What Is A Reasonable Level of Engagement?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by KinderCowgirl, Apr 23, 2012.

  1. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Apr 23, 2012

    I know we all want 100% of our students to be engaged in our lessons 100% of the time, but in a day where we are expecting them to learn a good 6+ hours a day in class with us-is that really possible? I ask because, it's on our evaluations this year and I was fine with the write-up I received, but surprised that it was a problem that 2 students were not engaged the entire time. One was apparently playing with a coin-taking it in and out of his pocket and one was off in his own world daydreaming. I have 25 students, most of whom have the attention span of a gnat so for a 45-minute lesson- I'm really happy with that percentage.

    I'm wondering what others' opinions are on the subject. What's a reasonable expectation? Is 100% reasonable?
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    What does a 45 minute lesson look like in your classroom?
     
  4. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Apr 23, 2012

    This is tough. Like you say, we do want to aim for 100% of our students. However, some students will go off of task from time to time. I find that doing the mini-lessons and then small groups really helps to keep the kids engaged. I can't say they are putting their full attention the entire time, but they don't go off-task for more than a minute or so (unless there is something I am not seeing).

    What happened during this 45-minute lesson? Was it broken up with DI, guided practice, independent/small groups? How did you break up the lesson?
     
  5. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    I do small group instruction/workstations, however, it was our whole group reading part that was observed. We do an opening review with movement activities for spelling, our poem we read for fluency, songs also for fluency, vocabulary, think-pair-share for our ethics and then the introduction of the actual lesson, and our story for the day/activity that followed. Like I said to have 23 of them engaged for that entire time-I was happy with. They weren't fooling around with each other, arguing, rolling on the floor, etc.--that's a good day for us! ;)

    I'm not really looking for ideas of how to engage them better, I'm just wondering if I'm completely off-base in expecting that kids, especially young kids, will stray from time to time. Is 100% engagement for any lesson at any time something that actually happens on a daily basis in your classrooms?
     
  6. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Apr 23, 2012

    I would have to say no. I'm just thinking back to my class (and classes in the past) and there's always one or two who I have to nudge along. I have one boy who LOVES art; unfortunately, he tries to do art all day long (on his desk too, not just paper...anything he can get a hold of). I am having to refocus him a lot. I think it's unrealistic that no child will go off-task. The important thing is that we catch it and redirect them. If the school is expecting that no child will go off-task, I think it's just a bit silly. They are kids, after all.
     
  7. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Oh, and I only asked how the 45-minute lesson was structured because if it was a 45-minute lecture, then of course that would explain it. I didn't think that was really the case, though, because following many of your posts, you are a very hands-on teacher. So I was jut curious.
     
  8. Ron6103

    Ron6103 Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2012

    While I teach high school, my lessons are ALL 45 minutes, so I felt like jumping in. I cannot achieve 100% engagement on every lesson... it just isn't going to happen. Ever. At least not in my school.

    I sometimes only give a lecture for 15 minutes or so (and it'll include pictures and questioning of the students), and I'll have kids who start to space out quite literally within seconds of me talking. I usually notice, and ask them about it often... but their response is typically "history is boring, I'm never going to listen to any of this" -- not in a hostile manner even, but just being bluntly honest with me. And I have several kids in every period like this.
     
  9. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Apr 23, 2012

    I wonder what the stats would be for your administrators at the next faculty meeting...are all teachers fully enaged the entire time?

    I think having only two students who *appeared* disengaged during a lesson is good stuff. :)
     
  10. smurfette

    smurfette Habitué

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    Apr 23, 2012

    :yeahthat:

    It is always good to aim for 100% engagement, but is it reasonable to expect it all of the time? No.
     
  11. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Actually, I've been taught (and have experienced) that about 70% on-task is pretty decent when measured through a direct observation momentary time sampling method. It is funny that your gut would tell you that 100% is a goal, and that 70% is low, but turns out to be a decent goal for students. Part of what makes that goal lower is that students will not "appear" to be directly engaged 100% of the time - sometimes they will be looking at the window, sometimes thumbing through pages in the book randomly. So, it's possible that they are engaged more than that 70%, but from a measurement perspective, consider 70% to be pretty decent.

    If you don't trust my number, try this: make a list of students who are academically on level (or above), and who you generally observe to be on-task consistently in class. Then, conduct a momentary time sampling procedure in round robin style with those students (i.e., every 15 seconds record whether a particular student is on task, then rotate to the next student at the next 15 second observation point). Calculate the average on-task amount, and you certainly won't see 100%, but you might develop a good range of what's typical for your students during certain types of instruction.

