Terms and tools for engagement

Terms and tools of engagement

Andy Hargreaves has an ambivalent attitude to technology. He doesn’t own a smart phone (because he might use it!) and he talked about being critical thinkers about engagement and dis-engagement. ‘We need to be where our kids are’ (he said, sans mobile phone) He aimed to disturb our preconceptions, but this was a strong session, the third time (I think) that I’ve heard Hargreaves.

He argued that historically …

2000-2015 – The age of achievement (of testing, NAPLAN, a sense of urgency around achievement, literacy and numeracy) ‘Beating the odds’

2015-2025 – The age of engagement and wellbeing. To ‘changing the odds’.

This was a call for more engagement: 43% of students at high school are, to some degree, disengaged from their learning and showed the challenges of an ‘average’ class (mental disorder, bullying, parent separations, self-harm …)

Engagement is a challenge, especially now. (He talked about the needs of refugees). The job of educators is to take the kids where they are now, and move them forward. Before achievement comes engagement. Engage the kids as they are, not how we’d like them to be.

Six ways to improve engagement

  1. Architecture / School design (validating students through symbols)
    1. Curriculum
    2. Student voice
    3. Pedagogy – The future teacher will have less authority (around content) and more authority (the narratives from the ‘Ken Robinsons’ of the classroom: this seemed a weaker point)
    4. Technology – The Chromeboook and the climbing wall
    5. We have to stop disengagement – much of which comes about because of assessment.

Hargreaves ended by talking about teacher engagement; ‘A school that is good for a kid to be, has to be good for a teacher to be as well’

Session Details

Terms of Engagement

There is no genuine achievement without engagement. Too often, we have overlooked the importance of engagement as a condition and a companion for achievement. This presentation describes the need to pay more attention to student engagement, to understand what engagement actually means, to address its importance for adult as well as students, and to learn how to enhance engagement for all, with and without technology. Drawing on his current and development work, award winning author Andy Hargreaves will, in his characteristic fashion, get us thinking harder and differently about the role of engagement in our schools. 

Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair, Lynch School of Education, Boston College (USA) 



Building professional capital

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I spent the day yesterday at a three school combined professional learning day at Lauriston, facilitated by Andy Hargreaves, renowned educator from Boston College. He was an engaging speaker and began with a story about soccer and the lessons that were learned from some key examples. It was the springboard for the key messages for leaders for the day:

  • That you have to care about it (passion, vision, commitment)
  • That you have to get the best people
  • That you have to get them to work together
  • That you have to check on them a bit, but not too often.

He argued that education is at the crossroads and that business and investment views assume that teaching is technically simple, can be mastered readily, should be driven by hard performance data, is about enthusiasm, effort and results and is replaceable by online instruction. He was critical of massive testing, ‘Teach for Australia’ models of teacher training and development, and reliance on online instruction as a low cost replacement for face to face teaching.

Interestingly, he was a bit critical of the Hattie research as looking at out of date data, and simplifying complex research into bite-sized summaries. He saw the danger of Hattie as creating bite-sized learning action responses that were generic and undifferentiated.

Professional capital, on the other hand, assumes that good teaching is technically sophisticated, requires high levels of education and long training, is perfected through continuous improvement, is a collective endeavour which maximises, mediates and moderates online instruction.

Hargreaves talked about three kinds of capital: human capital, social capital and decisional capital. (PC = f (HC,SC,DC)) all combining to create professional capital.

Human capital includes qualifications, knowledge, preparation, skills, emotional intelligence. Human capital solutions entail recruiting from the top tiers, select for moral commitment and EQ, taking pay off the table and creating an attractive working and collegial environment.

He talked about ‘teaching like a pro’: continuously improving, planning and working together and being part of the wider teacher profession.

He also talked about the relationship between pedagogy and technology and showed a ‘disconnect’ video which we all jumped at. He then showed a Singapore school using twitter as feedback, using Second Life simulations, MSN messenger,multiple devices and mobile phones etc. Hargreaves said that two things had changed his attitude to technology in the last two years (he was a sceptic): going to Singapore and seeing good teaching using technology, and then doing a special education (essential for some, good learning for all) project in Ontario, which used assistive and adaptive technologies.

Hargreaves emphasised decisional capital (how do you develop judgement?) includes judgement, case experience, practice, challenge and stretching and reflection. He talked too about capability and commitment in relationship to career stages, looking at axis of capability and commitment across career stages, and also in term of teaching and working with different generations (which I’m much more sceptical about)

He talked a lot about teachers in their later career paths (are they renewed or renewable?). Later career paths include the renewed, the disenchanted, the quiet ones and the resisters. He argued that the disenchanted can ‘get the magic back’ if you get to know them in their classrooms (where they are often working at a very high level) and share their practice, convince them that their students will benefit, convince them that it wont go away, and that you wont go away as a leader pushing for change. Change needs five years+ for change to be embedded. He also argued that the ‘resisters’ were really relatively few in number, and that leaders need to be careful about ‘misdiagnosis’. The ‘golden’ time for teachers, Hargreaves argued, is mid-career, about 10 000 hours (necessary for mastery), about 5-8 years out, where capability is high and commitment is high.It is also the most neglected teaching area, he argued, like the middle child in the family.

He argued that social capital was where you could make the most impact. Social capital involves things like trust, collaboration, collective responsibility, mutual assistance, professional networks and ‘push, pull and nudge’.

It was a really engaging day; focused, interesting, challenging. His last exercise on ‘pushing’ change where he gave us an example of peer led change pushing and asked us whether we liked it or hated it, divided the room right down the middle. He pushed for ‘pull’ factors over ‘push ‘ factors, though saw room for both.’Pull whenever you can; push when you must, nudge all the time’. Do we believe that teachers will change by themselves? Or have the right not to change at all? Is how I saw it in the end. My answers were ‘maybe’ and ‘no’. ¬†And maybe isn’t good enough for our students?


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