Promoting Student Engagement

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, Student Engagement Techniques.  A  Handbook for College Faculty. 

Researchers and practitioners in the field of education generally agree that students need to be engaged in order to learn.  It is safe to conclude, therefore, that higher levels of student engagement lead to higher levels of learning.  School administrators and teachers must focus on fostering and maintaining high levels of student engagement in order to enhance student performance.  It is common knowledge that learning decreases when students are not interested in their lessons, lazy, bored, unmotivated, or disengaged in any other way.

Let us take a closer look at student engagement and what it means.  Wikipedia states: ” Student engagement occurs when students make a psychological investment in learning.  They try hard to learn what school offers…..Students are engaged when they are involved in their work, persist despite challenges and obstacles, and take visible delight in accomplishing their work. ” 

The Glossary of Education Reform asserts: “ Student engagement refers to 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 motivation they have to learn. ” Note that engagement goes beyond mere motivation.  It also includes factors such as punctuality, regular attendance, and participation in extracurricular activities.

Student engagement lies within the domain of social and emotional learning (SEL), which helps to drive cognitive performance.  SEL has already been featured in a previous post in this blog.

This exploration of student engagement takes me back to my long gone days in secondary school.  This was during the era of chalk and talk, teacher-centred instruction.  We had a particular history teacher, Mr. Charles P., who clearly understood how to stimulate engagement among his students.  His personality, teaching style and methods were unique and riveting.  Despite the fact that history was considered by many misguided students to be boring and irrelevant to their perceived needs, nobody wanted to miss any of Mr. Charles P.’s lessons.  He knew his subject well and was always totally prepared for class.  We were awed by his ability to teach, recall events and dates and discuss issues without consulting any notes.  He had a conspiratorial and theatrical way of delivering his lessons and his language was very colourful and vivid.  His stories were interesting, exciting and often funny.  He connected history to real  life.  He made ample use of his remarkable sense of humour and we hung on to every word he uttered.  He developed good relationships with us and his standards and expectations were very high.  We did our best to meet those expectations although he was a tough marker.  We had to earn our marks or grades by taking responsibility for our own learning, but Mr. Charles P.’s passion for his subject was contagious and we had many laughs in his class.

There are many ways to promote student engagement.  They include creative lessons and interesting assignments and projects that require discussion, critical thinking, and problem solving skills.  What do you do to strengthen engagement in your classroom or school and, by so doing, enhance the learning environment?


7 thoughts on “Promoting Student Engagement

  1. I devoted my entire school year to trying to create more intrinsically-motivating lessons. I had created an entire plot line and story about why we are studying geography. My students enjoyed the varied activities that they were tasked, while they worked as a group and together as a group (few instances of students sitting back and making the other three do all the work). I found these activities quite successful in getting students to work on an activity, though they took time to develop, I’d say it paid off. Most of my experiences I have blogged about, especially in the beginning of the school year in September.


    • Congratulations! Thanks for taking the time to let readers know what you have been doing during this school year to stimulate student engagement. Your students responded well to the preparation, effort and deep thought you put into your lessons. I will check your blog.


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