    In your particular situation, I'd be curious as to how much of that time was spent off task? Was the student playing with coins doing so for 45 minutes, or for 1 minute? Was he answering questions while playing with coins, or not at all engaged? The observation sounds like it offers very limited information, and seems to be an "all or nothing" observation - as if those 2 students were completely unengaged (0% on-task behavior), while the rest of the students were 100% engaged. I doubt either are true, and would be interested to hear an actual figure. I might be tempted to conduct my own observation during an independent work period and offer that data to whoever conducted the eval. Of course, in a respectful manner, but suggest something like, "You know, your observation really made me more curious about those 2 students and my whole class, and collected more data - I thought you might find it interested to see."

    Also, any person with training on observations will tell you that a one-time sample isn't too good, just as a research study with one data point has limited (or no) power, and wouldn't be taken seriously.
     
  12. strepsils

    strepsils Companion

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    Apr 24, 2012

    I think it is unreasonable to expect 100% engagement all the time. However, it is not unreasonable to expect a teacher to notice this and bring the student back on task within a decent time frame.
     
  13. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    We are also expected to have 100% engagement in the lesson when we are observed and are marked down accordingly if we don't achieve that goal. So, some teachers bring out the dog and pony show for the observation because our salary is soon to be determined based on the observation. It's a shame things have come to that, but this appears to be teacher evaluation in our world.
     
  14. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Thanks Tami for the compliment! I very much appreciate that coming from you! ;) The length of time it takes to read the story is really the longest period of something they have to sit still for-and even then I'm asking questions as we go and trying to keep them interested.

    Well, I'm glad I'm not alone in that opinion then. I have kids that I can try to snap back to attention over and over and they are stilll lost in their own world most of the time. I guess since I know them so well by this time of the year it may appear to others that I'm not reacting the way I'm supposed to, however I know what's not going to work for them.

    I know personally even when I'm invested in a pd or meeting, my mind wanders and I'm not paying attention-and I'm an adult and think can control it better.

    Ed-where does the 70% number come from-is that a study or something?
     
  15. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    Personally, who's to say that the student playing with the coin wasn't on task? Some kids need to fidget to stay on task... I will often give certain kids something to keep their hands busy if they need to attend to something for a while.
     
  16. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    Apr 25, 2012

    We did similar during observations of STs and colleagues. Data was collected on a form, Student Engagement Rate, which showed what each student was doing while the teacher was teaching. Teacher and observer preconferenced to determine what would be observed and for how long - usually about 25 minutes. Observations were not about instruction, teaching style or management rather what the students were doing. When finished, the data collected was given to the teacher without comment.

    Also, when I began teaching a lesson plan had to be stated in behavioral terms - 80% of students will be able to ... . I remember 80% the goal. It was sort of pounded into our heads if you kept teaching a lesson until everyone "got it" the smart kids would lapse into a coma while the slow kids could be taking driver training by the time the lesson came to closure. 80% (+,-) was a sort of guide during the lesson to help with pacing. When observed, 100% was never mentioned but "interventions" like extension of the lesson for the fast kids and remediation for the slow kids was noted and/or queried during post conference.
     
  17. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Good question KinderCowgirl :). I know someone would ask! It's something I was taught in grad school by a professor who had a lot of clinical experience, so I just went with it. Since then, I've noticed that the figure doesn't seem too far off in my own practice. I'm not sure it's a precise number, but the concept is that - as measured by direct observation - few students will appear to be engaged 100% of the time. As someone else mentioned, it's very possible that someone could still be paying attention and playing with a coin in his pocket for a few seconds. Most people - even when paying attention - appear to not be from time to time.

    As I mentioned before, the best idea is probably to collect baseline data on kids who are generally considered to be on-task, and use that as an expectation. So, if the administrator noticed that only 2 kids were off-task, s/he would probably agree that the rest were generally on-task. Assessing the average on-task rate for the rest of the class would probably yield an average lower than 100%, which you could substitute for my 70% figure. In practice, I don't actually quote 70% in reports or meetings - I refer to the peer average, which I collect at the same time as I'm observing the student - so, every 15 seconds, I observe and mark whether a student is on or off-task (and a few other things) - every other observation point I observe the "target student," with the other observation point being focused on a peer (rotating from peer to peer, generally same gender). At the end, I can generally say, "X was on-task 56% of the time, compared with the same-gender peer average of 74%.
     
  18. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Yeah, that's another one of those numbers - 80% (I see 85% a lot too) - there really isn't any set reason why 80% or 85% is used, except that it's high, but not too high. Would be funny if someone decided to use 86% for IEP goals just to throw people off!
     
