Research on Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing provides evidence about the benefits of including movement for student health and wellness, as well as for learning challenges including those on the autism spectrum. Teaching Children with Sensory Integration Dysfunctionby Laura Person, MSE Learning DisabilitiesChildren with sensory integration dysfunction make up 12-30% of students who enter the classroom each day. These children have sensory processing difficulties and specific behavior patterns that present unique challenges in the school setting. When a student with sensory integration dysfunction is having difficulty, take a moment to analyze each area of sensory stimulation, and think about what you can do to keep the child in the “just right zone” for learning.
Have you ever plunked yourself down in a staff meeting where some of your colleagues were, for lack of a better phrase, not paying attention? Grading homework? Having private conversations? Texting? As we know all too well, kids aren't a whole lot different than adults: If they aren't absorbed by what's going on, they'll find something else that interests them. Getting all your students focused, eager, and on task at the beginning of class is challenging enough. Equally problematic, once you have them locked in to the lesson, is watching them zone out. There's nothing unusual about that. After all, anyone who has to sit through a long routine -- including a teacher's presentation -- is bound to drift off at some point. Still, unless you manage to capture and keep students' focus, whether at the beginning of or midway through class, the engine of student learning that you are trying to drive simply isn't even in gear.
Over thepast 20 years, however, research into the operation of the human brain has led to theories andparadigms that reflect a more active model of knowledge acquisition. In this model, knowledgeis constructed through interacting with the physical world, acknowledging and appreciating thesocial context of learning environments, and reorganizing existing mental structures (Cognitionand Technology group at Vanderbilt, 1996).
Active student engagement strategies are rooted in cognitive learning theories such asconstructivism and experiential learning (Dewey, 1916; Bruner, 1960, Piaget, 1970). Teacherswho actively engage students use hands-on lessons that require students to use multiple learningskills and higher order thinking to construct meaning and knowledge (Resnick, 1987; Bruner).Such activities often require students to merge their personal experiences with new concepts andskills. Based on student readiness, interest, or learning profile, teachers may also providedifferentiated instruction by adjusting the content, process, required products, or learningenvironment to accommodate variance among learners (Tomlinson, 2000).
The brain is always paying attention to something. The brain can only consciously process one train of thought at a time. While the brain is a parallel processor, we are not consciously aware of most of what is being processed. We don’t think about how the brain is regulating our body temperature (unless we are cold or are having hot flashes); we don’t have to regulate our breathing; we don’t have to focus on moving our hands and fingers while we take notes; we only focus on what our brain decides is important because of emotion or meaning. Then we pay attention to that data. Because the senses are constantly bringing information to the brain, we know that our attention spans are not very long and as soon as something more interesting enters our consciousness, we pay attention to that.
The last point to make about active involvement is the amount of time a brain can focus. Students are not attentive to what is being said in a lecture 40% of the time.Students retain 70% of the information in the first ten minutes of a lecture but only 20% in the last ten minutes. Meyer & Jones, 1993. Point out that staying focused is influenced by the amount of meaning and emotion tied to the task at hand. If students are very interested in something, they can stay focused longer. If they are emotionally connected to something they are learning because it is interesting or very relevant to them, they can stay focused longer.
Some studies have, however, examined the overall impact of student engagement, andthese studies have linked active student engagement with higher achievement. For example,Taylor, Pearson, Peterson and Rodriguez (2003) used stratified random sampling andhierarchical linear modeling to examine the achievement of 792 students in 88 classrooms(Grades 1-5) in nine high-poverty schools. They found a significant, positive correlation betweenactive learning environments and growth in reading comprehension, whereas the correlation wasnegative in passive learning environments. Greene and Miller (1996) found positive linksbetween meaningful engagement and the achievement of the 108 college students participating inthe study. Weiss & Pasley (2004) conducted a qualitative study that involved 480 mathematicsand science teachers in 120 schools from across the nation. Based on observations andinterviews, they concluded that effective mathematics and science instruction invited “students tointeract purposefully with the content” and included “various strategies to involve students andbuild on their previous knowledge” (p. 25).
Student Engagement: A Focused Look
Critical Friends Focused Visit<br />French Creek Elementary School <br /> April 13, 2011<br />
Key Questions<br />How does a teacher ensure that all students are actively and mentally engaged in a lesson?<br />How can teachers engage students to purposefully interact with the content, use multiple learning skills and higher order thinking to construct meaning and knowledge?<br />How can teachers give students time to process and derive meaning from the information taught in a active way. <br />How can teachers engage student interest, meaning and emotion to positively impact learning?<br />How does the design and environment of the classroom impact active learning?<br />How do teachers hold every student accountable for learning?<br />