Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Intellectual Engagement

Curriculum which engages is not delivered by one person up front writing on tabulae rasae. High engagement happens when students are encouraged to collaborate in moderating, leading, and teaching (gasp).
I have seen this in my own classroom. I simply ran out of time to keep up with the bloggers' hall of fame, so I delegated the task to a student. I gave over all decision making to students. Next thing I knew, the survey software used went viral! Everyone had to have a poll for food, music, clothes, anything, on their blog! The neat thing was I didn't teach anyone how to make a poll using that software, how to capture the embed code, or paste the embed code on the blog. Students taught each other. Think for a minute how useful this skill will be for learners in their futures.
The engagement I seek in my learning is a state of full immersion in whatever I am doing. Students are no different. They seek that 'flow' in all they do. K12 learners already find that flow in video games, in reading books, in playing music. If we are not getting kids into that 'flow' in our classrooms, then they are not engaged with the content we are hired to convey.
My job is not to perform for students, but to applaud students who perform for students. One of the first things I say every fall, and often throughout the year, is that I am NOT the teacher. We are all learners here. I get a lot of push-back about that, especially from my fellow faculty members. Oh well. That is reality. Get used to it.
Are your classes intellectual engaging?

Photo courtesy of Wes Fryer available at and covered under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.


Angela Maiers said...

Durff - Brilliant post!

There is great confusion between the concept of engagement and excitement. Of course, we want learning to be fun and exciting, but engagement is much deeper.

Intellectual engagement(Flow) occurs when learners are involved in authentic, purposeful, and challenging work within an environment of collaborative support.

You students are so blessed to experience that environment lead by a teacher that really gets it! Keep on, friend!

mrsdurff said...

But engagement IS exciting. Why else would we engage in our passions?

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. You are absolutely right. The excitement that springs from the energy created when students are truely engaged in their learning is one of the greatest reasons for being in education. Students become engaged when they have authentic learning tasks, are given responsibility (with some guidance) for their learning and when they can share with others - either the learning or the product.
I woulf go so far as to say they thrive when they have teachers who understand this.