Engagement

Guideline 7: Provide options for recruiting interest for promoting and maintaining engagement.

Information that is not attended to, that does not engage a student's cognition, is in fact inaccessible, is particularly challenging in assessment. If information is inaccessible both in the moment—relevant information goes unnoticed and unprocessed—and in the future—relevant information is unlikely to be remembered. As a result, teachers devote considerable time and effort to recruiting student attention and engagement . Students differ significantly in what attracts their attention and engages their interest across assessment and instructional setting. The same student will be engaged differently over time and circumstance; interests change as they develop and gain new knowledge and skills, as their biological environments change, and as they differentiate into self-determined adolescents and adults. It is therefore important, especially in an assessment situation to have alternative means of recruiting student interest, means that reflect the important inter- and intra-individual differences among students.

7.1 Options that increase individual choice and autonomy

One of the most successful ways to recruit students' interest is by giving them choices and opportunities for personal control. In assessment and instructional settings, it is often inappropriate to provide choice of the learning objective itself. Offering students choices can develop self-determination and pride in accomplishment, and increase the degree to which students feel connected to their learning. It is important to note, however, that providing choices is an important option, not a fixed feature. Some assessment items that may not lend themselves well to providing choice.

7.2 Options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity

Individuals are engaged by information and activities that are relevant and valuable to their authentic interests and goals. Conversely, individuals are rarely interested in information and activities that have no relevance or value. In an assessment setting, one of the most important ways that teachers recruit interest is to highlight the utility and the relevance of tasks to demonstrate that relevance through authentic, meaningful activities and tasks. It is a mistake, of course, to assume that all students will find the same activities or information equally relevant or valuable. To recruit all students, it is critical to have options in the kinds of activities, topics, and tasks in assessment and/or activities.

7.3 Provide alternatives to negative or disengaging consequences and/or contexts

Students differ considerably in their responses to stimuli and to events in their environment. The same novel event in a classroom can be exciting and interesting to one individual but ominous and frightening to another. Similarly, for some students, reducing potential distractions is of great benefit to sustaining effort and concentration. For others, the presence of “distracters” in the environment may actually have beneficial effects: they study better in a noisy environment than in a quiet one. Differences in the effects of novelty, change, stimulation, complexity, and touch are just a few examples of stable differences among individuals that have both physiological and environmental roots. The optimal environment offers options that, in the aggregate, reduce threats and negative distractions.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is a program generally used for school wide and class wide interventions, although the principles apply to individuals as well. Resources on "Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports" for teachers and administrators available on this informational website - http://www.pbis.org/school/what_is_swpbs.aspx

Image of student at interactive whiteboard with picture of a caterpillar with numbered sections. Student has choice of numbers to place into the caterpillar.

Student standing at an interactive white board selects the number 3 as the next number in sequence from 1-10.

Resources on "Sensory Processing Disorder: Tips for Teachers" - see this informational website for teachers: http://www.spdbayarea.org/SPD_tips_for_teachers.htm

Guideline 8: Provide options for sustaining attention, effort, and persistence.

Learning and measurement of learning, require sustained attention and effort. When motivated to do so, many students can regulate their attention and affect in order to sustain the effort and concentration that such tasks require. However, students differ considerably in their ability to self-regulate. Individual differences reflect disparities in their initial motivation, their capacity and skills for self-regulation , their susceptibility to contextual interference, and so forth. A key goal is to provide supports and scaffolds to help individuals build self-regulation and self-determination skills (see Guideline 9). Simultaneously, the external environment must provide options that can equalize accessibility by supporting students who differ in initial motivation, self-regulation skills, etc.

8.1 Options that heighten salience of goals and objectives

Over the course of any sustained or systematic effort, there are many sources of interest and engagement that compete for attention and effort. For some students, a significant limitation exists in merely remembering the initial goal or in maintaining a consistent vision of the rewards of reaching that goal. For those students, it is important to build in periodic or persistent “reminders” of both the goal and its value in order for them to sustain effort and concentration in the face of attractive distracters.

