Unlocking Academic Success: Empowering Students through Engaging Learning Strategies
In the bustling halls and vibrant classrooms of today’s schools, a powerful transformation is taking place. Teachers across the country and world are reporting disinterested students staring blankly, not participating in the classroom, yearning for the final bell to ring. Instead, students are reporting on their own that their excited voices can be heard, echoing tales of captivating lessons, interactive projects, and inspired learning.
So What Works?
So, what exactly is capturing the attention and imagination of these young minds? What is it that students are saying is engaging them in school? Over the past year, we have met and talked with 291 students representing 4 different areas of the United States, from rural to urban, those furthest from opportunity to affluence, there is a clear through line in what students are saying. Join us on a thrilling journey as we delve into the fascinating realm of modern education, exploring the innovative approaches, dynamic teaching methods, and immersive experiences that have sparked a fiery passion for learning within the hearts of students across the globe. Prepare to be captivated, as we uncover the secrets to truly engaging education.
The Process of Engaging Students
Project-Based Learning (PBL) has emerged as a powerful tool for engaging students in the learning process. By its very nature, PBL places students at the center of their education, fostering active participation, critical thinking, and collaboration. Through PBL, students are presented with real-world problems or challenges, allowing them to delve into authentic, meaningful inquiries that spark their curiosity and ignite their passion for learning.
PBL engages students by providing a context that resonates with their interests and connects their learning to the real world. Rather than simply memorizing facts or regurgitating information, students are empowered to explore and solve complex problems through hands-on, experiential learning. They actively apply knowledge from various disciplines, demonstrating how different subjects intersect and relate to one another.
That is the goal, by design, however not every classroom is doing PBL. Maybe your school or district is doing a cohort model or rolling the PBL initiative out slowly. What about those classes? Are students talking about engagement differently in a PBL classroom vs a classroom that is not doing PBL? I know that for many of us who might not be willing to take the dive into PBL as an everyday practice, we can still engage students! In my own reflection, the older I get, the farther away I am from the “real world interests and wonderings” that students have on any given day. All of our partners have different ways they have been successful in rolling out their plans to engage students in learning.
What Students Say Engage them in the Classroom.
After engaging in our 3 day “Building Clarity in PBL” training, we provide additional coaching and support on teacher’s implementation. One of our favorite options that schools and district opt for is to observe and randomly pull students and ask them about their experiences in the classroom. Based on Dr. John Hattie’s work in Visible Learning, we have banks of questions that we ask students. This past year, we have had a really high focus on engagement in the classroom, “what is really working to engage students K-12.”
When we pull students from class, the process only takes about 3-4 minutes, the teacher doesn’t know who we are going to pull to ask because we want an authentic honest response from students. One of the many questions we ask is:
How and when are you most engaged here on campus? What can we do to make you more engaged in your learning?
Here are some of their answers, verbatim:
- When we are doing activities with our hands not just sitting and watching a presentation
- I really like it when a teacher can help me understand what we are doing and how it connects to where we are going.
- I know when I am not engaged, when a teacher is just talking to us from the front of the class and then gives us an assignment.
- When we are doing something really fun, like a project that connects us to our community, when you aren’t just sitting and listening to the teacher talking
- When we get to talk with our classmates, like, you know, we get asked a question and get to talk with our partners, or group about what we think then share it out. Why can’t more teachers do that?
- Well, I have this one teacher, and they are always making connections and helping us understand how what we are learning is applicable to the world around us, then they give us time to work on the task.
- When we have more conversations and discussions in our class.
- I really like it when I get to talk about what we are learning with other students.
- When I have a lot of clarity from the teacher on what it is I need to learn and how it connects to the world like the project we are doing now.
As we discussed with leaders and students about what is engaging education, one truth became abundantly clear: the power to ignite a love for learning lies within the hands of both educators and students alike. It is a collaborative effort, where innovative teaching methods meet curious and eager minds. Making learning clear for students so that they aren’t just experiencing repetitive tasks day in and day out. We believe that Project Based Learning is a great way to ensure that students see relevance in the learning that students are engaging in, but it is also not the only way. Students are asking to be engaged, they are asking to have conversations in their classrooms, they are NOT asking just to be talked at all day!
The stories shared by students (like in this panel) remind us of the incredible potential that lies within each classroom, waiting to be unlocked. So let us embrace the challenge, to continually seek out new ways to captivate, inspire, and empower the next generation. Together, we can build a future where education becomes an irresistible adventure, propelling students to new heights of knowledge, creativity, and lifelong learning. With passion and dedication, let us embark on this transformative journey, where engaged students become the architects of their own brilliant futures.