Friday, August 30, 2013

What if it's boring?

Engagement Rubric
It is the first week of the semester at GVSU and we have been focusing on engagement in my math courses for preservice elementary teachers. There are two big take-aways I hope my learners get from this week: (1) An awareness of what engagement really means (this is an old version of the activity that needs updating); and (2) An acceptance that they are ultimately responsible for their own engagement in the learning process. Given the conventional wisdom that engagement looks like compliance and that it is the teacher's responsibility to engage students, addressing these points takes effort - hence a week's worth of lessons. (Stephen Carroll at Santa Clara University calls this Flight School in his classes, and his lasts for two weeks.)

So we spend time identifying what engagement looks like for us - because it is personal. We also discuss how outside influences (Conditions of Learning) can support engagement, but that true engagement resides within the individual. And then I give them time to practice engaging with information that might not be all that interesting to them. (Please do not misunderstand. I am not suggesting Daniel Pink's TED Talk is boring. It's just disconnected from what many of my students expect in a math class for elementary teachers.)

Here's the home workshop:

Teaching Workshop (The Puzzle of Motivation)
How does this apply to education

TLW apply the engagement strategy of asking questions while watching a lecture.

Needs:            40 minutes; access to Internet; & journal

Schema Activation:  Journal Jot       [no more than five minutes]
How are engagement and motivation related?
What role does motivation play in education?

Focus: Asking Questions       [no more than five minutes]
The first day of class, we found out how engaging it can be to ask the questions that drive the delivery of information. However, we do not always have that option. For example, when we are watching a video of a lecture there is no way to interact directly with the speaker.

Yet, questions can still be a powerful tool. Perhaps it will help if we try to engage in the lecture by considering what questions the speaker is answering. Even better, we can watch the lecture with a question in mind and try to find answers in what the speaker shares.

So, as you watch the following TED Talk:
  • Make a list of the questions Daniel Pink might be answering; and
  • Keep this question in mind: How does this apply to education?
Activity: Engaging with a Lecture            [no more than twenty-five minutes]

Reflection:  Monitoring Our Engagement   [Remaining part of the 40 minutes]
Using the Extended Engagement Continuum (modified from Morgan and Saxton, 2006) shown below, evaluate where you were as you watched the video, why you were at this level, and what you can do next time to increase or maintain (if you are at #8) that level of engagement.
  1. Disengaged: distracted by other things while doing the task;
  2. Compliant: completed the task but didn’t get much else out of it;
  3. Interest: being curious about what is presented;
  4. Engaging: wanting to be, and being involved in the task;
  5. Committing: developing a sense of responsibility towards the task;
  6. Internalizing: merging objective concepts (the task or what is to be learned) with subjective experience (what is already owned) resulting in understanding and therefore ownership, of new ideas;
  7. Interpreting: wanting and needing to communicate that understanding to others;
  8. Evaluating: wanting and being willing to put that understanding to the test.
How did focusing on questions help (or not help) you engage with the lecture?


A final thought for the teachers reading this post: Your students may not always have teachers that are as worried as you are about student-engagement. How are you preparing them to be successful in those other classes - to recognize they have the power to be engaged regardless of the situation. I offer one approach. I would be interested in your ideas.