Why Prioritise Student Engagement?

Principals Pen Wednesday, 03 Nov 2021

Living Faith invests a lot of energy ensuring students are engaged with their learning. We collect data on student engagement and use this data to inform changes and improvements in an effort to further strengthen student engagement.

At Living Faith, we value student engagement just as highly as we value student achievement. But why?

The traditional model of education typically:

motivates through fear;
crushes curiosity;
sends the message that learning is drudgery; and
fails to guide students towards their absolute potential.
An engagement educational model, however:

promotes intrinsic motivation;
inspires curiosity;
stimulates the desire to persevere; and
develops within students the view that learning is a pleasurable lifelong enterprise.
Without engagement, achievement potential is hampered. This is illustrated by neuroscience, which indicates that the limbic system assesses everything that enters the brain as either a threat or a reward. Threats and rewards can be physiological such as air, water and sleep. They can also be psychological and sociological, such as autonomy, self-esteem and sense of connection. When the brain perceives a threat, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and initiates what is often referred to as a ‘fight or flight’ response. (Or, at the extreme, the parasympathetic nervous system drives a ‘freeze’ response.) Threats and rewards are primary motivators; by nature, we typically avoid threats and approach rewards. Brains must be in the reward state (eg engaged) to maximise learning, as little-to-no learning occurs when the brain is in the threat state.

Engagement is not the same as entitlement. Engagement provides for a child’s basic needs and creates an environment that guides children to appreciate the value that resilience, grit and effort play in academic rigour. An engaged child seeks to struggle, be challenged and be stretched, and displays a willingness to make mistakes as part of the learning process. Conversely, entitlement is about surrendering to a child’s wants. An entitled child seeks to be indulged and praised with little or no effort, assumes the path will be cleared for them and expects to be treated better than others.

When we engage students from the onset, we reduce negative classroom behaviours while creating experiences that are action-packed, drive curiosity, and deliver brain states of anticipation and intrigue. Lori Desautels

Loving a child doesn't mean giving in to all his whims: to love him is to bring out the best in him, to teach him to love what is difficult. Nadia Boulanger

­Student engagement continues to receive significant air time and remains an absolute priority for us at Living Faith. As we continue to focus on improving student engagement, we know that students will reach their potential through academic achievement.

For those interested in connecting this information with learning in the home, I recommend Rebecca Haggerty’s article entitled Highly Motivated Kids have a Greater Advantage in Life than Kids with a High IQ.

Jane Mueller, Principal