U of Michigan pushes “engaged learning”

Whether you know it as “active learning,” “experiential learning,” or “transformative learning,” chances are you’ve heard the benefits of “engaged learning”–a cover term for instructional efforts to help students gain awareness of their learning processes and take charge of their learning experience.

As the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported, the University of Michigan has invested heavily in championing engaged teaching across its institution, funding 130 related projects with $20.5 million in grants.

The University’s detailed report on the project includes a helpful synthesis of related learning theories, as well as an honest assessment of what worked, what didn’t, and what other institutions could consider when embarking on similar projects.

For teachers, the most interesting takeaway from the report might be the UofM faculty’s summary of goals for engaged learning (p. 6):

1. Creativity – students must develop an understanding of creative processes and understand their own capacity to create new works and ideas. They must understand that creativity is not a rare gift to the few, but a fundamental human trait that can be developed and expanded.

2. Intercultural engagement – our learners must understand the role of values and culture in driving decisions, they must develop flexibility in working with others having different values.

3. Social/civic responsibility and ethical reasoning – students should develop an understanding of the human, social and environmental impacts of actions, and develop the ethical reasoning tools to make sustainable and responsible decisions; and they must develop their ability to hold and reason across the perspectives of multiple stakeholders.

4. Communication, collaboration and teamwork – students must have the ability to communicate with many audiences and to utilize varied formats and styles that will most effectively convey their messages. They must appreciate and leverage diverse contributions to a task, and know how to cooperate with others towards common purposes.

5. Self-agency, and the ability to innovate and take risks – students must know how to observe the opportunities and capacities of human communities, understand where new or existing ideas or systems could bring value within those communities, and be able to act effectively in order to drive sustained and positive change to provide that value.

Check out the full report for summaries of the projects that addressed these aims. Some great food for thought!

How do you facilitate engaged learning in your classroom? Let us know at TESOLidarity@gmail.com!