Resources on "TeacherVision's Creating Rubrics" - see this informational series website for teachers: http://www.teachervision.fen.com/teaching-methods-and-management/rubrics/4521.html

8.2 Options that vary levels of challenge and support

Students vary not only in their skills and abilities but in the kinds of challenges that motivate them to do their best work. Some students prefer high-risk, highly challenging endeavors, for example, while others prefer safely reachable objectives with predictable outcomes. Providing a range of construct irrelevant challenges that are varied, and a range of possible supports in the assessment that allow students to be optimally motivated.

Resources on "Windows to the Universe" -see this informational website for teachers:http://www.windows2universe.org/windows.html

8.3 Options that foster collaboration and communication

For some students, the option of working collaboratively with other students is an effective way to sustain engagement in protracted projects and activities. When carefully structured, peer collaboration can significantly increase the available support for sustained engagement. For other students, especially those for whom peer interactions are problematic, encouraging open lines of communication helps to develop student-teacher relationships that support achievement and engagement. In the assessment arena, communication regarding who and how to ask questions may be essential and support engagement.

8.4 Options that increase mastery-oriented feedback

Assessment is most productive for sustaining engagement when the feedback is relevant, constructive, accessible, consequential, and timely. Types of feedback are also critical in helping students sustain the motivation and effort essential to learning. Feedback that orients students toward mastery (rather than compliance or performance) and that emphasizes the role of effort and practice rather than “intelligence” or inherent “ability” is an important factor in guiding students toward successful long-term habits of mind.

Guideline 9: Provide options for promoting and increasing self-regulation.

While it is important to design the extrinsic environment so that it can support motivation and engagement (see Guidelines 7 and 8), in the assessment situation it is important to develop students’ intrinsic abilities to regulate their own emotions and motivations. The ability to self-regulate—to strategically modulate one's emotional reactions or states in order to cope or engage with the environment more effectively—is a critical aspect of human development. Many individuals have significant difficulty developing self-regulatory skills and applying them to the assessment setting. Unfortunately, most classrooms do not address these skills explicitly, classrooms that explicitly address self-regulation generally assume a single model or method for doing so. Successful approaches to self-regulation require providing sufficient alternatives to support individual learners with varied aptitudes and prior experience in learning to effectively manage their own engagement and affect.

9.1 Provide tools and options for setting appropriate (attainable and engaging) goals

When in the assessment situation, setting goals for self-regulation is explicitly affective—learning to avoid frustration, learning to modulate anxiety, learning to set positive expectations. The actual optimum goals, however, will depend on the individual—some students need to dampen anxiety to succeed, while others may need to elevate it somewhat. Consequently, it is essential that the models, prompts, guides, and rubrics must also be varied enough to accommodate the full range of students who will need support.

Image of student manipulating paper images and icons on a chart to denote schedule for the day.

Student using icons and images to plan and follow the schedule of classes for the day selects and places the symbol for mathematics to denote her next class.

Many websites are available to structure setting goals for students. This commercial website is one example of templates and information for teachers to use in setting goals for students of all abilities. http://www.educationworld.com/tools_templates/index.shtml

9.2 Options that scaffold coping skills and strategies to promote emotional self-regulation

When in the assessment situation, setting goals for self-regulation is explicitly affective—learning to avoid frustration, learning to modulate anxiety, learning to set positive expectations. The actual optimum goals, however, will depend on the individual—some students need to dampen anxiety to succeed, while others may need to elevate it somewhat. Consequently, it is essential that the models, prompts, guides, and rubrics must also be varied enough to accommodate the full range of students who will need support.

Resources on "Coping Skills for Kids Brain Works Project" - see this informational website for teachers, and students: http://www.copingskills4kids.net/

9.3 Options that develop self-assessment and reflection to promote emotional self-regulation

In order to develop better capacity for self-regulation in all situations including assessment and instruction, students need to monitor their, status emotions and reactivity carefully and accurately. Individuals differ considerably in their capability and propensity for such monitoring, and some students will need explicit instruction, modeling and scaffolding in order to do this successfully. For many students, merely recognizing that they are making progress toward greater independence is highly motivating. Alternatively, one of the key factors in students losing motivation is their inability to recognize their own progress. It is important, moreover, that students have multiple models and scaffolds of different techniques so that they can identify, and choose, those that are optimal.