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Enroute Bitterroot

Myth Busting: If a Classroom is Quiet, Students are Engaged

Jessica Anderson

Myth:

If a classroom is quiet, students are engaged. 

The student is working on setting up a Kano kit in order to code an app to engage individuals in conversations about global climate change. 

The student is working on setting up a Kano kit in order to code an app to engage individuals in conversations about global climate change. 

Busted:

As an early career teacher, I thought engaged students were in the silent classrooms. As I'd walk by open doors, I'd silently give accolades to the teacher for their exceptional management skills. However, as I've embraced teaching in a blended classroom and developed a curriculum focused on inquiry learning, I've found that most of the time an active classroom is often where the most engagement is taking place. 

Now, don't get me wrong. Silent classrooms have their place. For example, if students are silently reading before holding a pinwheel discussion or while watching video content before completing a call-to-action project. However, a consistently silent classroom tells me students are more compliant than engaged in learning. 

The student in the background is building a mineral in TinkerCAD to be 3D printed. The student in the foreground is creating a Google Slide describing the mineral structure and formation of the mineral she chose. These students move self-paced through the curriculum, by self-managing and collaborating. It makes them feel empowered!

The student in the background is building a mineral in TinkerCAD to be 3D printed. The student in the foreground is creating a Google Slide describing the mineral structure and formation of the mineral she chose. These students move self-paced through the curriculum, by self-managing and collaborating. It makes them feel empowered!

Over the past two years, while navigating the self-paced classroom, I've paid close attention to what engagement can look like. In my class, engaged students:

  • Have conversations about learning
  • Read out loud together
  • Verbally or digitally communicate brainstormed ideas
  • Work in collaborative groups
  • Help others who are struggling with content they've already mastered
  • Question and research on their own
  • Self-manage their learning 
  • Set goals for themselves
  • Say things like "Nooooo" when the bell rings and they have to leave class. 
  • Provide evidence for their learning plan and can communicate what they are doing and why. 
  • E-mail and communicate side learning adventures with their teacher.
  • Provide ideas for improving the classroom
  • Provide options to show their learning if they feel the options provided don't fit their needs. 
  • Are invested in their learning.

Not convinced?

If you don't believe me, take a walk through the hallways of your local schools. While looking at students, what type of body language do you observe? Are students leaning forward into a computer or conversation? Or, are they slouched back in their chair, possibly yawning and watching the clock? How many of those students look as if they are pretending to read versus those who are actively engaged? How many students are engaging in a discussion versus not? 

What you observe will tell you a lot about a classroom and students' engagement.


How are your students engaging? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!