In my first weeks back in the classroom, I am beginning to think about issues that were important to me four years ago when I left the classroom to take a position as a school librarian. Student engagement was something I was beginning to explore at that time, and it appears to be a big buzzword now.
As a school librarian, I didn’t worry too much about student engagement in the classroom. I was concerned with student engagement with books that matched their interest and ability level. Now I’m focused on defining and achieving student engagement in my science class. In the past, I assumed that engagement in science was easy provided that I kept students busy with fun, hands-on activities. Students were actively doing science; what more could I ask for?
Certainly this is a good start toward student engagement, but I’ve come to realize that engagement has to also include active mental work with the content. Some hands-on activities are enough to make many students engage with the content. However, some students can have fun playing in the science lab and never begin to engage with the content behind the activity.
I realized this just before I moved into the library. Now that I’m back in the classroom, I’m struggling (in a good way) to ramp up student engagement. I think active reflection is the key to student engagement. Scaffolding reflection activities are the key to leading students toward full engagement with science content as it relates to the hands-on activities. If I can achieve this, my classroom will be both hands-on and minds-on.