Engagement Makes It Personal

Not long ago I visited with one of my former students. I taught him while he was in his senior year. By his own admission, his high school academic record was a little above average. After high school, he was able to enter a program at a nearby community college, and his academic marks were quite high. In fact, he graduated with honors. When I asked what was different about his higher education, he talked about being able to choose courses that met his interests and abilities. The more he found success, the more he wanted to experience. In short, he found the keys necessary to personalize his learning path. 

Educators have long been encouraged to differentiate instruction within their classrooms to ensure that students have more personalized learning experiences. While that is a daunting task, there are a number of ways to accomplish this. According to author and researcher Larry Ferlazzo, the proper application of engagement strategies fosters personalized learning. In his article Student Engagement: Key To Personalized Learning (https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/student-engagement-key-to-personalized-learning), Ferlazzo shares the following four elements that increase student engagement:

  1. Autonomy. Choice is key when it comes to autonomy. Providing students options regarding how they explore content and how they demonstrate their knowledge taps into intrinsic motivation, which is a powerful force. 
  2. Competence (Self-Efficacy). Skills are key when it comes to self-efficacy. Providing students opportunities to develop content related skills will help them build confidence and competence. 
  3. Relatedness. Relationships are key to all learning environments. Providing opportunities for students to know you and the other students will help strengthen social connections necessary for an engaging learning experience. 
  4. Relevance. Personal interests are key to relevant curiosity. Providing students opportunities to explore content within their specific interests will help students persist in learning for extended periods of time. 

As you prepare for next week, think of ways that you can bring these keys into your classroom. You and your students will be able to unlock the content in engaging ways!

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