  19. Bored of Ed

    Bored of Ed Enthusiast

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    Sorry I don't really have anything to contribute, I just wanted to sympathize about the eval. My student teaching grade was heavily based on TWO observations by a representative of the college who was NOT the same person who graded my written work so she did not have any background information about the class, and she didn't give me any time to explain - no conference, just observation followed by critique. She knocked me down a full letter grade in my special ed lesson because two of the students did not participate in the carpet part of the lesson (the teaching part). One of those students (who happens to have Down Syndrome but usually could be engaged on some level, but her condition makes it even harder when it's not a good day for her) was not well that day. She was running a fever, had vomited a couple of times already, and was basically sitting around very very spaced out and waiting for someone to come pick her up. Having her sit on the carpet in the first place was about as much activity as we'd gotten out of her all day. The other kid (who probably had PDD or something) had landed about a week earlier from Vietnam or something and didn't speak a word of English. He was pretty terrified of everything and was gradually being warmed up but you had to be really gentle. If you would talk to him directly half the time he'd panic and run in the other direction. With him too, having him sit among the other children on the carpet at the appropriate time and listen quietly was a HUGE accomplishment. I was not going to wreck that by saying anything to him, which would cause him to shut down for the rest of the day. But I didn't get to say anything to my observer about any of this. I got a B in student teaching. It was the only non-A of my college career and frankly when your lowest grade is in your most practical course it looks terrible...
     
  20. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Kinder, your original question is a great one. Especially for over-achiever type teachers who always feel they could've done better. Nobody can be a perfect student (or teacher) 100% of the time. I am really interested in the statistics that various professors use and posters have mentioned. I wonder if the statistics change with the size of the group being taught. Is it as true for a group of 10 students as it is for a group of 25? And, across age groups? (Assuming the lessons are appropriate and engaging, of course.)
     
  21. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    The rep sounds like a graduate of the "Peter Principle".

    I had a similar experience my first year teaching based on an observation by the district reading director, the "expert", who had risen through the ranks. I was told to feel lucky for the expertise bestowed upon me. In the middle of my lesson she stood up and announced loudly, "Mr. M, you should never allow a student to make a mistake in front of the class without correcting it." What she didn't know and failed to find out I had been working all year with the student in question to build confidence and self-esteem. This was the first time he had volunteered to come to the overhead and write his answer to a problem while students did same at their desks. He made a spelling error. No way was I going public and emphasize his error.

    In contrast my mentor that year had a different approach to observations I have always remembered. At post conference he never said "That was wrong" or "You should never ... ". Instead he would always pose a question, "Why did you choose to .... at that time in the lesson?"
     
  22. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I'm sure it changes based on group size and other variables. 70% is a rough time I've used, but more than that I've found the "peer average" statistic to be more helpful, as it provides a direct comparison with other kids in the class.
     
  23. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    I just want to add that paying attention looks different to different people. Those kids that were playing with a coin, and daydreaming could very well have been listening in their own way .. Just as the kids who appeared to be looking attentively at you, could have just as easily not heard a single word that you said.

    If you ever sat next to me at a meeting - you would be sure I never heard one word, but believe me, I heard every word, as well as three sidebar conversations that were occurring half way across the room.
     
  24. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Yep. And I'm the opposite-you think I'm listening to every word however my mind wanders a lot-especially if it's a time of year where I'm mentally checking off the list of things I need to get done, or get at the store, etc.

    Upsadaisy-I think that's an interesting question too-bigger groups of students definitely means more minds to try and win over.

    About the coin question-I agree. I mean, it wasn't distracting enough that I even noticed it and I'm pretty proactive when it comes to trying to avoid distractions for them.
     
  25. isabunny

    isabunny Comrade

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    Apr 27, 2012

    Some students appear to not be engaged because they are fiddling with a coin, water bottle, pencil, ect... but they can repeat everything that you said. It is their way of getting extra energy out, or activating both sides of their brain while learning. I have know many students who exhibit these behaviors and some are extremely gifted.
     
  26. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    True, about the fiddling around. One brilliant student of mine used to bite his pen, usually breaking it and ending up with ink all around his mouth.
     
  27. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Thank you, EdEd. That makes sense to me. I always had small groups (under 16) but, over time, the proportion of regular ed students to disabled students in our very small school increased steadily. I think this is somewhat expected for a small school because the scale of the environment was conducive to students with special needs. but, boy, did the engagement level change.
     
  28. EdEd

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    Definitely makes sense!
     

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