I’m troubled by the use of the term student engagement. I’m troubled because the phrase has been so overused as to lose any real meaning in most cases. I’m concerned that in some cases it seems that engagement means being attracted to the new-ness, the sizzle of technology. And that kind of engagement won’t last more than a few minutes or hours.
Phil Schlechty informs my definition of student engagement. He says students are volunteers at learning. Once you accept that to be the case, the role of the teacher in designing work can been seen through a different lens. The latest and greatest technology isn’t a substitute for well design learning experiences. It’ll entertain for a while and then it will become a distraction – again if the learning experience isn’t well designed.
Student engagement develops from plugging into relevant, targeted learning. Angela Maiers, a foremost expert on passion-based learning, writes “If our desire is for students to engage, the work they do must be significant, valuable, and real.”
Engagement exists on a continuum from rebellion to authentically engaged and references the learners of all kinds including students, teachers, parents and leaders. Think of all the professional development/continuing education experiences out there where participants are expected to learn a new teaching technique but it isn’t even modeled in the learning process instead there is a lecture. “CLICK” – yes we just turned you off!
Let’s make an agreement from here on out that we’ll not use technology as pixie dust that can “magically” improve teaching and learning. Let’s recognize that good teaching is based on sound pedagogy and student engagement is a result of good instructional design!