When we think of student engagement in learning activities, it is often convenient to understand engagement with an activity as being represented by good behavior (i.e. behavioral engagement), positive feelings (i.e. emotional engagement), and, above all, student thinking (i.e. cognitive engagement) (Fredricks, 2014). This is because students may be behaviorally and/or emotionally invested in a given activity without actually exerting the necessary mental effort to understand and master the knowledge, craft, or skill that the activity promotes.
In light of this, research suggests that considering the following interrelated elements when designing and implementing learning activities may help increase student engagement behaviorally, emotionally, and cognitively, thereby positively affecting student learning and achievement.
1. Make It Meaningful
In aiming for full engagement, it is essential that students perceive activities as being meaningful. Research has shown that if students do not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they might not engage in a satisfactory way, or may even disengage entirely in response (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). To ensure that activities are personally meaningful, we can, for example, connect them with students’ previous knowledge and experiences, highlighting the value of an assigned activity in personally relevant ways. Also, adult or expert modeling can help to demonstrate why an individual activity is worth pursuing, and when and how it is used in real life.
2. Foster a Sense of Competence
The notion of competence may be understood as a student’s ongoing personal evaluation of whether he or she can succeed in a learning activity or challenge. (Can I do this?) Researchers have found that effectively performing an activity can positively impact subsequent engagement (Schunk & Mullen, 2012). To strengthen students’ sense of competence in learning activities, the assigned activities could:
- Be only slightly beyond students’ current levels of proficiency
- Make students demonstrate understanding throughout the activity
- Show peer coping models (i.e. students who struggle but eventually succeed at the activity) and peer mastery models (i.e. students who try and succeed at the activity)
- Include feedback that helps students to make progress
3. Provide Autonomy Support
We may understand autonomy support as nurturing the students’ sense of control over their behaviors and goals. When teachers relinquish control (without losing power) to the students, rather than promoting compliance with directives and commands, student engagement levels are likely to increase as a result (Reeve, Jang, Carrell, Jeon, & Barch, 2004). Autonomy support can be implemented by:
- Welcoming students’ opinions and ideas into the flow of the activity
- Using informational, non-controlling language with students
- Giving students the time they need to understand and absorb an activity by themselves
4. Embrace Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning is another powerful facilitator of engagement in learning activities. When students work effectively with others, their engagement may be amplified as a result (Wentzel, 2009), mostly due to experiencing a sense of connection to others during the activities (Deci & Ryan, 2000). To make group work more productive, strategies can be implemented to ensure that students know how to communicate and behave in that setting. Teacher modeling is one effective method (i.e. the teacher shows how collaboration is done), while avoiding homogeneous groups and grouping by ability, fostering individual accountability by assigning different roles, and evaluating both the student and the group performance also support collaborative learning.
5. Establish Positive Teacher-Student Relationships
High-quality teacher-student relationships are another critical factor in determining student engagement, especially in the case of difficult students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds (Fredricks, 2014). When students form close and caring relationships with their teachers, they are fulfilling their developmental need for a connection with others and a sense of belonging in society (Scales, 1991). Teacher-student relationships can be facilitated by:
- Caring about students’ social and emotional needs
- Displaying positive attitudes and enthusiasm
- Increasing one-on-one time with students
- Treating students fairly
- Avoiding deception or promise-breaking
6. Promote Mastery Orientations
Finally, students’ perspective of learning activities also determines their level of engagement. When students pursue an activity because they want to learn and understand (i.e. mastery orientations), rather than merely obtain a good grade, look smart, please their parents, or outperform peers (i.e. performance orientations), their engagement is more likely to be full and thorough (Anderman & Patrick, 2012). To encourage this mastery orientation mindset, consider various approaches, such as framing success in terms of learning (e.g. criterion-referenced) rather than performing (e.g. obtaining a good grade). You can also place the emphasis on individual progress by reducing social comparison (e.g. making grades private) and recognizing student improvement and effort.
Do you generally consider any of the above facilitators of engagement when designing and implementing learning activities? If so, which ones? If not, which are new to you?
Article Written By:
- Ames, C. (1992). Achievement goals and the classroom motivational climate. In D. Schunk & J. Meece (Eds.), Student perceptions in the classroom (pp. 327-348). Hillsdale, N.J: L. Erlbaum.
- Anderman, E. M., & Patrick, H. (2012). Achievement goal theory, conceptualization of ability/intelligence, and classroom climate. In S. Christenson, A. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Student Engagement (pp. 173-191). New York, NY: Springer.
- Assor, A., Kaplan, H., & Roth, G. (2002). Choice is good, but relevance is excellent: Autonomy-enhancing and suppressing teacher behaviours predicting students’ engagement in schoolwork. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72(2), 261-278.
