As stated in the chapter, engaging a student is a little like plugging in a lamp. It doesn’t matter what type of shade we buy, or what lightbulb we use… if there is no electricity, there is no light. If there is no engagement, there is no learning. As an activity to kick off a reflection on engagement, view the following video excerpt from the hit show, Big Bang Theory, “Is Howard Smart Enough?” After watching it, consider the following question:

  • How does Howard move from being engaged to being rebellious based on the teacher interaction?
  • Using the UDL Guidelines, consider/discuss what Sheldon could have done to ensure that Howard remains engaged?

After reading the chapter, hopefully it’s clear that in order to be engaged, students must be challenged but also supported so they can sustain effort and persistence. The barrier to that is that because of student variability, there is a significant difference in the level of challenge necessary for each student. One great way to start thinking about how to create varying levels of challenge is to review the research on the zone of proximal development. Next, it may be helpful to learn more about growth mindset, which is another critical component of engagement.

Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) 

Growth Mindset 

  • Read the article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids,” in New York Magazine, which explores the danger of “fixed mindset” and praise.
  • Check out this Growth Mindset Feedback Tool which provides prompts for giving students mastery-oriented feedback that will build a growth mindset.
  • Read an interview with Carol Dweck in Education World, which explores the importance of teachers instilling growth mindset in students.
  • Listen to an NPR story (7:48) which explores the question, “Does teaching kids to get “gritty” help them to get ahead?”
  • Watch a video of Carol Dweck presenting at Stanford University (9:37) where she discusses how to build growth mindset.