The following is a printable document containing all 17 strategies for choosing engagement.
1 … to focus on key ideas and issues
Learners can be encouraged to engage in activities that require focused attention in order to raise their awareness of what is important. It might involve a series of questions in science that directs students’ attention to the coherence or design in nature. It could be the use of slow and attentive listening and reading activities to encourage focus on a text and develop humility before it. For example, we can learn to love a text in English class by reading it more than once and reading it slowly or with different voices.
- Learners can listen to each other’s composition in music to see how music can interpret images.
- Learners can engage in focusing activities in art such as using a series of questions or using a viewfinder to focus attention on what is important. This detailed attention is a way of paying respect to the creator of the artwork.
- Learners can use identifying and highlighting activities to raise awareness of important issues. They could trace a character’s behavior in a text in English class to reveal their character and values. They could use patterning activities that foreground the order and pattern in music and our ability to create it.
Examples such as these direct students’ attention and encourage focused attention rather than casual glancing or listening. These activities help learners to see what is important and give them time to consider it.
2 …to think with a key image or phrase
Key words, images, and phrases can carry a powerful message. Learners can be encouraged to locate key words and phrases and use them in their own work. They can use a word or phrase to change how they relate to a text; for example, thinking of words as gifts could change how students relate to stories and poems and encourage gratitude. Students might use the image of a cocoon for thinking about how their past has molded them and for challenging their thinking about the future.
- Learners can locate phrases that need changing in resources when a topic on the environment is changed from “Exploring our world” to “Exploring God’s world,” drawing attention to the world as a gift from God and encouraging a different perspective.
- Having learners use the phrase doing sorry (rather than being sorry) can change the way they think about the injustices of the past in history and their view of whether later generations can make amends.
- Learners can engage with multiple images of atoms in science by trying to draw or sculpt the terms used. This can widen their thinking and show that science is not just dealing with what we can see and touch. Too often science is seen as straightforward and concrete while religion is dismissed as abstract and nebulous.
Engaging in activities such as these helps learners to focus, for we do not think in a vacuum. We need words and images to direct our thinking. Being given new words and images can encourage thinking in a different way.
3 …to explore a fresh emphasis
A fresh emphasis can bring new insights, and learners can be helped to engage with that emphasis by a range of activities and examples. To engage with a change in emphasis, learners need to do more than notice it; they need to work with it to see the changes it makes. This might include emphasizing loving a city by looking at people who loved it enough to change it for the better in history, or emphasizing revenge and forgiveness by working with a poem.
- Learners can create a pyramid diagram in history to demonstrate the dependence of reformers, such as William Wilberforce, on their communities. This activity puts more emphasis on communities and interdependence in history rather than lone individuals.
- Learners can use activities that move the emphasis from self to others. Drama evaluations could ask them to think about what may have been difficult or enjoyable for other people in a drama activity in order to shift the emphasis away from self.
- Learners can participate in activities that celebrate a change of emphasis around tests. They could come to a celebratory breakfast club as part of a change in emphasis from “Do you know it?” to “Wow, look how much you know!”
Examples such as these show how learners can engage with a new emphasis in order to see its implications.
4 …to experience delight, reflection, and wonder
Encouraging students to actively delight in an aspect of learning can raise their awareness and change their attitudes. For example, learners can delight in color or texture in art or bring delight to others through what they make or do. Learners can respond to a display in science using images of rainbows as well as diagrams and information about how they are formed. Researching the structure of a chemical or the power of magnets can lead to reflection or wonder.
- Learners could create number lines in math and reflect on the question, do numbers go on forever? They could select words and phrases to describe the character of different times in history, concentrating on the qualities of the time. This could lead to reflection on how our own time might be described.
- Learners can delight in sound in music or poetry by composing simple musical patterns or speaking poetry to musical rhythms. Pupils can make bringing delight the objective for designs they create in art or technology class.
- Learners can count the spirals in a sunflower in science and explore Fibonacci numbers. This can lead to wonder at the mathematical patterns within the natural world. They can research the chemical nature of salt and marvel at the beauty of its structure in chemistry.
Examples such as these raise awareness of how much there is in the world to wonder about. These examples capture moments for refection, wonder, and delight that otherwise might pass by unnoticed.
