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From Passive to Active: Techniques for Boosting Student Engagement

Student engagement is becoming increasingly complex for educators with difficulty gaining classroom traction.

In the wake of the pandemic and partly due to the evolving educational landscape, students are becoming more distracted than ever. Teachers struggle to connect with students who quickly lose interest in challenging concepts. Whether online or in-person, all educators working today are tasked with boosting student engagement.

Licensed K-12 teachers can gain skills in this area and make a difference by enrolling in the University of Wisconsin-Superior (UW-Superior) online Master of Science in Education (MSE) – Instruction program. This program does not require a prior teaching degree for admission. Educators will learn to run and manage an improved classroom. Courses such as Behavior Analysis and Intervention emphasize theories, strategies and intervention plans and how they function in a practical school setting.

Real-World Relevance

The basic science of attention in the classroom is rooted in cognitive psychology and neuroscience. It involves understanding how students’ brains process information and how external factors can enhance or hinder their ability to focus and engage in learning. There are several common strategies to increase student engagement in the classroom, which align with the basic science of attention, including:

  • Active learning: Encourage students to actively participate in the learning process through discussions, group activities, hands-on experiments and problem-solving.
  • Clear communication: Present information clearly and concisely, avoiding unnecessary distractions or jargon that might overload students’ cognitive capacity.
  • Use of visuals: Incorporate visuals such as diagrams, charts and videos to enhance understanding and make content more engaging.

A new article published by 3P Learning, a global leader in online learning, agrees student engagement is trending in the wrong direction because teachers are turning to props and other time-wasting resources to hold attention. Experts say students are disengaged because they aren’t connected to or engaged by artificial things — they’re engaged by people, teachers and real-life interactions.

Answer the question, “When am I going to use this again?” to unlock the key to increasing student engagement. Students want to know what they learn applies to life outside the classroom. An Edutopia article agrees that engaged students feel like what they learn is relevant to their lives. Researchers say active students feel confident and secure with the real-world support of a caring adult helping them on their educational journey.

Technology and Interactive Lesson Integration

There are many ways to keep students engaged in learning. The key is implementing interactive learning strategies and increasing student motivation. Motivation is a multifaceted factor that significantly influences students’ interest in coursework.

A Branching Minds article suggests instructors should strive to create a supportive and engaging learning environment that taps into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, fosters autonomy, and emphasizes the relevance of the coursework to students’ lives and future goals. Types of engagement include embedding interactive components into lessons, using everyday practices to promote social and emotional connections and integrating student interests into classroom content.

Integrating technology into the classroom allows students to design, build and perform tasks that might otherwise be more difficult. Technology aims to help students feel accomplished when they create their unique products.

Interactive Learning Strategies

Brainstorming, playing games and working in groups are excellent examples of interactive learning strategies in the classroom. Using the continuum of engagement is also a helpful tool for educators because it recognizes the diversity of student engagement levels and provides a framework for addressing this diversity in the classroom.

An ASCD article promotes new ways of thinking about student engagement. The article claims that researcher Amy Berry’s “continuum of engagement and disengagement” enables educators to tailor instruction and create inclusive learning environments at every level, ultimately improving student motivation, retention and success.

The continuum of engagement includes:

  • Understanding diverse student engagement levels
  • Tailoring instruction
  • Feedback and assessment
  • Creating inclusive learning environments
  • Motivation and retention
  • Preventing disengagement
  • Personalized learning
  • Professional development

To help students foster ownership of their learning, researchers say students must learn to self-regulate their behavior. By evaluating their thinking, students will eventually become better learners.

Current teachers interested in broadening their knowledge and exploring such roles in educational instruction as program coordinators, training and development specialists, program outreach administrators or master teachers would benefit from UW-Superior’s online MSE – Instruction program. Gain confidence in your educational skills, learn the most up-to-date teaching tips, and keep up with the changing world of education by earning this online MSE.

Learn more about UW-Superior’s online Master of Science in Education – Instruction program.

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