Strategies for Choosing Engagement – full document

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1. …to focus on key ideas and issues

Learners can be encouraged to engage in activities that require focused attention in order to raise their awareness of what is important. It might involve a series of questions in science that directs students’ attention to coherence or design in nature. It could be the use of slow and attentive listening and reading activities to encourage students to focus on a text and develop humility before it. For example, we can learn to love a text in English/literacy by reading it more than once and reading it slowly or in different voices.

  • Learners can listen to each other’s compositions in music to see how music can interpret images.
  • Learners can engage in focusing activities in art such as using a series of questions, or using a viewfinder to focus attention on what is important. This detailed attention is a way of paying respect to the creator of the artwork.
  • Learners can use identifying and highlighting activities to raise awareness of important issues. They could trace a character’s behaviour in a text in English/literacy to reveal their character and values. They could use patterning activities that foreground the order and pattern in music and our ability to create it.

Examples such as these direct student attention and encourage focused attention rather than casual glancing or listening. These activities help learners to see what is important and give them time to consider it.

2. …to think with a key image or phrase

Key words, images and phrases can carry a powerful message. Learners can be encouraged to locate key words and phrases and use them in their work. They can use a word or phrase to change how they relate to a text; for example, thinking of words as gifts could change how they relate to stories and poems in English/literacy and encourage gratitude. Students might use the image of a cocoon for thinking about how their past has moulded them and challenging their thinking about the future.

  • Learners can locate phrases that need changing in resources when a topic on the environment is changed from ‘Exploring our world’ to ‘Exploring God’s world’, drawing attention to the world as a gift from God and encouraging a different perspective.
  • Having learners use the phrase ‘doing sorry’ can change the way they think about the injustices of the past in history and their view of whether later generations can make amends.
  • Learners can engage with multiple images of atoms in science by trying to draw or sculpt the terms used. This can widen their thinking and show that science is not just dealing with what we can see and touch. Too often science is seen as straightforward and concrete while religion is dismissed as abstract and nebulous.

Engaging in activities such as these helps learners to focus, for we do not think in a vacuum. We need words and images to direct our thinking. Being given new words and images can encourage thinking in a different way.

3. …to explore a fresh emphasis

A fresh emphasis can bring new insights and learners can be helped to engage with a new emphasis by a range of activities and examples. To engage with a change in emphasis learners need to do more than notice it; they need to work with it to see the changes it makes. This might include emphasising loving a city by looking at people who loved it enough to change it for the better in history, or emphasising revenge and forgiveness by working with a poem.

  • Learners can create a pyramid diagram in history to demonstrate the dependence of reformers, such as Wilberforce, on their communities. This activity puts more emphasis on communities and interdependence in history rather than on lone individuals.
  • Learners can use activities that move the emphasis from self to others. Drama evaluations could ask them to think about what may have been difficult or enjoyable for other people in a drama activity in order to shift the emphasis away from self.
  • Learners can participate in activities that celebrate a change of emphasis around tests. They could come to a celebratory breakfast club as part of a change in emphasis from: ‘Do you know it?’ to ‘Wow, look how much you know!’

Examples such as these show how learners can engage with a new emphasis in order to see its implications.

4. …to experience delight, reflection and wonder

Encouraging pupils to actively delight in an aspect of learning can raise their awareness and change attitudes. For example, learners can delight in colour or texture in art or bring delight to others through what they make or do. Learners can respond to a display in science using images of rainbows as well as diagrams and information about how they are formed. Researching the structure of a chemical or the power of magnets can lead to reflection or wonder.

  • Learners could create number lines in maths and reflect on the question ‘Do numbers go on forever?’ They could select words and phrases to describe the character of different times in history concentrating on the qualities of the time. This could lead to reflection on how our own time might be described.
  • Learners can delight in sound in music or poetry by composing simple musical patterns or speaking poetry to musical rhythms. Pupils can use ‘bringing delight’ as the objective for designs they create in design and technology.
  • Learners can count the spirals in a sunflower in science and explore Fibonacci numbers. This can lead to wonder at the mathematical patterns within the natural world. They can research the chemical nature of salt, and wonder at the beauty of its structure in chemistry.

Examples such as these raise awareness of how much there is in the world to wonder about. These examples capture moments for refection, wonder and delight that might otherwise pass by unnoticed.

