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On Sunday afternoon, Susan Kreisman and Thomas Dewing identified a highly contagious disease that is ravaging schools today: VCC, or Very Compliant Children.
In their packed session "Classroom Engagement: How to Increase Students' Commitment to Learning," they highlighted the difference between compliant students and highly engaged students, and offered practical tips for teachers to help their classrooms make the switch.
The presenters stressed the principle that engagement occurs when a task challenges our physical, mental, and emotional capacities. And the key to understanding how to challenge and motivate all students comes with knowledge of the four natural drives.
The four natural drives describe the main motivations that drive people to learn. Though there is overlap between them, students often prefer one drive over the others; this translates into the way they prefer to learn, according to Kreisman and Dewing.
The first drive is the mastery drive, which appeals to the students who "are highly engaged when they know they can be successful, when they know they're going to be able to complete [a task]," said Dewing. These students like new competencies and skills that will earn them the respect of others.
The next drive is the understanding drive. Kreisman noted that these students are people who are compelled to make sense of things—those with a passion for solving puzzles and new information.
"Then you've got the interpersonal learners. They love relationships. You can ask them to do anything—if they do it with a partner, they are delighted," said Kreisman.
And last is the self-expressive drive, with learners who "want to be unique, they want to be different, they want to be acknowledged. They are the kids in your classes who, when you read a poem and say, 'Write another stanza,' they are happier than clams," Kreisman explained.
But more than just understanding these four drives, it's vital that teachers are able to engage the four drives of their students, according to Kreisman and Dewing.
"From knowing how the students view the world and how they learn, we've developed what we call eight motivational levers. … We believe through these eight motivational levers, you can get high engagement in any classroom, all the time," said Dewing.
Teachers can pull these levers to engage the different motivational drives of their students.
"For the mastery drive it's about competition and challenge. How do we design lessons to have low-level, low-risk competition and challenge?" asked Dewing. The duo gave the example of a scavenger hunt for information, such as looking through the Gettysburg address for evidence for the statement, "Lincoln believed that our nation was at a crossroads."
For the understanding drive, it's curiosity and controversy that are key, or as Dewing put it, "developing the lesson as a mystery or a search for something." An example could be framing a lesson on dinosaurs as a hunt through the evidence to uncover dinosaurs' mysterious disappearance.
To engage the self-expressive drive, Kreisman and Dewing advised that teachers use choice and creativity in the classroom. Dewing engaged the audience in this way directly by asking the participants to fill in the blank for the statement, "Engagement is like ____________." Teachers can draw out students' creativity by asking them for metaphorical and original thinking.
"You can engage the interpersonal drive through cooperation and connections," said Dewing. Teachers can pull these levers by allowing students to work together on projects and have class discussions, as well as connecting the material to the students' personal experiences.
To learn more practical tips to increase classroom engagement, visit www.thoughfulclassroom.com or check out the book Tools for a Successful School Year (Starting on Day One).
Kristen Hardy is a fourth-year communication studies student at UCLA. She works as a copy editor for the Daily Bruin and a writer for the UCLA Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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