I was meeting with a medical doctor last week who asked me about my profession. I expressed that I was an educator working on STEM programming with teachers and students across the state. He asked the off-color question “Do you do that education stuff where you make kids feel good about themselves?” I didn’t even hesitate to say no.
The programs I run focus on rigor and increasing achievement. Thinking about it more, I think we work on engagement (a.k.a. “feel good”) as an outcome, NOT an input. This really made me think more about the design of research. When conducting studies you need an independent variable and a dependent variable. To me, engagement is a dependent factor – what should happen with quality instruction. I wonder if other educators consider it an input. Kids thinking, working hard, problem solving, collaborating, asking and answering hard questions . .. . that’s the essence of good engagement. Good instruction, success for students, meaningful and relevant assessments .. . . that leads to success.