Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fun and Games (continued) - Student Engagement

With summer almost gone, it’s time to scour the ads for school supplies and to gear up for the new school year.  The beginning of school always brings up conflicting emotions for me.  First and foremost, the excitement and anticipation of meeting new students and trying new lessons, but also the anxiety of trying to meet so many new needs.

Continuing with the trend of Fun and Games and with the understanding that engagement comes when students feel a connection with what they’re learning, here are some ideas gathered from two sources that inspired me this summer:

1)    David Warlick’s Smartbrief identified “four qualities of gaming and social networking experiences that provoke active and deliberate investment from the learner, into what they’re learning.”  He cites:
a.     Responsiveness (“Choices work or don’t, but everything gets feedback”);
b.     Collaboration (Learners discuss and build off one other to participate and achieve); 
c.     Personal Meaningfulness (quantifiable value and rewards (unlocking new levels, getting likes or comments), and player and participant identities are valued);
d.     Guided Learning in a Safe Environment (Players and participants learn from what works and what doesn’t and adapt their strategy). 

Sounds familiar?  It should.  These are the building blocks of a successful classroom. The final question: “What would happen if students and teachers were free to play with learning?”  filled me with new energy and enthusiasm as I started to work on my Fall Syllabus.

The Art and Science of Teaching  by Robert Marzano identifies five common factors related to student engagement:
High Energy—Teachers can use physical activity, appropriate pacing, and communication of enthusiasm and intensity in working with students to promote engagement and motivation.
Missing Information—Teachers can capitalize on the innate human need for closure by asking students to discover and supply missing information.
The Self-System—Effective engagement of students also involves incorporating topics, ideas, and processes that students find inherently interesting and valuable to them.
Mild Pressure—When students experience mild pressure while engaging in such activities as questioning, games, and competitions, they tend to focus their attention on key elements of the learning process.
Mild Controversy and Competition—Teachers can structure and manage non-threatening forms of controversy and competition through such processes as debates, tournaments, and related forms of team-based activities.

(Source is ASCD Website)
Module 13 focuses on the use of games and other forms of non-threatening competition as catalysts for promoting student engagement and Modules 14 and 15 present strategies based on these five factors that teachers can use to engage students.

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