Jul
25

Engagement and Quality Work

Chad Sansing, (@classroots on Twitter) is a brilliant educator in my school division.  I have known of Chad for many years (he’s been middle school, I am elementary, so we’ve had little opportunity to interact personally, but we’ve met.) During the recent PD opportunity, Edustat, we joined each other’s online PLN and I am thrilled to have him as part of mine.  I highly recommend him to others–he’s an educator who interacts and is a great thinker!  Recently, he posted a definition of authentic engagement on his website, Classroots.org

Chad had run an earlier version of this by several people on our county email list and received some feedback and additional resources (posted on our wiki), and then he synthesized what he was thinking.  Part of his post and my response is below. There are many of us exploring engagement in many ways.  Some of us are using the hashtag #AE on Twitter to thread the conversation.  We have begun a wiki, Authentic Engagement. We invite you to join our conversation and involve others… that’s why I am cross-posting my response to Chad on MY blog–to hopefully get my readers to go see and participate in Chad’s site and join our wiki.  :-)

Disagree with me, add to my knowledge, share your resources on engagement, think WITH us!

The more we think together and share our questions and thoughts, looking at context and quality of student work and how to be better teachers, the more we’ll all learn.  :-)

Chad’s blog excerpt:

Authentic engagement is a powerful means to the end of learning.  Authentic engagement connects students to content through real-world work that allows for social learning, inquiry, and products that contribute to students’ communities.

Characteristics of Authentic Engagement

  1. Students master content through project-based, inquiry-driven learning with access to multiple types of media and outside experts.
  2. Students work and learn from one another collaboratively and socially.
  3. Students evaluate for and select the best tools for their work and are free to use them.
  4. Students’ work is published for an authentic audience outside the classroom.
  5. Students receive feedback on their work from experts before and after publication.
  6. Students revise work until it shows mastery of content and follows experts’ guidelines.
  7. Students’ work benefits their community.

My response:

Chad,
I appreciate the references above gathered in one place, especially because I am not familiar with the Bob Peterson one, so I now have something new to read.  :-)

The different terms, quality work, engagement, authentic engagement, etc. are all variations on a theme, but I don’t think are synonyms. The definitions of quality work have to do with the product. The definitions of engagement have to do with the student’s attitudes, habits of mind while involved and intensity/persistence/passion about the task.

So, for me, it’s not about engaging with experts inside or outside of my classroom for kids to be authentically engaged in learning. That’s about authentic WORK. It’s not about benefiting the community–that, too is about the work. So, I wouldn’t agree that your 4, 5, 6, and 7 describe authentic engagement so much as they do authentic work/products.

For me, engagement is all tied up in the level of effort the student is willing to invest in the task. So I agree with Schlechty’s statements:


• The student sees the activity as personally meaningful.
• The student’s level of interest is sufficiently high that he persists in the face of difficulty.
• The student finds the task sufficiently challenging that she believes she will accomplish something of worth by doing it.
• The student’s emphasis is on optimum performance and on “getting it right.”
(MY addition–this does not mean getting it right on the test, but getting it right for oneself–truly understanding the content, the material, the process, the work so that it becomes a part of your skill and knowledge repertoire.)

It’s not about compliance, as Marzano seems to say when he says engagement is the kid doing what the teacher asks.  It’s not about doing work for outside experts or even the teacher. That stuff is about worthwhile work, quality work, important tasks or whatever you want to call them, but those are all about the product, not the student’s engagement. (Now does worthwhile work (such as that described in 4, 5, 6, 7 above) engage the student?  Absolutely.. .but it’s not necessary in the definition of engagement.)

For me, engagement is about personalized, meaningful learning for (mostly) intrinsic reasons–persisting and persevering through challenge and difficulty to develop deep understanding and increased process skills.

Your thoughts?



6 Responses to “Engagement and Quality Work”

  1.   poulingail Says:

    Chad’s list sounds like something to be memorized and recited each morning at the start of a day. If we as educators can wrap our brains around teaching this way, we will achieve our goals for student learning.
    Even with my enthusiasm bursting I have to stop and think. Can I really do this? Is this going to mean so much more work for me that I can’t stand it and throw the baby out with the bath water in favored of tried and trues methods?
    This is such an exciting time for me as I more fully embrace project based and collaborative learning. Through my blog I share some of the project based learning we as a kindergarten class can take advantage of. It is going to take more reflection on my part to get a better picture of how I will implement my class time to get into PBL more effectively.

  2.   poulingail Says:

    Sorry the link to my blog isn’t working properly. It’s alway hit or miss for me on that. Here’s the full link http://poulingail.edublogs.org

  3.   Chad Sansing Says:

    Thanks for cross-posting, Paula. In my response at classroots.org, I suggest splitting the page into definitions of authentic engagement and authentic work – using 1-3 and your input to refine the engagement definition, and using 4-7 to begin a definition of the work. What do you think. Paula and colleagues?

  4.   Chad Sansing Says:

    Gail, your blog looks like great practice in reflection and communication; thanks for sharing. I feel like I’ve approached what we’re trying to define, but haven’t provided it yet for my students on a consistent basis. I have a healthy dose of anxiety, as well, but I’m confident that after the kinks work themselves out, my students will be learning like never before. Please share your work with classroots.org – I would love to cross-post and promote your project-based work and reflections on it.

  5.   poulingail Says:

    Chad, I’m not familiar with this cross-posting thing. Can you help me out with that, maybe a link to explain it?

  6.   Chris Says:

    “Authentic engagement is a powerful means to the end of learning.” Paula, you focus on the means; Chad’s focus is on the result. Your viewpoints complement each other beautifully and both are indicative of and necessary for authentic learning to occur. Thank you both for laying this out for us in real world terms.

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