Stop Blinging it and Start Bringing it: engagement

Nowadays we bling everything. Bling refers to the imaginary shine and sound a diamond makes when it is hit perfectly by the light. Today we bling our car, phone and bags. In education, we also bling. We take the newest, shiniest trend word and we bling it out. We use it at meetings, we use it in lesson plans, we literally drink from the blingedwater of the educational buzzword fountain. This got me thinking: When are we going to stop blinging it and start bringing it? How can we take the buzzwords and apply them as examples of great education? In a few short blogposts I will look at some of the current buzzwords and explore how they are (ab)used and how they can be applied in learning. Today, the last one in a serie of three, I dive into engagement.


This is one of my favorites! How do you know students are engaged? In my daily practice I experience that educators often say that students are engaged when they are paying attention. There seems to be a slight confusion between engaged and compliant. Just because students are sitting still, facing front, and taking notes (essentially paying attention) does not mean they are engaged, nor does it mean they are learning. However, if we create real-world, relevant experiences, the engagement is sure to follow.

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8 qualities

When diving in to engagement you will find about 8 qualities. Engagement as personal response, clear/modeled expectations, emotional/intellectual safety, learning with others, sense of audience, choice, novelty/variety, and authenticity.
These are all buzzwords in a way. So how can you pinpoint effective approaches and strategies to engage your students beyond compliance? We can easily foster engagement by practicing the first two buzzwords: engineering learning opportunities that build 21st century skills and relevant/real world experiences—choice and authenticity—but we can also build engagement with a few smaller changes that can take place today.


Instead of asking recall questions, move up Bloom’s Taxonomy and ask questions that have multiple answers. Ask students to explain and defend their answer or share their thought process with the class—personal response. Before giving assignments, share with them the final product or assessment and rubric for the unit. This way students have visual representations—clear, modeled expectations—of what their success will look like. Foster an environment that encourages risk taking—emotional and intellectual safety. For example, instead of asking for the “right” answer, have students say all the possible “wrong” answers and explain why they are wrong. Get them up and out of their seats and get social, work in structured groups, or build class discussions—learning with others. A noisy but structured class could very well be learning more than our silent and compliant class.

active learning

When I strip away all the bling, I realize this is just coaching active learning. Sparking curiosity, asking students ‘why’, encouraging questions, disagreements, and demonstrations by tapping into life skills, innovation attitudes and relevant experiences are strategies that help us to step outside of our traditional school boxes and prepare our students for their tomorrows in a way that makes sense for them. So it’s time we stop with the Buzzword Bling and start bringing it to our classrooms with experiences that truly drive student learning.

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