Engaging our Learners… Looking out for the Future

ImageStudents in the 21st century require many skills for heading into the workplace.  As educators we need to support students in gaining the necessary abilities to be self driven, collaborative thinkers.  “As our students head into a fast-paced, technically-driven, innovation-demanding, global work environment, they will need to be fully-engaged, creative, adaptive learners” (Parsons & Taylor, 2011, p. 8).  In a fast paced world with learners that are surrounded with technology, how do we ensure our students are truly engaged in their learning? 


Hopefully the days of teachers lecturing in the front of the classroom, “downloading” information for students to take in and regurgitate.  As quoted in engage, 21st Century Skills, research shows that “..students learn more when they are engaged in meaningful, relevant, and intellectually stimulating work” (Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka, 2001, p. 10).  Today’s students should be challenged with tasks that allow them to work in groups, think critically, and represent their knowledge in numerous ways.  If students are presented with choice in their learning, they are often more engaged.


I was blessed this past week to spend time with our grade nine students at a marine science centre on Vancouver Island.  Even though the days were long, the students were very interested and highly engaged in all the activities we took part in.  As the research of Dunleavy, Milton and Crawford shows, “Students want to experience work that is meaningful, not easy: they want to work with ideas that matter, solve real problems, learn from each other, people in their communities and experts in the subjects they are studying…”(as cited in Parsons & Taylor, p. 48).  On our trip, students learned from experts, worked on groups researching ideas about sustainable seafood, conservation and climate change.  They presented their findings to each other and shared their learning via a blog to their families and friends back in Calgary.  The days were long and the work was not always easy, but still, the students were engaged in the topics fully.  Challenging our students to use information and find solutions to the problems they encounter now, and those they might in the future will help to keep them engaged in learning.




Metiri Group (2003). enGauge 21st Century Skills: Literacy in the Digital Age. 1-88.

Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf

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One Response to Engaging our Learners… Looking out for the Future

  1. ttallerico says:

    Your trip to the marine science centre is a great example of schools incorporating what they know about authentic, engaging learning experiences. “Students today want their learning to be relevant, current, socially engaging, exploratory, and responsible.” (Parson’s & Taylor, 2011, p. 35) It sounds like all of these things were accomplished. The trip also included the common elements research is showing to be esssential in ensuring that students are engaged. These include: interaction, exploration, relevancy, multimedia and technology, engaging and challenging instruction, and authentic assessment.(Parsons & Taylor, 2011, p. 36)

    Opportunities such as these are starting to arise in many schools and school boards but these types of experiences don’t have to be as big or as expensive as leaving the city. In Calgary we have Campus Calgary/Open Minds school where students go every day, all day for a week to a variety of programs throughout the city (like City Hall school, Museum school, EcoAction and Stampede school -13 in all) and engage in meaningful, relevant learning. However even with these amazing opportunities teachers still have the rest of the school year to consider so we must be mindful and purposely strive towards incorporating this type of learning into the basic structure of our classrooms every day.


    Parsons, J., & Taylor, L. (2011). Student engagement: What do we know what should we know? University of Alberta, 1-59. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/media/6459431/student_engagement_literature_review_2011.pdf

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