Using the 8 Factors of Engagement to unlock potential, co-written by Mary Rose.
The Senior Slide, Senior Slack, or whatever kind of alliteration you would like to use, is an issue of disengagement that hits most graduating students wrapping up their vigorous schooling career. If you are not familiar the term, the Senior Slide is that magical yet dangerous last semester when early college decision letters decrease motivation to finish out the semester strong.
Over the past two years, Sicora has worked with six classes of Wayzata High School students introducing them to the 8 Factors of Engagement, 4 Colors of Insights, and Leading from the Helm models. Through a survey of statements, we pulsed their engagement and looked for thematic trends. With the 8 Factors of Engagement as a guide, the students used the tools of appreciative inquiry, active questioning, and analysis of the data to discover just what it was that was causing this drop in engagement.
The 8 Factors of Engagement is a measurement device that helps to surface opportunities. This is a model that Sicora has used for years with organizations of all kinds and sizes, but we recently started to develop and implement it in non-business contexts.
It was not until a parent/associate from Wayzata High School reached out to Sicora and asked if this non-business format had any sort of application to high school students. He had told us about the Compass program, an experiential career studies program for upperclassmen, and we agreed that experiencing 8 Factors of Engagement would be a perfect learning and growth opportunity for the students.
We collected data from the students – pulsing at the beginning, middle, and end of each semester – using statements from the non-business version of the 8 Factors of Engagement to look for trends and levels of engagement.
Just like when working with organizations, we immediately give the data back to those who completed it. In this case, the students began diving deep into the data, and identified specific themes that they then created specific action plans for. The most important Factors to the students were:
The students noticed that while they have an incredible amount of resources and developmental opportunities, they underutilized them due to the overwhelming quantity. They also concluded that they value accountability in themselves and each other, but due to multiple commitments and pressures associated with the end of the year, they found themselves letting each other down and eroding trust.
We worked through each unique observation, allowing the students to discover their own solutions. They realized that it was okay to focus on a few resources and leverage them well, rather than overloading themselves with too many.
As we continued to talk through the different factors and observations, a larger theme kept coming up time and time again: the struggle of the Senior Slide.
“It’s difficult to want to engage with the class or other people,” one student said. “We’re essentially done, and we probably won’t see each other again.”
Other students echoed the same concern: “what is the point of developing these school relationships and working hard on a class when I’m just about finished here?”
We discussed this issue a bit, until one teacher added: “your peers here are going to be some of your best resources and connections moving forward. Your classmates are people you’re going to connect with 5, 10, 25 years down the line.”
Though many of us are well removed from our high school years, what these students were wrestling with is equally as applicable to our own lives and responsibilities.
How we finish now is going to have a direct impact on how we start the next chapter/phase. This is true of any project that we are working on, any job, and any aspect of life.
The students had the ah-ha moment of the importance of finishing strong and that they control their own engagement. Administrators and teachers can help provide direction, a safe space, a space conducive for learning, but it is up to the students to take full advantage of their opportunities because it allows them to move forward and grow.
This is not only a lesson for students, but one that we can all learn from. Ends create a new beginning, and the stronger you finish a job, the stronger this will translate to whatever is coming up next. As the phrase goes: last in – first out.