Klea Scharberg

Encourage and Ensure Engagement

To many students, school is just a place they go. How do we create engaging learning experiences that make school more personal for them? Students need to be motivated in their learning before they can apply higher-order, creative-thinking skills and, ultimately, be prepared for their future college, career, and citizenship success.

The most recent results from the High School Survey of Student Engagement show that only two percent of students surveyed said they'd never been bored in school. Students who have thought about dropping out continue to cite a lack of engagement with the school as a reason: 50 percent said they considered dropping out because they didn't like the school (51 percent cited this in the 2008 survey); 39 percent said they considered it because they didn't like the teachers (40 percent in 2008); 42 percent said they thought of dropping out because they didn't see the value in the work they were asked to do (45 percent in 2008). Just 41 percent of the students said that they went to school because of what they learn in classes.

We can—and must—do better to engage and re-engage students as learners and in learning. Students are engaged and productive when they have control, choice, challenge, complexity, and caring teachers. To create environments where students can thrive and succeed, we should use active and effective learning strategies such as cooperative learning and project-based learning; create opportunities for students to contribute to and learn within the community at large through service learning and internships; and develop inquiry-based, experiential learning tasks and activities to help all students deepen their understanding of what they are learning and why they are learning it.

Throughout February, we took a look at engaging instructional strategies that embrace both high standards and accountability for students' learning. Listen to this month's Whole Child Podcast, featuring Shelley Billig, a researcher who has conducted national, state, and regional studies on service learning; Jason Flom, a 5th grade teacher at Cornerstone Learning Community in Tallahassee, Fla.; and Dorvionne Lindsay, a senior at Quest Early College High School in Humble, Tex., winner of the 2011 Vision in Action: The ASCD Whole Child Award. Read the Whole Child Blog to hear from guest bloggers, and dive deeper into the latest research, reports, and tools on the engaging learning strategies topic page.

Have you signed up to receive the Whole Child Newsletter? Read this month's newsletter and visit the archive for more strategies, resources, and tools you can use to help ensure that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

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