Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Key to Unlocking Student Engagement

Engagement means something different to just about everyone. What engages one student fails to engage the next student, and one teacher’s idea about optimal engagement varies from the teacher next door. So how do we know if we are truly engaging our students?

Before we get to that answer, I’d like to analyze engagement through the lens of student outcomes, and for learning that means retention. Engagement should lead to retention, and if students aren’t retaining what they’re exposed to, then can we say that they’re authentically engaged?  

Exam the graphic of learning retention by The Active Learners Institute. What’s interesting about this graphic is what happens when students start leading themselves in their learning.  Students retain 50% of the information through discussion with others.  Their retention increases to 75% when students practice by doing the work themselves, but they retain a whopping 90% of what they learn when students teach one another.  When we expect students to take more ownership of the work, learning retention increases exponentially.

As we reflect on our efforts to increase student engagement, let’s answer the following questions:
  • What are the predominant retention rate activities that students undertake in our classrooms?  
  • What activities are dependent on me and which ones push students to do the work?
  • How can I provide students more access to higher retention activities?  
  • How do I gauge students retention to determine the actual engagement in my classroom?
We learn best by doing, and we retain more information when we are more cognitively engaged in the learning. The key to student engagement is not busyness, and it’s not about flashy, aesthetically pleasing activities either.  Optimized engagement guarantees that all students retain as much as possible, and that happens when we evaluate the result of our efforts rather than intent of them. 

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