Wednesday, October 06, 2004

But what about Learning Engagement??

Yes it’s time to get back to what this Blog is about, learning engagement and just how we achieve it.

The vast majority of the literature on learning engagement comes from the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education. I guess that this comes from the need to engage students at a distance with their courseware.
It is much easier for a good face-to-face teacher to engage and influence their students with their physical presence and ability to read body language.
When students are remote and have a multitude of other competing time pressures in their lives, we need to find ways that engage them and make them want to give a high priority to their studies.
The techniques for engaging students are, however, equally applicable to the classroom with often stunning results. Think about the way in which your students’ eyes light up when they are working together on real and meaningful learning tasks, or when they become involved in a role-play. But this is jumping the gun a bit here—let’s go back to just how we can engage our students.

In 1999 Greg Kearsley and Ben Shneiderman developed a framework for engaging students in technology-based teaching and learning—they called it engagement theory.
They suggested that to be truly engaging learning tasks should be project based, occur in collaborative teams and have an outside authentic focus. They also suggested that the learning should be structured the following way: Relate—Create—Donate.
Initially, students in small groups relate to the problem/project, create a solution and donate this to the outside world.
They believe that students become engaged when they see meaning and purpose in what they are doing.
Authenticity provides that meaning and purpose.
While elements of this approach have been used before it offers a unique approach to learning that has tremendous possibilities. It is kind of like an authentic problem-based learning.

Recently, a colleague and I designed an authentic WebQuest based around Occupational Health and Safety for the Australian mining industry.
While the scenario is presented by an actor (as the Minister), the problem/question presented is authentic and the groups actually submitted their reports and presentations to the Minister for his comment.

A previous WebQuest of mine, modelled on the same approach, has achieved the maximum rating in “Best WebQuests University"

Tomorrow I’ll discuss more contrived learning environments where learning engagement can still flourish. I’ll also discuss why some student’s have difficulties in these.



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