Learning Continuum: Engagement

EngagementWe last discussed the role of motivation in the learning continuum. In much of the literature on building learner motivation, the terms motivation and engagement are used almost interchangeably. While there is a direct link between the two states, they are different.

Engagement is motivation in action.

Engaged learners are curious, committed and learn for a purpose. Learners who are engaged better retain what they learn, exhibit fewer behavior problems, and are more willing to participate in learning activities. There isn’t much need to build the argument for why we should strive to engage learners.

There are multiple models that delineate strategies for engaging learners. For example, Phil Schlechty in his 2002 book Working on the Work: An Action Plan for Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents outlines 10 characteristics that define engaging work. He also delves further into this topic in his more recent follow-up book Engaging Students: The Next Level of Working on the Work. These books are superb resources and would be good for book studies for administrators or practitioners. Another model is John Keller’s ARCS model: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction. Those are the four characteristics he argues as necessary for a person to be engaged.

Our white paper on the Learning Independence Continuum, however, posits that engagement is not the end point. It is a worthy effort, and one that requires time and attention. But it is one building block on the road to independence. As students experience meaningful and extended engagement, they are likely to become aware of the relationship between their actions and the results they see.

Here’s how:

One of the ways to engage learners is to design tasks that are challenging – at the leading edge of the learner’s current ability. Learners who are constantly facing debilitating frustration and failure find it difficult to believe that they are actually able to be successful. Conversely, when learners are able to undertake these challenging tasks and accomplish them (because it is personalized and calibrated to their specific needs and readiness for learning) – they will begin to believe they can succeed with effort, good strategies and the correct resources.

This connection leads them toward the next element in the continuum: self-efficacy.

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