5 …to experience God’s world in its wholeness
Encouraging learners to engage in broad experiences in all subjects can help to lay the foundations for a way of thinking that assumes there is always more to know. Such an attitude does not assume that we know all about something once we have labeled it and know a little. It is the opposite of the mentality that says, “Done that, check it off.” Reducing something to it parts is a useful tool, but students need to be reminded that things are more than the sum of their parts (e.g., humans are not just chemicals or economic units).
- Learners can have real flowers on their desks in science or have a presentation of images of flowers and be asked to articulate the difference between their diagram and the real thing. Naming all the parts of the flower can miss something essential about a flower.
- Learners can engage in a range of exercise activities in PE and be asked to track the effect on the whole person. This way, students see that human beings are complex and not merely bodies or minds or spirits.
- Learners can experience the nature of faith in religion class by interviewing Christians. As part of the interview, students can explore the way in which faith involves thinking, feeling, and living. This may help to prevent them from seeing faith as just an intellectual assent to a list of beliefs.
Activities like these call attention to something of the breadth of what is being studied. They open up vistas rather than close down thinking.
6 …to extend their ways of participating
Learners can extend their ways of participating and engaging with what they learn, becoming more active and less passive. Becoming active and engaged does not necessarily imply a certain type of activity; listening can be active. Being actively engaged means learning becomes a two-way experience, and learners can be challenged and changed by what they learn. For example, learners could be asked in a languages class what they would donate to if they were given $100,000. This engages them in brainstorming about giving rather than getting. This active connection means the teacher needs to exercise responsibility concerning what learners connect with.
- Learners can extend their listening and looking skills. This is the opposite of quick “mastery.” Students can learn slow reading skills in English, allowing time for the text to speak to them; they can develop their looking skills in art , using questions to interrogate a work; and they can develop respectful listening skills in music using pictures to aid listening
- Learners can expand their imaginative participation by using a range of creative techniques. For example, they could create a storyboard for a German music video in order to expand their understanding of love. They could engage with an new way of thinking about a story in English class by seeing words as gifts; then, they can record those “gifts” on slips of paper and place them inside a gift bag.
- Learners could engage in new experiences such as cooking for the elderly or using their skills to make a poster for a community day as a service to others during a lesson about communities.
Encouraging students to extend their participation opens the way to a more active involvement in learning. It creates the possibility of what is learned leading the student to consider life from a different perspective.
7 …to pursue big questions
Learners engage with big questions when their curiosity is stimulated. That might be through responding to big questions the teacher asks or through being invited to suggest their own. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning, not just recall, and each subject may stimulate a different set of questions that students can engage with. For example, learners may engage in discussion or role-play in response to a question about the difference between humans and computers. In science, creating and discussing diagrams of food chains may prompt students to ask how things fit together.
- Learners can contribute their own questions verbally or add a question to a board, box, or display. For example, religion class can include the opportunity for students to raise their own questions around Bible stories.
- Learners can respond to questions posed in class, such as a series of questions in English about the ethics of writing about people who are still living, or questions such as “Where does our creativity come from?” in music.
- Learners can ask questions about faith and values in subjects other than religion. Big questions like “Where do the patterns in numbers come from?” can be asked in math.
Stimulating curiosity can engage learners in asking big questions that are about meaning and significance, not just information.
8 …to learn from as well as learning about
Learners can move beyond learning about to learning from a subject by engaging in activities that stress significance and meaning. When students learn from what they study, change is possible. For example, mapping a campaign for change in the past may teach students about being agents of change themselves.
- Learners can learn from the mistakes of the past in history by looking at the faults as well as the achievements of people in the past, creating their own evaluations of characters’ strengths and weaknesses.
- Learners can learn from the faith and values of others. For example, managing without books for one day as part of Book Week and learning about the camel libraries of Kenya could help students learn from communities who are grateful for the luxury of books.
- Learners can learn about the nature of faith by tracking the faith of a character and how it develops and changes in a text in English class and drawing connections to their own experience.
Examples such as these help students learn from what they study and can enable a more active relationship with their learning to take place.
9 …to reflect carefully on ideas and experiences
Helping learners to reflect on ideas and experiences helps to capture the learning. They can think about how they win in sports and whether winning at any cost is appropriate. They can consider the idea of “courageous restraint” and how this applies to sports. For instance, this can lead to students reflecting on values such as respect , and then they can draw up guidelines and changes in team leadership. Or they can experience a poem in English class and reflect on where creativity comes from.
- Learners can consider the concept of integrity in science after studying a scientific hoax and suggesting reasons why it was believed. This can lead to thinking about what happens when scientists lose people’s trust.
