As a Progressive school, student engagement is at the core of a St. Francis education. When students demonstrate engagement – meaning they are involved, curious, interested, and passionate – they get the most benefit from their educational experiences. This is shown in study upon study. Both to us as educators and to you as parents, it also simply rings true. We also know, as educators, the importance of continuous improvement and the role that actionable feedback plays in driving improvement. 

In the fall of 2019, we learned about a tool called the Wellington Engagement Index (WEI) developed by The Wellington School, a fellow ISACS school in Columbus, Ohio. The WEI is based on the principle that student engagement can be measured, and that the essence of engagement combines both an experience of enjoyment and an experience of challenge. This month, we are beginning to use the WEI at St. Francis in our Middle and High School. It’s a simple process: Students log in using any device, including smartphones, and see a list of their classes. They then place each class as a “dot” wherever they choose on a grid, consisting of an x-axis measuring how much they love a class and a y-axis indicating how challenging they find that class. It takes just a minute or two; they place their dots, then save, and exit. Teachers and administrators can see the anonymous feedback immediately, too, which creates ongoing opportunities for adjustments to be made to improve levels of engagement, schoolwide.

The quadrants on the grid above are identified as “Engaged,” “Entertained,” “Bored,” and “Grind.”  Results of the “dots” will enable us to identify patterns and trends of engagement across grade levels, departments, sections of classes, and student demographics. That being said, the goal for our school isn’t 100% student engagement in all classes, as some students love certain subjects more than others and may be reluctant to “love” a subject that isn’t their favorite. Instead, faculty and administration can track student engagement over time and work together as education professionals to form hypotheses about certain patterns or trends, test them, and then explore the outcomes. The WEI is a tool that will help us both answer questions and bring to light new ones. In both the Middle and High Schools, we asked students for our first set of “dots” this week, and we plan to repeat the process twice more before the end of this semester.

We are truly excited to pilot the WEI at St. Francis in hopes that it both will affirm what we are already doing and also identify areas of growth. Our students’ intellectual curiosity, engagement, and sense of joy matters: it fosters a true love of learning. We look forward to sharing the results of our first few rounds of “dots” with you later this spring! To see a TEDx talk about the WEI given by one of its creators, Rob Brisk, please click here.