Real Kids, Real Classrooms, Real Learning: An action research approach to enhancing engagement in learning for secondary school students from low SES school communities

Year: 2004

Author: Weir, Therese, O'Brien, Mary-Lou, Johnson, Kerry

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper draws on current professional learning research in the Real Kids, Real Classrooms, Real Learning Project. The project promotes a whole school focus on student engagement within the framework of the Quality Teaching in NSW Public Schools initiative. It involves teachers and students in Priority Schools Funding Program (PSFP) secondary schools, regional, state consultancy teams, and parents and community members. These research partnerships are investigating ways that teachers can identify, describe, implement and evaluate school and classroom practices that enhance engagement and participation in schooling for students from low SES backgrounds.

In this paper we consider the implications in focusing teachers' attention on all aspects of student engagement, from collaborative planning of classroom activities to evaluating rich tasks through the collection of authentic assessment data. Here student engagement is not narrowly defined as on-task behaviour, but has a wider sense that students feel that school and education is "for them". The theoretical underpinnings of the research are that student engagement is a pivotal element in classroom pedagogies, both determining and illuminating the quality and effect of student learning outcomes. This paper will support educators to respond to the big ideas on engaging secondary school students from targeted equity groups.