(I originally posted this on May 14, 2014. Four years later we still need to concentrate on working with each other to improve our instructional strategies and make the work that we ask students to do more engaging and relevant!)
Engagement, as a condition that exists in the classroom, is not always easily defined. To steal a quote from Justice Potter Stewart when describing something hard to define: “I know it when I see it.” There is a certain energy in a classroom of engaged students. There is movement, chatter, discussion, disagreement, and no one person is the center of attention. We can say all we want about student centered learning, but until we realize that students want to be in charge of their own learning, we are going to have a hard time engaging them. Do not get me wrong, we have to guide, persuade, sell, and curate their direction, but learners want to be actively involved in the lesson. So many times I walk down the halls at school and notice the varied degrees of active student learning. When students are not passively listening or completing desk work, they are much more involved….engaged. I can watch the same student in various classes and see the difference an active classroom has. The engaged class is not waiting for the bell to ring, they are disappointed that it does. The challenge for teachers is to make the content available in an active exercise. In an engaging classroom students interact with information, resources, each other, and perhaps the world at large instead of being dependent on a text or the teacher for their learning.