5. …to experience God’s world in its wholeness

Encouraging learners to engage in broad experiences in all subjects can help to lay the foundations for a way of thinking that assumes there is always more to know. Such an attitude does not assume that we know all about something once we have labelled it and know a little. It is the opposite of the tick box mentality that says ‘done that’. Reducing something to its parts is a useful tool but students need reminding that things are more than the sum of their parts (humans, for instance, are not just chemicals or economic units).

  • Learners can have real flowers on their desks in science or have a presentation of images of flowers and be asked to articulate the difference between their diagram and the real thing. Being able to name all the parts of the flower misses something essential about a flower.
  • Learners can engage in a range of exercise activities in PE and be asked to track the effect on the whole person so that pupils see that human beings are complex and not just bodies or just minds or just spirits.
  • Learners can experience the nature of faith in religious education by interviewing Christians. As part of the interview, pupils can explore the way in which faith involves thinking, feeling and living. This may help to prevent people seeing faith as just an intellectual assent to a list of beliefs.

Activities like these bring to learners’ attention something of the breadth of what they are studying. They open up vistas rather than close down thinking.

6. …to extend their ways of participating

Learners can extend their ways of participating and engaging with what they learn, becoming more active and less passive. Becoming active and engaged does not necessarily imply a certain type of activity; listening can be active. Being actively engaged means learning becomes a two-way experience and learners can be challenged and changed by what they learn. For example, learners could be asked in a languages lesson what they would give to if they were given £50,000. This engages pupils in brainstorming about giving rather than getting. This active connection means the teacher needs to exercise responsibility concerning what learners connect with.

  • Learners can extend their listening and looking skills. This is the opposite of quick ‘mastery’. Students/pupils can learn slow reading skills in English, allowing the time for the text to speak to them. They can develop their looking skills in art using questions to interrogate an artwork, and they can develop respectful listening skills in music using pictures to aid listening.
  • Learners can expand their imaginative participation by using a range of creative techniques, for example, creating a storyboard for a music video to accompany a German song in order to expand their understanding of love. They could engage with a new way of thinking about a story in English/literacy by seeing words as gifts and record the ‘gifts’ the story could make to them on slips inside a gift bag.
  • Learners could engage in new experiences such as cooking for the elderly or using their skills to make a poster for a community day as a service to others as part of a topic on communities.

By encouraging pupils to extend their participation the way is open for a more active involvement in learning and the possibility of what is learned leading the learner to consider life from a different perspective.

7. …to pursue big questions

Learners engage with big questions when their curiosity is stimulated. That might be through responding to big questions the teacher asks or being invited to suggest their own. Big questions are questions of significance and meaning, not just recall, and each subject may stimulate a different set of questions that students can engage with. For example, learners may engage in discussion or role-play in response to a question about the difference between humans and computers. In science, creating and discussing diagrams of food chains may stimulate pupils to ask how things fit together.

  • Learners can contribute their own questions verbally or add a question to a board, box or display. For example religious education can include the opportunity for pupils to raise their own questions around Bible stories.
  • Learners can respond to questions posed in class, for example, a series of questions in English about the ethics of writing about people who are still living, or questions such as ‘Where does our creativity come from?’ in music.
  • Learners can ask questions about faith and values in subjects other than RE. Big questions such as ‘Where do the patterns in numbers come from?’ can be asked in maths.

Stimulating curiosity can engage learners in asking big questions that are about meaning and significance and not just information.

8. …to learn from as well as learning about

Learners can move beyond learning about to learning from a subject by engaging in activities that stress significance and meaning (SA4). When students learn from what they study, change is a possibility. For example, students may learn from mapping a campaign for change in the past about being agents of change themselves.

  • Learners can learn from the mistakes of the past in history by looking at the faults as well as the achievements of people in the past, creating their own ‘strengths and weaknesses’ evaluations of characters.
  • Learners can learn from the faith and values of others. For example, managing without books for one day as part of Book Week and learning about the camel libraries of Kenya could help pupils learn from communities who are grateful for the luxury of books.
  • Learners can learn about the nature of faith by tracking the faith of a character and how it develops and changes in a text in English and drawing connections to their own experience.

Examples such as these help students/pupils learn from what they study and can enable a more active relationship with their learning to take place.

9. …to reflect carefully on ideas and experiences

Helping learners to reflect on ideas and experiences helps to capture the learning. They can think about the way in which they win in sport and whether winning at all costs is appropriate. They can consider the idea of 'courageous restraint' and how this applies to sport. This can lead, for instance, to students reflecting on values such as respect and result in drawing up guidelines and changes in team leadership. They can experience a poem in English/literacy and reflect on where creativity comes from.

