Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Whistle While You Work: Professional Engagement (Aspects of Culture and Climate, Part 7 of 8)

Mary Braggs, Shayna Pond, Daniel Schwarz, Shelby Blackwood, Patricia McDaniels-Gomez, Evalyne Tracy, Mariah Warren, Jared Whaley, Sandra Hebert | Published: June 8th, 2023 by K20 Center


Professional or employee engagements refers to the level of commitment, motivation, and involvement that employees have toward their work and their organization. The concept of employee engagement has been extensively studied by researchers in recent years. In this professional development session, participants will explore key factors that contribute to this concept to maximize the success and sustainability of their organization.

Essential Question

  • How does employee engagement support organizational climate and community?

Learning Goals

  • Explore research-based characteristics of professional engagement;

  • Analyze survey constructs and data in the context of their organization;

  • Apply strategies to their role within their team and organization.

Materials List

  • Presentation slides

  • Data Match Sorting Mat (1 per group)

  • Data Match Survey Items (1 per group)

  • Chain Notes Handout (1 set per table group, print one side only)

  • Professional Engagement Research Brief (1 per participant)

  • Inflatable beach ball with six colors (6)

  • highlighters (1 per participant)

  • pen/pencil (1 per participant)

  • device with internet access (at least 1 per table group)


Display slide 2 to introduce the beach ball toss activity. Number participants 1-6 to create six groups. Each group should have one beach ball. This activity breaks the ice and helps engage prior experiences where participants may have felt engaged in their work.

Move to slide 3 to display the color-coded questions. Participants toss the ball to each other within their group. When a participant catches the beach ball, they answer the color-coded question according to the color their right thumb is touching.

  • Orange: Describe a time you felt really engaged in a project at work.

  • Red: Describe a time when you bragged about your work.

  • Blue: Describe a time when you were working and lost track of time.

  • Green: Describe a time when you were collaborating, and your initial idea blossomed into something extraordinary.

  • White: Describe a time when you were recognized for your work.

  • Yellow: Describe a time you felt really connected to your coworker(s).

Allow participants to continue tossing the ball until each participant has answered at least one question.

Move to slide 4 and read the essential question. Move to slide 5 and review the objectives for this session.


Move to slide 6. Pass out the research brief to participants. Allow participants 5-10 minutes to read the research brief silently. Instruct them to use the Why-Lighting instructional strategy as they read by doing the following:

  1. Highlighting passages they deem important to their understanding of the text.

  2. Then, in the margin write why they highlighted the passage.

Move to slide 7. Tell participants to take turns at their table group sharing their most significant points of the research brief using the POMS instructional strategy.


Display slide 8. Have participants find a partner and pass out the Data Match Sorting Mat and Survey Items. Instruct participants to read each category on the sorting mat. Then, participants will read each survey item and place it on the mat in the category they think it best relates. Allow participants about 10 minutes to organize the survey items. After they are finished, have participants switch to another side of the table to view the work of others.

Move to slide 9. Tell participants to return to their original mat. Allow each group to share with another group their reasoning for sorting the survey items and identify any differences they noticed from how the other group may have sorted the survey items.


Display slide 10 and allow participants 5-10 minutes to view and read through the data. Encourage participants to chat with their table group and ask questions.

Move to slide 11 to introduce the It says, I say, and So… instructional strategy. Read and discuss the example on the slide with participants. Then, tell participants to get in groups of three and pass out the Chain Notes Handout (one set per group). Move to slide 12 . Each participant at the table group should have a different construct (Behavioral Engagement, Emotional Engagement, and Employee Engagement). Instruct participants to write their answer to the first question on the handout. Remind them to answer only the first question.

Move to slide 13 and tell them to pass their paper to the person on their right. Next, tell participants to answer only the second question on the paper they just received. Move to slide 14 and tell participants to pass their paper to the right again. Instruct them to answer only the third question on their paper.

Once everyone has finished answering the third question, move to slide 15. Tell participants to take turns at their group to read aloud all of the answers to the questions on their paper to align with the It says, I say, and So…instructional strategy.

Next, instruct participants to summarize key takeaways to share out with the whole room. Each table group should select one participant from their group to share.


Display slide 16. Ask each participant to make a post in each of the three columns to complete the Rose, Bud, Thorn instructional strategy.

  1. A Rose: Something that’s already blooming (well-supported in your school)

  2. A Thorn: Something you would like to see change

  3. Bud: Something you need to support your future growth

Research Rationale

Teamwork is a major contributing factor to job satisfaction and work engagement. The investment in building strong team collaboration creates a win-win outcome for both the employee and the organization (Ogbonnaya & Valizade, 2018; Karatepe & Olugbade, 2016; Arnold et al., 2020). Employees who are given meaningful opportunities to work with others in order to meet organizational goals feel valued by their employers. This results in increased commitment to the organization and less disengagement (Ogbonnaya & Valizade, 2018). Moreover, being a part of a team prevents isolation, influences our sense of who we are and what our future career goals are, and contributes to an overall sense of well-being (Arnold et al., 2020; Ryan & Deci, 2000). So we ask ourselves, “How can we strive to create a sense of community in the workplace that contributes to meaningful and effective teamwork?” Traditionally, the four facets of teamwork are (1 ) Relationships, (2) Goals, (3) Roles, and (4) Processes (Burke, 1982).


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