Maximizing Engagement for All Learners

Teachers should be encouraged to know that prominent educational experts now assert that student learning is not a direct result of what teachers do. What researchers emphasize is that what teachers do is very important – but that teachers do not directly cause learning. Another way to say it is that student learning is not a direct by-product of what teachers do, but stems from what learners do.

The most significant research finding is deceptively simple:” Learning is done by the learner. That is, as teachers we tend to think that our students learn on account of what we do. But that is a mistake: Our students don’t learn because of what we do; they learn because of what they do. Our challenge then is to design learning experiences for students that are interesting and that yield the learning we desire.” (Talk about Teaching; Danielson 2009 pg. 36)

In this course you will be asked to consider some of the really big ideas of education – such as attention, learning, motivation and student engagement.  Together we will explore principles and practices you’ll need when working to maximize engagement of all learners.  We’ll look at how the achievement gap is widened by the engagement gap and a number of strategies to help you and students close this gap.  We’ll consider the role of experience and how vital it is to design learning opportunities so that each student has the learning conditions they need to maximize engagement.  Along the way, we’ll take a look at the enduring questions that every student asks – and that you’ll learn how to help students learn to answer.

Maximizing Engagement for All Learners will be available at on December 15, 2012.

Framing Student Engagement

As you know, teaching is a profession that requires a great deal of energy to be expended by professionals – it is a very involved and active job.  Teaching is far more than just a series of activities to occupy the time of students.  Teaching well requires professionals to work both reflectively and deliberately.

One look at the words we use clearly conveys how intentional we must be:

  • goals
  • outcomes
  • benchmarks
  • results
  • objectives
  • learning targets

We now need to look no further than the Common Core State Standards to see how widespread the language of results has become.  The single best word to summarize the common aim of our intentionality is:  evidence

We teach at a time where evidence of learning – not just of efforts to teach – are paramount. In service of this, standards-based reform has created opportunities for alignment of curricular, assessment and instructional approaches on massive scales.

We also teach at a time where it is equally important to recognize that in order for each learner to achieve great results – learning processes need to become more personalized. It might seem like professionals are pulled in two opposite directions

  • standardization of practice
  • personalization of practice

These should not be viewed as opposites – but as complementary aspects of our work. Standards-based reform is about creating a coherent progression for learners to experience – not about prescribing a particular way of teaching. A standards-based approach helps provide the coherence students need as they move through educational systems.

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