August 10, 2020

Building Engagement

In the SmartBlog on Leadership, Paul Marciano, author of “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT”, writes about Motivation vs Engagement.He differentiates motivated and engaged workers both by how they work and by the quality of their work:

“Engaged employees are in the game for the sake of the game; they believe in the cause of the organization. Motivated employees are in it for what they can get out of it. When the carrot is taken away, the effort of the motivated employee disappears. Engaged employees are hardy — they continue to work toward accomplishing the task and supporting the mission of the organization, despite environmental challenges.

Another important difference between motivated and engaged employees is the quality of their work. Motivated employees want to get to the finish line to get their carrot. In contrast, engaged employees want to “win” and do the best job possible, meaning taking their time and getting things right. It also means paying attention to their surroundings, in contrast to motivated people, who are like racehorses wearing blinders. Engaged employees are truly passionate and thoughtful about their work and are the difference makers in your organization.”

What considerations might this have for teachers planning for the start of next school year? How would one’s approach to students and instruction differ if trying to build engagement or motivation?

At Performance Learning Systems, we often talk about the need for students to have a “Compelling Why” for learning,

an emotional connection to learning. I recently visited a charter elementary school where 5th grade students were preparing for exhibitions. Their topics of safety on the internet, childhood cancers, homelessness in their community were explored and selected to gain engagement.Beginning the year with a discussion of the “test” or “How to get an A” may create motivation that lasts until the difficulties arise. Then students may go looking for an easier way to obtain the reward or decide that a B is “good enough”.

Dr. E. Shelly Reid writes that we sacrifice engagement when we focus on correctness, control, or coverage.

An elementary principal summarized her thoughts on engagement this way:

“When a student is ‘engaged’ there is an authentic partnership in the act of learning. As educators, when we facilitate the engagement of our students we are nurturing their ability to become an integral part of identifying the bigger picture and the ultimate goals to be reached. As students make a more genuine contribution to their own learning they are able to take part in developing the tasks that will assist in achieving those goals.”

I’m afraid that too often motivation seems easier to create than engagement and we take that easier route. (Grades)

What considerations should principals and coaches give to approaching teachers with motivation or engagement? How does one approach faculty meetings, professional learning communities, and professional development to create engagement?

What message do we send when the opening comments are, “Sign in so you get your hours” or “ I will make this go as quickly as I can.”?

How do leaders create compelling whys for teachers?

This week I wrote a recommendation for a principal seeking a position as a principal coach. I believe she knows how to create engagement:

Here are some keys to her success:

a strong vision for student success that builds a school-wide focus for staff, students, and parents.

–a learning leader. She constantly models for her team that she is in the process of learning. She models her own desire to be coached and focused on continuous improvement. This encourages her staff to do the same.
builds teams to serve teachers and students. In my work I have observed her build a set of leaders at the school level and at grade levels within the school. This shared leadership model builds ownership of the school goals among the staff and builds the capacity of individual staff. Teachers from her teams have advanced to increasing levels of responsibility with the district.
uses a coaching approach to build the skills of teachers. She constantly brings learning opportunities to her staff, actively joins them in the learning process, and then creates coaching feedback opportunities. Her extensive knowledge of teaching and learning provides strong support to her staff.
beliefs and desires to serve students creates perseverance and follow through to tackle the challenges of changing a school culture.

Building engagement is hard work…a constant challenge for teachers and school leaders…and the key to success.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *