Mutual Engagement
Mutual Engagement (ME) is an emerging theory that guides teaching and student learning. ME is not a specific set of rules about learning but rather guiding principles that embraces the formation of group dynamics as the basis of learning. Simply, ME is the process in which students and instructor create an environment to “feel” safe enough to risk for the betterment of learning. A safe environment to risk can be defined as one that individuals are comfortable to voice their opinion and are respected in and outside of class.
An essential component of ME is viewing each course as a group. Many of the techniques group leaders employ to encourage group formation are also used by instructors. For example, discussing the syllabus and class expectations is another way to form the norms of a group. Group leaders and teachers function as guides as a means to engage all participants in discussion or content. The importance of feedback in teaching and group dynamics is also central to group formation; whether it is in the form of direct or peer feedback, the group leader or instructor models appropriate feedback with the goal of improvement for students or group members. 
In addition to the similarities between groups and courses, there are aspects of group dynamics that can be utilized to promote teaching. In most groups, the leader’s role diminishes as the group progresses and leadership shifts to the members. ME embraces this process and encourages students to “direct” class to better meet their needs as learners.  In essence the students and instructor become partners or mutually engaged in the teaching and learning process.
A pedagogical technique that can be used to facilitate group formation is pre-quizzes (Kiener, 08). Pre-quizzes are non-graded questions given at the beginning of class that can serve as an ice breaker, review of material, and or an anticipatory set. Pre-quizzes are interwoven in ME as a means to keep students engaged in class material throughout the semester. Pre-quiz questions are posted weekly on a course management tool (WebCT, Blackboard, Desire 2 Learn) or anywhere students have access to them. Pre-quiz questions are used to assess students’ prior knowledge, misconceptions, and as a means to facilitate participation from all students. Examples of pre-quiz questions include: (1) What does strength based counseling mean to you? (Instructor developed) and (2) What could threaten construct validity? (Student developed).
Students can also develop pre-quiz questions as a method to increase their voice in their learning. Examining student pre-quiz questions can allow the instructor to “see” what the students view as important and can indicate student understanding. Student pre- quiz questions that address analysis or synthesis may indicate a deeper understanding of course material.
Emphasizing ongoing assessment throughout the course is another pedagogical technique used in ME to develop group formation. In addition to ongoing assessment, multiple forms of assessment (formative, summative, peer, graded, ungraded) facilitates assessment as a norm. This norm can establish a developmental approach to learning as apposed to learning being seen as a relative constant trait. Thus, time to practice, manipulate, and master course content is paramount in ME. To effectively capitalize on multiple forms of ongoing assessment an intellectual safe atmosphere (Schrader, 2004) has to be created. Students can more effectively benefit from assessment when they feel supported by their instructor and classmates. If this atmosphere is established students have a better opportunity to experience a shift in believing they are being purely evaluated to having their learning assessed.
Inherent in ME is instructor flexibility to let curriculum emerge from students, encouraging creativity in learning performances, and letting students experience ambiguity in assignments and content.  A goal of ME is for students to increase their sense of ownership in their learning and to gain a greater sense of their affective learning. ME increases the ability to create an environment for students to “see” a connection between class content and its utility in their profession. It is feasible to believe that when students take a greater responsibility in their learning and how content is presented, discussed, and integrated they will “see” its connection not only to other courses but to their profession.
A final component of ME is action research. Utilizing ME as a framework to monitor and assess student understanding requires a rigorous ongoing pattern of inquiry, action based on class inquiry, and reflecting on the action taken. The collaborative environment of ME fits well with participatory principles of action research and allows instructors and students to engage in ongoing assessment on the teaching and learning process. Overtly introducing the principles of action research into curriculum and modeling the ongoing pattern of inquiry to students can provide a valuable tool to developing critical thinking and the utility of becoming a reflective practitioner. 

Kiener, M. S. (2008). The use of pre and post quizzes to increase student engagement in their learning. In Blythe, H., & Sweet, C. (Eds.), It works for me in scholarship shared tips for the classroom.

Schrader, D. E. (2004). Intellectual safety, moral atmosphere and epistemology in college classrooms. Journal of Adult Development, 11, 87-101.

Last modified: Monday, 29 June 2009, 01:45 PM