Best of the Best: Engagement

By: Leah Kirkman , Isabella Wallace


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Products specifications
Attribute nameAttribute value
Size150 x 125mm
PublishedFebruary 2018

Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman’s Engagement is a carefully curated collection of experts’ insights on the theme of teacher and learner engagement, which – as they ably demonstrate – can be facilitated and encouraged in a number of ways.

The Best of the Best series brings together – for the first time – the most influential voices in education in a format that is concise, insightful and accessible for teachers. Keeping up with the latest and best ideas in education can be a challenge – as can putting them into practice – but this highly acclaimed series is here to help. Each title features a comprehensive collection of brief and accessible contributions from some of the most eminent names in education from around the world.

In this third volume, Wallace and Kirkman explore the core concept of engagement – an essential facet of effective learning both for learners and for teachers – and share practical, realistic, cross-curricular and cross-phase strategies to make the most of these important insights.

Engagement, whether of the teacher or the learners, can’t be compelled and will always be contingent on the complexities of motivation. Indeed, it could be argued that it is teacher engagement which is the key to successful learning. Such engagement can be facilitated by encouraging professional dialogue between staff, or it may be that the school’s high expectations alone could encourage in its teachers a sense of professional empowerment. But how do we recognise learner engagement, and what can we do to encourage it? From this compendium of expert voices emerge three important themes: that teachers’ engagement and positive example should be seen as a prerequisite for establishing learner motivation; that learners’ interest needs to be actively engaged, whether by meaningful challenge or by tapping into their natural curiosity; and that an expectation of appropriate behaviour must precede expectations of engagement. In this volume you will find many practical suggestions of ways to apply these ideas both in the classroom and in the staffroom.

Each contributor has provided a list of further reading so you can dig deeper into the topic and, in addition, the Teacher Development Trust offer their advice on how to plan effective CPD and responsive changes to practice based on the contributors’ suggestions.

Contributions include:

Sir Tim Brighouse argues that it is teacher engagement – specifically their collaborative evaluation, dialogue and planning – which is the key to successful learning.

Dr Bill Rogers advocates a non-confrontational approach and illustrates how the teacher’s verbal communications can be more effective when they are descriptive and assertive rather than imperative and confrontational.

Vic Goddard suggests that a bottom-up, staff-led approach to CPD can be a more motivating catalyst for teacher engagement than that which is top-down and senior leadership team-led.

Sue Cowley urges teachers to be responsive, adaptable, creative and flexible in the classroom and, instead of focusing on what students need to change, to take control of their teaching and decide what they need to change about themselves.

Richard Gerver discusses his passionate belief that teachers and school leaders should trust in their profession and their children more and build a culture that shouts about an assumption of excellence.

Andy Cope advises that teachers should focus on how they wish ‘to be’ in order to achieve the energy and empowerment to engage more effectively with their ‘to do’ list.

Professor Bill Lucas focuses on the numerous ways that schools can encourage parental engagement in their children’s learning.

Ian Gilbert points out that in order to encourage engaged behaviour we need first to banish classroom boredom, and that the opposite of ‘boring’ in a learning context should be ‘challenging’.

Professor Susan Wallace focuses on teacher behaviour, suggesting that one of the most powerful ways of encouraging engagement is for the teacher to model the desired attitude by presenting themselves as enthusiastic and highly motivated.

Andy Griffith makes the case that the learning challenge must be one which learners feel is achievable if they are to become properly involved and absorbed in the state of ‘flow’.

Dr Debra Kidd argues that the motivation to remain engaged will always be contingent on learners being able to see the relevance, purpose and value of what they are being asked to do.

Conrad Wolfram – writing specifically about motivation in maths – suggests that, in addition to being achievable, the challenge must be carefully chosen: not any old abstract problem but one which learners feel motivated to solve.

Paul Dix illustrates the importance of finding ways with which to engage learners’ natural curiosity with an element of anticipation, surprise or even some mild jeopardy.

John Davitt encourages the idea of engagement as ‘doing’, where learners are asked to demonstrate understanding in a variety of ways and through means other than simply writing.

Phil Beadle raises the question of whether levels of engagement are largely contingent on geography and environment, suggesting that inner city schools may be facing the problem of learner disengagement on a scale not experienced elsewhere.

Mike Gershon suggests that engagement in written work can be better stimulated by using discussion to help learners refine and articulate their ideas before they engage in a writing task.

Professor Mick Waters argues that a gentle ‘nudging’ towards improved behaviour – for example, through the awarding of points – proves more effective than the use of sanctions or shaming.

Teacher Development Trust – Next steps …

Suitable for all educationalists, including teachers and school leaders.

Best of the Best: Engagement has been named the Silver Winner in the education category of the 2018 INDIES Book of the Year Awards.

Picture for author Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman

Leah Kirkman is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and is an experienced AST and trainer. Keeping the needs of both the busy teacher and the discerning learner at the heart of all her training, Leah works with teachers both across the UK and abroad developing outstanding teaching and learning.

Picture for author Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace is co-author of the bestselling teaching guides Pimp Your Lesson! and Talk-Less Teaching, and has worked for many years as an AST, curriculum coordinator and governor. She is a consultant for and contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of Education and presents nationally and internationally on outstanding learning and teaching.

Listen in on Isabella's podcasts with Pivotal Education - click here to listen to Isabella on NQT issues and here discussing the pedagogy of talk-less teaching'.

Click here to view Isabella's Pinterest.

Click here to read Isabella  Wallace’s blog.


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