Are students as invested in learning as their teachers?
Why is Student investment Important?
When students are invested in learning, they report feeling engaged, hopeful, and able to navigate disappointments and failures to achieve their goals. When students become disenfranchised, they give up on learning and fail to invest in their own learning. These students simply dropout regardless of whether or not they continue to occupy a seat in the classroom. The personal cost and loss of opportunity not only rob students of a promising future, but also end up costing the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
The Gallup’s 2015 student survey, “Engaged Today: Ready for Tomorrow,”
reveals startling numbers of students who are not engaged, hopeful, or ready to enter the workforce.
The survey is administered free of charge to 5th through 12th graders.
Overall 50% of students are not engaged. These students are not involved, have little enthusiasm for school,
and do not feel they contribute to the learning environment.
Unfortunately, the statistics worsen and by 12th grade 66% of students report being disengaged.
52% of students are not hopeful. The findings also show 34% of students feel stuck
and 19% are simply discouraged. These students lack clear goals,
are unable to overcome obstacles, and lack the energy to achieve in school and the workplace.
Teachers and leaders at all levels have the power to turn around these dismal statistics. It begins by looking at the learning experience from the student’s perspective and using what we know works bests to transform schooling for students and teachers alike. In essence, it requires educators to sit in the learner’s seat with new eyes and ears.
Changing the View
When we shift our focus from teacher behaviors to what the students are thinking and doing, we take the first giant step to shift our point of view. Consider a teacher reviewing Friday’s quiz who sighs in exasperation, “I taught it, therefore they should get it!” How would the teacher’s perspective change if the question became, “I taught it today, but did they learn it?”
The question invites the teacher to begin looking for the evidence of learning early on in the process. Many teachers are quite familiar with exit and entrance slips that provide clues to what students know and don’t know, and use them to adjust instruction. And yet, we can take this idea of “looking for evidence” deeper to see if students are invested in learning or simply compliant. Many of our learners are going through the motions and failing to be fully engaged, invested in learning, thriving, and challenged to reach their potential.
Learning from the Other Side
When a teacher or administrator takes time to look at learning from the other side, they mentally take a student’s seat and begin to see learning from the student’s perspective. Consider what one might learn by intently observing a student who leaves a classroom for specialized instruction and then re-enters (i.e. Title I reading, special education, or gifted and talented). What has been gained or lost for this student, and how do other students react or help re-orient the student? These are only a few questions that will be generated when seeing learning from the other side of the classroom. To gain greater clarity and specificity, students can be interviewed individually or in small groups to ascertain what is working and what is not. To have a more generalized assessment of the status quo, class discussions and student surveys can provide a helpful starting point to begin surfacing the learning experience and voice of students. The information gleaned from seeing learning from our students’ perspective can inform reality and actions forever.
Assessing Investment in Learning
The descriptors from the Student Investment in Learning Survey below can shine a spotlight to uncover which students are truly engaged, hopeful, and thriving—and which students are not and why a disparity exits. The table below provides a starting point to begin investigating the current state in a school from two vantage points—student focused observations and student focused interviews. It is possible to begin gathering information by observing student behaviors and listening to their conversations. Interviewing individual students or small groups to listen to their stories and perceptions provides the needed “back story” to fully understand learning from the student’s vantage point.
In the far left hand column are descriptors associated with John Hattie’s meta-analyses of the research that has been shown to double and even triple the rate of learning. The middle column provides a sampling of student behaviors that can be observed. The right hand column offers examples of questions to ascertain the student’s perspective regarding the learning experience.
Student Investment in Learning
|Characteristics of an Invested Learner||Sample Observation Criteria||Sample Interview Questions|
|Engaged Learner||Students are …||Questions to ask students.|
|Our students can describe the relevancy of what they are learning. They have opportunities to explore topics of interest to challenge and deepen learning.||
|Our students can reference multiple sources of evidence they use to self-assess their learning progress and plan their next steps (i.e. work products, assessments, beliefs, strategies).||
|Our students can share examples to illustrate how they positively influence and contribute to the learning of their peers and their teacher.||
|Our students can explain how they support the development of positive, learning-focused relationships with peers and adults.||
|Our students realize that missteps are a necessary part of learning. They can outline strategies that work best for them and how they address errors or mistakes to overcome challenges.||
Consider taking the survey now. The survey provides a glimpse into what it can look like when students are fully invested in learning and working just as hard as their teachers and leaders. Increasing student investment in learning is a team effort. It requires a willingness to explore the learning experience from the student’s perspective and to begin digging into to the research to surface practices that can double and triple the rate of learning for all students.
You can also download the printable Invested Learner poster for your classroom.
Bridgeland, J. M., Dilulio, J. J., & Morison, K. B. (2006) The silent epidemic: Perspectives from High School Dropouts. Civic Enterprises. https://docs.gatesfoundation.org/Documents/thesilentepidemic3-06FINAL.pdf Retrieved 08/23/14.
Gallup Student Poll: Engaged Today —Ready for Tomorrow FALL 2015 SURVEY RESULTS http://www.gallupstudentpoll.com/188036/2015-gallup-student-poll-overall-report.aspx Retrieved 05/12/16.
Hattie, J. A. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.
O’Connell, M. J. & Vandas, K. (2015). Partnering with students: building ownership of
learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.