Why principal and teacher engagement are essential to student engagement

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Students’ intellectual engagement with both what they are learning and with their peers is essential if deep, substantial learning is to occur.

Likewise, teachers’ intellectual engagement in professional development and meaningful collaboration with their colleagues is essential to their professional learning and to the deep learning of their students.

And principals’ intellectual engagement with their professional development and meaningful collaboration with their colleagues—both teachers and other principals—is essential to teachers’ professional learning and collaboration.

Here is another way of expressing my assumptions: principals’ engagement/collaboration = teachers’ engagement/collaboration = students’ engagement/cooperation = high level of learning for all students.

Therefore, if principals’ meetings do not include generous opportunities for professional learning and meaningful collaboration, it is unlikely that faculty and team meetings in schools will include generous opportunities for professional learning and collaboration. The consequence is lower levels of engagement and learning for students.

What do you think—is principal engagement essential to teacher engagement, which in turn, is essential to student engagement and learning?

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4 Responses to “Why principal and teacher engagement are essential to student engagement”


  1. 1 cathygassenheimerheimer October 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Dennis, as usual, you are right on target! Teachers value what principals value. If principals don’t make their own professional learning a priority AND if they don’t attend the professional learning offered at their school, teachers get the message that it is not important and/or it should not be a priority. Likewise, calling upon the Wallace Foundation’s research over the past decade, the most important action district leaders can take is to identify and and develop principal instructional leaders, so the culture of learning becomes a way of being — not just for students, but for teachers and leaders.

  2. 3 Ellen Eisenberg October 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

    When every staff member is a member in a community of learning and practice and everyone is a learner, the message is clear… ongoing professional learning is essential for the professional growth of the individual. Principals who support that notion and demonstrate their ongoing support through professional learning opportunities via PLCs, schedules conducive to collaborative learning, instructional coaching to help teachers implement effective instructional practices, etc., are well positioned to make a difference in their schools. Since we know that learning is social and students benefit from learning with each other, why wouldn’t we consider the same for adults? And, when students take ownership in what they are learning, e.g., I-Search paper, etc., they are more engaged. The same is true with teachers…as colleagues collaborate regularly and engage in professional conversations about their students’ needs and the kinds of professional learning that address those needs, both teachers and students benefit. When principals offer the “deliberate” opportunity for teachers to work together and collectively problem-solve around teaching and learning, the message is clear… teachers’ voices and choices are recognized and honored.

    • 4 Dennis Sparks October 24, 2013 at 10:03 pm

      Exceptionally well said, Ellen: “as colleagues collaborate regularly and engage in professional conversations about their students’ needs and the kinds of professional learning that address those needs, both teachers and students benefit.”


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