Friday, December 16, 2011

The highest branch on the apple tree it was my favorite place to be (Crowded House)

In 2007 I saw graphic evidence showing the sharp drop in engagement of NZ students from primary to secondary school . Generally Year 10 continues the drop and then there is a steady improvement until Year 13 but even that is still below the high engagement figures from primary years.

I’ve been considering that graph in student engagement ever since and wondering why it is that students become more and more disaffected. 

What we ultimately end up with is a load of disaffected students in our secondary schools. I recently found  a helpful definition of all these terms.
Engagement versus disaffection in school refers to the intensity and emotional quality of children’s involvement in initiating and carrying out learning activities…Children who are engaged show sustained behavioural involvement in learning activities accompanied by a positive emotional tone.  They select tasks at the border of their competencies, initiate action when given the opportunity, and exert intense effort and concentration in the implementation of learning tasks; they show generally positive emotions during ongoing action, including enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, and interest

The opposite of engagement is disaffection.  Disaffected children are passive, do not try hard, and give up easily in the face of challenges…[they can] be bored, depressed, anxious, or even angry about their presence in the classroom; they can be withdrawn from learning opportunities or even rebellious towards teachers and classmates.
I am interested in this apparent correlation between engaged students and positive behavior patterns. On the surface it seems a no-brainer. We need to continue the flavour of primary high engagement through to secondary school (particularly for boys).

Why is it we are unable to do this. An inquiry method investigation would help with this.

As I’ve blogged recently – the behavior of our students at Ali bin Abi Taleb School is relatively good and the emotional engagement of students at our school is reasonably high given the Arabic context for males (many are eventually headed for government jobs - the police force or the army are two lucrative career paths).

In a NZ context it would an interesting area of action research. Maybe it's already been done?

I'll consider this and get back to you. I'm off tomorrow on holiday back to New Zealand. It's the end of the first Trimester here, the second starts on January 8.

While I'm away I will endeavour to keep up with the blog but you'll understand if it's not so regular for a while.

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