I am continually surprised by my students, they are so unique and individual, they find ways to surprise me about when and how they learn – often when I least expect it, and most often when I don’t expect it. They are inconsistent (in a good way) because if I think I can categorize them as using a particular approach to engaging in a topic, they show me some other motivation that works for them with another topic. This can be challenging as a teacher with a room of diverse-thinking and -learning students. For example, if I rely on words I may miss engaging the student who needs graphics to approach the topic. There are many ways a student might engage in a topic.

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The above does not represent an exhaustive list of ways to engage, it is just a quick way, at the moment, that I am thinking about student engagement. I used self-efficacy as an inspiration. Students’ self-efficacy is related to their achievement – the higher their self-efficacy (their beliefs in their capabilities to perform a particular task) the greater chance they will persevere, take risks, be resilient, problem-solve, etc. The cycle above is inspired by the four sources to self-efficacy: verbal persuasion, vicarious experience, mastery experiences, and physiological/affective experiences.

Students care about what they are learning – they ‘tell’ me when they pay attention and when they don’t pay attention. Relevance to their thinking and the way they feel they fit into the world around them that day seems to be a key predictor of student engagement.

I wanted students to understand (not calculate, but understand) the concept of intersections of lines. So I put three notes up on the board, and asked them to read the one that appealed to them the most.

Then we talked about the importance of the intersection point of lines.

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They talked about what they cared about – which was spending their money wisely. We then talked about how details can be made in to lines, and the point where those lines intersect could be helpful in our decision-making.

(p.s. I used this in a grade 10 applied class. I didn’t catch everyone, but more were engaged than last year when I started with note 1, then went to note 2, and then gave them a ‘problem’ with note 3. This is anecdotal evidence – but based on research evidence: working towards an evidence-based practice. For details about self-efficacy, see Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.)

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Jamie Pyper

Jamie Pyper

mathematics educator and researcher | mathematics teacher (OCT) | and craft beer enthusiast! | he/him | #MSTE Coordinator, #PBLmathEd #CMESG #NCTM | mathperceptionproject.ca @314_per

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