Engaged students are more likely to enjoy school and perform better on exams. Although each student will have a unique response, you can expect to see some common signs of engagement across different age groups and subject matter. When it comes to your own classroom, be aware of these three core dimensions of engagement and how you can get your students to tap into each one.
Seeing students be excited and interested in learning about a particular subject is a good sign that they’re emotionally engaged in the lesson. Focus on their affective reactions and see if you can estimate their sense of belonging in the school community. These examples will help you to judge their emotional engagement.
Ways to Enhance Emotional Engagement
Create a bond with students - Take the time to check in with students one-on-one. This can be as simple as greeting them personally when they enter the classroom. Understand their needs and challenges, and remember to follow-up on any important issues.
Provide positive feedback - Helps students feel secure by acknowledging their strengths and how they’ve done well. Praising their enthusiasm and perseverance helps boost self-esteem. It takes a lot of bravery to ask for help, so when a student does, let them know you’re proud of them for seeking help when they needed it.
Let them share their voice - We no longer live in a world where “children should be seen and not heard” so let them know you’re listening. Give every student a chance to express their thoughts and ideas and bolster their confidence by taking action where and when you can.
When students are active, constructive, participate collaboratively with others, and act according to classroom norms and expectations, they are behaviorally engaged. They will be paying attention and concentrating on their work, persistent in problem solving, and responsive to questions and prompts. They’ll be taking initiative for their learning and won’t be exhibiting disruptive behavior.
Ways to Boost Behavioral Engagement
Set the classroom rules - Create a list of rules that students are expected to follow in your classroom and display them in a highly-visible spot. Get creative and design a custom sign, or have students create their own classroom rules.
Draw names from a box - To avoid having the same students answering all the questions (or worse, a silent classroom), write each student’s name on a notecard and draw from a box. This motivates students to pay attention because their name may be called at any time.
Color-code class time - Gives students a visual cue with colored ribbons or laminated signs hung at the front of the classroom. Use one color for when it’s time to pay attention and another for discussion. This keeps students attentive and on task.
To be cognitively engaged in classwork means that students will be invested in the activity, they will use a certain level of intellectual effort to process their learning, and easily be able to stay devoted to the task at hand. You may also see them voluntarily exerting extra effort to understand and master the material.
Ways to Check Cognitive Engagement
Paraphrase yesterday’s lesson - Whether real or imagined, have students update a classmate who was missing for the previous lesson by providing a summary of the content covered. Give them one minute to write down their responses and have a few students share.
Take a pause - Especially in content-heavy lessons, build in time for pauses to let students process what they’ve heard, catch up their notes, and reflect on the material before moving on.
Ask for questions - Similarly, you may want to pause a few times during a lesson to gauge students attention. Ask if they have any questions, want to remark on the material being covered, or have other information to add to the discussion.