Engaged Learning: Are we all on the Same Page?
Elizabeth Barkley (2010) begins her conversation about student engagement with a quote from an article written by Stephen Bowen, “Engaged learning: Are we All on the Same page?” (Bowen, 2005, p.4). In 2009 there were almost 3.5 million students enrolled in higher education in Canada and this exponential growth continues today. This growth creates an “increasing diversity of needs…indeed, students – their backgrounds, motivations and learning needs – add layers of complexity to the traditional delivery of higher education” (Fisher, 2011, p. 4). Barkley (2010) puts a focus on “engagement” as a unifying thread when combined with active learning. This dynamic process allows the student to connect what they “know” with new information and new learning connections.
Barkley, (2010) defines four engagement prongs – engagement with the learning process; engagement with the context of the study; engagement with the object of the study; and engagement with the human condition. Learning today is a complex integrated process. Opportunities are provided for students to learn through action, contemplation, reflection and emotional engagement as well as information acquisition (ACPA, 2004). These opportunities are made possible through a variety of learning goals that can be achieved through field trips, case studies, service learning and problem-based learning.
Since I always like to start at the beginning my reflection focus on “engagement with the human condition” begins with classroom management and a quote from the following link
Classroom management provides “the provisions and procedures necessary to establish
and maintain an environment in which instruction and learning can occur.”
Literature has documented the adult learner and their fear of being marked or evaluated. For the majority of my early educational journey I believe I existed in a competitive environment, where top marks were rewarded and a sense of personal lack was cultivated. This belief system defeats all engagement concepts before any learning has begun. I don’t believe I was alone and I believe we can still find pockets of this competitive environment today.
Fortunately my postgraduate education and learning can be defined by the comments of Fenwick and Parsons (2009) – As students assess where they are on the continuum they develop confidence and a responsibility for the learning. Self-esteem grows as students set own personal standards and goals. I can certainly attest to my personal growth and development in programs that focused on building community, self-responsibility for learning, and supportive relationships. These programs have been journeys that were explored together and that we continue to explore through the solid friendships that we created.
So, how do we begin? Barkley , (2010) speaks to the importance of establishing supportive relationships with cooperative/collaborative learning. I believe this begins before the students walk through the door – from providing pre-class support, instructor student interaction to minimizing the pressures of being an adult learner and the need to perform. Barkley (2010) speaks to developing learning goals instead of performance goals and minimizing pressures that support a focus on performance. Students who experience success and develop confidence in their abilities tend to have control of the learning environment. Parson’s and Fenwick (2009) support this concept and suggest that the instructor shares what is expected to happen, provide opportunities for participants to share their expectations and allow the class to discuss how they will know when the learning has happened.
Providing support for instructors helping students achieve a sense of flow, Barkley (2010, p. 14) referenced Wlodkowksi (2008) and his characteristics of flow – making sure goals are clear and compatible, making sure feedback is immediate and continuous, and challenging balances and relevant skills/knowledge to stretch existing capacities.
It is clear that a focus on the conditions for learning is imperative if facilitators wish to create an engaged and synergistic community.
Every student comes with a diverse learning past that is an important part of his or her present and future learning. Students are encouraged to be critical thinkers, become involved in the learning process and learn how to apply knowledge to new situations. Learning becomes an active process that involves the student’s direct experiences and worldviews. Using real world settings empowers students to explore the complexities of finding real world solutions. This approach requires critical consideration of multiple perspectives which may at times conflict. This conflict shows students that they can support someone even if they do not agree completely.
The environment is designed to be respectful, inclusive, flexible, and is one that constantly incorporates the student’s interests. The classroom encourages cooperative learning and promotes students working together in order to enhance the learning experience for all.
The instructor clearly defines what the learning objectives for the course are and clarifies course details that may include assessment, late assignments, and quality of work or the amount of work required. However there is always room for discussion when defining how the objectives will be obtained, how assessments will be applied and what the methods of learning will be.
ACPA. (2004). Learning Reconsidered. In R. P. Keeling (Ed.), A campus-wide focus on the Student Experience. Washington, D.C.: ACPA, NASPA.
Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques (J. W. Sons Ed. 1 ed.). SanFrancisco: Jossey-Bass.
Bowen, S. (2005). Engaged learning: Are we all on the same page? Peer Review, 7, No. 2(Winter 2005).
Fenwick, T., & Parsons, J. (2009). The Art of Evaluation (2nd edition ed.). Toronto: Thompson Educational.
Fisher, D. (2011). Leaders in Learning Student Affairs in Canada in the 21st Century and implications for the Canadian Associaiton of College and University Student Services: CACUSS.
Journal Week #2
Reflections on Introversion
The 20th century is the “culture of personality” and plays to the strengths of extroverts. Extroverts direct their energies outward and portray a person of action. Introverts direct their energies inward and portray a person of contemplation. As educators it is important to recognize these personality preferences to allow individual students to play to their strengths.
