I’ve been thinking a little more this morning about the language used by the researchers in the SJSU Udacity report. They focus a lot on student “effort.” But it’s also pretty common in education to talk about “engagement.” From a technical perspective, the researchers chose the better word. “Effort” is meant to be an observable behavior, e.g., how many minutes students put into watching videos or how many homework problems they solved. “Engagement” is a non-observable attitude that might be a cause for differences in effort that we observe between students. But the connotations of these words tend to encourage different sorts of questions. When we talk about a problem with student effort, we tend to ask how we can get students to do more work. When we talk about a problem with student engagement, we tend to ask how we can get students to want to do more work. The former might lead us to solutions such as student reminders and alerts when they are falling behind or changes in schedule to accommodate students with jobs, while the latter might lead to ideas about increased interactivity or changes to the content.
Just a thought.