Leadership Development: Principal Congress 2011 Resources

The theme of the Congress was Fostering Student Engagement:  Mobilizing Leaders’ Knowledge to Close Achievement Gaps in Ontario Schools.

The ministry has produced two resources that support the theme of student engagement:

Available upon request are video highlights from Dr. J Douglas Willm’s keynote address as outlined below.
Contact: ldb@ontario.ca

1. Four elements of learning:

  • Quality instruction
  • An enabling context
  • Student engagement
  • Time invested.
  • Willms emphasizes that all of these elements work together and if one is absent, learning cannot occur.
    To learn more about the four elements of learning, see What Did You Do in School Today? Willms et al. (2009)

    2. Engagement is Critical for Learning

    Student engagement is critical to learning and student achievement and is an important outcome in its own right. Willms discusses how positive, long-term achievement in employment depends on how well students develop non-academic skills, such as regular attendance and punctuality, as well as their ability to work in a team  and function successfully in a social institution. These skills are developed through non-academic engagement in school.
    For additional insight into how Canadian students feel about engagement in school and learning, visit: What did you do in school today? Infographic.

    3. Gap Closing for Vulnerable Students – Canada

    Willms uses a gradient to show the relationship between students' level of academic achievement and their socio-economic background. In Canada, those students that come from higher socio-economic backgrounds tend to do better; however, Willms points out that students whose performance/achievement in EQAO assessments are at a Level Two cut right across the social spectrum.
    To learn more about the relationship between student learning outcomes and socio-economic status (SES), see Learning Divides: Ten Policy Questions about the Performance and Equity of Schools and Schooling Systems.
    In this 2006 report, prepared for the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Willms explores key policy questions relevant to the educa­tional performance of schools and school systems. He also shows how the gradient framework can be used to assess the likely effects of different policy decisions.
    Additional information about vulnerable students is available in the Winter 2011 issue of In Conversation – Strong Roots, Bright Futures: The promise of education and early human development, an interview with the late Dr. Fraser Mustard.

    4. Gap Closing for Vulnerable Students – Ontario

    Ontario's gradient (showing academic achievement vs. socio-economic background) indicates that gap closing activities have to look at vulnerable students within schools, and also consider vulnerable schools.

    5. Institutional and Intellectual Engagement

    Institutional engagement is about students "doing school"; indicators include truancy, positive homework behaviours and valuing school outcomes. Intellectual engagement, i.e. deep psychological engagement, involves effort and motivation by students and quality instruction on the part of teachers.
    Learn more about the three dimensions of student engagement in What Did You Do in School Today?
    Willms et al. (2009)

    6. Drivers of Student Engagement

    Willms discusses the key drivers of student engagement under two categories: quality of instruction and the school context. Quality of instruction includes effective learning time, relevance and rigour. School context refers to safe and inclusive schools, as well as the identification of an advocate for each student.

    7. Tried and True Strategies for Student Engagement

    Willms identifies three strategies that are effective in driving student engagement and student achievement. These are:

    1. Positive student-teacher relations
    2. Good learning climate in the classroom
    3. High expectations for student success.

    To learn more about Ontario's Student Voice Initiative and what Ontario students say about how to strengthen student engagement, visit ontario.ca/speakup.

    8. Reading as a Key to Student Engagement

    Willms discusses the critical transition that students go through from "learning-to-read" to "reading-to-learn". Students who do not make this transition at the end of Grade 3 end up struggling through school in every subject and are prone to becoming increasingly disengaged.
    To learn more about the importance of early literacy, read Using Early Literacy Monitoring to Prevent Reading Failure by Sloat, Beswick, and Willms (2007). Additional information on the Early Years Evaluation (EYE) is available.

    9. What the Data Tell Us

    Willms shares data from Ontario that shows the disparity between various schools within a district. In some schools, there may be a predominant number of students with extremely low skills. In other schools, there may be very few students with low skills. Teachers will have to modify the "enabling context" within their classrooms to meet student needs.

    10. What Principals Can Do – Monitor, Advocate, Create Affiliation

    School leaders can help students who are disengaged by:

    1. Monitoring student engagement
    2. Identifying advocates for disengaged students
    3. Helping students become affiliated with school, e.g. through clubs, sports, volunteering, school events.

    To learn more about the online student engagement monitoring system developed by Willms, read the report Tell Them From Me.

    11. What Principals Can Do – Literacy, Behavioural Check-In, Safe School Programs, and Mental Health Intervention

    School leaders can help students who are disengaged by:

    1. Developing an intervention to build literacy skills
    2. Checking in daily with students that display behavioural problems, e.g. helping them with problem solving and developing positive friendships
    3. Developing effective programs for bullying and sexual harassment
    4. Developing school wide-interventions for anxiety and depression.

    Indicators and evidence in the K-12 School Effectiveness Framework promote active and independent engagement of students in the learning process.