Kids don’t WANT to be engaged – do they?

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Originally written for this week’s Generation Next NewsletterToilet engaged

Whilst in Denmark last week I had the chance to meet and share ideas with different schools and organisations around the concept of student (and staff) engagement.

Over breakfast with the Department of Pedagogy at the University of Aarhus, one researcher told me of his study that showed that – whilst many teachers and thinkers (myself included) are suggesting students should be allowed more autonomy in education to find their passions and develop goals around their areas of interest – students report not wanting this.

These 16 and 17 year-old students reported wanting in fact needing to be directed as to what they should be doing, even as far as to what they should be passionate about!

So does this mean that those like myself who are pushing for more autonomy in schools are wrong?

You could argue yes.

But I’d suggest that this research could serve as a wake-up call.

Here we have teachers trying to engender and develop intrinsic motivation in their students, and the students are rejecting it.

What becomes of these students when they leave school.

Will they find the same support networks in the workplace or tertiary education?

My experience says no, they won’t.

Intrinsic motivation is an essential component of engagement. If we are genuine about wanting engaged students in school, then we must encourage autonomy from an early age before they become conditioned to having everything done for them.

Even their thinking.

0 Comments on “Kids don’t WANT to be engaged – do they?

  1. I did a practical experience in a very strict, tightly-run private school a couple of years ago. The kids were “easy” to teach because there was NO behaviour mgmt. required. They “learned” a lot, except it was robotic, spoon-fed with a dose of rote-learning. These kids, generally, couldn’t think critically out-of-the-box or even motivate themselves to be innovative. I was told that many got to University BUT many of them also failed and dropped-out because they couldn’t do it without being hand-held by a teacher. So, I think motivating students to think and learn for themselves is important

  2. Isn’t it natural for students to seek guidance? To want the reassurance that that they’re doing is the right thing? That’s something slightly different to them following their passions and abilities. Surely it’s the educator’s role to shepherd the student in the direction they’re wanting to go: “If you really want to be a rocket scientist, then these are the steps you need to take”.

  3. Of course they need direction of they’ve never done this before. We teach students where they are, not where we want them to be. Careful planning and guidance, step by step, soon enough they’ll get it and then love it. Start young? Absolutely. In Australia primary school children are much better at this than high school children, so we also need to manage that transition much better.

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