Strategies for Engagement – working document

"Choosing engagement" is about considering how we help students/pupils to engage with what is being learned, the ways in which they participate.

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’/pupils’ attention to the coherence or design in nature, helping them to think about how it came to be. It could be the use of slow and attentive listening and reading activities to encourage focus on a text and develop humility before 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, challenging them to think about the future.

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.

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.

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 it 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).

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.

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.

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 of significance and meaning. 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 in order to become agents of change themselves. They might learn from the values of another community in geography.

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.

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/pupil reflection.

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/pupils to translate learning into action, to decide what they think is right, and, where appropriate, to make a principled stand.

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.

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.

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, pupils can work out what percentage of what we pay for a banana goes to the grower in maths, and the difference an alternative pay structure makes to growers’ lives. This could be linked to Christian initiatives in this field. Links between learning and faith can be pursued and 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.

15. …to explore the coherence of God&#rsquo;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.

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.

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.