Happiness is… Student Engagement

The following finding by Levin, Belfield, Muenning, and Rouse (2006) struck a chord with me; the best predictor of health, wealth, and happiness in later life in not school achievement, but the number of years of schooling.  Our students need to stay engaged!  “Close to 25 percent of youth who enter Canadian high schools do not graduate within the standard twelve years of schooling.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 5).  This is detrimental for not only the student, but for his/her community.  How can we help teenagers make good choices about staying in school?   

You Can Read Anywhere!  Personal Photo, January, 2013

You Can Read Anywhere! Personal Photo, January, 2013

I have had the privilege of working with colleagues this year on a shared vision of instructional excellence.  This group is deeply committed to learning.  Why is this work imperative?  Our students are entitled to high-quality schools and instructional excellence is an essential component.  “School leaders need to drive change, taking on new, collaborative roles and using inventive thinking to integrate the emerging “science of learning” into their school systems.” (Metri Group, 2003, p. 11).   Are we ready to “do school differently” and strive for engaging students socially, academically and intellectually?

Student engagement is not easy to measure or teach (Parsons & Taylor, 2011).  “We need to extend its potential as a powerful construct for engaging both students and teachers in the transformation of schools and classrooms into places of effective teaching and deep learning.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 6).  Where to start?  The literature says relationships.  “…respectful relationships and interaction – both virtual and personal – are essential to improve student engagement.”  (Dunleavy & Milton, 2010, p. 7).  Intuitively, teachers know relationships are at the core and research supports this notion.  Schools are to be places of deep learning and engaging students will not be easily achieved.   Yet this is what teachers happily strive for their entire careers.

References:

Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2010). Student engagement for effective teaching and deep learning. Canadian Education association, 48(5), 4-8. Retrieved from: http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/student-engagement-effective-teaching-and-deep-learning

Metri Group (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the Digital age. 1-88. Retrieved from: http://pict.sdsu.edu/engauge21st.pdf

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf

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6 thoughts on “Happiness is… Student Engagement

  1. Debbie,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog!
    I do agree one of the important engaging factors is happiness. You ask a valid question, “Are we ready to “do school differently”…”? I think we really don’t have a choice, if we were to embrace true meaning of teaching and learning. Change comes about when the old ways don’t really match up to the current needs. Perhaps this may be one of the greatest tendencies of human existence. Metiri Group (2003, p. 6) notes, “Our children now have at their fingertips a virtual world—with all its promises and pitfalls.” Educators are at the exciting and opportune moment where technology works as a tool to bring about a positive difference in the learning experiences of their students, along with the restrictions and negatives. I do agree that student engagement is not easy to measure as stated by you. But, embracing the fact that teachers are co learners and facilitator in the lives of their students is a starting point. Dunleavy and Milton (2010, p.7) points out the relevance of resilience, determining self concept and link it to “feedback that they [students] receive from important adults, including teachers.” If relationships are at the core of engagement with happiness as a determinant, maybe student’s engagement is more valuable than ever. After all, educational endeavors have always been in the past or present, to prepare students for the future.

    References:

    Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2010). Student engagement for effective teaching and deep learning. Canadian Education association, 48(5), 4-8. Retrieved from: http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/student-engagement-effective-teaching-and-deep-learning

    Metiri Group (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the Digital age. 1-88. Retrieved from: http://pict.sdsu.edu/engauge21st.pdf

  2. Without disagreeing about the importance of engagement, I read that “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” is essential to success (Duckworth et al., 2007, p. 1087). Accounting for your point that years in school are a better predictor of success in life than school achievement, I’m going to postulate that years in school and success in life are correlated outcomes that both result from the same cause: engagement.

    In that vein, it is interesting to note that “achievement is the product of talent and effort, the latter a function of the intensity, direction, and duration of one’s exertions toward a goal.” (ibid, p. 1098). Because many high achievers must work to develop their abilities, their success depends on their “willingness to put in great amounts of time and effort” (ibid, p. 1100).

    Engagement, then, is another way of saying that a student is willing to make a concerted and focused effort to achieve their learning goals and other life goals. It seems clear that engagement, and everything the teacher does to stimulate engagement, will have a greater bearing on student success than raw talent or the efficient presentation of factoids. The ability to become engaged and work with intensity and stamina (ibid, p. 1100) in a meaningful and long-term project is a skill that will serve students as they work for success later in life.

    Reference:

    Duckworth, A. L., Peterson, C., Matthews, M. D., & Kelly, D. R. (2007). Grit: perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(6), 1087. Retrieved from: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~duckwort/images/Grit%20JPSP.pdf

  3. I couldn’t agree more that relationships are the place to start. ” Connections to adults – parents and others – are integral to the process of healthy human development.” (Dunleavy and Milton, 2010, p. 7) In my own classroom, connecting with students, building a strong relationship through learning about their strengths, challenges and personal interests, is an essential key to engaging learners. “Students themselves consistently say that what most helped them thrive…was the quality of relationships they developed with adults in their schools.” (Dunleavy and Milton, 2010, p. 7). On some level, a student’s relationships with teachers, peers and self are at the core of all forms of engagement – social, academic, and intellectual.

    Our school is structured around the premise of team-teaching, which provides increased opportunities for students to connect with a variety of teachers. It allows for flexible regrouping to meet the needs and interests of each learner and requires communication between teachers that serves to build deepen our understanding of each student. This is drastically different from the one-teacher, one-class structure of traditional classrooms, and I believe it is an effective strategy for helping to build positive relationships for learning. What strategies do you find useful for fostering relationships which help to engage learners?

    References:

    Dunleavy, J. & Milton, P. (2010). Student engagement for effective teaching and deep learning. Canadian Education association, 48(5), 4-8. Retrieved from:
    http://www.cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/student-engagement-effective-teaching-and-deep-learning

  4. Your quote from Parsons &Taylor (2011) that “[s]tudent engagement is not easy to measure or teach” made me think about the work currently being done the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). The CBE is trying to measure the engagement of their students and then have their leaders and teachers delve into the data. Beginning this year all students from Grades 4-12 are participating in the “Tell Them From Me” survey from The Learning Bar twice a year, once at the beginning of the year and once at the end. This survey is Canadian normed and asks a series of questions about the student’s experiences at school as well as has some space for schools to personalize question to their own building. Once completed school staffs examined the data to determine how their students viewed their school experiences and how to use this data to improve these experiences.

    This project is in its’ third year across Alberta. At the end of the second year, the Alberta Education High School Completion website reported

    School leaders [from the participating schools] became more accomplished at finding the stories in their student engagement data and began to focus their efforts on:
    understanding research on student engagment;
    sharing student engagement strategies that work;
    designing and implementing front-line supports for students; and
    collaborating with their school communities to build shared responsibility for student success.

    It appears that this survey does provide at least one way to measure student engagement and with meaningful examination of the data can help us address this issue of engagement through the lens of the student’s voice.

    References:

    Alberta Education. (2011). High School Completion. Retrieved from: https://ideas.education.alberta.ca/hsc/current-projects/tell-them-from-me/

    Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf

  5. I want to to thank you for this great read!! I certainly loved every bit of
    it. I have got you book marked to check out new things you post…

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