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CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.

How Do We Make the Shift to Classroom Engagement? Ask the Learners

Another school year is upon us, and learners are well into their first months of school. However, we as educators can make school more exciting and engaging with just a few slight changes. Start off by asking yourself, “What am I doing that the learners could be doing?” and you will find these shifts actually changing the tides of how school works.

Here’s one example. I was in one of our schools the other day, and a group of students was working in seminars (multi-disciplinary units based around learning targets and guiding principles). The teacher was wondering about how to make engaging opportunities, as the seminar in this case was a “design your own” seminar, mainly for kids who had a mish-mash of targets that they still needed evidence of proficiency for. Since the learners were all over the place, the teacher was struggling on how to provide them with activities they could work on.

We decided to ask the learners.

That was the shift that was necessary to provide those engaging opportunities. We used a process called Question Formulation Technique (QFT). Using this process, we started out with a topic the learners might be interested in - cell phones in schools. No controversy there, especially in middle school! We had the learners generate their own questions, improve their own questions, and decide on questions they wanted to research further. In this case, the topic was one that just introduced the technique, and wasn’t focused on their learning targets, but the process would be used in the next class to focus on what they needed and what they were interested in, rather than the teacher coming up with what they thought might be engaging for learners.

This small shift, provoked by just asking themselves “what am I doing that the learners could be doing”, has changed the course of how this teacher now plans lessons and units. Asking the learners how they like to learn and what they are interested in around the learning targets already pulls them in and engages them in the learning. We don’t have to guess anymore.

Matt Shea hosts the “Personalized Learning with Matt and Courtney” podcast alongside Courtney Belolan, Maine-based K-12 Instructional Coach. You can listen on iTunes or at plearnmc.weebly.com. Follow them on Twitter at @PLearnMC

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