By DR. ROBERTA LENGER KANG
In New York City, one of the most challenging areas for teacher evaluation is Danielson 3b: Questioning and Discussion. This domain evaluates a teacher’s ability to facilitate instruction in such a way that allows students to ask and answer higher-order questions, and initiate and maintain peer-to-peer discussions. It also expects that virtually all students are engaged in the discussion.
The use of the word engage is particularly interesting. Most often, we interpret engagement to mean participation and when we think of participation, we most often interpret this to mean talking. As a result, we spend a lot of time focused on how we can encourage every student to speak during a class discussion — and that’s a good thing. But is speaking the only way that students can engage?
While talking is an essential component of the discussion process, so is listening. If everyone is racing to speak, are students actually listening to each other, or are they quietly composing their comments in their mind and waiting for their turn? If their primary focus is on when they can speak, are they truly engaged? Are they learning anything from the dialogue?
Let’s broaden the definition of engagement to include both speaking and listening. Notice how our questions shift: how can we recognize active listening? How can we encourage active listening? How can we communicate our expectations around active listening to our students and the administrators who are completing the evaluations?