Engaging & Empowering

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Engaging students means getting kids excited about OUR:

  • content
  • interests
  • curriculaEmpowering students means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR:
  • passions
  • interests
  • future(Kids need to be empowered NOT engaged)

Images such as the one above are frequently seen all over social media, usually with many likes, shares and comments.

As educators we love the idea of empowering students. And rightly so! But is this suggesting we don’t try to engage them?

Yes, if students are empowered and able to follow their own passions and interests, then they’re very likely to be engaged.

The thing that gets to me about this image is the use of “OUR content, interests, curricula”. Yes, in a way these have been prepared by us, or perhaps for the curricula the broader “us” in terms of those involved in writing the NZC (or other curriculum documents whether at the national or school level). But the focus areas of the curriculum and the content taught has been specifically chosen for our learners. The context within which the content is taught is usually very flexible and can be adapted to meet the needs of the learners — their interests, passions etc. Some of OUR curricula and content IS giving kids the “knowledge and skills to pursue THEIR passions, interests, future”.

I really don’t think you can separate them out.

Student passions and interests are a definite way to engage our students. But engagement is much bigger than that. And it’s more than just engaging them in OUR stuff.

Ensuring students emotional needs are met is also critical to engage. Perhaps what we’re missing when trying to engage students is ensuring that their emotional needs are met first. The engagement literature states that students need to be behaviourally engaged (i.e. in class) and emotionally engaged (i.e. feeling comfortable and connected) before they can become cognitively engaged (Gibbs & Poskitt, 2010).

Gibbs, R. S., & Poskitt, J. M. (2010). Student engagement in the middle years of schooling (years 7-10): A literature review: Ministry of Education.

Nathaniel Written by:

Nathaniel is passionate about people reaching their full potential. He has expertise and experience in education, e-learning, face-to-face and online facilitation, virtual mentoring, training, leadership and school governance.