One third to one half of the world’s population are introverts and respond to stimuli differently than extroverts. After a day long interactive seminar, extroverts are the first to suggest carrying on the event at dinner, whereas introverts will excuse themselves from the festivities and look forward to personal quiet time. Extroverts tend to think through a scenario verbally whereas introverts will internalize the scenario until they believe they have something to contribute to the conversation. Introverts have a preference for solitude and working alone and extroverts have a preference for groupthinks and maximum engagement with participants.
This is not to say that either preference is preferred, although extroverts can easily drive the discussion where the group will follow the opinions of the most dominant person in the room – and not necessarily to the best solution. There is value in valuing the contemplative mind – solitude matters. Exploring the value of the introverted preference creates space to unplug, reflect, and be mindful.
As educators, the key is to recognize the value of each preference and manage the environment to support the boisterous and extravagant as well as the reflective and humble.
I have introverted preferences and have participated in many leadership workshops that explore personality preference recognition. In every workshop the extroverts display immense relief that they are indeed extroverts and have limited introvert tendencies. In my graduate program I had an extrovert colleague who made it her mission to “fix” me. Being introverted is being the same as right or left handed. Today, nobody would attempt to change a person’s preference for right or left-handedness – although I do have personal experience with having my left hand tied behind my back, forcing me to use my right hand.
I am relieved that dialogue now speaks to the myth of the “extrovert ideal” and recognizes advantages and disadvantage of each preference – although I believe this may still be a tough sell to the extroverts! In the TedTalk, Susan Cain spoke to her ability to speak to large crowds even though it was not her preference to do so – I have also consciously made progress in working outside of my preferred environment – I wonder how many extroverts have chosen quiet contemplation for themselves?
Extroverts still overwhelm and engage outwardly as they welcome introverts and help them overcome their introverted tendencies – It doesn’t work. I remember seminars where someone would say, “lets give the introverts a chance” and all eyes would focus on me and my fellow introverts. Inviting introverts to the party will not bridge gap – it actually widens the divide.
Susan Cain’s suggestions for well-managed environments that allow for both alone time and group work; unplugged time and autonomy are a step in the right direction (Cain, 2012). The value of the introspective preference will only be recognized when the time and effort is taken to cultivate the contemplative approach to discourse and knowledge development.
Introversion/extroversion are just parts of who we all are. There is no need to approach the differences as right/wrong or better/worse. The key difference between extroversion/introversion is how they recharge – extroverts recharge by being with people and introverts recharge by being along (Silverman, 1999).
As educators there are two key areas that we need to nurture. Since the 21st century supports an extroverted environment we need to ensure that we build an environment that also nurtures introversion preferences and we incorporate collaborative frameworks that will support integrated learning. As students move from the educational arena to the workplace their ability to work collaboratively with diverse members of the team will be key to their success.
Classroom organization addresses the diversity of students. Quiet space is key for introverts to work through scenarios as well as to recharge batteries. The classroom will have a balance between open spaces and private space. This will allow the classroom to have a sense of community but also provide privacy.
Collaboration can take many forms. In order to address the preferences of extroverts and introverts there will be a two step approach that allows for solitary work where the student can develop their thoughts/reasoning before coming together to discuss in a group formation.
Having a student centred classroom and classroom norms developed by students allows for the student to decide what they are going to learn; how they are going to learn it; and how their learning will be assessed. This student centred approach will allow all students to take responsibility for their learning and incorporate their learning preferences. An extrovert may choose to do a presentation whereas an introvert may choose a research paper.
As a facilitator I will not underestimate my quiet students and will be flexible in the design and implementation of collaborative activities. There will be a culture of respect, mindfulness and full support for what we each bring to the classroom.
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet. United States: Crown Publishing Group.
Silverman, L. (1999). How to Care For Introverts. Retrieved from elisishop.com
Reflections on the connections between self-directed learning, intrinsic motivation and the role of the instructor as they relate to the purpose of learning.
In the journal article Self Directed Learning: Toward a Comprehensive Model (Cameron, 1997) the author describes considerable confusion and misunderstanding around the concepts of self directed learning. To address these misunderstandings the author proposes a model of SDL, which integrates self-management (contextual control), self-monitoring (cognitive responsibility), and motivation (entering and task) dimensions to reflect a meaningful and worthwhile approach to self-directed learning.
The author views SDL from a collaborative constructivist perspective, which has the individual taking responsibility for constructing meaning while including the participation of others in confirming worthwhile knowledge. For example, the learning outcome should be both personally meaningful and socially worthwhile.
Self-management doesn’t mean students are independent and isolated learners. Facilitators provide support, direction, and standards necessary for a successful education outcome and peers engage in dialogue and reflective practice.
