Essential Question: How do we keep our lessons engaging? Does Innovation play a part in it?
Teachers can increase engagement by making learning irresistible. It’s about engaging students by tapping into their interests and making learning and work enjoyable. Author Dave Burgess writes that there are 3 critical elements of an engaging lesson: presentation, content and method/technique (Burgess, 2012). Educators can apply innovation and brain-based education practices to these 3 elements to increase engagement.
Brain-based education is based on the neuroscience behind active engagement of both practical strategies and behavioral principles. Brain-based learning involves learning about the brain and how it functions to find the best learning strategies. (Jensen, 2012)
Engaging lessons recognize that students are constructionists and should be active participants in their learning. Learning is interactive and builds upon prior knowledge. Engaging lessons increase the range of experiences available to students. Engaged learning also involves timely feedback. Teachers often have to mix things up to keep students engaged.
Achievement is driven by interest. Engaging lessons allow students to find and explore things that they are drawn to. Teachers can get students to invest with real passion and real curiosity. By tapping into interests, teachers can maximize multiple intelligences and student learning. An engaged classroom is a place where both students and teachers learn, invent, explore, teach, collaborate, and share. Engaging lessons build on students’ intrinsic motivations.
Engaging lessons take into consideration students' attention spans. A traditional lecture is typically less engaging and therefore less effective then immersion into the content. Another way to increase engagement (and is brain-based) is to incorporate movement into learning. Brain-based learning is all about active learning. To increase engagement teachers can build in emotional influence such as risk, excitement, urgency and pleasure.
Dave Burges, points out that teachers need to “create a safe and supportive kind of environment in which creativity, learning and fun can coexist and flourish”. (Burgess, 2012) Before any lesson can be engaging students need to feel safe. As Concordia University points out “brain-based education is about eliminating barriers and allowing the mind to work without distractions” ("Bringing Brain-Based Learning Theories into the Classroom," n.d.). Outside factors such as poverty, nutrition, hormones, sleep, etc. can all affect engagement and the brains ability to learn. Often outside factors are outside the control of the teacher but the teacher can increase engagement by creating an environment that embodies respect, embeds social skills and empowers the learner.
Innovation most defiantly plays a role in engagement. Our students live in a world that looks very different from the world we grew up in. Our students challenge us to be innovative and to make education stimulating, challenging and rewarding. We can’t leave the 21st century outside the classroom. We need to build upon the technology strengths of the generation. We have a responsibility to our students to prepare them for the world they will grow up in. To be successful our students need to be innovators.
Sustaining innovation and engagement is not an easy task. It takes planning and energy. The book Hacking Education shares a quote from Michael Jordan, basketball player and entrepreneur “If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it” (Barnes & Gonzalez, 2015). Keeping our lessons engaging and innovative can at times feel like a marathon of never ending walls. Those are walls that I will gladly tackle if it means that it will help my students get closer to their finish line.
Barnes, M., & Gonzalez, J. (2015). Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School (Hack Learning Series). Cleveland, OH: Times 10 Publication.
Bringing Brain-Based Learning Theories into the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/reference-material/bringing-brain-based-learning-theories-into-the-classroom/
Burgess, D. (2012). Teach like a Pirate: Increase student engagement, boost your creativity, and transform your life as an educator. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.
Jensen, E. (2012, February 14). Understanding Brain-Based Learning. Retrieved September 3, 2015, from http://www.jensenlearning.com/news/what-is-brain-based-teaching/brain-based-teaching