- Learners can experience a Bible story retold in an anonymous way using figures without faces. They could reflect on what characters might be thinking and feeling.
- In geography, learners can reflect on the idea that maps tell stories about people and places by making maps of their area and thinking about what they include on their maps. Any map they make will tell a story about the place they live and about them as map makers and what they value.
Engaging in activities such as these help learners to reflect on ideas and experiences rather than letting them pass by in the busyness of a lesson.
10 …to consider contrasts and dissonance
Encouraging learners to engage with contrasts and dissonance (i.e., clashes between different frameworks or pieces of information) can provoke them to rethink their assumptions. For example, researching contrasts can make students more aware of the difference between the calories eaten per day by an average person in Europe or North America and the calories eaten in the two thirds world. Dissonance, if used appropriately, can create a productive kind of unease; an example would be stimulating student reflection in drama by using body language that did not match verbal language.
- Learners could discuss care for the environment in a littered classroom and have their attention drawn to the dissonance between fine words and actual surroundings so as to focus on the question of responsibility.
- Learners could encounter a work of art in an art lesson that has some dissonance between the title and their first impression of the image, provoking them to wonder how the title fits and explore the tension it creates.
- Learners can be asked compare and contrast traditional images of the nativity and images of a modern Christmas, or the way we say we should treat others and some behaviors accepted in competitive sports (as in this example).
In examples like these, making contrasts and tensions apparent to students and having them engage in thinking them through can promote serious reflection on important questions.
11 …to explore possibilities for active commitment
Learners can be encouraged to actively commit to serving others, being involved in the community, or making other commitments of heart, hand, and mind in relation to the topics studied. This is about encouraging students (1) to translate learning into action, (2) to decide on what they think is right, and, where appropriate, (3) to make a principled stand.
- Learners can be given opportunities to serve others, such as by taking part in a community project or by designing posters and invitations to a community day. They can be challenged to think of specific ways to love their city after learning about the industrial revolution or creating designs that focus on bringing delight to others (as in this example).
- Learners can be challenged to decide on a viewpoint or take a stand on an issue—for example, by writing a short position paper or by sorting statements into ones they agree with and ones they disagree with (as in this example about the ethics of writing about others).
- Learners can actively respond in the classroom itself, such as by praying for each other (as appropriate to your school), actively encouraging each other, and supporting each other—perhaps in a review class or through peer mentoring in a math class.
In these and other ways, students can be encouraged toward developing their capacity for moral and spiritual commitment as they learn about the needs of the world and the big questions we face.
12 …to explore topics within a new context or framework
Changing the context within which teaching and learning happens can give a whole new perspective. For example, using a map of the church membership puts the church in the center of a local area study in geography and provides a new framework. A service framework for a topic on transport can help students explore how transport can serve the community.
- Learners can be encouraged to think differently about modern foreign languages if a hospitality framework is used rather than a tourist model — for example, exploring the language needed in role-play to welcome a new person from another country to your class.
- Learners can rethink classroom expectations of behavior in civics class, changing the common framework of a desert island to one of a playground or garden. Students can reflect on who they need to become to live in harmony in and delight in God’s garden or playground, rather than concentrating on survival.
- Learners can reconsider advertising in design and technology by viewing it in light of a concept such as contentment. This can lead them to designing a different style of advertisement as a result of seeing advertising in a new light rather than just taking it for granted.
These examples encourage rethinking as they invite learners to think within new frameworks and contexts, engage their imaginations, and examine familiar habits and ideas.
13 …to critically engage with examples, activities, and tasks
Textbook examples can be changed to ones that express Christian values. They can also be changed from abstract or fictional to real life and relevant — for example, choosing examples of giving rather than getting in a math lesson. Using stories of real people who believe and suffer as well as eat and shop in French can make learning feel more related to life, and the content of the stories can challenge students to think about their own values. Generally, typical textbook activities can be changed to reflect a new way of seeing a lesson.
- Learners could work on stories of real migrants when studying population movements in geography to reflect a new way of seeing population migration—as more than lines plotted on a map. People who move to a new country often have to leave behind much that they possess. Exploring such stories can help students to think about what is important.
- Learners can calculate percentages in math using real examples of coffee growers. They can see that numbers relate to real people and a percentage can mean the difference between survival and living with dignity.
