Your kid needs a high-engagement learning experience at school.

Your kid needs a high-engagement learning experience at school. Image via Unsplash

Why a high-engagement school environment boosts learning

‘A child’s engagement is crucial to their learning ,’ says seasoned educational psychologist Angela Hough.

Your kid needs a high-engagement learning experience at school.

Your kid needs a high-engagement learning experience at school. Image via Unsplash

As parents, we want our children to be enthusiastic about their learning and enjoy their day-to-day schooling experiences as much as possible.  Overall, we aim for them to love their school. Many parents assume that this will happen automatically when we enrol them in a reputable brick-and-mortar school with good facilities, getting their education in the midst of a dynamic and committed school community. 

However, you can tick all those boxes about the school, and still find that your child is simply not engaged in their learning, or in their school social life.

Why is high engagement important for learning?

Educational Psychologist, Angela Hough says, “A child’s engagement is crucial to their learning. Children can learn facts, but without engaging and having an experience or learning to apply the knowledge – then those facts do not have purpose or meaning. Transformative learning is about the need to create meaning from the learning experience.

Therefore, I would encourage learning that involves experiences, embodiment, sharing and communicating learning. Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. Usually, the more involved a child is in their school and class, and the more that they ‘own’ their learning, then the happier they are and the more they learn.”

There are many reasons why children may not be optimally engaged in their learning.  In the classroom, teachers ‘teach to the middle’, inevitably leaving some behind and marooning others out front. Children become disengaged from their learning when they are frustrated with what is going on for them in the classroom.  Difficulties in their school social relationships also impact on children’s engagement with their learning, as do challenges in their home lives.  Physical and mental health impact on our abilities to be engaged in learning, as does neurodiversity such as ADHA, the Autism spectrum and learning difficulties.

Why high engagement cannot be left to chance

Anderson says, “If we are going to maintain high engagement, both academically and socio-emotionally, in the online space then we need to be able to connect with each other.

Everyone must be seen; and everyone must be heard. And that can only happen in small groups.

Learning through doing and learning through reflection

Learning is not simply listening to a teacher standing up in front and telling you the facts.  You may remember those facts afterwards, but that’s just remembering.

Learning can happen when you do something with the facts you retain, and when you reflect on those facts and your experience of doing something with them. That is your pathway to finding meaning in those facts, which is learning.

How does this work in practice?

Learning through doing – Anderson says, “We want the kids to be ‘doing’ work in a way that most resembles real life. So, we focus on practical, applied, and meaningful use of content.”

Learning through reflection – Anderson says, “In traditional schooling, formal tests can be learning killers! Why? Because for the vast majority of kids, when they get their test mark it automatically signals the end of learning. A good mark means no more to learn, while a bad mark equals you’re not good at this, and now we’re moving on. That’s why we love the mastery-based approach.”

Can online school provide socio-emotional learning?

Hough says, “High engagement in learning is not just about the academic experiences.  A school is a vital place of socio-emotional learning for children. 

We want them to develop optimally through their relationships with peers and friends, as well as their interactions with teachers who can model positive social behaviours, teach important societal values and guide when it comes to developing relationship skills and emotional intelligence.”

For our young generations, there’s also the consideration that they are digital natives destined to inhabit an increasingly digital world, and therefore they also need to learn the ropes when it comes to interacting in responsible and positive ways in the online environment.

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