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In the modern world, people are challenged by the idea if the quality of a college education may be improved with no money being spent on it. It is possible to find a number of interesting and informative sources about how colleges can work, what methods can be offered to work with students, and how to define learning preferences in order to meet academic needs and social justice (Banda et al., 2011; Chambliss & Takacs, 2014).
Teachers have to know how to attract students’ attention and make them recognize their abilities. As soon as a student is engaged in a learning process, there is a chance for such a student to achieve positive results in education and develop personal and professional skills. This connection between student engagement and achievement cannot be neglected, and this paper aims at discussing this relationship, as well as the role of an educational leader, the possibility to define the main achievement issues, and the necessity to cope with engagement challenges.
Educational Leaders and Student Engagement
The quality of education is a concern that bothers many people around the whole world. Still, despite the existing variety of approaches and options, it is wrong to neglect the fact that faculty behaviors and interactions determine the quality and style of education. Umbach and Wawrzynski (2005) admit the two main responsibilities of faculty members – to teach and to research. When faculty workers are involved in teaching, they try to investigate as many areas as possible to promote students’ understanding and experience. However, even the most experienced staff may be in need of a successful and effective leader.
The role of an educational leader in student engagement cannot be ignored. This person aims at “getting the right people together at the right time” (Chambliss & Takacs, 2014, p. 6). It is necessary to admit that the right people are not only teachers or other adults who are involved in a learning process, who teach students, and who organize their activities within the classrooms. The right people may be the students who want to study and their parents who want to support their children in their intentions to know something.
They can be the young people who are not sure if they want to be engaged in college life and have to gather more reasons for entering a college. Regarding such a variety of people whom an education leader has to work with, the list of responsibilities of this person can be rather long (Bell, Neary, & Stevenson, 2009). Some tasks may need the development of new skills and the necessity to stay enthusiastic and strong. Some assignments may require some compromises or even sacrifices.
Issues and Challenges of Leaders in Student Engagement
Student engagement is defined as one of the main challenges faced by educational leaders in colleges. However, the peculiar feature of this issue is its nature and the possibility to impact the work of the faculty members in a variety of ways. Academic leaders have to do everything possible to successfully arrange classes, teachers, and students so that the maximum of positive effects and success could be achieved (Chambliss & Takacs, 2014).
On the one hand, effective leadership is an opportunity to engage as many students as possible or, at least, evaluate the current situation and introduce new policies and practices with the help of which more students can be found (Quaye & Harper, 2014). On the other hand, educational leadership is a challenging activity in terms of which people have to think about the best approaches in their practice, deal with problematic students and unmotivated teachers, and find the solutions to numerous problems and concerns. Challenges educational leaders may face in college student engagement depend on the environment and organizational abilities of a person.
To be successful, educational leaders have to know how to deal with a diversity of students and other people involved in a learning process. For example, access to higher education should be granted to all students despite their gender, age, the color of skin, level of income, and the presence or absence of disabilities, in other words, without any prejudice (Glass, 2014). Leaders are challenged by the necessity to make sure that such equality is understood and supported by all college and community members.
Finally, student engagement is a hard task because not all leaders are actually aware of potential students’ actual problems like social isolation, depression, and lack of support. Therefore, it is necessary to be ready to deal with personal problems from a professional point of view. This balance is not easy to find, and educational leaders have to use any available means.
Student Engagement and Student Achievement
The main task of any educational leader is to confirm that a student is properly engaged in a learning process as it may influence student achievement. Leaders have to recognize the relationship between engagement and achievement in order to choose the right direction, develop a good plan of work, and follow specific recommendations. From the point of view of an educational leader, the engagement-achievement connection is recognized through the level of academic performance and the number of students who graduate from colleges (Bell et al., 2009).
High student achievement may result in an increased number of potential teachers and administrators to work with in the future. Therefore, educational leaders cannot neglect an opportunity to choose the best students and make them believe that their contributions to the field of education cannot be neglected.
Student engagement is closely connected to such concepts as motivation and inspiration. Community and academic leaders have to increase student motivation “while simultaneously preparing secondary students for a variety of post-secondary environments” (Shuptrine, 2013). In other words, student engagement is directly related to student achievement through future career choice and their readiness to complete new tasks and perform all types of established duties. Leaders should not only define which students meet the standards of their facilities but also be ready to promote them with strong motivation and guarantees that their time spent on education is not in vain, and their skills developed during learning processes can have a high price.
In general, educational leaders have a great impact on student engagement and achievement. They have to know the people to cooperate with, the methods to be used, and the outcomes to be achieved. The challenge for leaders is not only the amount of work that should be done but the necessity to improve skills and knowledge continuously. It is impossible to stop engaging students in education one day. One student comes to college as soon as another student leaves it. One teacher has to be hired as soon as another teacher has to leave this job because of multiple reasons. Leaders should promote stability and order to make sure that student engagement and achievement are high and beneficial for further career development.
Banda, M. R., Flowers, A. M., Robinson, P., Royal, G., Santos, R. A., & Zuniga, N. (2011). Curriculum design for millennial students of color. In M. F. Howard-Hamilton, A. F. Marbley, & F. A. Booner (Eds.), Diverse millennial students in college: Implications for faculty and student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
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Bell, L., Neary, M., & Stevenson, H. (Eds.). (2009). The future of higher education: Policy, pedagogy and the student experience. London, England: Continuum.
Chambliss, D. F., & Takacs, C. G. (2014). How college works. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Glass, A. (Ed.). (2014). The state of higher education 2014: OECD higher education programme (IMHE). Web.
Quaye, S. J., & Harper, S. R. (2014). Student engagement in higher education: Theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Shuptrine, C. (2013). Improving college and career readiness through challenge-based learning. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 6(2), 181-188.
Umbach, P.D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty do matter: The role of college faculty in student learning and engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153-184.