Engagement vs. Participation


I’m currently enrolled in an online course from Harvard Graduate School of Education, “Thinking and Learning in the Maker-Centred Classroom”. Our most recent reading from MIT’s Journal of Design and Science discusses the idea of engagement versus participation with regard to designed spaces.

…[A] new generation of designers has emerged, concerned with designing strategies to subvert this “natural default-setting” in which each person understands themselves at the center of the world.
These designers do this by engaging with the complex adaptive systems that surround us, by revealing instead of obscuring, by building friction instead of hiding it, and by making clear that every one of us (designers included) are nothing more than participants in systems that have no center to begin with. These are designers of systems that participate – with us and with one another – systems that invite participation instead of demanding interaction.
Design as Participation. (2016). Retrieved November 24, 2016, from http://jods.mitpress.mit.edu/pub/design-as-participation

It’s got me thinking about the design of our STEAM program, and how I can refine it to become more participatory. We already have open-ended projects. We already have students co-constructing design criteria for those open-ended projects. We have, by design, made it participatory. It’s transdisciplinary. It’s student-centred. It’s all those things. But it can be better.

A colleague and I were discussing the idea of exposing the messiness of the unit, and how that is hidden by revealing the central idea and lines of inquiry to the students. But how do we go about this in a different way? It will certainly have an impact on how projects were framed within the units of inquiry. It will impact what gets investigated, created, and tinkered with. But how do we focus it just enough so that it’s connected to the units of inquiry in a way that we can be assured we are uncovering curriculum, as is our responsibility.

I don’t know yet… I need more time to think this over.

One thought on “Engagement vs. Participation

  1. I think project based learning, having skills that can be transferable across “disciplines”, and teaching more through inquiry I think we can be messy and still hit “outcomes”. I mean if your central idea is broad enough you can learn a lot just through having students create the lines of inquiry, or pick the skills they want to learn. I think it’s really possible, just have to shift our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

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