So, what is engagement? It depends on whom you ask. In an unpublished study, Shari Steadman and I found that pre-service teachers often identified acts of compliance as engagement. Wrote one education major, “Engagement is an agreement between student[s] and teachers to be there and present during class.” This unfortunate and quotidian explanation implies that merely breathing and looking at instructors constitutes student engagement.
Ruth Schoenbach and Cynthia Greenleaf view the term differently: By adding the word “engaged,” we mean to distinguish between the skilled by rote and unsophisticated kind of academic literacy that many “successful” students master, and the more analytic, critical, and discipline specific ways of making meaning emblematic of engaged learners.