  • Learners can consider the concept of integrity in science after studying a scientific hoax and suggesting reasons why it was believed. This can lead to thinking about what happens when scientists lose people's trust.
  • Learners can experience a Bible story retold in an anonymous way using figures without faces. They could reflect on what characters might be thinking and feeling.
  • Learners can reflect on the idea that maps tell stories about people and places in geography by making maps of their area and thinking about what they include on their map. Any map they make will tell a story about the place they live and about them as map-makers and what they value.

Engaging in activities such as these helps learners to reflect on ideas and experiences rather than letting them pass by in the busyness of a lesson.

10. …to consider contrasts and dissonance

Encouraging learners to engage with contrasts and dissonance (clashes between different frameworks or pieces of information) can provoke them to rethink their assumptions. Researching contrasts can make students more aware; for example, the contrast between the calories eaten per day by an average person in Europe or North America compared to the calories eaten in the Two-Thirds World. Dissonance, if used appropriately, can create a productive kind of unease; an example would be using body language that did not match verbal language in drama to stimulate student reflection.

  • Learners could, for instance, discuss care for the environment in a littered classroom and have their attention drawn to the dissonance between fine words and actual surroundings so as to focus on the question of responsibility.
  • Learners could encounter a work of art in a personal development (PSHE) lesson that has some dissonance between the title and their first impression of the image, provoking them to wonder how the title fits and explore the tension it creates.
  • Learners can be asked compare and contrast traditional images of the nativity and images of a modern Christmas, or the way we say we should treat others and some behaviours accepted in competitive sport (as in this example).

In examples like these, making contrasts and tensions apparent to students and having them engage in thinking them through can promote serious reflection on important questions.

11. …to explore possibilities for active commitment

Learners can be encouraged to actively commit to serving others, being involved in the community, or making other commitments of heart, hand and mind in relation to the topics studied. This is about encouraging students to translate learning into action, to decide what they think is right, and, where appropriate, to make a principled stand.

  • Learners can be given opportunities to serve others, such as by taking part in a community project or by designing posters and invitations to a community day. They can be challenged to think of specific ways to love their city after learning about the industrial revolution or create designs that focus on bringing delight to others (as in this example).
  • Learners can be challenged to decide on a viewpoint or take a stand on an issue, for example by writing a short position statement or by sorting statements into ones they agree with and ones they disagree with (as in this example about the ethics of writing about others).
  • Learners can actively respond in the classroom itself, for instance by praying for each other (as appropriate to your school), actively encouraging each other, and supporting each other – perhaps in a revision class or through peer mentoring in a maths class.

In these and other ways students can be encouraged towards developing their capacity for moral and spiritual commitment as they learn about the needs of the world and the big questions we face.

12. …to explore topics within a new context or framework

Changing the context within which teaching and learning happens can give a whole new perspective. For example, using a map of the parish puts the church in the centre of a local area study in geography and provides a new framework. A service framework for a topic on transport can help pupils explore how transport can serve the community.

  • Learners can be encouraged to think differently about modern foreign languages if a hospitality framework is used rather than a tourist model, for example, exploring the language needed in role-play to welcome a new person from another country to your class.
  • Learners can rethink classroom expectations of behaviour in personal development (PSHE), changing the common framework of a desert island to one of a playground or garden. Pupils can make paper people and write about the people they need to become to live in harmony in and delight in God’s garden or playground, rather than concentrating on survival.
  • Learners can reconsider advertising in design and technology by viewing it in light of a concept such as contentment. This can lead them to designing a different style of advert as a result of seeing advertising in a new light rather than just taking it for granted.

These examples encourage rethinking as they invite learners to think within new frameworks and contexts, engage their imaginations, and examine familiar habits and ideas.

13. …to critically engage with examples, activities and tasks

Examples can be changed to ones that express Christian values. They can also be changed from abstract or fictional to real life and relevant. For example: choosing examples of giving rather than getting in maths. Using stories of real people who believe and suffer as well as eat and shop in French can make learning feel more related to life, and the content of the stories can challenge students to think about their own values. Generally activities can be changed to reflect a new way of seeing a lesson.

  • Learners could work on stories of real migrants when studying population movements in geography to reflect a new way of seeing population migration – as more than lines plotted on a map. People who have moved countries often leave behind much that they possess. Exploring such stories can help students to think about what is important.
  • Learners can calculate percentages in maths using real examples of coffee growers. They can see that numbers relate to real people and a percentage can mean the difference between survival and living with dignity.
  • Learners can reflect on a different way of seeing a painting in art – as a visitor from another country or culture – by engaging in activities that reflect that new insight, such as drawing up a code of how visitors from another country are to be treated.

