(Re) conceiving Student Engagement: What the Students Say They Want. Putting Young People at the Centre of the Conversation
The challenge of student engagement has been recognised as a serious issue, especially in the middle years of schooling in Australian education. This qualitative study seeks to understand the experiences of one group of students beginning their high school years. Students are often left out of the discourse on student engagement. Traditionally they are objectified and omitted from the dialogue because often they are viewed as products of formal education systems. By giving voice to students, I compare and contrast the various and contested understandings of authentic or generative aspects of student engagement and what these might mean for classroom practice. I suggest that pedagogical practices that connect to students’ lives are too often ignored but necessary elements of teacher pedagogy for all students, particularly, those from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds. I identify and examine three contesting epistemological constructs of student engagement in order to answer three interrelated questions: (i) What are the most worthwile conceptions of engagement? (ii) What are the purposes of engagement? (iii) Who benefits (and who is excluded) from these purposes? I conclude that not all forms of student engagement are equal.