Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Attendance vs. Engagement

Every day we take attendance. Every period we take attendance. Wouldn't it be interesting if instead of giving students credit for attendance we gave them credit for engagement. Sure you were physically present, but were you engaged? And if not, why not?

Sure you were here yesterday, but did you complete the class work? Did you ask questions related to the area of study? Were you an active participant in learning?


Sure I planned a lesson for my students today. Sure they were present. No, no one asked any really good questions, they just sort of went through the motions. They were present, not engaged. No credit. Why not? Marking for engagement vs attendance would certainly change the way I design my lessons.


  1. I do this with a bonus bank. If a student is on their game and asks questions leading to a deeper understanding I add points to their bank. This bank is also available for constructed response answers and anything that shows deep engagement. I do believe it should be left up to the individual teacher though.


  2. Wouldn't engagement be a very difficult thing to measure? People process so differently; for example, in some meetings I'm really quiet ... I might not even have a thought formulated to share, but it doesn't mean I'm not reflecting on the content.

    With that said, I agree that sitting in a desk does not equal learning. If I could figure out how to manage it, I'd have a "ticket out" quick-quiz question every day. That would bring some level of accountability to every student present that day. Any ideas on how to do this?

  3. I used to use outcome sentences each day and students would hand them to me as they left the room. Trouble was, you had to constantly provide feedback and it go a bit cumbersome. A personal assistant here would help that matter.

  4. I told my students that I am going to start walking around the room and giving them an engagement grade during independent work and count it toward NA.I walk around with clipboard and roster in hand and give them a check for engagement and an x for non-engagement. At this point it means using independent time wisely and asking clarifying questions.

  5. Great idea, Betsey. Let us know how it works/maintains, etc.

  6. One observation is that as I walk around the room with my clipboard, the students know that I am documenting their behavior. I am able to have one on one exchanges with every student as I observe their work.I am able to give them immediate feedback on their writing/reading. Sometimes a student will ask a question or make an engaging comment about the text. This leads to other students giving input. I just keep walking around or talking quietly to working students while the student led discussion ensues. I am amazed, sometimes, at how they settle down and get back to work by themselves sometimes with profuse "sshhhh's".To me, differentiation flows naturally from this kind of setting. While initially all students are giving the same assignment, I end up adjusting deadlines, etc., as I see students working at different paces so students set their own goals for homework that night. I simply mark that goal on my seating chart with some kind of code. It also gives me the opportunity to provide extra credit. I.e., if students complete early or extend the assignment, they can receive extra credit.