Critical engagement with examples such as these reinforces new insights. To change the way of seeing the lesson without changing examples and activities to match will often mean the change is missed or there is a conflicting message.

14. …to trace connections between faith and learning and life

Encouraging learners to connect faith and learning with all of life can stimulate them to think about the role of faith and values. For example, in maths, pupils could work out what percentage of what we pay for a banana goes to the grower and the difference an alternative pay structure makes to growers’ lives. Links between learning and faith can be pursued, as well as the question of whether this influence is always for good. Learners could research how far faith was a motive for some reformers in the industrial revolution and critique case studies of when faith served the community and when it didn’t.

  • Learners can make connections between PE and faith by engaging in exercise and experiencing how it affects the whole person: body, soul and spirit. This can lead to them making connections between their own feeling, thinking, physical well-being and spiritual well-being.
  • Learners could make connections between learning and life in design and technology, by creating designs and exploring how clothes carry messages and values.
  • Learners can connect science and faith when studying magnetism, exploring how people in the past, including some Christians, have responded to this phenomenon.

In examples like these, consciously making connections engages learners with faith as something that affects all of life. It helps them to lay foundations for not keeping faith and learning separated and divorced from life and practice.

15. …to explore the coherence of God's world

Learners can be helped to see that the oneness of knowledge reflects the oneness of God’s world by making links across subjects so that an insight in one subject casts light on another. Work on sin and brokenness in religious education can make sense of the biblical themes in some literature in English. Work on virtues and values in religious education could inform personal development (PSHE) lessons. Learners can encounter the interdependence and coherence of the world using case studies in science or geography to see the impact of human behaviour on the world. Learners can become aware that the world is not divided into sacred and secular through engaging in activities that cross those artificial boundaries, activities such as categorising different types of riches and poverty in a historical period, including spiritual riches.

  • Learners could investigate some of the injustices of the past in history and explore the impact down the ages and any actions required now. Past and present are not divorced. There is connectedness through time; we are dependent on those who went before. People leave good or bad legacies that affect us now.
  • Learners could study a historical figure and examine their overall legacy under a number of headings: political/economic, social/cultural, spiritual. This can raise awareness that these legacies are intricately joined and difficult to separate.
  • Learners could explore the interdependence of the world in science by making chains or diagrams to show connections, for example in connection with food chains and photosynthesis. They can learn about different voices working together to make a sound in music.

Examples such as these demonstrate the oneness of God’s world and how interconnected everything is: we are connected to others, to our past, to the world. The world also shows remarkable coherence, it all hangs together as a whole. The parts work together.

16. …to help learners to approach learning in relational terms

Learners can be encouraged to engage with personal stories, images and examples where that is appropriate. This could involve them in conducting interviews or using real life case studies of people in communities in order to challenge them to think. Making learning appropriately relational means that learners themselves are helped to serve each other and take responsibility for each other’s learning and to seek the good of others rather than just being focused on themselves.

  • In PE, football players can create ways of celebrating a goal that acknowledge the role of other players in setting it up rather than focusing on just one player. Learners can support each other in revision, identifying needs and strengths and helping each other. Learners can develop a collaborative community in maths, supporting each other while still being stretched.
  • Learners can practise their German using stories of real people and their communities rather than fictitious ones.
  • Learners can explore different ways in which transport serves their community as part of a topic. They can create their own ideas for small businesses in design and technology and how small businesses can serve a whole community and change lives.

Approaching learning in this way constantly reminds people that learning is related to life and to ways in which we can honour and serve others. Life is not lived in isolation, we are all part of many communities.

17. …to help learners to relate to the wider world

Learners can be encouraged to engage with the local community and the world in order to see a subject in a new light. This might involve inviting people in to share their knowledge and understanding or going into the community. It could be experiencing the first signs of spring in the park with younger children or inviting musicians from the church community into school.

  • Learners can engage with case studies of real situations such as child workers on cocoa farms. This can be part of showing historical parallels between campaigns for change in the past and campaigns today. In modern foreign languages, learners can use language to reflect the thoughts, feelings and choices of people in the community, rather than just their own preferences and opinions.
  • Learners can respond to a crisis by using their maths and cooking skills to bake cakes to raise money in order to give.
  • Learners can work alongside members of the community, either in school as part of a topic or in the wider community setting.

These examples reflect a few ways in which subjects can encourage learners to look outwards to the wider world rather than be focused only on themselves and their part of the world.