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  • Sahil Shaikh

Learner's Engagement: Attention and Commitment

Attention and commitment theory of learner engagement helps explain why learners do not always respond to instruction or learning experiences. This theory suggests that learners are unlikely to engage with a task if it does not require them to pay attention and is unnecessarily difficult for them. Learners need sufficient opportunity, support and resources to be able to commit themselves fully to a learning experience. The article provides an overview on these two main theories of learner engagement and discusses how they can be used in instructional design and classroom facilitation.


Attention theory of Learner Engagement


The attention theory of learner engagement is based on the idea that learner’s do not necessarily want to be engaged with learning; they want to be involved. However, the way that learners are engaged is directly related to their level of attentiveness. When engaged in an activity, learners are actively concentrating on the task at hand and actively retrieving and applying what they have learned from the task.


When engaged learners are also applying what they have learned to other areas in their life. In essence, learners are actively learning when engaged. On the other end of the spectrum, when disengaged, learners are disregarding the task at hand and only peripherally interested in what is going on in the room. They are not actively retrieving information and they are not actively applying what they have learned.


Commitment theory of Learner Engagement

The commitment theory of learner engagement is based on the idea that learners do not necessarily want to be engaged; they want to be engaged in something. As learners progress through their educational career, they often want to be engaged with a certain type of content. For example, some learner’s might want to be engaged by a content area that is relevant to their future career path. Another learner might want to be engaged by a subject area that is directly connected to real-world problems or issues.


The type of engagement that learners have with learning content is directly related to their level of commitment. When committed to an activity, learners are fully immersed in the task at hand and are actively retrieving and applying what they have learned from the task. When committed, learners are also applying what they have learned to other areas in their life. In essence, they are actively learning when engaged. On the other end of the spectrum, when unengaged, learners are disengaged from the task at hand and only peripherally interested in what is going on in the room. They are not actively retrieving information and they are not actively applying what they have learned.


How to design for Learner Engagement?

As designers, it is important to understand the level of engagement that learners have with learning content. This engagement level can be determined by observing learner behavior and observing their level of attentiveness to instruction. In order to gauge the level of engagement that learners have with a particular learning content; designers can employ the following steps.


· Observe learner’s’ behavior in class and during independent work to get a sense of their level of attentiveness. If a particular learning content seems to be of little interest to learner’s, this may be an opportunity to incorporate new or different content.


· Observe learner’s’ level of attentiveness to instruction. If a particular learning content seems to be receiving a relatively low level of attentiveness, this may be an opportunity to improve the level of instruction.


· Observe learner’s’ level of commitment to a particular learning content. If a particular learning content seems to be receiving a relatively low level of commitment, this may be an opportunity to improve the level of commitment.


· Observe learner’s’ overall level of engagement with the course, subject and/or grade. How does this compare to their previous record?


Conclusion


Intervention is key to success when it comes to improving positive learner engagement. This can be done through providing learners with opportunities to apply what they know, to increase their level of commitment and to engage with the content. Designers can also use commitment and attentiveness theories to design learning experiences that are engaging to the learner. This can be done by ensuring that content is interesting enough to engage learners, and that it is presented in a way that is interesting enough for learners to engage with. Designers can also use commitment and attentiveness theories to create learning environments that are welcoming to diverse learners. This can be done by creating learning experiences that are flexible and engaging, and that are inclusive of different learning styles and preferences.

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