Engaging in class, in school, and in the world
Learning happens everywhere, not just in school. To truly understand and support a student’s engagement in learning we need to look beyond the classroom.
Engagement in learning can be seen from several perspectives: in class, out of class but associated with school, and in life outside of school. In each of these contexts, students engage by taking initiative, pursuing learning opportunities, expressing interest in subjects, activities, hobbies, and career paths, and making decisions and choices based on their own learning goals. How engagement is shown and observed depends on the context.
Within a class, engagement includes actively participating in classroom discussion and activities, expressing readiness to learn while in class, appropriately preparing for upcoming activities, focusing and working hard, and actively pursuing interests and goals. This is the type of engagement we measure internally based on the teachers’ daily observations. It’s how we define engagement for new teachers. This definition also aligns closely to our Work Skills: Focus, Plan, Make an Effort, Document.
Outside of the classroom, school-related engagement includes students being aware of and actively involved in what needs to be done to advance one’s academic learning (e.g., completing assignments, preparing for future work, practicing skills, addressing knowledge gaps, getting extra help or support if needed, etc.). Our online tools support students with this by giving them full access to their curriculum – so they can leave class and pick up right where they left off when needed. This may also include students participating in clubs or after school activities.
Beyond school, engagement in learning includes the broader pursuit of individual goals and objectives driven either by interest or by longer term objectives, such as:
- Taking online classes from other providers
- Taking classes through dual enrollment, either college courses or job-training courses
- Teaching oneself new skills (e.g., learning how to code in free time)
- Spending time learning via websites or in online communities (e.g., talking to other teens coding and making video games or apps in order to advance skills)
- Working towards a certification in a particular field
- Seeking/getting help or guidance with school work or other interests (e.g., participating in tutoring or getting help from parents or others in the community)
- Sharing school-related work with people outside of their classes (e.g., showing work products to parents)
- Active participation in internships or service projects
- Attending workshops or events hosted by professionals (generally to learn more, but also related to specific interests)
- Participating in academic activities, clubs, or summer programs hosted by other organizations or schools
While many of these activities may be arranged by schools and parents (e.g., through the Pathways Program), the extent to which students seek out opportunities and express enjoyment and interest in these activities is also useful to know. Are they doing these things because parents are forcing them? Because they are graduation requirements? Or because they value these experiences and are genuinely interested and motivated to learn? Taking a macro perspective allows us to focus on the experiences students need across an entire ecosystem.
As part of our emphasis on student engagement, we recently put together a white paper that focuses on a strategy we call Effective Feedback Loops. Our paper summarizes the latest research, identifies best practices and provides tools and resources to help educators successfully engage their students. It’s in our hands to help students be aware of opportunities and connect the dots between the classroom, school, and learning that happens out in the world.
Jolene Zywica, PhD
Dr. Zywica is Opportunity Education's Senior Director of Learning Strategy. She ensures that the resources, tools, and experiences designed for teachers and students effectively support teaching and learning. Prior to joining the team in 2014, Jolene dabbled in teaching both high school and college students, was a high school literacy coach for 5 years, and has spent over 18 years designing and studying the impact of learning programs aimed at engaging students through active learning and technology.