Friday, February 24, 2012

How will I stay engaged?

Based on prior posts, it might seem that I do not want teachers to consider engagement when planning lessons (here). In this post, I intend to describe how teachers and learners share in fostering the conditions that contribute to engagement. This is reflected in Cambourne's Learning Plan shown below.
Again, engagement is at the bottom of this plan because it is a foundational condition to learning. Immersing learners in the discipline is placed on top as a reminder that it influences everything else that is done in the classroom. The remain conditions are split between those that focus on learners' behavior (purple) and those that start being the teachers' responsibility (green). The ultimate goal, however, is that over time the learners will also take on these behaviors as well - setting expectations for themselves, offering one another feedback, and providing their peers with models of success. 

Helping learners to take responsibility for their own engagement is also a gradual process that requires teachers helping learners move through awareness, acceptance, and adjustment. This starts with helping learners to be aware of what being engaged looks like (as I described in this post). Having this anchor experience allows us to continually monitor our engagement during learning activities.

I try to design learning plans with Cambourne's Conditions in mind, but I leave learners to evaluate their own engagement throughout the activities. Early in the semester, I provide a table like this:
The learners are asked to reflect on their level of engagement after each phase of the workshop (schema activation, focus, activity, and reflection). At the end of class, they answer three questions that hopefully support their awareness (What did you notice?), acceptance (So what does this mean?), and adjustment (Now what will you do to improve your engagement in the future?).

Their answers reflect the shared responsibility learners and teachers have for fostering engagement in classrooms. The learners accept that they need to be better about things like making connections, asking questions, and monitoring their own engagement. They also describe how it is hard to be engaged if expectations are unclear or if they are not sure how to complete the task. This is on me, as the teacher, and it has reinforced my need to keep in mind my initial responsibilities regarding Cambourne's Learning Plan. Consequently, all involve adjust their behavior in order to improve engagement.

There is one more piece to encouraging learners to take responsibility for their engagement that I have just added this year. I have replaced Participation in my course grading with Engagement. This change will be the focus of the next post. Please stay tuned.

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