A wonderful, new synthesis of research identifies a main reason why students do not thrive in school and provides clear directions for improvement. The study, titled “Supporting Social, Emotional, and Academic Development” is published by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. While focused on public schools in Chicago, the study applies to any school where a gap persists between teacher expectations and student performance.
The study elegantly identifies three areas of student engagement: behavioral, emotional, and cognitive. The problem? Behavioral engagement is the most visible of the three, therefore teachers tend to focus on student behaviors more than their emotional or cognitive moments in the class. Most course and lesson design overlooks student emotional states and cognitive work. Interventions for low-performing students often focus on student behaviors and ultimately fail. From the study:
Lesson planning, content coverage, and test preparation can take all of educators’ time, leaving little time to reflect on why it is that not all students are fully engaged in the work that has been asked of them. A focus on student engagement requires a change in priorities from not only identifying how well students are meeting expectations, to also working to get all students able to meet those expectations.
The study is a potentially useful tool for school leaders, instructional coaches, teachers engaged in reflective self-improvement.