Student engagement is a vital issue. Students need to be more than just compliant. For learning conditions to be optimised, students actually need to be engaged.
Schlechty (2002) defines five levels of student engagement. The levels provide clarity about what effective practitioners are trying to achieve:
- Authentic Engagement—students are immersed in work that has clear meaning and immediate value to them (reading a book on a topic of personal interest)
- Ritual Compliance—the work has little or no immediate meaning to students, but there are extrinsic outcomes of value that keep them engaged (earning grades necessary for college acceptance)
- Passive Compliance—students see little or no meaning in the assigned work but expend effort merely to avoid negative consequences (not having to stay in during recess to complete work)
- Retreatism—students are disengaged from assigned work and make no attempt to comply, but are not disruptive to the learning of others
- Rebellion—students refuse to do the assigned task, act disruptive, and attempt to substitute alternative activities
Achieving the highest levels of student engagement requires expertly crafted learning experiences that are built on a foundation of effective classroom management. Effective skills in both areas are necessary.
The baseline of a functioning classroom is fundamental and must first be established. Students demonstrate self-control, they respond to clear expectations and listen to their teacher.
Behaviour management guru, Bill Roger’s term, “warm-demanding” aptly describes the balance required by an effective teacher. The “warmth” required to build rapport with students by showing you care about them as people and “demanding” enough to establish and maintain clear expectations. This balance is required to communicate effectively with students to deliver engaging learning experiences.
For high levels of student engagement, the learning experiences need to capture the student’s interest, be pitched at the right level of challenge, have meaning and relevance to the learner and actively involve them in deep thinking.
Schlechty outlines three categories that can be used to measure the level of engagement for an entire classroom.
The Engaged Classroom
In the engaged classroom you will observe that all students are authentically engaged at least some of the time or that most students are authentically engaged most of the time. Passive compliance and retreatism is rarely observed and rebellion is non-existent.
The Compliant Classroom
The compliant classroom is the picture of traditional education. This type of classroom is orderly and most students will appear to be working so it would be easy to infer that learning is taking place. However, while there is little evidence of rebellion, retreatism is a very real danger as it is very common in the compliant classroom.
The Off-Task Classroom
Retreatism and rebellion are easily observed in the off-task classroom. This type of classroom is each-student-for-them-self so you will see some degree of authentic and ritual engagement, along with passive compliance as well. Teachers in the off-task classroom spend most of their time dealing with rebelling students rather than teaching lessons that engage.
An experienced Principal shared with me this week the belief that, “Airconditioned classrooms have made the Principal’s awareness of what’s happening in classrooms more difficult.” His comment was made in response to my humour about the US belief in MBWA (Management By Walking Around).
Before airconditioned classrooms led to classroom doors and windows being closed, a Principal walking around their school could quickly become aware of classrooms where students were “off-task” or a teacher was under duress and needed support.
Closed doors and windows have further privatised the classroom and make it more important than ever that school leaders actually walk into classrooms to keep their finger on the pulse. It is only through visiting the classroom that you will be able to tell if there is ‘Ritual Compliance’ or an ‘Engaged Classroom’.
Survey My School
The fastest way to improve your school and boost staff, parent and student satisfaction is to identify and address the problems that annoy and frustrate people. Ensure that your plans for 2014 are informed with useful, accurate information. SurveyMySchool has been specifically designed to support the leadership team to IMPROVE schools. The interactive format of the surveys identifies specific issues and potential solutions.
SurveyMySchool is far more useful than school opinion surveys that only provide data. Whilst having data is a good start, data alone can be misinterpreted and isn’t helpful in addressing people’s specific concerns.
SurveyMySchool is interactive. Respondents who express dissatisfaction with an aspect of the school are asked clarifying questions to provide further detail about their specific concern and potential solutions. The survey report provides useful information to inform school planning, improve the school and increase the satisfaction of staff, parents and students.
Contact us to set up a survey of staff, parents and/or students.