Engaging students involves appealing to what matters to them.
In this lesson, we will discuss the elements that are involved in student engagement, and best practices to enhance the student experience.
What Is Student Engagement?
Every teacher has seen it; vacant stares, lost expressions, and general disinterest in the classroom. It’s no longer a question of whether or not they’re paying attention, but has become a question of how you can get through to them.
What is wrong? Why aren’t they interested in what is going on in the classroom?
If you’re an educator fortunate enough to have seen a student truly engaged, then you know why many are in what can sometimes be a tiring and unrewarding profession. When the students’ eyes light up, they begin to smile or get that intent look on their faces, and they begin to get excited, then the occupation is the best in the world. It is what teachers live for.
The human mind thrives on interest and motivation. You remember what you care about, understand what fits the right connections in your brain, and can apply knowledge when it is connected in your brain to your memories and understanding of your life experiences. All levels of learning are on the other side of engagement.When your students are engaged, they1. care about what is happening;2.
are stimulated by what is happening;3. believe in the learning process;4. care about you;5. believe in you; and6. are able to follow the material.
Preparing Yourself for Student Engagement
Creating the conditions necessary for optimal student engagement is somewhat of an art, as well as a science. Start with yourself, and be brutally honest.
1. Do you care about what is happening in the classroom?2. Are you stimulated by your presentation?3.
Do you have confidence that the students can achieve success in the topic?4. Do you care about the students? Do you try to understand them? Do you feel what they’re feeling?5. Are you highly competent in the topic?6. Do you care whether or not the material is being presented in a way that the students can grasp?
Preparing the Presentation to Create Student Engagement
Achieving student engagement is a matter of mastering all six areas.
If you do, you will have an unprecedented level of student engagement, and will join that small, high-impact group of teachers who are really making a difference.
Getting Them to Care
When you’re trying to create engagement, you have to get into the students’ heads. What do they care about? Every classroom is full of dreams, aspirations, desires, fears, and hopes. Do you know what the students’ dreams are? How does your material fit in with their dreams? Make the presentation speak to their dreams.
Getting Them Stimulated
Today’s generation of students tends to be technologically stimulated all the time. They are using phones, tablets, laptops, game consoles, and smart televisions all day. This creates a couple of effects that you need to be aware of.
- They’re over-stimulated, which means bland fare, such as text or conventional lecture, will not be enough to make an impact.
- They’re used to it, which means you won’t impress them with yours. However, your genuineness, personal touch, and unique magic will tend to stand out.
There is a dearth of warmth in most students’ lives–they will draw near to yours like freezing children warming up to a fire. Use many senses (especially the under-stimulated ones such as taste, touch, and smell) in your presentations, and let your personal warmth draw in your students.
Giving Them Confidence
Confidence is born of success. It is critical, in your presentations and exercises, to give the students successes.
Show them that they really can do it. Get them to answer a question, any question. Draw them into competence by leading them, not by showing them.
Making Them Care About You
Interest and concern for another human being is generally a mixture of a mirror effect and vulnerability. The students will care about you when you show them that you truly care about them, and when you are willing to become vulnerable and open to their approval or disapproval.
If you know their dreams, your passionate interest in what matters to them will give them a reason to care about you.
If you’re not sure of a lesson’s material, over-prepare! This cannot be over-emphasized. Students sense when you’re faking it and they’re not impressed! Be ready for weird questions, odd situations, and things that don’t go well in the presentation. Be the expert they need you to be.
This is a tough one, although the prevalence of available technologies makes it easier. You cannot effectively engage a classroom of individuals by making one homogeneous presentation; you have to speak to each student in some way, using approaches that specifically appeal to that student. If you have a good picture of who your students are and what they want, if you know what their current level of competence is, and if you have them believing in you, then you can create an effective engagement environment that will speak to each one.
Engagement is a matter of getting students to care about what is taking place, stimulating them, giving them confidence in their ability to master the material, getting them to care about you, showing that you know your stuff, and ensuring that the material is being presented at an effective level for each member of the classroom. This can only be done well if you first ensure that you have all of these things yourself; give them something to reflect. Then, use your knowledge of their dreams to give them something they care about, use what is unique about you and your classroom to get them stimulated, use instructor-led achievements to give them confidence, share yourself to establish their interest in you, make sure that you are eminently competent in the topic, and differentiate; give each one a different experience.The most powerful incentive you will ever experience in the classroom is a group of excited, interested, motivated, creative, powerful minds working together to achieve their dreams.