Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Student Engagement...such an awesome title.

I was reading this blog post by John Spencer about student engagement, and it got me to thinking about it in my own classroom.

I started out this journey hoping for many things, but an increase in student engagement was definitely one.

Was it successful?

Yes and no.

It really depends on what we are doing in class.

Lately, I've been noticing that students are getting their work done (on some assignments) in class a lot faster than they were towards the beginning of the year.  My fear is that they aren't really thinking about the questions and the answers.  They are just doing it to do it.

Grades are not great, at least at the college prep level, but I'm not sure how much of it is the change to paperless and blended-learning, and how much of it is a change in student accountability protocols within the school.  I'm seeing this more with my college prep students than I am in my honors students.  One of my honors students (when asked) said that she thinks more about the questions because I ask them to (*cough* insist they *cough*) use quotes from the text to back up their answers to half their answers. 

One area where I've seen a definite improvement in engagement was when my 11th graders did their debatable issue persuasive research paper.

This is a very extensive, 1000 point project.  It can make or break a student's grade.  In the past, this was spread out over the end of January through March and interspersed with other content lessons.  It included annotated bibliographies, two outlines, notes, and three drafts; and every few weeks, we would come back to the project and get a step done.  Most of the work was done on the student's own time.  I would then spend weeks (months) after the final draft was due going after most of the students to turn in the paper.  In other words, turn in rates for this assignment sucked.  I would get like maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of them to turn it in on time.  This was pretty much how it was across the entire 11th grade.

This year, since I have the Chromebooks, I took all the month of February, which was not enough and kind of crazy (this month is pretty cray cray too with family graduations, birthdays, my own Masters program, and a friend's wedding I will be flying out of state for), to work in class with the students on their projects. During the process, they were engaged in their topic. They were asking me questions and for my feedback like they never had all year.  We were pretty rushed in the end (and it kind of reflected in their actual papers), but out of my 120 11th graders, I had maybe 10 not turn it in. 

So what do you think about student engagement?  What works for you?  What doesn't work for you?