Engaging student work

I was asked to reflected on the ‘quality learning of students’ during the full home-based learning (fHBL) period.

So I started with asking myself, “What is ‘quality learning’?”

The first result on Google is this:

Learning that is purposeful, learning in which learners are provided with the ability to effectively learn, and retain skills and knowledge gained. It is usually associated with or based on student satisfaction with the learning process.” [Source]

A bit more digging produced this website that has a framework for quality learning.

In going through that site, I was particularly drawn to the last bit on ‘Qualities of Engaging Student Work

Based on the way some of the learners responded to the lessons, that is, they mainly showed a total lack of interest in it, I would say that I really need to increase the engagement factor of my lessons. Sometimes I get so caught up in the “delivery of knowledge” that I forget these basic principals.

To internalise what the site says about engaging student work, I have attempted to write it here in my own words.

Qualities of Engaging Student Work

1. Personal Response – Work that is engaging to students is work that is significant to the student (ie, it is meaningful to them). So when students respond (ie, explain their answers or their logic/reasoning to the answers, they are more personally invested. It shouldn’t be them giving the one correct answer, because that is just recall. Instead it should be them making predictions, connections, comparisons, saying “I think… because…” etc. It is best when everyone can give a personal response, therefore it is probably more useful for everyone to write their response instead of just a handful of students giving their verbal response.

2. Clear / modelled expectations of what success looks like – For example, these will be in the form of clear objectives of an activity and what learning outcomes are expected, visual exemplars or rubrics and self-assessment, clear formats and procedures, quantity and quality of personal responses expected etc.

3. Emotional and intellectual safety when giving personal responses – Students are more engaged when they do not have to fear embarrassment, punishment, or implications that they are inadequate. More safety is required especially when learners have to give personal responses that are supported with logic, reasoning or explanations.

4. Learning has a social component – Students are more engaged when their work permits, encourages, and supports opportunities for them to work interdependently with others. This is different from students working independently on a common task which is what most group work is. Examples of this include think-pair-share, small group discussion, peer revision or review, students expressing an opinion based on work that another student has done.

5. Students work is shared so that they feel they have an audience (that is not just the teacher) – Students are highly motivated when parents, significant others, peers make it known to the student that their work is important. Portfolios that show student work play a role in making student work more visible.

6. Students have choice and meaningful options – Students are more engaged when they have a choice over what they are doing and are more likely to feel committed to it. Examples of this include tiered assignments, self-selected reading materials, choice on product they produce or how they decide to present their final work (e.g. graphic organiser vs essay vs in a song), selecting tasks from a list. I must be careful not to overwhelm the students with choice.

7. There is surprise and variety in the learning experiences – Give the students new and different ways of doing things.  New technology and techniques, however, shouldn’t be used to create new ways to do the same old work- new forms of work and new products are equally important. Students can produce a variety of products, all contribute different perspectives on a topic, have fun integrated into their lesson such as through gamification, be according to the students interests, include stimulations and role plays, respond to “in the voice of”

8. Authentic to the learner by connecting it to their prior knowledge and experiences – So the work should be relevant to the age group, somehow represents the personalities of the learners, has activities that are connected to real life, inquiry or discovery learning, hands-on activities, based on current events and issues, allows students to transfer and synthesise the knowledge beyond just content given to them.

I am going to keep coming back to this over and over again.

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