So What is Student Engagement Anyways?

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, student engagement refers to the amount of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught. This, in turn, affects how they are or are not motivated to continue learning and progress in their education. The Glossary of Education Reform (2016) states that the general assumption when talking about student engagement is that when students are more engaged, they are more “inquisitive, interested, or inspired.” In contrast, if students are disengaged they are generally “bored, dispassionate, disaffected.”¬†Therefore, student engagement is a common goal amongst educators.

However, engagement, as also noted by the NSSE, can also refer to the manner in which the school community and other adults “engage” their students in the design of programs, learning communities, social activities, governance, and processes.

The term engagement has become increasingly popular throughout the years, likely because of the amount of new knowledge that has developed in regards to certain “intellectual, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social factors play in the learning process and social development (“Student Engagement,” 2016).” The topic¬†generally arises when educators talk about strategies and teaching styles that address the may influences that affect student learning. And, it is commonly viewed slightly differently across different populations. For example, a researcher might view students’ attendance in class and achievement of good grades as a form of engagement while another might measure engagement by the perceived feelings and emotional state of students (e.g. curiosity, motivation, and interest).

…engagement is more complex than it sounds.

As mentioned above, the Glossary of Education (2016) defines five different types of engagement: emotional, behavioral, cultural, social and physical. 

Emotional engagement refers to how instructors can promote an environment that is positive for students so that they can engage with the learning materials, undistracted by negative behaviors. An example of an instructor leading a class in a manner that focuses on emotional engagement is a professor that asks how students are feeling and assessing whether or not they might need outside sources or services to improve their mental state of being.

Behavioral engagement refers to how teachers use routines to drive learning in their classes. For example, breakout rooms or asking students to run certain activities every week.

Cultural engagement relates to how instructors promote inclusiveness in their classrooms. This can be by manipulating their course content so that it includes bits and pieces from other cultures or even offering translation services. This promotes an environment where foreign students feel welcome and are thus less likely to drop out of a class or program.

Physical engagement in a classroom refers to how an instructor asks students to use different parts of their brain during class by moving around, kinesthetic learning. This could be asking students to stand up and write an answer on a board.

Finally, social engagement (what I think is the most important in online learning) refers to how students engage in a community. Instructors can foster social engagement by having students develop a capstone project at the end of the semester, pairing or grouping students into groups for classwork or being cognizant of a community of inquiry in a program.

Thoughts? What, if anything, would you add to this list?

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