Are your Students Engaged; Don’t Be so Sure

When I first starting teaching I defined engagement as paying attention and often corrected students for not being engaged in my instruction.  It was my goal to make sure all students knew how to be engaged.  Unfortunately for my students I did not realize until later in my career that compliance does not equal engagement.  It was also about this time that I realized engagement was up to me and my lesson design, not the students.

In this article from Mind Shift, David Price shares his thoughts on Student Engagement.  

He shares 3 Myths of Student engagement.  

Myth #1: “I can see when my students are engaged.”

Don’t be so sure. Those who have switched off are often only the visible tip of the disengagement iceberg. The ones below the surface could be “invisibly disengaged” — complying but not engaging.

Students are learning to modify their behavior in class so that they appear to be engaged while, in reality, they’ve intellectually checked-out.

Myth #2 : “They must be engaged — look at their test scores!”

In a culture driven by test results, it’s understandable that teachers should assume that students must be engaged when their grades improve. But this culture has given rise to a relatively new phenomenon: the disengaged achiever.

Myth #3 : “They must be engaged — they’re having fun.”

The wise-cracking, charismatic teacher might look great in the movies, but that doesn’t always lead to deep student engagement. Humor is important, of course, but students need intellectual stretch — shallow engagement isn’t enough.

The revered Indian philosopher and educator, Sri Aurobindo, knew a thing or two about engagement. His three principles for learning still serve as an important guide in designing engaging learning:

  • Nothing can be “taught” — engagement precedes learning, so students need to actively buy in to their learning, in order to bring discretionary activity to the process (that is, above and beyond the required outcomes)
  • The mind must be consulted in its own growth. Activities need to personally matter to students, tapping in to their values and passions.
  • Work from the near to the far. Make activities relevant to the world students inhabit, but build in intellectual stretch to take them beyond their cognitive “comfort zone.”

The full article can be found here.    This is an excellent read and truly makes you reflect on your practices of engaging students.


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