- Learners can reflect on a different way of seeing a painting in art — like a visitor from another country or culture — by engaging in activities that reflect that new insight, such as drawing up guidelines for how visitors from another country are to be treated.
Critical engagement with examples such as these reinforces new insights. Change how the lesson is seen without changing the examples and activities to match often will result in the change being missed altogether, or a conflicting message might come across.
14 …to trace connections between faith and learning and life
Encouraging learners to connect faith and learning with all of life can stimulate them to think about the role of faith and values. For example, a math class could look at what percentage of the price of a banana goes to the grower and the difference an alternative pay structure makes to growers’ lives. Links between learning and faith can be pursued, as well as the question of whether this influence is always for good. Learners could research how far faith was a motive for some reformers in the industrial revolution and critique case studies of when faith served the community and when it didn’t.
- Learners can make connections between PE and faith by engaging in exercise and experiencing how it affects the whole person — body, soul, and spirit. This can lead to them making connections between their own feeling, thinking, physical well-being, and spiritual well-being.
- Learners could make connections between learning and life in design and technology by creating designs and exploring how clothes carry messages and values.
- Learners can connect science and faith when studying magnetism by exploring how people in the past, including some Christians, have responded to this phenomenon.
In examples like these, consciously making connections engages learners with faith as something that affects all of life. It helps them to lay foundations that will prevent them from separating faith and learning or divorcing what they learn from life and practice.
15 …to explore the coherence of God’s world
Learners can be helped to see that the oneness of knowledge reflects the oneness of God’s world by making links across subjects so that an insight in one subject casts light on another. Work on sin and brokenness in religion class also can make sense of the biblical themes in some literature in English. Work on virtues and values in religion class could inform civics or social studies lessons. Learners can encounter the interdependence and coherence of the world using case studies in science or geography to see the impact of human behavior on the world. Learners can become aware that the world is not divided into sacred and secular through engaging in activities that cross those artificial boundaries, such as categorizing different types of riches and poverty (material as well as spiritual) in a historical period.
- Learners could investigate some of the injustices of the past in history and explore the impact through the ages and any actions required now. Past and present are not divorced. There is connectedness through time, such that we are dependent on those who went before. The good or bad legacies that people have left affect us now.
- Learners could study a local area in ways that relate the geography of the area and the kinds of land use to people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
- Learners could explore the interdependence of the world in science by making chains or diagrams to show connections—for example, in connection with food chains and photosynthesis. They can learn about different voices working together to make a sound in music.
Examples such as these demonstrate the oneness of God’s world and how interconnected everything is: we are connected to others, to our past, and to the world. The world also shows remarkable coherence and hangs together as a whole. The parts work together.
16 …to help learners to approach learning in relational terms
Learners can be encouraged to engage with personal stories, images, and examples where appropriate. This could involve them in conducting interviews or using real-life case studies of people in communities in order to challenge them to think. Making learning appropriately relational means helping learners themselves to serve each other and take responsibility for each other’s learning and to seek the good of others rather than just being focused on themselves.
- In PE soccer, players can create ways of celebrating a goal that acknowledge the role of other players in setting it up rather than focusing on just one player. Learners can support each other in revision, identifying needs and strengths and helping each other. Learners can develop a collaborative community in math, supporting each other while still being stretched.
- Learners can practice their German using stories of real people and their communities rather than fictitious ones.
- Learners can explore different ways in which transportation serves their community as part of a topic. They can create their own ideas for small businesses in design and technology and how small businesses can serve a whole community and change lives.
Approaching learning in this way constantly reminds people that learning is related to life and to honoring and serving others. Life is not lived in isolation; we are all part of many communities.
17 …to help learners to relate to the wider world
Learners can be encouraged to engage with the local community and the world in order to see a subject in a new light. This might involve inviting people in to share their knowledge and understanding, or going into the community. It could be experiencing the first signs of spring in the park with younger children or inviting musicians from the church community into school.
- Learners can engage with case studies of real situations such as child workers on cocoa farms. This can be part of showing historical parallels between campaigns for change in the past and campaigns today. In modern foreign languages, learners can use language to reflect the thoughts, feelings, and choices of people in the community rather than just their own preferences and opinions.
- Learners can respond to a crisis by using their math and cooking skills to bake cakes to raise money in order to give.
- Learners can work alongside members of the community, either in school as part of a topic or in the wider community setting.
These examples reflect a few ways in which subjects can encourage learners to look outward to the wider world rather than focusing only on themselves and their part of the world.