Want to Know How Engaged Students Are? Ask Them!

Oxford first-grader Brooklynn Johnson casts her vote on how engaged she was by a just-completed lesson.

As the morning lesson ended, Oxford first graders anonymously placed pieces of laminated colored paper in a box. Students were rating their level of engagement in the morning’s learning activity.

Many chose green chips representing “Authentic Engagement,” indicating genuine enthusiasm for their work. Others chose “Ritual Engagement,” which meant that while the work did not excite them, they understood the value of doing it well. Of the five choices, no one chose Rebellion — refusing to work because the task was too hard, too easy or of no interest. “Asking students to rate their level of engagement is a concrete way for us to ask students to take ownership of learning,” said first grade teacher Betty Miller.

Student engagement is tied to student achievement,” said Denice Leddy, Oxford’s new principal. “As instructors, we want to be more aware of the degree of student engagement and how that relates to a lesson’s design elements.”

As a classroom teacher Mrs. Leddy, used a student engagement model developed by educational researcher Paul Schlechty. Now she helps Oxford teachers implement it. Teachers devote part of their Professional Learning Community (PLC) time to exploring student engagement in learning. Recently, she and the first grade team met and shared information about students, lessons, and how monitoring the class’s engagement guides instruction. Karen Rego said she’s more conscious of incorporating choice into lessons as she noticed that students rate themselves with a higher level of engagement when lessons include choice.

On a typical day, students learn as a class, in small groups, and independently. Classroom routines and clear expectations for behavior support students in each situation. Asking students to rate their level of engagement helps them become more aware and better at engaging themselves in learning.

“Increasing student engagement will have a tremendous impact on student achievement,” said Linda Smith.

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Volume 4, Issue 3, Posted 9:48 AM, 03.01.2011