18 August 2013

Engagement - more than being on task.

At the risk of boasting, we seem to have really engaged kids. If you come into our learning space you will observe a high rate of on task behaviour. When I look up from the hub-bub of micro teaching my group, I am often surprised at how busy our kids are. Their discussions are predominantly about the learning task or the digital process they are using. If all we want is kids who are in class doing the right thing, then we’ve pretty well made it!

But what is engagement?
I have summarised these categories from the first Milestone Report on the Evaluation of the Manaiakalani Project (Jesson, McNaughton, & Wilson, 2013) .This is a report from Auckland UniServices Limited prepared by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre. The first level of engagement is behavioural. This requires actually being at school and participating in class, then being on task.
Affective or Emotional engagement refers to enjoyment and shared goals in carrying out the task.
Then there is Cognitive engagement. This is the learner hooked into the learning, not just the task. It would be indicated by specifically working on complex and challenging tasks, showing independence and agency which extends learning beyond 3-9 and the classroom walls.

According to the milestone report, observations across our cluster indicate high behavioural engagement compared with other studies of New Zealand classrooms.
Affective engagement is more difficult to measure, but student interviews show that overall the students were aware of and had beliefs consistent with the Manaiakalani goals.
But there was most variability in cognitive engagement when considered in terms of features of complexity and the depth of processing required. This was especially so for those children not working directly with the teacher. The activities they were involved in were either ‘practise’ type tasks or part of the ‘Learn, Create, Share’ process. Both had the capacity to be formulaic, or challenging and extending.

So while we have students engaged in the task, they aren’t necessarily engaged in their learning.

We need to further develop the conditions that lead to improvements in enhancing the learning experience, and the outcomes for the learner.

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