Engagement through Purpose

Learning Landscape Wednesday, 24 Aug 2022

Engagement is that crucial bridge that helps kids focus for longer and learn more deeply. But how can we keep kids engaged at school? Motivation expert Daniel Pink suggests that there are three main drivers for engagements:

  • Autonomy;
  • Purpose; and
  • Mastery.

We place these drivers at the forefront of our curriculum design, designing projects that develop students' autonomy, giving them a sense of achievement by overcoming challenges and teaching in a way that makes the purpose very clear. I am sure many of you can relate to looking back on your own schooling and remembering thinking ‘why am I learning this?” or “when will I ever use this?” This is because knowledge and skills were taught in isolation, and it felt like learning for learning's sake. It is hard to stay engaged when you feel the learning is pointless.

How do we give students purpose?

At Living Faith, we use Project Based Learning to teach many of our subject areas such as geography, history, science and many more. Rather than teach these subjects in isolation we pull the key content, skills and ideas into a combined central project. Each project starts with a big problem or question that needs to be solved. Students brainstorm things they will need to learn to solve the problem and each gateway builds something towards the final product and solution. Instantly our students have a purpose. They have a clear reason why they need to learn these things.

For example, Prep students have been looking at how they can protect their Prep garden. Students came up with the idea to build scarecrows to keep the birds off the plants. The problem was they made them out of paper and the rain destroyed them. This led our students into learning about different types of materials and their properties. Students were able to work out what materials were waterproof and would be better suited to their scarecrow design. Instantly the topic of waterproof materials has a purpose and the Prep students are so engaged!

In Maths we have found that students can make better connections during explicit teaching after completing the collaborative task because they can see the purpose of what they are learning. Maths tasks are designed to be purposeful and involve real-world problems often incorporating many different topics. For example, in Year 5, students create the Sphero Olympics where they must navigate a robotic ball around a created obstacle course. Students must learn 360-degree angles in order to program the sphero. They also need to learn about perimeter and area to construct the dimensions of their course, 3D shapes to create the obstacles and multiplication and division to design stadium seating. All these concepts could be taught in isolation but by teaching them within a real context the students are instantly engaged because they can see the purpose of their work.

We believe that it is our responsibility to provide opportunities for students to see why their work is important and valued. We hold Exhibition Evenings twice a year to showcase their learning and to show our students that the community can see the value in what they do. It is so important to share the ‘why’ with our kids so that we can foster engagement through purposeful learning.

- Bianca Ravi, Director of Learning