critical” learners are the true engaged learners. I think it is more about the where we rate the importance of engagement in relation to other metrics of deep learning that is the area that is not as clear.
As you would have read, I am left as always from rich discussion with more questions than answers. How important is engagement as a metric for learning? Without engagement, can there not be deep learning? How do we effectively measure engagement? Thanks to David, Richard and Britt for helping to deepen my learning.