Student Engagement in the Classroom - how do we improve it ?
"The epitome of student engagement can be encapsulated by the state of flow; a mental state often referred to in psychological research where an individual experiences joy, creativity and total motivation and involvement in what they are doing."
Feedback gathered on student engagement in a school in the United States reported that having returned to the classroom once Covid 19 restrictions had eased, students were significantly less motivated, more afraid to speak and interact with each other, and more withdrawn. In a previous blog post, it was found that as a result of the widespread negative impact the coronavirus has had the the progression of literacy skills within children due to online learning, as well as the significant effect it has had on their social and communication skills, alternative ways of teaching that will re-engage students seem urgent and necessary.
The epitome of student engagement can be encapsulated by the state of flow; a mental state often referred to in psychological research where an individual experiences joy, creativity and total motivation and involvement in what they are doing. Integrating interesting activities into methods of teaching that will prompt students to enter this state in their individual learning seems like an appropriate thing to consider, especially in efforts to encourage a genuine desire to learn. With the encouragement of student driven engagement, the state of flow, is likely to be cultivated in students.
Activities and methods that may encourage this can look like limited direct instruction from teachers, where it is mainly used to set up a learning task that the students may complete on their own. The teacher or mentor can therefore focus on generating interesting yet challenging tasks that require the students to learn and engage with their peers. Teacher Neha Ahmed from an article sourced on learningsciences.com stated that having experienced online learning, “students were eager to see their friends, so lessons that included peer collaboration were especially engaging for the students”.
Other strategies sourced on the same website mentioned above that may re-engage students in a supportive and alternative way can include :
Giving students real roles and responsibilities. It is described that “students can become more active and engaged in their own learning” when they have structures for autonomy, as it can gradually empower them to self track their learning progress, couch their peers and turn to each other and their resources to find answers to their questions”.
Monitoring students' level of engagement and making adjustments. It is suggested to find an appropriate way of perceiving whether the students are engaged, and efficiently adjusting instructions and tasks when they are not.
It is also suggested that teachers and mentors take a step back, and allow students to support one another with their learning. To resist the urge of watering down material, therefore allowing them to challenge themselves in finding a way to complete the task.
“When students grapple with and solve a question or problem that is just beyond their current level of understanding, it requires them to investigate multiple avenues of thought. Students wrestle with ideas yet persevere and come up with solutions themselves” (Toth and Sousa, 2019)
There is no doubt that the traditional teacher driven engagement still has its benefits and place in the classroom, and cultivating strong teacher-student relationships is a great tool in motivating students in their learning. However, it can often include students having a passive and disengaged role in the classroom. It therefore feels obvious to state, that given the extreme regression evident in students and their education, as a consequence of the restrictions put in place to control Covid 19, re-engaging students in the most efficient and supportive way possible is urgent and needed, and alternative methods of encouraging pupils to learn may need to be considered in order to achieve this.