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design for engagement

Authentic engagement means building a fulfilling relationship with someone or something important. For students, authentic engagement means building relationships with the content, their work and each other. During this workshop, we’ll learn practical tools and strategies that help teachers design instruction that invites and enables students to connect authentically with the content, their work, and each other—all so school becomes a source of meaning, vitality, and community in their lives.

A workshop on engagement means participants themselves engage, so come prepared to do some reflective writing, have small group discussions, and share in the larger group. Experiencing some of what authentic engagement looks and feels like prepares participants to design learning environments where students engage.


All sessions are two hours long. Any session can stand alone, and any two or more sessions can be combined into a longer workshop or multi-day series. When logistics require it, any session can be cut down to 90 minutes, split into hour-long parts, or presented virtually.​​​

Session 1: Fostering Engagement with the Content Using Connective Prompts. In the first part of this session, we will collaboratively define “authentic engagement” and explore a model for engagement pedagogy. We’ll do this work using connective prompts, which are verbal cues that help learners engage authentically with the content by relating it to themselves or themselves to it. Then, we’ll look at how connective prompts were used in the first part of the session to help us connect with its content, and we’ll learn how to write our own connective prompts to help our students connect with the content of our classes.

Session 2: Fostering Engagement with Their Work Using Affirming Assignments. We’ll start this session by exploring what it means to connect authentically with our work and how an assignment can help students connect with theirs. We’ll then learn tools and strategies for individually and collaboratively designing assignments that not only serve as assessment evidence but also have students create things that matter—to them personally and in the world.

Session 3: Fostering Engagement with Each Other Using Collaboration Protocols. Doing meaningful work together is an ideal context for students to develop meaningful relationships. However, giving a collaborative task doesn’t guarantee that students will listen and communicate skillfully, build on each other’s strengths, or create better work than they could have created alone. In this session, we’ll discuss how to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of a collaborative task. We’ll distinguish two types of collaboration—collaborative projects and collaborative inquiry—and practice using protocols that help students succeed at both.

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