Student engagement is defined by Dr. David Sousa as “the amount of attention, interest, curiosity, and positive emotional connections that students have when they are learning, whether in the classroom or on their own.”
Why can Student Engagement Be Challenging?
Engaging students can be challenging in various ways as not all students are on the same level academically, socially, and emotionally. To add a little more to the mix, not all students learn in the same way. Taking all of a learner’s differences into account can present many challenges for the teacher:
- How can the teacher meet students’ needs?
- How can the teacher consistently incorporate all the different types of learning into the classroom?
It is a never-ending cycle of questions that we have all said to ourselves in some way, shape, or form. As educators and lifelong learners, it is essential to keep engaged students through various student engagement strategies and techniques, but how do you do this consistently and well?
How did Remote and Hybrid Learning Impact Student Engagement?
Remote and hybrid learning had a severe impact on student engagement. It was a new way for students to learn, but it was also a new way for teachers to teach. In observations and informal assessments I made during remote learning and in talking to fellow educators about their experiences, student engagement was incredibly challenging.
It was often difficult to get students to join the virtual meetings, let alone be engaged in them. So many students rely on the school to be that loving and supportive environment that helps them build confidence. The “new” learning model did not meet those needs of many students, and teachers had to get very creative on how to keep students engaged.
Virtual lunch bunches, counseling sessions, math classes, extra help meetings, homeroom, and much more all became the new and not-so-improved norm.
Why is Student Engagement Important?
Student engagement is vital because you need students engaged to have meaningful learning experiences. Students tend to lose focus when a lesson is boring or less engaging. On the flip side, their focus is much more significant when students are actively engaged.
Student engagement is important in building a sense of community within the classroom. When student learning takes place through group projects and discussion, it creates better communication skills with their peers and with you and other teachers.
When students build that sense of community, it generally creates a more positive and impactful learning environment. Not only does it create a better learning experience for the students, but it gives them many life skills that will help impact their success in the future.
Knowing your students and what they enjoy is also important. This will help build that classroom community and help to build the student’s confidence. Give options on class projects such as:
- Creating a YouTube video
- Making a three-dimensional model
- Writing a creative story
- Creating something on Scratch
This also makes teachable moments where the students can show off their talents and help teach others that might be interested.
Ways to Use Technology to Increase Student Engagement
There are numerous benefits to technology in the classroom, and there are so many different options of websites and apps that individualize the learning experience for each student. As a teacher, you get pulled in so many directions and stretched thin so often that it becomes overwhelming trying to keep up with your students’ individual needs. With your students using technology in the classroom, it can make this a little easier.
Utilizing technology in the classroom can also support various learning styles and increase student engagement. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile learners fill the classrooms in our schools, and each type of learner thrives with different types of assignments.
There are many ways to ways to use technology in the classroom to increase student engagement.
These are all programs that will challenge each student on their individual needs. These adaptive learning platforms will allow students to learn at their own pace while filling in gaps and accelerating those already on grade level. If you use a math workshop model in your classroom, you can use one of these programs for the technology piece.
Through data studies that I and the other instructional coaches in our district have done, we have observed that consistent use of these types of programs can positively impact not just student achievement but also student engagement and student buy-in.
There are so many websites that can help meet student needs, such as:
Smartboards, document cameras, and Chromebooks make engaging students easier using that technology component. If your school is lucky enough to have Ozobots, VR Goggles, or other cool STEM gear, it can be a great hands-on learning experience for the students.
Classroom technology can help streamline operations and routines which is beneficial for student engagement. Having routines set in place is imperative to running a successful classroom. This also increases student engagement as the students know and understand the expectations of different routines. For example, suppose you are working in small groups in ELA and have one station including technology. In that case, it gives students a nice “break” to work on assignments most beneficial to their individual progress.
As educators and students alike struggled through much of the pandemic, we all did take away the value of video meetings. You can take your knowledge of video meetings and use a program such as Zoom, Google Meets, or Skype to form relationships with classrooms similar to yours anywhere in the world you choose! This can provide students with a great deal of cultural experience while increasing student engagement with a cool, unique type of “pen pal.”
It is important to relate learning in school to the real world and real-life experiences. Having students turn in writing assignments as blogs can help to motivate and engage students. This creates that ownership of their work, and making it published adds another cool twist to the assignment.
Technology is ever-evolving and has the potential to bring us places we could have never imagined. Students have grown up with technology, and it keeps “moving and shaking,” which presents many opportunities for our students to become more actively engaged.
As John Dewey stated, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” This is impactful as it tells us to embrace the new and “go with the flow,” as it can significantly impact student engagement and success in the future.
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*Updated May 2022