Article 1 Reflections: “Meaningful, Engaged Learning”

“Meaningful, Engaged Learning”
Reflection 1
December 4, 2007
Buffy Hamilton  

Responsible for their own learning
engaged learning
Challenging, authentic, and multidisciplinary
engaged learning
engaged learning
engaged learning
Problem-based learning integrated
engaged learning
Performance based assessment
engaged learning
Knowledge-building community
engaged learning
engaged learning
engaged learning
engaged learning
engaged learning
Teacher=Facilitator, guide, learner
engaged learning
student=explorer, contributor to world’s knowledge, reflective learners
engaged learning


What Stood Out to Me 

I think all of us would agree with this model of learning and this kind of paradigm that creates an environment that is conducive to engaged learning—these ideas have been around well before the 1994 study referenced in the article (just read anything by John Dewey).   Most teachers I know would embrace a learning environment that completely integrates these eight indicators. 

Yet how many classrooms around America actually implement this philosophical approach to teaching and learning?  What obstacles or barriers do teachers face in truly implementing this kind of classroom environment?  What additional scaffolding might be needed in this kind of environment for students who do not become from the socioeconomic backgrounds that are typically privileged in public school (see studies and research by Shirley B. Heath if you don’t believe that the home environment plays a vital role in HOW children learn and language development).  How do we tap into technology (as well as other teaching tools) to maximize engaged learning?   I think it is important to explore these questions so that we can effectively identify barriers to this kind of learning environment and overcome those obstacles.   

I also think it is important to talk about how we create this kind of environment for engaged learning because this kind of learning with these eight indicators takes time, can be messy (in a positive way), and requires teachers (and administrators) to “muck about” in inquiry.  In this day and age of standardized testing, a climate exists that makes many teachers feel as though they must use “traditional” methods of teaching to “cover” the standards.  As a media specialist (and a practicing English teacher at Polaris North), I see the struggle to create engaged learning while being mindful of the looming standardized tests in the background.  Certainly, we can do project based learning and not be compelled to “kill and drill” our students for those tests, but at the same time, you have to creatively build in some test prep so that students are familiar with the test format and test vocabulary—I do think we are doing our students a disservice if we don’t recognize that in some way. I do feel we can address multiple standards through engaged learning strategies and a paradigm that values the qualities of “the engaged classroom.” 

One of my challenges right now is helping our classroom teachers see how we as media specialists can support this kind of learning environment through collaboration.  As media specialists, we can help teachers design authentic tasks with a menu of choices that will appeal to a wide range of learning styles.   While teachers often think they don’t have time for research projects because they have to “cover the standards”, project based learning or research projects can actually help teachers address multiple Georgia Performance Standards.  Media specialists can help in the design of learning activities, creation of rubrics and assessment methods, the creation of research pathfinders and pooling of resources, and the selection of learning products or artifacts of learning that students create.  Media specialists are cognizant of the pressures classroom teachers feel, but we sometimes feel frustrated that we can’t teachers to collaborate with us and to help “open up” or “burst the bubble” of the perceived constraints created by the testing environment of NCLB.  I feel that media specialist are some of the most important and support advocates of “engaged learning” strategies and pedagogy, but it is sometimes hard for our voices to be heard by our teachers when the voices of other stakeholders, particularly those that privilege teaching to the test and drown out the voices that advocate authentic learning that goes above and beyond what these tests measure.

I hope that we can perhaps have some dialogue in our course about how teachers and media specialists can work together to create engaged learning environments and how the media center can be a great resource for teachers, especially those who are Teach 21 candidates.  

FUJIYOSHI, G., & TAN, S. (1999, January). Engaged learning using technology. Curriculum Administrator, 35(1), 39. Retrieved December 4, 2007, from Professional Development Collection database. 


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