Student-Centered Learning: Compliance versus Learning and Engagement

There is a big difference when it comes to compliance and actual learning in the classroom. Unfortunately, as the role of the teacher, it’s easy to get lost somewhere between the two based on our own experiences from the past.

What compliance looks like:

  • Still.
  • Quiet.
  • Orderly.
  • Clean.
  • “The state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards.”

When I think of the term “compliance”, I think of a factory or prison. The term almost has a negative connotation in my mind…

What learning and engagement looks like:

  • Students asking each other questions to figure out a solution to a problem.
  • Higher-order thinking skills in action.
  • Movement, and sometimes noise.
  • Respect for one another while speaking or listening.
  • Sharing ideas and opinions on topics and concepts with a partner or group every ten minutes or so.
  • Socratic Seminars or informal arguments and debate sessions.
  • Collaboration with online tools or applications.

You see what I’m getting at here? We’re not raising robots for a factory. We want kids to be active in learning. We want kids to enjoy coming to our classes and learning.

Compliance comes with rapport. We want active learning and engagement followed by compliance with our classroom expectations for each other. Of course we are going to have moments when kids need to be still and quiet for various reasons. Sure, we want our rooms to stay neat, clean, and organized. We definitely want our kids to meet standards. But, we do not need to be bullies in bribing or manipulating our kids into submission.

Respecting all students for who they are is one of the first steps. Setting appropriate expectations and sticking to them consistently will cater to our new version of compliance, too. Allowing students to take some accountability and responsibility for their work and actions within the classroom sets everyone up for success in the moment and into the future. There’s no reason to make anyone’s life any more difficult than it truly needs to be.

What are some of the ways you get your students engaged and learning?