Monday, November 4, 2013

Engagement at the Heart of Learning

Peer with me into an active learning environment. You won't find rows of desks familiar to the Industrial Age model of education but rather an interactive classroom, a place buzzing with students who notice, wonder, discover, and construct knowledge. A teacher, as a facilitator, guides the learning of curious minds who engage in multiple approaches to unlocking meaning. Linear thinking is not the norm in this place of learning. Divergent thinking is developed and insights sought after. Various protocols and practices are used to engage these learners in collaborative discussions with diverse partners. Further, students are seen delving deeply into specific topics. Take a second look: see a classroom where the door is open to limitless possibilities and different pathways to learning.  

Step inside; all students have equal opportunities to access knowledge and are found connecting to different pathways to learning through integrated technologies. Students exhibit a passion for learning.  You don't have to blink twice at this vision. This is not a dream scenario. It is the emergence of the active learning classroom where possibilities await students who are provided a thirst for knowledge. It is a real place of learning found in many districts throughout the country. It is the classroom of today, tomorrow, and the future where students are led on a journey of the mind for "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." (First Lady Abigail Adams) 

Front and center in this active environment are engaging, learning opportunities that allow for discovery, forward moves, reflection, rediscovery, ah hah moments, and new directions. Active learners navigate through muddy waters guided by their teacher facilitator. The concepts that learning is a messy process and all learners can succeed are the guiding principles. Step back. Notice the pulse beat of learning: student engagement, noted by Marzano in his research on effective classrooms as an essential component. Here, students involve themselves in the process  of learning as they engage in the completion of task. Process over product is valued and inquiry skills developed.

Reflect upon what is seen. Students emerge at various stages of being independent thinkers, collaborators, problem solvers, and meaning makers throughout the day. They interact with diverse partners in focused conversations filled with accountable talk through such groupings as partnerships, triads, and quads. Carefully crafted collaborative and independent activities foster stamina. Students are seen exploring, explaining, analyzing, and presenting. At the end of the lesson, reflection on mastery of the learning target occurs. This is a snapshot of an engaging learning environment where learning is fostered by reflective practitioner who is constantly honing his/her craft. 

Creating engaged, interactive classrooms that prepare students to meet the challenges of a fast-paced information age is a challenging charge, but not an impossible one. Be the guide on the side that assists students to achieve the possibilities that learning can afford them. Join #nyedchat tonight to discuss your views on the topic of student engagement, a critical component of effective classrooms.

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