The Continuum of Engagement graphic design by Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth with original content by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. Updated content by Barbara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. https://goo.gl/s2kZ3w
The Continuum of Engagement provides the characteristics of learners as they move from being passive about learning to be engaged in the learning process.
How do we know learners are engaged?
Picture what it looks like and sounds like in a classroom when learners start engaging in the learning process. When you walk in a classroom, you might be able to see and hear the engagement or the lack of it. Step up the ladder to see how a learner moves from being compliant to flow.
In the Compliant level, the teacher is probably following the curriculum and doing what they know or learned in their teacher education program or as a learner themselves. The teacher is directing the learning. Activities may be determined by the lesson or the pacing guide. The teacher created or adapted the lesson or used existing materials to put on the walls. There is assigned seating based on the seating chart. Learners are supposed to follow directions from the teacher and may not talk about their learning.
When learners are in the Commit level, you will see learners in pairs, groups, or working individually. The teacher may still be laying the groundwork for learning and determining prior knowledge at this level, but learners are more involved in what they learn. There will be more examples of student work on the walls. You may see the teacher walking around the room or sitting with one learner or with a group. This is the level where the teacher is starting to build the relationships with the learners. The learners start taking responsibility for some of the tasks or skills they need to learn.
When learners are at the Connect level, there is more noise in the classroom. You will see learners moving around the room, some standing, and others maybe even sitting on the floor or hall. The teacher may be doing the same as what they did at the Commit level but now the room is noisier in some areas and quieter in others. The learners are doing more of the talking than the teacher. This is where learners enjoy learning from each other and even teaching their peers. Learners are becoming more curious by generating questions and investigating solutions to challenges, issues, and problems.
When learners are in the Flow, this is called “messy learning” and may seem chaotic to some people. There is no one way to capture what it might look like. You may have a few learners in the hall, one on a smartphone contacting a mentor, two sitting together animated, a small group brainstorming in the corner, and someone presenting their evidence to others for critical feedback. This is when learners are pursuing their interests and are curious by seeking what they are passionate about. You can hear it in their voices and actions. They know how to set goals and monitor their progress. They want to share what they learn. They are motivated to learn and take greater responsibility for their own learning. The teacher is guiding the process. Several teachers have noted that when their kids are in the flow, “they never want to go back to the traditional way of teaching.”
Deeper into Engagement and Flow…
Engagement is the affective side of learning and has been found to be a robust predictor of learner performance and behavior in the classroom. (Martin-Kniep, 2012) Engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that learners show when they are learning or being taught.
Measuring hope, engagement, entrepreneurial aspiration, and career and financial literacy, the Gallup Student Poll helps educators gauge school success beyond test scores and grades. Download the 2016 snapshot report to discover how you can build a positive school culture that helps students achieve desired learning outcomes.
When learners have a choice in what they are learning especially if it is something they are passionate about or interested in, they jump in and sometimes get lost in the task or project. This is called “flow” and you can see and hear the engagement.
The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row]
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is best known as the architect of the theory of flow. Flow is when a person is fully immersed in what they are doing and there is a balance between the challenge of the task and the skill of the learner. Flow cannot occur if the task is too easy or too difficult. Csíkszentmihályi published the graph below that depicts the relationship between the challenges of a task and skills. Flow only occurs when the activity is a higher-than-average challenge and requires above-average skills. Both skill level and challenge level must be matched and high; if skill and challenge are low and matched, then apathy results. (Csíkszentmihályi, 1990)
In Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Invention and Discover (2013), Csíkszentmihályi explains why creativity is so fascinating that when we are involved in it, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of our lives. The examples and stories in the book help the reader understand how we change when we are immersed in an activity we are passionate about.
Some questions for you to respond below:
Have you experienced flow?
Where are you in the Continuum of Engagement?
What about your learners in your classroom?
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York. Harper & Row.
Martin-Kniep, G. (2012) 27. Neuroscience of engagement and SCARF: why they matter to school.
*Thank You to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth from Crescent School, Toronto, Canada for designing the graphic of the Continuum of Engagement 3/6/2016. Please make sure you visit http://sylviaduckworth.com for all of her graphics and permission to use any of these graphics.
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