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Student Engagement

Student Engagement

14 April, 2016

  • The degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of inspiration they have to learn and improvement in their education.
  • Based on the belief that learning advances when students are inquisitive, interested, or inspired, and that learning tends to suffer when students are bored, dispassionate, disaffected, or otherwise “disengaged.”
  • Stronger student engagement or improved student engagement are common instructional objectives expressed by instructors.
  • Methods in which school leaders, educators, and other adults might “engage” students more fully in the governance and decision-making processes in school, in the design of programs and learning opportunities, or in the civic life of their community.
  • Examples:
  1. Many schools survey students to figure out their views on any number of issues, and then use the survey findings to modify policies or programs in ways that honor or respond to student perspectives and concerns.
  2. Students may also develop their own questions, survey their peers, and then present the results to school leaders or the school board to advocate for changes in programs or policies.
  • Has spread in recent decades, most likely resulting from an increased understanding of the role that certain intellectual, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social factors play in the learning process and social development.

Addressing Student Engagement:

  1. Intellectual engagement:Lessons, assignments, or projects that are appealing to students or stimulate their curiosity.
  • Examples:
    1. Teachers may provide students more choices over the topics they are asked to write about (so students can choose a topic that specifically interests them) or they may let students choose the way they will explore a topic or demonstrate what they have learned (some students may choose to write a paper, others may produce short video or audio documentary, and still others may create a multimedia presentation).
    2. Teachers may also present a unit of study with an issue or question that students need to solve. For example, students might be asked to investigate the causes of a local environmental problem, determine the species of an unknown animal from a few short descriptions of its physical characteristics and behaviors, or build a robot that can accomplish a specific task.
  1. Emotional engagement: Using various strategies to promote helpful emotions in students that will facilitate the learning process, lessen negative behaviors, or keep students from dropping out.
  • Example:
    1. Classrooms and other learning environmentsmay be redesigned to make them more conducive to learning, teachers may make a point of monitoring student moods and asking them how they are feeling, or school programs may provide counseling, peer mentoring, or other services that generally seek to give students the support they need to succeed academically and feel positive, optimistic, or excited about school and learning.
    2. Approaches such as advisories are planned to build stronger relationships between students and adults in a school. The basic theory is that students will be more likely to succeed if at least one adult in the school is meeting with a student regularly, inquiring about academic and non-academic issues, giving her advice, and taking an interest in her out-of-school life, personal passions, future aspirations, and distinct learning challenges and needs.
  1. Behavioral engagement:Establishing classroom routines, use constant cues, or assign students roles that foster behaviors more conducive to learning.
  • Example:
    1. Elementary school teachers may use cues or gestures that help young students refocus on a lesson if they get distracted or boisterous. The teacher may clap three times or raise a hand, for example, which signals to students that it’s time to stop talking, return to their seats, or begin a new activity.
    2. Teachers may also institute consistent routines that help students stay on task or remain engaged during a class. For example, the class may regularly break up into small groups or move their seats into a circle for a group discussion, or the teacher may ask students on a rotating basis to lead certain activities. By introducing variation into a classroom routine, teachers can reduce the monotony and potential disengagement that may occur when students sit in the same seat, doing similar tasks, for extended periods of time. Research on brain-based learninghas also provided evidence that variation, novelty, and physical activity can stimulate and improve learning.
  1. Physical engagement:Utilizing physical activities or routines to stimulate learning or interest.
  • Example:
    1. Rather than asking students to answer questions aloud, a teacher might ask students to walk up to the chalkboard and answer the question verbally while also writing the answer on the board (in this case, the theory is that students are more likely to remember information when they are using multiple parts of the brain at the same time—i.e., the various parts dedicated to speaking, writing, physical activity, etc.).
    2. Instructors may also introduce short periods of physical activity or quick exercises, particularly during the elementary years, to reduce antsy, fidgety, or distracted behaviors. In addition, more schools throughout the United States are addressing the physical needs of students by, for example, offering all students free breakfasts (because disengagement in learning and poor academic performance have been linked to hunger and malnutrition) or starting school later at a later time (because adolescent sleep patterns and needs differ from those of adults, and adolescents may be better able to learn later in the morning).
  1. Social engagement:Using a variety of approaches to stimulate engagement through social interactions.
  • Example:
    1. Students may be paired or grouped to work collaboratively on projects, or teachers may create academic contests that students compete in—e.g., a friendly competition in which teams of students build robots to complete a specific task in the shortest amount of time. Academic and co-curricularactivities such as debate teams, robotics clubs, and science fairs also bring together learning experiences and social interactions.
    2. Demonstrations of learningor capstone projects may require students to give public presentations of their work, often to panels of experts from the local community, while strategies such as community-based learning or service learning (learning through volunteerism) can introduce civic and social issues into the learning process. In these cases, learning about societal problems, or participating actively in social causes, can improve engagement.
  1. Cultural engagement: Steps that will make students from various cultural backgrounds—particularly recently arrived immigrant or refugee students and their families—feel welcomed, accepted, safe, and valued.
  • Example:
    1. Administrators, teachers, and school staff may provide special orientation sessions for their new-American populations or offer translation services and informational materials translated into different languages.
    2. Students, families, and local cultural leaders from diverse backgrounds may be asked to speak about their experiences to students and school staff, and teachers may intentionally modify lessons to incorporate the history, literature, arts, and perspectives of the student ethnicities and nationalities represented in their classes.
    3. School activities may also integrate multicultural songs, dances, and performances, while posters, flags, and other educational materials featured throughout the school may reflect the cultural diversity of the students and school community. The general goal of such strategies would be to lessen the feelings of confusion, alienation, disconnection, or exclusion that some students and families may experience, and thereby increase their engagement in academics and school activities.