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Date Author Title
2012-01-23 Steve Gardiner Book Review: The Highly Engaged Classroom

Student engagement is a topic of interest to most people involved in education today. If students are interested and paying attention, they will probably learn. If they are not interested and are not paying attention, chances are they will not learn. The question, then, is how do we design classrooms and lessons that foster student engagement?

In their book The Highly Engaged Classroom (Marzano Research Laboratory, 2011), Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering and Tammy Heflebower use four questions to establish guidelines that would support student engagement.


The four questions are

  1. How do I feel?

  2. Am I interested?

  3. Is this important?

  4. Can I do this?

The authors state that the first two questions deal with student attention and the last two questions deal with student engagement.


The first question regarding “How do I feel?” examines the student's level of energy, the disposition and personality of the teacher, and the student's perception of acceptance by the teacher and peers. The pacing of the class, the routines that are established, movement within the physical environment, the use of humor, and the student-teacher relationship can all affect the response to this question.


The second question of “Am I interested?” determines if students are inclined to participate in the activities during that class. The authors have found that several things influence a student's interest level including use of classroom games, inconsequential competitions, friendly controversy, and guest speakers. Teachers may also use strategies such as calling on students randomly, allowing enough wait time after a question, voting as a class, discussing and responding in pairs, and other techniques to increase student involvement.


The third question, “Is this important?” allows teachers to use a variety of tasks such as decision making, problem solving, experimental inquiry or investigation to keep student interest high. Students need choices and one way of showing how important a lesson is to allow students to choose the way they respond to it. They may also choose their own learning goals.


The final question is “Can I do this?” is related to competency and self-efficacy. Students enjoy learning when they can control their own actions and see success in what they do. Students who believe that their efforts lead to growth and learning will be more successful than those that don't.


The authors' basic premise is that attention and engagement are important factors in the success of a classroom and they are directly in control of the teacher. To help with this, the authors include several surveys, questionnaires, and guidelines to help with each chapter so that teachers can choose which areas they need help with and use those materials.

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