In the 21st century, students must feel connected to their learning and be engaged with projects and problems relevant to their world. Students need to see how their academic work applies to their future careers and experience opportunities to be active citizens and leaders in their communities.
Increased opportunities to apply learning in authentic conditions improves student achievement and intellectual and social development while providing practical experiences for the real world (Heller et al, 2003). This approach to student engagement also helps students develop a better sense of the connection between personal effort, experimentation in problem solving, and hypothesis testing. Starratt warns, “learners are forced to make believe that they know what they do not know” (2005). Traditional teaching, learning, and testing often give students false sense of understanding and lack of understanding. There is also evidence that links student performance to a sense of belonging or connectedness to their learning environment (Quaglia, 2007). Students who enjoy a supportive learning environment in which they connect with their teachers on a personal level feel a sense of affinity for their peers and toward the institution and are willing to take risks in leadership roles. They are more likely to have higher academic and personal aspirations and self-confidence, as well as exhibit excitement and engagement in their work (Plucker, 1998).
2011–12 Recommended Actions:
· Teachers need to understand and value the importance of student engagement and connectedness.
· Students are surveyed for sense of connectedness and teachers use the results to examine practices.
· Engage students through increases in authentic activities.
· Identify and deploy a hub for collecting, sharing, and accessing best practices across the District.