January 13, 2014

Engaging in What?

4 responses on “Engaging in What?
  • Carolyn Dirksen
    January 13, 2014 at 04:58 pm

    As an introvert myself, I appreciate this willingness to explore ways of being engaged beyond just talking. The best student I have had in recent years–a student who has yet to miss a point on any evaluation–has not yet said her first word in class. She has never been absent; she has never missed an assignment; she participates in group work, but she has not said a single syllable in two semesters. I think extraverts invented the idea that you are engaged if you are talking. I have been in many many meetings in which extraverts talked their heads off without furthring the dialogue one iota. The same is true in the classroom. I love the book THE POWER OF QUIET IN A WORLD THAT CAN’T STOP TALKING by Susan Cain, and I recommend it to anyone dealing with the meaning of engagement.

  • Andrew Lee
    January 13, 2014 at 09:28 pm

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on this important issue, Kevin. After reading your remarks, I’m going to try to be more intentional as I explain to the students at the beginning of the semester my devious scheme to coax some class discussion from the wallflowers while occasionally asking the dominant talkers to “heel” from time to time in order to create a more communal discussion. I have no idea if it will make a difference or not to inform them early on about my “plan” but we’ll see.

  • Michael Sturgeon
    January 14, 2014 at 09:21 am

    I really appreciate this place to read of my colleagues ideas, and the opportunity to interact in such a manner. Though it has been part time, I have taught for over 20 years and picked up others’ preconceived idea(s) that the student that is not speaking is not engaged. Kevin, the title of your posting says it all for me. “Engaged in what?” I turned the corner on this thinking about being “engaged” during my PhD program. I found just what Carolyn has stated, many people will talk and talk and talk and seemingly never further the conversation. I would be in classes and see the same thing occurring and I felt that if I were to say something, it may move them (my classmates) on and they didn’t seem to want that. I would ultimately find myself reading articles on the subject the course was “supposed” to cover since I was already 2 hours from home and committed to being on the campus for hours. The end result was that I learned the content even if it was not addressed in the classroom environment.

    Because of that experience and the types of articles in educational studies I read, my educational philosophy has taken quite a turn. I am more concerned now that my students are engaged with the content covered in my courses and that they hunger to be engaged even more. I began measuring class participation based on in-class activities since I know that there are some that simply are not going to speak up when there is an in-class conversation occurring. In agreement with the thought you have shared, Kevin, I would dare say that are many other ways of measuring than keeping count of how often a given student speaks in class.

    I look forward to hearing how you felt your new efforts were received and measured.

  • Kevin Brown
    January 14, 2014 at 09:55 am

    For those of you who are curious, here is what I wrote for my syllabus and what I’ll emphasize in class:
    “Class participation” is often listed under grading sections of syllabi, and that participation is usually
    interpreted (by students and faculty) to mean speaking in class. I like the term “engagement” better, as both students and faculty can and should be engaged in class even when they are not
    speaking. In practice, then, engagement is made up of at least three parts. First, one has to be in class in order to be engaged in the discussions taking place there. Second, one must have prepared for class well, whether that is through assigned reading, writing, or simply thinking about ideas that will be discussed that day. This preparation allows one to know what the discussion is truly about and is different from passively taking notes when one is not prepared. Last, engagement does involve speaking, but it is not measured by the amount of talking one does, but by the quality of those contributions. Knowing when and how often to speak to help deepen the discussion is the mark of an engaged student.

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