Self-monitoring sees the learner taking responsibility for construction of personal meaning that is dependent upon both internal and external feedback. The challenge is for the learner to integrate the external feedback with his or her own internal meaning and assessment. The challenge for the educators is to balance the collaborative control between teacher and learner.
Motivation has an enormous influence on learners assuming responsibility and control of the learning process. Learners have higher motivation if they perceive the learning goals will meet their needs and are achievable. Intrinsic motivation is essential for meaningful and worthwhile learning. Intrinsic motivation is supported when students have opportunities to share control and to collaborate in the planning and implementation of the learning process. Authentic self-directed learning becomes self-reinforcing and intrinsically motivating.
Self directed learning initiates learning goals, maintains attention, showcases quality outcomes and produces learners who know how to learn.
“With power comes responsibility, and when the teacher relinquishes some of the power, and the power of the student increases, the student must also assume greater responsibility for what happens in the teaching-learning experience”(Peters & J., 2002, p. 45)
As I re-read many of the forums and contributions to the discussions I came to realize how difficult it is for instructors to give up the power in the classroom. Many of the discussions still maintain the power of the instructor. This may be due, in part, to the many misunderstandings the author addresses in this article.
I see a direct correlation between the level of intrinsic motivation of the learner and the instructor’s desire for control (power). The more power the instructor displays, the less opportunity the student has to share control and collaborate in the planning and therefore tends to have less intrinsic motivation.
The exercise of power is not simply a relationship between partners, individuals or collectives; it is a way in which certain actions modify others(Foucault, 1982). Facilitators who maintain power tend to negatively impact the learning environment that reflects the motivation, completion, and success of their students. Success in a student directed or student centred learning environment is derived from the ability of the instructor to translate the shared vision and the collective responsibility (of students and instructor) into integrated forms of action.
To support these effective partnerships that are shown to advance student learning, foster educational attainment and reinvigorate the learning processes require a determined effort to build bridges and organizational structures that attempt to level the power playing field between instructors and students. These organizational structures must address the clear lines of responsibility, goals, expectations, and rules to allow for the ongoing development of collaborative partnerships. What is harder to address is the power of the voice in the room. Students who are minimally connected to the development and planning of the learning create a less than equal power balance. To be clear, sharing of power is not expecting equal representation but definitely expecting more than a token gesture when it comes to creating the learning environment and learning objectives of the class. An increased representation of students at the development stage of the class will provide healthy opportunities for dialogue and sharing. Without this representation, students will remain reliant on the collegiality of the instructor and lacking a powerful voice, students will continue to be marginalized in the development of the student centred learning environment.
This learning framework begins with the facilitator being a member of the group and the learning experience. It is important to note that the facilitator comes with special knowledge of content and process but that this knowledge does not necessarily supersede the knowledge of the other learners in the classroom. This may cause some participant frustrations with students suspecting that the teacher lacks competence in the subject matter and will require some preliminary work around collaborative learning – using critical discourse to highlight what this style of learning means to each individual and unpack the baggage we all bring to the table. We need to recognize the difference between our goals as educators and the objectives for our learners that we want to help them achieve. The learning needs often grow out of larger life issues and through interactions with the student’s environment. A problem based, self-directed approach leads to integration of learning that seems relevant and applicable to the life of the student.
Self directed or self-centred learning is a process that achieves worthwhile and meaningful educational outcomes. Participants have the opportunity to form more dependable beliefs about their experiences, assess their contexts, seek informed agreement on their meaning and justification and make decisions on the resulting insights – All central to the adult learning process! (Mezirow J, 2000). We must put students in charge of their own learning – individually and collectively – and ask them to make sense of the learning, to act on it and to finally, reflect on the learning.
I will make every effort to transfer my power over to the learning group as soon as it is feasible in order to become a group of collaborative learners. We will begin with a dialogue around frames of reference for collaborative learning situations. The purpose of the dialogue is to seek understanding and involves finding agreement, welcoming difference, trying on other points of view, and the suspension of our judgments. Mezirow (2000) speaks to transforming our frames of reference (perspectives, habits of mind, mind sets) to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, emotionally capable of change, and reflective so that we can generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action. This demands participation of all learners in constructive discourse where we use the experience of others, assess reasons justifying assumptions, and make an action decision based on resulting insights.
As the facilitator I will demonstrate respect and begin the building of trust around risk taking, around each other, and around the process. As the group develops power will shift to participants and will include shared facilitation and responsibility for the active and reflective components of the teaching learning experience.
Cameron, D. (1997). Self-Directed learning: Toward a Comprehensive Model. Adult Education Quarterly, 48(Fall 1997), 18-33.
Foucault, M. (1982). The Subject and Power. Critical Inquiry, 8(Summer, 1982), 777-795. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343197
Mezirow J, a. (2000). Learning as Transformation. 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.
Peters, J., & J., A. (2002). Collaborative learning: People Laboring Together to Construct Knowledge. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, Fall 1998(79), 75-85. doi:10.7908.1002/ace