Engagement v. Activity

I've said before, we often confuse engagement with activity. Students are active so, therefore, they are engaged. This is not true. Active means that I am doing something where engagement means I'm investing in something. Activity's goal is completion who's indication to stop can be as simple as a ringing bell. Engagement's hold lingers from one activity to another mentally returning the learner's focus to the need to find answers and, further, new questions.

Activity's direction is external. Engagement is personal. Students are directed to be active. The activity can be seen in many different forms or configurations, but in each configuration an external force is scripting each part of the intended activity. Engagement cannot be directed because it is not scripted. Engagement is coordinated, explored, and satisfied only by the one who is engaged. Spontaneity is not something to be avoided because it is unpredictable, it is something to be embraced because it leads to unintentional learning.

As stated earlier, activity's goal is completion. However, engagement's goal is to perpetuate and even encourage a learner's ability to move from a state of in ability to ability. Engagement creates better learners where activity creates more doers. What would you rather have? What does your classroom create? Learners or doers?

Your thoughts are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner


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