Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Engaging Learners

How are we supposed to engage the cogs? Posted by Hello

There seems problem in education, in the year 7 to 10 year group, of ‘engaging’ a number of alienated, or reluctant learners, in their education.

Engagement is a mechanical metaphor and as such seems to relate to a mechanistic approach to education where teachers ‘deliver the curriculum’, and then measure and graph how much was transmitted.

It would seem better to ask what students are actually keen to learn about and tailor education around their questions. Creative teachers can easily ‘tie’ this back to official curriculums!

In Robert Fried’s excellent book,’ The Passionate Teacher’, a paragraph comes to mind:

‘For students to engage is not what is usually called ‘time on task’: responding to worksheets, recalling facts and dates, or reading chapters of a text and answering questions and the end. I want students to engage the way the clutch on a car gets engaged: an engine can be running, making appropriate noises, burning fuel, and creating exhaust fumes, but unless the clutch is engaged, nothing moves. It’s all sound and smoke, and no one gets anywhere.

In too many classrooms we see the sound and smoke of note taking, answer- giving, homework-checking, that so quickly follows. In the end, there is creativity and excitement for the few, compliance and endurance for ,most, rebellion and failure for some, but not very much work of high quality is being produced, and not much intense engagement of the mind and spirit takes place’

Is this a picture of any classes you know at the year year7 to 10 levels?

What is the secret to engaging students at this level? Is it any different from other age groups?


Anonymous said...

Fried's description sounds familiar.

I can't see why engaging students in their own learning is so different because of their age.We all get better at what we are good at.

So what would attract students to have a go? What are things that they are already good at that could be extended at school? What are things they would like to have go at?

Someone once said, 'teaching is the art of educational temptation!'

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is complicated.

Essentially the same requirements are needed for 5 year olds,15 year olds,50 year olds. That is, something of interest and genuine involvement in the learning process.

We need to look at how teachers are teaching at this level to see why it is not working. Teachers need to be truely interacting with their students. No curriculum is simply delivered.

Bruce said...

I agree, but if it is so simple why don't teachers do it?
What is it that inhibits change?

Anonymous said...

For schools or teachers having trouble engaging students, particularly the year 7 - to 10 year groups, the simple solution is to ask themselves what engages any learner, and then do it.

Too many other things get in the way - most of them left over from a industrial age school system which didn't concern itself with such issues. New thinking is required.

Anonymous said...

I think we need to continually ask - Why do children need to learn whatever they are learning, at this time. How will it make a difference to their lives or the lives of others.

Bruce said...

Australian educationalist Peter Ellyard writes about the need for a 'just in time' curriculum to replace the 'just in case one' we now try to implement.

This makes real sense to me. It is about moving from an Industrial Age of mass edauction to an Information Age of personalised education; from the book to the world wide web.