Differentiating Student Engagement
Engagement techniques are important to a student’s classroom and overall school experience. As students acclimate back into the classroom environment, teachers are looking for creative ways to make up for lost time and to ensure purposeful connections with their students. During the pandemic, students and teachers were responsible for learning and engaging with one another through remote learning platforms. Remote learning platforms served as a differentiation option for students and teachers to connect virtually. Although remote learning carried the education landscape during the pandemic, it could not fix the loss of learning or replace the direct student engagement that students traditionally experience in person.
To help educators with student engagement, the Fordham University-PDRC developed a supportive strand called differentiation. The differentiation strand is designed to help educators address the unique needs of students in and out of the classroom. Due to the pandemic, students are returning to the classroom with unique needs that challenge the traditional landscape of the teaching practice. As a result, educators are in need of creative ways to connect with students to address their unique learning needs and social emotional framework.
This month’s teacher spotlight highlights a creative engagement tool that educators can incorporate into their classroom experience called “Cogens”. Teacher advocate and researcher, Dr. Donald Garner, Ph. D. collaborated with the PDRC webinar series to illustrate the “Cogen” model for educators. The cogen model creates a space for students and teachers to connect meaningfully in a direct way. For example, it curates co-generative dialogue, it welcomes student expression, and gives teachers the opportunity to develop strategic plans to address student needs. According to Dr. Garner, Cogens are simply strategic student groups designed to learn and connect with student needs.
The best way to create cogens is to have a plan in mind. For example, teachers can use cogens for lesson planning to ensure student interaction and participation with the curriculum. Another option is to use cogens for understanding the gaps in student learning, social views, and personal perspectives. In particular, Dr. Garner uses the cogen model for diversity discussions to intentionally engage students in healthy dialogue. He sets ground rules for each group and assigns a specific task to be performed. In addition, he offers a rotation option for the students to engage with themes set at different tables. The success of this engagement tool welcomes student voice, challenges student inquiry, and positively influences the classroom experience.
Dr. Garner also encouraged educators to use the cogen model for after school support to intentionally connect with students outside of the traditional classroom setting. Students can experience intentional learning, community building, and diversified support through this engagement framework. In addition, educators can use cogens to gather data about their students for the purpose of differentiating their approach to student needs and support. According to Dr. Garner, “When you hear the student, you can connect better with the student”. Student insight is the best way to understand learning loss, social emotional needs, and the value of education in the student’s life.
The cogen model is an action based tool that is helpful for teachers to meaningfully engage with students. It is a differentiation instrument that supports the teaching practice, fosters student connections, and develops academic insight. Overall, implementing the cogen model can help sustain the efforts made in your classroom and the overall school experience for your students.
Dr. Shana Eutsay, Ed.D.
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