Exploring Secondary Classroom Engagement in Mathematics
The term engagement appears in teacher effectiveness models as well as state and federal legislation, including the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act of 1965 (ESEA), known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), enacted in 2015. Legislators and administrators have charged teachers with engaging all students in their classrooms as a way to improve student performance. Standard IV of the North Carolina Educator Effectiveness System rubric for evaluating educators calls for teachers to facilitate learning for their students. Specifically, Strand "b" explains, "Teachers plan instruction appropriate for their students... Teachers engage students in the learning process" (North Carolina Teacher Evaluation System Rubric, 2008). Stressing engagement in the accountability measures for teacher evaluations increases the eminent need for educators and administrators to understand the components of engaging students in classroom contexts. Multiple definitions and variables within the research have emerged in attempts to articulate a single definition of classroom engagement (Azevado, 2015). Yet, a widely agreed-upon definition and measurement of engagement does not exist. Research has shown that students who fail algebra (Math 1) are significantly less likely to graduate on time (Heppen et al., 2017). This impact can have a ripple effect throughout schools and school report card ratings. Investigating how to define student classroom engagement more accurately in mathematics class may translate into improved learning, increased graduation rates, improved school performance, as well as increased college and career readiness. To determine how secondary Math 1 teachers understand student engagement in the classroom setting by exploring their lived experiences, the researcher utilized a constructivist paradigm to frame the phenomenological multiple case studies of one Southwestern North Carolina school district. The research intended to describe the understanding of the phenomenon of classroom engagement from the perspectives of high school Math 1 teachers. The researcher engaged in conversations with a purpose as characterized by Burgess (1984). The study’s findings emphasize participants’ understanding of Cooper’s (2011) Classroom Engagement Framework’s "Connective Teaching" as the foundational entry point to engaging students within the Math 1 classroom setting. Furthermore, the findings present the unique challenges faced by Math 1 teachers as they teach freshmen students primarily in the Math 1 course who need to learn content as well as skills for success beyond the Math 1 classroom and in high school. The researcher also recognized the potential influences of some classroom delivery changes brought on by the Covid-19 global pandemic.