- Baker, J. A., Grant, S., & Morlock, L. (2008). The teacher-student relationship as a developmental context for children with internalizing or externalizing behavior problems. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(1), 3-15.
- Bandura, A., & Schunk, D. H. (1981). Cultivating competence, self-efficacy, and intrinsic interest through proximal self-motivation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41(3), 586-598.
- Belland, B. R., Kim, C., & Hannafin, M. J. (2013). A framework for designing scaffolds that improve motivation and cognition. Educational Psychologist, 48(4), 243-270.
- Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., & Marshall, B. (2003). Assessment for learning: Putting it into practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
- Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.
- Driscoll, K. C., & Pianta, R. C. (2010). Banking time in head start: Early efficacy of an intervention designed to promote supportive teacher-child relationships. Early Education and Development, 21(1), 38-64.
- Fredricks, J. A. (2014). Eight Myths of Student Disengagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning. Los Angeles: Corwin.
- Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: Potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59-109.
- Gillies, R. M., & Ashman, A. F. (1998). Behavior and interactions of children in cooperative groups in lower and middle elementary grades.Journal of Educational Psychology, 90(4), 746-757.
- Gregory, A., & Weinstein, R. S. (2004). Connection and regulation at home and in school: Predicting growth in achievement for adolescents.Journal of Adolescent Research, 19(4), 405-427.
- Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Holubec, E. (1994). The new circles of learning: Cooperation in the classroom and school. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Kidd, C., Palmeri, H., & Aslin, R. N. (2013). Rational snacking: Young children’s decision making on the marshmallow task is moderated by beliefs about environmental reliability. Cognition, 126(1), 109-114.
- Linnenbrink, E. A., & Pintrich, P. R. (2003). The role of self-efficacy beliefs in student engagement and learning in the classroom. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 19(2), 119-137.
- Middleton, M. J., & Midgley, C. (2002). Beyond motivation: Middle school students’ perceptions of press for understanding in math. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 27(3), 373-391.
- Newmann, F., Wehlage, G., & Lamborn, D. (1992). The significance and sources of student engagement. In Student Engagement and Achievement in American Secondary Schools (pp. 11-39). ERIC.
- Noels, K. A., Clement, R., & Pelletier, L. G. (1999). Perceptions of teachers’ communicative style and students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 83(1), 23-34.
- Peter, F., & Dalbert, C. (2010). Do my teachers treat me justly? Implications of students’ justice experience for class climate experience.Contemporary Educational Psychology, 35(4), 297-305.
- Reeve, J. (1998). Autonomy support as an interpersonal motivating style: Is it teachable? Contemporary Educational Psychology, 23(3), 312-330.
- Reeve, J., & Jang, H. (2006). What teachers say and do to support students’ autonomy during a learning activity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 209-218.
- Reeve, J., Jang, H., Carrell, D., Jeon, S., & Barch, J. (2004). Enhancing students’ engagement by increasing teachers’ autonomy support.Motivation and Emotion, 28(2), 147-169.
- Scales, P. C. (1991). Creating a developmental framework: The positive possibilities of young adolescents. In A portrait of young adolescents in the 1990s: Implications for promoting healthy growth and development.ERIC.
- Schunk, D., & Swartz, C. (1993). Goals and progress feedback: Effects on self-efficacy and writing achievement. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 18, 337-354.
- Schunk, D. H., & Mullen, C. A. (2012). Self-Efficacy as an engaged learner. In S. Christenson, A. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 219-235). Boston, MA: Springer US.
- Schunk, D. H. (2003). Self-efficacy for reading and writing: influence of modeling, goal setting, and self-evaluation. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 19(2), 159–172.
- Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Shneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2003). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 158-176.
- Slavin, R. E. (1996). Cooperative learning in middle and secondary schools. The Clearing House, 69(4), 200-204.
- Turner, J. C., Midgley, C., Meyer, D. K., Gheen, M., Anderman, E. M., Kang, Y., & Patrick, H. (2002). The classroom environment and students’ reports of avoidance strategies in mathematics: A multimethod study.Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 88-106.
- Tyler, J. M., Feldman, R. S., & Reichert, A. (2006). The price of deceptive behavior: Disliking and lying to people who lie to us. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42(1), 69-77.
- Webb, N. M., Nemer, K. M., & Ing, M. (2009). Small-Group reflections: Parallels between teacher discourse and student behavior in peer-directed groups. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(1), 63–119.
- Wentzel, K. R. (2009). Peers and academic functioning at school. In K. Rubin, W. Bukowski, & B. Laursen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships, and groups. Social, emotional, and personality development in context (pp. 531-547). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- Willingham, D. T. (2009). Why don’t students like school?: A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
This post has already been read 2629 times!