About 100 teachers, coaches, and principals decided to study this up close. We each chose an activity that kids need to do (homework, working together, reading a book, etc.) and thought of students who landed in each of the four categories found on the chart above: Non-compliance (refusing to do it), Compliance (doing the minimal necessary requirement), Congagement (a made-up word that's a little bit more than compliance), and Engagement (loving doing the activity).
We then looked at patterns in how we knew the student fit into that category and found certain trends. Here's what we found.
2. SKILL MATTERS. When you're able to do something with ease, it's easier to feel engaged with it. So in order to move kids further toward engagement, we need to bump up their skills within that area. Skill remediation and early successes will help engage kids in whatever the work is.
3. GROWTH MINDSET MATTERS. Of course, when students see struggle as a positive part of a larger journey, they're able to become engaged. They're not concerned with their first failure, because they see it as a chance to improve. We can support this by using words like, "We're not quite there yet," "What part of this works for you and what part you still working on?" or "Which is the greatest challenge and how will we work on that?"
4. SMALL STEPS. Usually, people go up this scale one step at a time. If someone is non-compliant with something like doing homework, we have to work toward compliance, and then congagement, and then engagement. This will take time, and usually people go up one step at a time.
5. THIS IS ABOUT US, TOO. Teachers and principals are this, too. Admittedly, I'm non-compliant about cleaning my desk (I don't see it's immediate value, sorry!), compliant with paperwork (I'll do what I have to do to not be in trouble), congaged with school security (This is very, very important, but not my true love), and engaged with all things learning (Nothing matters more!) We should identify ourselves in all of these categories to continue to grow and grow.
6. IMPOSING NUMBERS WILL LEAD TO COMPLIANCE. The good news: imposing numbers will lead to compliance. Students who are non-compliant about anything (reading for long enough, writing about their reading, etc.) will become compliant when you place a number on it (read for 30 minutes, use 2 post-it's, practice math facts for 10 minutes). The bad news: imposing numbers will lead to compliance. Yes, sometimes students who are already engaged will slip back to compliance, because they might only read for 20 minutes, write only 2 post-it's, practice math for only 10 minutes. Impose numbers and rules as a matter of differentiation to keep everyone growing.
When we want kids (and colleagues) to grow in their engagement, let's think about what we know about it. It will help us bring back that loving feeling to learning!