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Let's Chat About Student Engagement!

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Teachers! Is school out for the holidays? Good. I'm glad. You deserve a break. I'd bet, as you sit there in your favorite chair, bundled up in front of a roaring fire/space heater/dog, that you'd love to consider how to improve the effectiveness of your classroom instruction.

Luckily, Education Week conducted a chat this week with some of the very tips you're maybe looking for, called "Boosting the Impact of Your Teaching." In an hour-long session, Teaching Now's Liana Heitin talked to Jim Knight, a research associate at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, and president of the Instructional Coaching Group. He is also the author of High-Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching.

What, you say? You're too busy ordering last-minute presents off Amazon to read a whole chat? I hear ya. And what with your Uncle Jack coming into town and the kids running rampant and the—what is the dog vomiting up now? WHO GAVE HIM GRAPES? YOU KNOW WE DON'T GIVE THE DOG GRAPES!—other general stress of the holidays, an hour-long chat transcript might be asking too much. So here, for those of you in the "Too long, didn't read" mood, are some highlights:

How should I react when a student wants to discuss a topic that isn't on the day's agenda?

Jim Knight: In High-Impact Instruction, I talk about deliberate and emergent planning. You need to make plans (be deliberate) but you need to respond when opportunities or challenges arise. Too much attention to a plan won't work if we don't take the time to address what needs to be addressed.

How do we keep the web/texting/tablet generation highly engaged for each lesson?

Knight: Technology in and of itself is not the secret. In the book, I talk about the strategies that keep students engaged. Clear goals and feedback. Work that is relevant and interesting and optimally challenging.

Have you ever seen any students that just can't be engaged, for whatever reason? What do we do?

Knight: I think that because we work with human beings anything is possible.
I often say that to teach is to feel guilty. We want every student to master everything. But inevitably we don't get everyone. But that doesn't mean we should let go of the goal.

What's your take on rewarding students for good work or good behavior? Do you have a specific reward system you like?

Knight: I agree with Carol Dweck that we should be careful about encouraging fixed mindset with our praise and focus on growth mindset. Thus, rather than saying you're so smart, we might say, "you clearly worked very hard." I also believe that we need to keep asking ourselves, "Is this work intrinsically motivating? Is it relevant, interesting, and challenging?"

You can find the full transcript here for your reading pleasure.

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