The influence of classroom instruction on student cognitive engagement: An observation study

Year: 2021

Author: Stella Vosniadou, Stella

Type of paper: Symposium

The ICAP theory (Chi & Wiley, 2014) was used as a framework for developing a coding system to evaluate the influence of classroom instruction on the cognitive engagement of students. The ICAP theory, which stands for Interactive, Constructive, Active and Passive student cognitive engagement, argues that each mode of engagement corresponds to different types of behaviours and to different types of knowledge-change processes. Students are engaged in the Passive mode when they receive information from instructional materials without doing anything observable related to learning, such as listening to a lecture.  Active engagement is characterised by some form of overt action, such as not only listening to a lecture but also taking notes. Constructive engagement with instructional materials requires behaviour that generates additional externalised outputs beyond what was provided in the learning materials, which occurs when students do things like explain, predict, or compare.  Interactive engagement requires then exchange of ideas between two or more students while they engage in constructive tasks. This exchange enables students to generate understandings beyond those achieved by themselves alone. Experimental evidence has been provided to support the argument that the Constructive and Interactive modes of engagement result in better learning outcomes than the Passive and Active modes.The participants were 20 experienced teachers mostly from science and mathematics backgrounds. Video observations of one lesson from the participants' classrooms were transcribed and the first 30 minutes were analysed. The coding system focused on the analysis of lesson tasks, the verbal instructions provided for each task, and the activities of the students while engaged in each task. Preliminary results show that the number of tasks per lesson ranged from 1 to 7, with a median of 4. The most frequent tasks used by the teachers were determined to engage students at the Passive and Active engagement modes.  The teachers spent about 70% of their instruction time on these two types of tasks.  Overall, in half of the lessons observed, the students had less than 6 minutes of Constructive or Interactive engagement, while in 4 of the 20 lessons no time was spent on Constructive or Interactive tasks.  We argue that the ICAP theory provides useful lenses for evaluating the instruction that takes place in our schools and can generate helpful recommendations for its improvement ReferenceChi, M.T.H., & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP framework: Linking cognitive engagement to active learning outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219-243.