Yes? No? Not Sure? Sometimes?
What makes you say that?
What about you? If you didn’t have to teach them… would you still want to?

In my experience these questions are rarely asked in school because – if we’re being honest – we might not always want to hear the answers, and because to a certain extent they are irrelevant questions.

After all, kids have to come to school, and have to attend lessons, while you’ve signed a contract that says you’ll teach whoever the school puts in front of you.

But to ignore these questions is to ignore the concept of engagement in its truest sense.

Sure, we can take a dictionary definition and apply it easily:

Engage: verb (used with object), en·gaged, en·gag·ing.
to occupy the attention or efforts of (a person or persons)

Using this definition, we need not think too hard about engagement as schools do a great job of occupying one’s attention (students and teachers) and efforts. For about six hours a day.

There’s a second definition that I like slightly better:

Engage: verb (used with object), en·gaged, en·gag·ing.
to attract and hold fast

Do we attract students to learning? Or do we push them into it? Is the power of the learning enough to keep them engaged, or do we need to persuade – even manipulate – their efforts through rewards and/or punishments?

Within psychology circles, the accepted definition of engagement is:

The sense of living a life high on interest, curiosity and absorption;
Engaged individuals pursue goals with determination and vitality.

How many students are genuinely curious, interested and absorbed in what we’re teaching them? Or do they just need to know what’s on the test?

How many students demonstrate a determination such that the completion of goals serves to enhance their wellbeing?

When we use the word engaged to describe a student, what definition are we using, and is it all that important anyway?

These are some of the questions I’ll be addressing at the 3P Love Learning Conference in August. I look forward to sharing my ideas and hearing yours too!

Dan Haesler is an educator, writer and speaker. His website is http://danhaesler.com and he tweets at @danhaesler

Don’t miss your opportunity to meet Dan – click here for registration information.