Based on original image by Ben Kolde on Unsplash

All students need to be engaged in learning—not just the interested students, not just the ones who are obedient[1]. In our familiar in-person settings we are apt to confuse engagement with attendance – the very act of being present. But in remote settings this becomes a bigger challenge.

The COVID research identified a number of factors leading to learners/ākonga  becoming disinterested or disaffected through the lockdown experience. The research points to…

  • Lack of understanding the learner’s context
  • Inability to address increased levels of disengagement
  • Unrealistic workload based on expectations of educators
  • Emphasis on “busy work” vs learning resulting in lack of purpose
  • Focus on content delivery vs design for learning
  • Insufficient focus on provision of targeted, individual feedback
  • Lack of processes for monitoring student progress remotely

The research findings show that remote learning approaches that were based purely on the transmission of content and lacking authentic forms of engagement and/or relationships with the teacher, peers or support people failed to engage the majority of learners/ākonga , with many simply withdrawing and choosing not to remain involved.

In Early Years a wide range of methods were used to engage children in their learning during lockdown, for example:

  • Online circle times that allowed children to connect with each other                              
  • Videos of science experiments with children being encouraged to try it themselves and share their learning back through photographs or videos                                     
  • Sharing links to websites to extend learning
  • Video clips of kaiako singing, reading stories and offering yoga sessions for and with children

Seven themes identified in a qualitative analysis of interviews with children by a combined team from NZCER and Massey University provide some guidance for where our focus should be[2]:

  1. Learning new structures and routines in the bubble
  2. Learning from and with whānau
  3. Learning about and through language, culture, and identity
  4. Learning through life events
  5. Emotional dimension of learning
  6. Learning about and through digital technologies
  7. Self-directed and self-regulated learning.

The detail under each of these headings in their report provides plenty of insights and ideas as to what does and doesn’t work to support engagement in the remote environment.

[1] https://www.nzcer.org.nz/system/files/Engaging_YoungPeople_conference_web_1.pdf

[2] https://www.nzcer.org.nz/research/publications/learning-during-lockdown

Questions you could use to help identify the practices in your context that improve learner engagement include:

  • When introducing a learning experience, how do you connect this learning to the interests and context of the learner?
  • What makes the learning experiences you design authentic to the learner, and not just ‘busy work’ to be completed?
  • How do you ensure the tasks you set are appropriate to the level of each learner?
  • How do you monitor (and measure?) engagement of learners/ākonga ? What strategies do you have for working with learners/ākonga  who show signs of being dis-engaged?

This post is one of a series of ten being published on this blog that are taken from the document “Codifying Teacher Practice”. This document has been written to provide educators with some guidance on how to approach the challenge of shifting their pedagogical approach as they embrace hybrid learning and includes templates and activity to help educators and leaders explore this in their own context. This paper follows two previous thought pieces relating to hybrid learning, both of which can be found on the FutureMakers website. If you’d like to receive an advance copy of this paper please email derek@futuremakers to have one emailed to you.

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