In a prior post I outlined some work we were doing around engagement. With a focus on closing the achievement gap, our staff has dug in to consider increasing student engagement. As outlined before, our staff brainstormed some observable traits of student engagement. From this list and using the Student Engagement Teacher Handbook from the International Center for Leadership in Education as a guide a two part checklist was created. The first part measured more overt observable traits that might denote engagement (i.e. body language, posture, verbal responses, confidence, etc.) and the second part included questions that could be asked of students that help share their levels of engagement. Some examples of these questions might include:
- What do you do in this classroom when you need extra help?
- What are you working on? What are you learning from this work?
- Do you know why you are learning this? What makes it important?
There were a few other questions that went with this.
This past week I took this checklist for a “test drive” before I started using it universally throughout the building. Starting with one classroom, I visited over the span of several days making notes on the checklist. I found that:
- Generally one whole checklist required two visits. One for the first part of the checklist that was primarily the observable traits and the second to sit with students and ask deeper questions about their levels of engagement.
- Using a rating scale of high to low didn’t really help if I was just marking one spot on the scale. It wasn’t easy to generalize the classes level of engagement as “high” or “medium” and didn’t feel particularly helpful.
- I enjoyed the questions part and was able to get some very solid information from that section whereas the first section felt empty in impact.
After going through the checklist twice in one classroom I set up a time to meet with the teacher. We sat down together and went through the checklists that I filled out and I asked her to describe, with no holding back, what worked for her and what didn’t. The purpose of the checklist is to be helpful, not empty. These were her points:
- The questions (in part two) were very helpful. In fact, she used the feedback from the first checklist to hold a class discussion about the objectives of their lessons.
- Rather than checking “medium” or “high” on the first section of the checklist, tally marking the number of students that were displaying those engagement levels specifically was much more helpful.
- Noting the particular students that were displaying low levels of engagement and during which sections of the lessons would be more helpful than anything. Then trends can be found and discussions for change will be generated.
With some minor adjustments, the new and improved engagement checklist is ready to go. Click the link below to view a copy: