Engagement

by Rick Upchurch
Asst. V.P. Adult Studies

Admissions & Student Services for Belhaven Adult Studies is working through a book:  The Trust Edge, by David Horsager.  I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to read this book as well, so I bought the book and at this point have finished about a third.

Here are four things I’ve learned/been reminded of in the first third of this book along with an application for the classroom – either the physical classroom or online:

  1. “You are trusted to the degree that people believe in your ability, your consistency, your integrity, and your commitment to deliver.” (p.9)  As you read through this list it is obvious that these things don’t happen immediately.  They are developed over time and in relationship.  Teaching application: Your relationship with your students and their perception of “your ability, your consistency, your integrity, and your commitment to deliver” will build trust or erode it.  Building trust will result in greater student engagement as they discover you are worth trusting.
  2. “People do small, even menial tasks differently when they catch a great vision.  If you are a leader in your organization, share your vision consistently.  If you are not sharing your vision at least every thirty days, your team doesn’t know it. A clear vision inspires, unifies and gives powerful focus.” (p. 50)  While this is written toward an organization I can see clear application for the adult classroom.  Teaching application: A major point of adult learning theory has to do with sharing the relevancy of the subject with the students; not just why it is important, but what the cost could be in NOT knowing the information.  So, for the classroom, sharing vision should equate to making sure there is a clear connection of relevancy every week.  When you do this engagement increases.
  3. “Expect and even appreciate conflict.  The old notion rings true: if we are all exactly the same, we are not all needed. Conflict can be a source of growth, creativity, and, in the end, greater unity.” (p.64)  I know many Instructors will go to almost any lengths to avoid even the hint of conflict in the classroom.  This might seem desirable, and certainly is easier, but avoiding conflict doesn’t foster learning and engagement at the higher levels.  Teaching application: Engaged adult learners will challenge the Instructor from time to time.  This is because what you are teaching seems to run crosswise to their experience.  If you squash this freedom to raise these challenges, you will effectively reduce or eliminate engagement.  If, on the other hand, you encourage students to respond, use the challenges to gather information, attempt to understand where the challenge is coming from, and respond with empathy, engagement will blossom.
  4. “No matter what your profession is, challenge yourself to start thinking like the customer, patient, client, congregation member, or student.  Think of these people’s needs and challenges.  Care about them. Give them a great experience.  Make them feel valued.” (p.74) Teaching application:  Adults respond better and are more engaged when they feel respected and valued.  The role of the Instructor in creating this kind of environment cannot be overstated.  In fact, the best Instructors will go beyond this to taking personal responsibility for doing everything they can to “give them a great experience.”

I’m definitely enjoying the book and will share some more thoughts as I get deeper into it.  May God richly bless and guide your day!

Rick

One comment

  1. Dr. Cedric Buckley

    These insights and summaries ring true, especially among self-regulated, adult learners. As instructors, this affords us more time to deepen students’ understanding of course content, remind students of their accountability for their learning, “stretch” students’ awareness of the dangers of “group think” and, yes, create an enjoyable atmosphere for learning. Thank you for suggesting this title! -Dr. Cedric Buckley

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