Student Engagement

The issue of student engagement has come up again and again in work with schools as they implement instructional walkthroughs. Student engagement typically comes up in a checklist format as a YES or NO. This has never felt right to me. Fortunately I stumbled upon the work of Phil Schlechty. In Working on the Work (2002) He makes a case for five levels of engagement:

  1. Authentic engagement
  2. Ritual engagement
  3. Passive engagement
  4. Retreatism
  5. Rebellion

Click on the video The Way Things Are, The Way Things Should be to learn about the variation in levels of engagement.

The idea is that there is a huge difference in engagement when kids are copying material off the board or completing a worksheet Vs a hands on science experiment. It’s the students’ reaction to the work and its meaning that is at the heart of the different levels of engagement, the more meaningful the work, the more likely profound learning will take place.

That is not to say there is not a place for passive or ritual engagement. It is impossible to sustain authentic engagement 100% of the time. It’s too taxing. However, the absence authentic engagement should greatly concern us.

Stay tuned – I will share how we are applying Schlechty’s work to our instructional walkthrough process – getting beyond a yes/no.

 “What we need are schools organized in ways that put the joy back into teaching and that do not confuse rigor with rigor mortis.”

Schlechty, P. (2002). Working on the work: An action plan for teachers, principals, and superintendents. Jossey- Bass Education: San Francisco, CA.


The Bigg Family said…
We were glad to read you are thinking of ways to gather information about student engagement beyond the “yes/no” checklist in your current walkthroughs. At the Schlechty Center, we believe the only true way to measure student engagement is to ask the student. We have a client who is exploring ways to completely change the district’s teacher evaluation system to be more of an assessment process that allows teachers to create a portfolio of designs and conversations with their principal. If you are interested in learning more about this process as it develops, please send an e-mail to Marilyn at or call our office at 502.895.1942.

Popular posts from this blog

Planning for Differentiation

Failure to Launch

Teacher Leadership: What do we Know?