Saturday, January 10, 2015

A snapshot of student engagement

Picture this snapshot of my classroom: 
  • one girl diligently painting cells in mitosis on a ceiling tile,
  • three others painting another tile, and socializing as much as they're painting,
  • one male student listens to music, his headphones plugged into the Chromebook while he plugs away at his cell parts analogy Glogster,
  • two boys alternate between their cancer prevention research and some sort of football game on their cell-phones,
  • two other pairs of students and one working alone are peering through a microscope at an onion root tip, counting the number of cells in the various stages of mitosis, and
  • another trio of girls is switching between the microscope and their cell phones.
Those cell-phone girls are studying mitosis, at least when they're not snap-chatting each other. By counting the number of cells in each stage of cell division, they can get a measure of how long the cell spends in each phase. I wonder, if I took a snapshot of this room right now, how many students are "engaged" in learning?

This is something I've thought a lot about as I've moved to more of a student-centered, project-based, and mastery-based classroom: What is an acceptable level of engagement in this environment?

An interesting survey of 38,000 people by Microsoft in 2005 revealed that "people work an average of 45 hours a week," but "they consider about 17 of those hours to be unproductive." People estimate they're only productive for 63% of the time.

If I apply that to my classroom, I guess I could expect students to be engaged about 36 minutes out of a 58 minute period or about 9.5 students engaged at any particular time. (I'm not too far from that in the snapshot described above. above.)

Of course, that number varies according to how the employee feels about their work. Another survey of workers found the following:

Time Wasted                  Pct of Employees
<1 hour                                 39%
1-2 hours                               29%
2-5 hours                               21%
6-10 hours                             8%
10+ hours                              3%

And they found the following reasons that employees waste time:

·      34% of employees say they are not challenged
·      34% say they work long hours
·      32% say there’s no incentive to work harder
·      30% are unsatisfied with work
·      23% are just plain bored
·      18% say it’s due to low wages

I wonder what a similar analysis of my class would look like. Wait... that's a great idea. I need to survey my class. I would also love to come up with a better way to measure engagement than just a casual scan of my classroom or a student survey. And I'd like to be able to measure not just the percentage of time engaged, but the depth of engagement, because it seems to me, not all engagement is equal.

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