Engaged Learning

As a belief statement I think so called engaged learning is important.  I did the workshops in China in 2007 and once again had to face the fact of how shallow some of my thinking really is in this area.  Helen reminded me of this on Monday.  We were in the middle of a workshop here, when she asked the question “What is engaged learning, and how do you know it is happening, and if it does, how do you know it makes any difference?”

Today, a link crossed my monitor that mentioned

Russ Edgerton’s white paper on Pedagogies of Engagement?  The commonly referred to link appears to be inactive ( www.pewundergradforum.org/wp1.html)

I checked out the phrase and discovered several interesting pages.

1. www.ce.umn.edu/~smith/docs/Smith-Pedagogies_of_Engagement.pdf

Prior to Edgerton’s paper, the widely distributed and influential publication called The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education [2] stressed pedagogies of engagement in concept. Three of the principles speak directly to pedagogies of engagement, namely, that good practice encourages student-faculty contact, cooperation among students, and active learning.

2. www.carnegiefoundation.org/publications/sub.asp?key=452&subkey=612&printable=true

One of Russ’s arguments focused on something he called “pedagogies of engagement” — approaches that have within them the capacity to engage students actively with learning in new ways. He wasn’t talking only about service-learning, though service learning was an example; he was talking about an array of approaches, from problem-based and project-based learning to varieties of collaborative work and field-based instruction. Russ used the rubric “pedagogies of engagement” to describe them all.

3. www.bgsu.edu/cconline/Civil_War/CWlearnercentered.htm

“Engagement,” framed within the theoretical concerns of social and cognitive development, seems to be largely about a student’s “maturity.” So, a student is engaged when s/he shows or self-reports gains in:

  • “personal development, academic achievement, civic responsibility, [and] career exploration” (Billig and Eyler)
  • personal development such as sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, spiritual growth and moral development (Vanderbilt review 2000)
  • interpersonal development and the ability to work well with others, leadership and communication skills (Vanderbilt review 2000)

To put it bluntly, where’s the fun in that? (Emphasis and italics added by me)

Just a taster really. How do you know someone is engaged? Does it REALLY affect learning?

I should have been posting on this last week as I read Bains superb book “What the Best College Teachers Do“. Here is something adapted from what I wrote for last week’s UCTL news sheet (FLAB):

‘What the Best College Teachers Do’ (Ken Bain)

Mike has found this quite a remarkable book, and loaned me a copy.

The book is a report on a fifteen-year study of a hundred or so college teachers in a wide variety of fields and universities.  It comes to the conclusion that it is not what teachers do, it’s what they understand.

Techniques and stuff (like lesson plans) matter less than the special way teachers view their subject and value human learning (or not!!). The best teachers, according to the study, know their subjects well, and also know how to “engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses”.

From the book:

Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.

It highlights the research that got me launched in thinking about teaching and learning in the early 1990’s: a bunch of physicists involved in the area of educational research.  These guys introduced me to Vygotsky.  It’s been an interesting mix actually: the kind of talk given by a physics lecturer on educational theory is quite different to other talks.  Google “PER physics” (PER=Physics Education Research).  They also have a different set of mental models, and some interesting (odd??) juxtapositions of ideas.

It is a short, well constructed, evidence based (is that the right term??) inspiring little book.  I’ve wondered about a reading group around this book – or something.  My first thought was something international through the POD group.  Maybe.  Watch this space.

2 comments on “Engaged Learning
  1. Diane says:

    Thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment on my blog site – I suspect from just the little that I’ve browsed on your blog that I can now forget about following the course and just find out all I need to know from here!


    Newbie Web 2.0 Hog

  2. Chirnside Derek says:

    Gee Diane. Obeisances!! ?? I had to look this up in dictionery.com. :-) I am an intermittent blogger only – too much half finished stuff in my head, and too many people coming through my door in a day. I’ll visit you again.

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