The Roots of Engaged Teaching
There are five major roots of the Engaged Teaching Approach. Each root represents a fundamental aspect of the approach, and together, these roots support a holistic view of teaching and learning that empowers and sustains teachers and effectively prepares students for the complexities of the 21st century. These roots also directly support and inform the trunk (the practices and principles) and branches (the intermediate and long term outcomes) of the engaged teaching approach. These roots are:
Integrating Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning
Neuroscience and learning theory suggest that social, emotional, and academic learning are inseparable. Education research in social and emotional learning makes a strong case that integrating these aspects of learning helps students succeed in school and life. (Weissberg et al., 2011) Professor Emeritus and author Robert Sylwester writes, “We know that emotion is very important to the educative process because it drives attention, which drives learning and memory.” (1995, p. 72). Even if our only focus is on meeting academic goals, we still need to foster social and emotional skills and capacities in ourselves and our students to achieve the academic results we desire.
Investing in Relationships and Community
Learning does not happen in a vacuum, but in a very particular context. When we work conscientiously to build trusting relationships and to acknowledge and respond to cultural contexts, we foster our students capacity to learn and grow. When we invest in community building and create a healthy classroom “container” for learning, we simultaneously foster student safety, and resilience. Academic excellence is inextricably tied to the development of caring relationships( teacher-student, student-student). For this reason, taking the time and space to cultivate an intentional and positive learning environment and learning community is essential to achieving academic outcomes and school safety (Eccles & Roeser, 2011).
Responding to Cultural Contexts
Culture is the water we swim in, the air we breathe, the lens we see through. Students and teachers come into the classroom with a particular understanding based on their cultural context and background. When we acknowledge the role of culture (including access to resources and other issues related to equity), we are better able to identify, value, and respond to the multiple identities and cultures present in our learning communities. Fostering cultural responsiveness—in ourselves and our students—is key to meeting academic goals, addressing inequities, and creating inclusive, engaged learning communities. Teachers who recognize or acknowledge the importance of culture often discover powerful opportunities to engage students.
Fostering Connection, Meaning, and Purpose
Fostering a sense of meaning, purpose, and connection in the classroom is directly related to teaching and learning outcomes. When students have a sense of purpose and feel connected to themselves, their teachers, their peers, and the larger community, they are more resilient, compassionate, and motivated. They are more likely to care about their schoolwork and make healthy choices in school and in their personal lives.
Students are yearning for more connection at school—to feel seen, known, and understood. Without this sense of connection, students are much more likely to disengage, check out, become apathetic, or turn to risky behaviors. Connection is fundamental to academic excellence, academic success, and resilience—the capacity for students to work with challenge and manage adversity.
Addressing Developmental Stages
Individuals and learning communities naturally progress through stages of development in ways that directly impact learning. Addressing the developmental stages of individuals and groups involves 1) paying attention to where students are in their physical, emotional, and cognitive development; 2) meeting the changing developmental needs of our students across the arc of the school term or year; 3) supporting students' transitions--especially during the critical transition years between elementary, middle and high school.