“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind.” – Albert Einstein
It seems that “engagement” has become one of the most popular buzzwords in education today. This is because studies across the globe have shown that engaged students outperform their disengaged peers by 20 to 30 points on year-end and standardized tests. As a result, educators are exploring methods that “engage” students. Over the next few entries here, we will examine the elements of engagement that seem to be most applicable and reasonable for the 21st century classroom. In the process, we will demonstrate how artifacts address each of the necessary elements individually, and how they naturally combine all of the elements into effective, engaging and productive lessons for K-12 classrooms.
“Engagement” is one of those words in the popular lexicon that everyone uses, but few can clearly define. A survey of attempts yields the following list of commonalities among all the definitions: ownership, concentration, investment, and commitment. Four our purposes, a synthesis of the many definitions provides the following: engagement is students’ active participation and conscious investment in and personal commitment to their own learning. Like most definitions, it is clear, but cold. It lacks the necessary context to engage us further.
In an article in Current Issues in Education, Leah Taylor and Jim Parson reviewed the literature surrounding student engagement. Their conclusion listed the elements that combine to create a “successful, student-engaged classroom”:
1. Relevance: learning must address real problems and be naturally interdisciplinary
2.Technology-rich environment: all types of technology not just computers and PowerPoints.
3. A positive, challenging and open learning climate that includes risk-taking and high expectations.
4. Peer-to-peer relationships between students and teachers (horizontal not vertical organization)
5. A culture of learning in which language, activities and resources focus on learning first and achievement second
(Source: Taylor, L. and Parsons, J. (2011),”Improving Student Engagement.” Current Issues in Education, 14(1): 26. Accessed at http://cie.asu.edu Accessed on: 7/20/2014.)
In many ways, one or more of these elements exists in almost every classroom across the country, but it is the application of the combination of all that draws 21st century students to engage in their studies. When artifacts are used as one element of a teacher’s pedagogical approach, the elements combine naturally to make each lesson and engaging learning experience. Artifacts engage as…..