engaging minds in the internet age

Effort versus Engagement

with 5 comments

We’re often getting stuck in to our students about their effort in class and when studying for tests.  I think the question of engagement is more important than effort (though effort is not out of the picture completely).

When you think about it, effort comes easy when the engagement is there – if you like the topic, or the way of studying it, or the end goal is more real to you, then it will be easy to get your mind into it.

Engagement is also a better guarantee of mental processing during learning – a student studying for a test can put in a huge effort but, if the topic sucks and is really boring, they might learn nothing (except a deeper hate for that subject).

I’m working with my students in one class to see if we can improve their motivation and their engagement with the material during daily review and test preparation (I hate tests but they add a little pressure which can be useful to help motivate – there are better ways to add positive pressure and improve engagement but the system we have is the system we have…)

I did tell my students to put their effort into engaging…

There are two types of engagement which can confuse the issue:

  1. automatic engagement which is more akin to interest
  2. deliberate engagement which is less related to interest and more related to getting your mind to actively process the material in a memorable way

I wonder how we can help ourselves to better engage with meetings (if they are necessary)



Written by watchsamfly

March 29, 2012 at 01:48

Posted in education

Tagged with , ,

5 Responses

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  1. You are absolutely correct: engagement is key. Effort is good but if it doesn’t stem from engagement, from real connection & genuine interest, the information will probably be lost in the future. The importance of every lesson really lies in the motivation, relating the information to the students and their lives, which many teachers over look.


    March 29, 2012 at 02:03

  2. Interesting thoughts. I agree that engagement is of more value than effort, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about engagement in preparation for my research this year, and generally have a lot of questions about it. First and foremost is the idea that just because a student is engaged, does it actually mean they are learning? I think there are so many unknowns with engagement. Many ‘good’ students will engage in their work whether they are interested in it or not, but does it mean they are learning? Perhaps they are engaged but not interested and therefore simply ‘going through the motions’. I don’t know – I’m just throwing those thoughts out there.


    March 29, 2012 at 02:35

    • Good observations, Nathaniel. I think your observation of good students engaging regardless of interest is pretty close to point two at the bottom. I sometimes wonder whether there is more interest in the learning process itself and the general ability to master a topic (than there is interest in the topic) – that can be true for me I know.

      What’s the topic of your research?


      March 29, 2012 at 06:56

      • Oops, I forgot to reply to this, sorry. I’m researching how /why different activities affect student engagement in online courses.


        April 3, 2012 at 23:00

        • That sounds pretty interesting. If you end up posting it online I’d love to have a browse of your conclusions.


          April 4, 2012 at 01:06

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