When engagement is not right
I have written for some time now on the effectiveness of learning interventions and how it depends on the learner’s ability and willingness to engage. But is there something as too much engagement? And if there is, how do you tackle this? Let's explore.
Learning one step at a time
While engagement is heralded as a key component of successful learning, it's not without fault. People can be 'overly' engaged and perhaps this is something you have even realised in yourself.
Remember that time that you bit off more than you can chew simply because you were excited? Or that time where you 'studied' intensively for an exam so that you could pass? The real question here is- how much do you remember of what you have learned?
There is only so much we can take in at any given time. People often recognize this in themselves when they say, ‘It just goes in one ear and out the other. An effective way to counter this is through spaced repetition. Earlier, I wrote about the best engagement is sometimes disengagement, see it to read why.
Ensure relevancy in learning content
Whatever you are learning, it needs novelty and challenge. If and when a learner has already achieved understanding or mastery, the likelihood of them actually learning is limited. Whilst it may reflect nicely on your engagement metrics, it reflects poorly on eventual performance improvement. A simple way to overcome this is through profiling exams like you see in language schools.
If you ever learned a second language or picked up singing you would agree that it was wrought by failure. You fell and picked yourself up time and again until suddenly you are doing the impossible. But how much of a surprise is that really given that you scrutinized every action until you got it right.
Design for feedback-in-action
Ensuring relevancy means that you need to design for feedback in action, create explicit endorsements to fail, and provide opportunities to say the things that did not go as expected. This should help you gauge whether the learning interventions are of sufficient (difficulty) level to really help an engaged learner take a step toward greater mastery.
Apart from feedback-in-action, it is important you include stories of success and failure. Rather than focus on the end-result, focus on the process that led to the result. This will allow learners to add more ways of thinking and handling to their repertoire.
One thing to be cautious of- bias can sneak into our self-reflections. We easily overestimate our level of expertise, which leads to disengagement when this is uncalled for. It is good practice to ask, 'does my knowledge or skill in a particular subject justify the level of conviction that I feel for a particular belief?'
The point has been to stress the relationship between engagement and learning. If anything, an engaged learner does not necessarily equal an effective learner. The fastest does not equal the most learned. Designing for engagement is crucial to success but cannot be done in isolation. It is a process, not one event.
This is only the tip of the iceberg.
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