“Choosing engagement” is about considering how we help students engage with what is being learned, the ways in which they participate.
1. STRATEGY: Help learners to focus on key ideas and issues
Students 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 direct their attention to the coherence or design in nature, helping them think about how it came to be. It could be the use of slow and attentive listening and reading activities to encourage focus on a text and develop humility before it.
2. STRATEGY: Invite learners to think with a key image or phrase
Key words, images, and phrases can carry a powerful message. Students can be encouraged to locate key words and phrases and use them in their 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 they relate to stories and poems in an English lesson and encourage gratitude. Students might use the image of a cocoon for thinking about how their past has molded them, challenging them to think about the future.
3. STRATEGY: Lead learners to explore a fresh emphasis
A fresh emphasis can bring new insights, and a range of activities and examples can help students engage. To engage with a change in emphasis, students 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 in history who loved it enough to change it for the better, or emphasizing revenge and forgiveness by working with a poem.
4. STRATEGY: To experience delight, reflection, and wonder
Encouraging students to actively delight in an aspect of learning can raise their awareness and change attitudes. For example, learners can delight in color or texture in art class, or they can bring delight to others through what they make or do. Learners can respond to a display in science that uses images of rainbows with 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.
5. STRATEGY: To experience God’s world in its wholeness
Encouraging learners to engage in broad experiences in all subjects can help 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 checklist mentality that says, “Done; on to the next one.” 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 (humans, for instance, are not just chemicals or economic units).
6. STRATEGY: 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 that learning becomes a two-way experience, such that students are challenged and changed by what they learn. For example, language students could be asked what they would give to if they received $100,000. This engages pupils in brainstorming about giving rather than getting. This active connection means the teacher needs to exercise responsibility concerning what students connect with.
7. STRATEGY: To learn from as well as learn 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 becomes possible. For example, from mapping a campaign for change in the past, students might learn to become agents of change themselves. They might learn from the values of another community in geography.
8. STRATEGY: 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 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 stimulate students to ask how things fit together.
9. STRATEGY: Help learners to reflect carefully on ideas and experiences
Helping students reflect on ideas and experiences helps to capture the learning. They can think about how they win in sports and whether winning at all costs is appropriate. They can consider the idea of “courageous restraint” and how this applies to sports. This can lead, for instance, to students reflecting on values such as respect and result in drawing up guidelines and changes in team leadership. They can experience a poem in English class and reflect on where creativity comes from.
10. STRATEGY: Have learners consider contrasts and dissonance
Encouraging learners to engage with contrasts and dissonance (clashes between different frameworks or pieces of information) can provoke them to rethink their assumptions. Researching contrasts can make students more aware; for example, take the difference between the calories eaten per day by an average person in Europe or North America and the calories eaten per day in the two-thirds world. Dissonance, if used appropriately, can create a productive kind of unease; an example of this would be using body language that did not match verbal language in drama to stimulate student reflection.
11. STRATEGY: Explore possibilities for active commitment
Learners can be encouraged to actively commit to serving others, becoming involved in the community, or making other commitments of heart, hand, and mind in relation to the topics studied. This is about encouraging them to translate learning into action, to decide on what they think is right and when, as appropriate, to make a principled stand.
12. STRATEGY: To explore topics within a new context or framework
Changing the context in which teaching and learning happens can give a whole new perspective. For example, using a map of a church’s congregation puts the church at the center of a local-area study in geography and provides a new framework. A service framework for a topic on transportation can help students explore how transportation can serve the community.
13. STRATEGY: To critically engage with examples, activities, and tasks
Examples can be changed to ones that express Christian values. They also can be changed from abstract or fictional to real life and relevant (for example, choosing examples of giving rather that getting in math). Using stories in French class of real people who believe and suffer as well as eat and shop can make learning feel more related to life, and the content of the stories can challenge students to think about their own values. Generally, activities can be changed to reflect a new way of seeing a lesson.
14. STRATEGY: Trace connections between faith and learning and life
Encouraging students to connect faith and learning with all of life can stimulate them to think about the role of faith and values. In math class, for example, students can work out what percentage of what we pay for a banana goes to the grower and the difference an alternative pay structure would make to growers’ lives. This could be linked to Christian initiatives in this field. Links between learning and faith can be pursued and 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.
15. STRATEGY: To explore the coherence of God’s world
Teachers can help students 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 a religion lesson can make sense of the biblical themes in some literature in English. Work on virtues and values in religion class could inform civics or health 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 by engaging in activities that cross those artificial boundaries, activities such as categorizing different types of riches and poverty in a historical period, including spiritual riches.
16. STRATEGY: 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 that learners themselves are helped 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.
17. STRATEGY: 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 to class 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.