Russ Edgerton is credited with the phrase, "pedagogies of engagement" in a 2001 Education White Paper where he says "[l]earning about things does not enable students to acquire the abilties and understanding they will need for the twenty-first century. We need new pedagogies of engagement that will turn out the kinds of resourceful, engaged workers and citizens that America now requires" (qtd in Smith).

The notion that “learning doesn’t happen with exposure to new information” (Fink) is as old as Dewey (Erlich), but Edgerton's contribution was to classify under one rubric several different kinds of student-centered pedagogy:

problem-based learning, service-learning, community-based research, learning communities, and undergraduate research

For the purpose of my inquiry, it is noteworthy that the research on engagement is mostly concerned with students moral and cognitive development, rather than with the pleasure they find in particular learning environments. Some attention, for instance in the literature on problem-solving, is given to to students' "enjoyment" of, or "satisfaction" with a course that employs a learner-centered pedagogy; this satisfaction is credited to two factors: interaction among students and interaction between faculty and students, but there are no specifics about what is satisfying in that interactivity (Astin).

"Engagement," framed within the theoretical concerns of social and cognitive development, seems to be largely about a student's "maturity." So, a student is engaged when s/he shows or self-reports gains in:

  • “personal development, academic achievement, civic responsibility, [and] career exploration” (Billig and Eyler)
  • personal development such as sense of personal efficacy, personal identity, spiritual growth and moral development (Vanderbilt review 2000)
  • interpersonal development and the ability to work well with others, leadership and communication skills (Vanderbilt review 2000)

To put it bluntly, where's the fun in that?


Works Cited

Astin, A. What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited. Ssan Francisco, Cal: Joseey-Bass, 1993.

Billg and Eyler. The State of Service-learning and Service-learning Research:Advances in Service Learning Research. “Deconstructing Service-Learning: Research Exploring Context, Participation and Impacts.” Vol. l3. Greenwich, CT Information Age, 2003.

Ehrlich, Thomas. “Reinventing John Dewey’s Pedagogy as a University Discipline.” The Elementary School Journal May 1998, v 98, n 5.

Fink, Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Josesey-BVass, 2003.

Furco, Andrew and Shelley Billig, eds. Service-Learning: The Essence of the Pedagogy. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing, 2002.

2005 AAC&U Conference: Pedagogies of Engagement:
Deepening Learning In and Across the Disciplines




One: Situating Embodied Learning

Two: Case Study: Oliver

Three: Implications for the Literacy Autobiography Assignment