Re-imagining engagement

This week I attended a workshop meeting looking at student engagement, organised by AITSL under the Learning Frontiers banner and the headline: ‘Imagine a world where kids are as eager to learn throughout school as they were when they arrived.’

The session was opened by David Jackson (innovation unit, UK) who argued for spaces where principals, schools and teachers had  ‘a licence to do different’.

He made the case for change and the problem: many students are disengaged, and many more are un-engaged. I think the latter is most true in my experience. And he gave some facts that claimed that the further students go through school the lower engagement levels are in terms of:

  •  Participation
  • Belonging
  • Attendance
  • Cognitive engagement

Significantly, and the reason for this was not explored, the lower the SES, the lower the levels of engagement, although it wasn’t clear what ‘engagement’ actually meant either. I think it was in terms of the first three dot-points above, which are blunt measurement instruments to me. However, this issue does seem to matter; engagement influences prospects of success 20 years later according to Australian research, but then you also think – ‘chicken or egg’?

One fact was blunt and quite shocking: 1.2 million American students drop out of school each year  Over ninety per cent said they wanted more ‘real life’ experiences.

So, What is engagement?

 It’s clearly more than attendance, conformity, behaviour and IS about energy and enthusiasm for learning, beyond school, including taking responsibility. One way of seeing engagement learning is the 4P model below:

4P Learning is engaging

  • Purposeful
  • Placed
  • Pervasive
  • Passion-led

I really liked Jackson’s image of ‘school is the base-camp for learning – where you get charged up, and extend from’.

AITSL intend moving beyond a community of practice, to a community of engagement, and beyond that, a community of interest. They are creating ‘Lab sites’ and ‘Developer Sites’ (we used to call these schools, and I have reservations about the idea of school as an experimental lab). AITSL’s aim in this project:  to increase the proportion of Australian students who are deeply engaged in their learning, through the development of teaching and learning practices that promote engagement, beginning with professional practices.

I was concerned that in the new ‘hubs’ and ‘labs’ they intend creating that AITSL seems very much in favour of ‘new players in education’, ‘inside and outside the system’.  That raises alarm bells named ‘Pearson’ et. al.  for me, and I asked them about that over coffee. I was told that they were aware of some these reservations and were working on framing some appropriate boundaries around the commercialization of education in this space.

redesign

Much of the thinking AITSL were presenting on engagement was based on work from the Innovation Unit, presented in Re-Designing Education Systems.though interestingly they have moved away from the key elements of ‘collaboration’ and ‘technology in that work, arguing that those elements should be universal and implicit. The four elements they agreed on were:

 Co-created – adults and students as powerful resources for design of learning

Connected – real world contexts, contemporary

Personal –  build from student passions and capabilities, personalised

Integrated – Integration of subjects, students and contexts

We then spent some times in groups, plotting out imaginary sample networks and hubs that might develop out of this project. A really interesting morning and it will be fascinating to see where this goes, and whether they do avoid the sharks that are circling around education.

Schools involved in 2014 will be announced before Christmas. You can follow the conversation on the Twittisphere at #learningfrontiers

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