Student engagement is the product of motivation and active learning. It is a product rather than a sum because it will not occur if either element is missing.
~Elizabeth F. Barkley
According to Edglossary.com, positive student engagement in educational settings is defined as the level of devotion, inquisitiveness, curiosity, enthusiasm, and desire that students demonstrate while learning or during the instructional process. This includes the extent of drive, enthusiasm, or motivation to learn. As we embark on a school year that will not be like any other that we have encountered, educators should take an inordinate amount of time to map out the engagement strategies which will be used throughout lessons each day. The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement notes that although positive student engagement is a crucial factor to consider when working to increase student achievement, it is not as widely discussed in research as other factors like data-driven instruction, leadership at the school level, or teacher qualifications.
Before teachers can focus on student engagement, they must determine which type of engagement they are focusing on. Edsurge has identified three types of engagement that teachers should keep a close eye on. These include behavioral, emotional, and cognitive, especially when teaching in a virtual setting.
Emotional Engagement is the amount of care students feel when they are taking part in the classroom learning community. This can be measured by asking students if they feel valued, assessing how students intermingle with their teacher and peers, whether students are pleased with their teacher, through the level of family engagement, and how student respond emotionally.
Behavioral Engagement involves assessing how long students engage with the lesson materials. Teachers can examine this by looking at how long students spend on modules/assignments virtually, using the number of times they log into the online learning platforms, completion of tasks, and their level of participation in class discussions.
Cognitive Engagement is how learners connect to what they are learning. Educators can measure this through student execution of classwork and assessments, as they interact and discuss with peers, and through written tasks in online platforms such as nowdiscussions within virtual settings.
Suggestions for promoting positive student engagement include:
- Creating an Attainment Culture
Student mindset should be a focus in all classrooms. If students are not taught to have growth mindset, they will be unable to continue focus on working towards attaining high levels of achievement when they are confronted with small setbacks. Teachers should teach students metacognitive strategies, talk to them about identifying their “fixed mindset triggers”, and celebrate effort and learning from mistakes/failures. These things will encourage students to continue to work towards goals especially when
- Communication must be cultivated!!
Teachers should establish a routine or schedule to post announcements. This not only helps to keep both parents and students up to date with what is going on in the classroom environment. It also allows the teacher to reconnect regularly with their students and parents. Remember that communication is two-way, so it will be important for educators to respond to emails, calls, written notes, and texts in a timely manner. Additionally, a strong feedback loop will be essential within the learning process as well. Providing E.M.P.O.W.E.R Feedback (see Educator Reflection Tips, Chapter 6 for more information) will help students stay focused and guide them towards mastery of standards and learning goals, Lastly, if your school is teaching remotely. Teachers should think of innovative ways to build relationships and connect with parents and students. Some examples of connecting with students includes planning family game nights, leaving chalk messages in the neighborhood for students, driving through the neighborhood, and mailing letters or tokens to students.
- Create a Collaborative Community
For students: Look for platforms that offer ways for students to collaborate with their peers during synchronous learning opportunities. Platforms such as now discussion, Zoom, Seesaw, and Google Meet have features which will allow teachers to break students into groups to complete tasks and assignments. Students could also be paired so they can offer tech support to each other, form study groups, complete projects via Google Docs, or teachers can just set aside time regularly for students to share their work and provide feedback to peers.
For parents: Consider having forums for parents bi-weekly or monthly. This will give parents the opportunity to ask questions, hear from other parents, and feel connected to the class and supported. Other ways to collaboratively connect with parents includes having consistent virtual office hours, offering technological support, and providing parents with weekly emails that give them a preview of the skills and schedule of learning for their children will be appreciated and helpful to parents who juggling their own jobs and monitoring their children’s academic progress.
Questions to consider when considering engagement strategies to use with students and/or parents?
- What is something that you wished your teacher knew about you?
- How will the engagement strategy support student mastery of the skill/concept within the lesson?
- Have I surveyed parents to determine their preferred method of communication this school year?
- Have I checked to make sure that the engagement tool that I am considering is compatible with the required district platform?
As always, I have included a few more resources below if you would like to explore additional engagement strategies to use with your students. Thanks for visiting Digital PD 4 You and I will see you next Sunday.