Student Engagement = Student Success

Successful instruction demands the invested and active participation of both students and teachers. One of our primary goals as teachers is to avoid classrooms where students feel bored, dispassionate and effectively disengaged. A lack of student engagement is easy to see because we’ve all experienced it before. Doodling in notebooks, passing notes (or now texts) and the tried and true disengaging method of aimlessly staring out windows. As fellow educators could tell you, nothing is more deflating than a class of disinterested students.

Student engagement is defined by the level of attention, curiosity and optimism felt within each classroom by each student. It’s the continuous, active involvement of a student in their academic learning environment. An environment encouraging students to be active participants in their own education is essential.  The concept of “student engagement” hinges on the belief that learning improves when students are interested, inquisitive and inspired.

Newman (1989) states it best – “Engagement is the student’s psychological investment in learning, comprehending and mastering knowledge or skills;” … therefore, all teachers must:

  • Plan in advance for overt and covert engagement that elicits planned and defined engagement (thinking) from every student continuously throughout the lesson.
  • Implement the plan to engage all students during the lesson

An example of eliciting Overt Engagement from ALL students is:

  • The teacher directs all students to write the answer to the question in one minute.

Instead of the typical:

  • The teacher has students raise their hands if they know the answer to the question.

An example of eliciting Covert Engagement from ALL students is:

  • Read the first two lines of the poem silently to yourselves.  Be prepared to share what you think the author is trying to convey with your partner in two minutes.

Instead of the typical:

  • The teacher asks one student to share his / her thoughts about the poem.

In both examples be it overt or covert, the teacher is expecting all students to actively engage in thinking and participating in the learning activity, instead of the typical instruction that allows most students to turn –off and let others or one student do the thinking.  This small, planned strategy tweak will have an enormous effect on student engagement, learning and ultimately their success!

Tools like Planbook Plus allow educators to focus more time on student engagement strategies that can trigger all students in all activities. Planning lessons ahead allows teachers to think about how they will ask important questions to ensure that every student will not only answer the question but will be actively engaged and learning together.