NewsEducationTeaching ResourcesTeacher's Desk

Four ways to boost student engagement

If ‘learning is not a spectator sport’ then students must be active participants. Here are four ways to engage students of all ages in the classroom.

Learn from your colleagues

There’s a lot to be said for not reinventing the wheel. Children should not be the only ones learning at school; take advantage of being surrounded by educators by speaking to your colleagues and finding out what works for them.

Read the latest print edition of School News HERE

A Grattan Institute Report 2017, Engaging Students: creating classrooms that improve learning stated that only about one third of practices promoted to teachers in training courses and textbooks are successful, while simultaneously many teachers are never given the chance to observe their colleagues and learn in situ how others engage students.

And it shouldn’t be a matter of seeking out the person with the most years in the classroom, because sometimes it’s the relative newcomers who have fresh and vibrant strategies. Educators in your own school and catchment are teaching the same children, therefore they have valuable knowledge about what works (and what doesn’t).

Be real

A UNSW study in 2019 showed that students’ relationships with their teachers are associated with their engagement at school, and the more positive the relationship, the greater engagement they had in their learning.

Therefore having a good connection with your students is essential for engaging them in learning. This can be done by ensuring students see you as more than just the person at the front of the classroom, but as someone they can relate to and connect with. Share personal aspects of your life – what football team you follow, what pets you have, your favourite movie or book or band – anything you are willing to share that illustrates you are a human.

Similarly, find out who students are outside of the school and what makes them tick. Educator and author of Leading Positive Classrooms, Christopher Hudson, suggests allocating a couple of minutes a day for ten days to speak with each student and ask them questions about their interests.

The NSW Department of Education says that in addition to increased engagement and achievement, positive teacher-student relationships support a sense of belonging, reduced school anxiety and for the teacher, increased satisfaction in the classroom.

male primary school teacher and student
© michaeljung, Adobe Stock

Hand over (some) control to the students

When students have a say in their learning, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to what is happening. Not only does making choices and taking responsibility replicate real-world experiences, but it is also often accompanied by a sense of ownership and accountability.

Some ways to involve students in classroom decision-making can be with flexible seating and allowing them to choose where and how they sit. They can also be responsible for jointly deciding on the classroom rules and taking on jobs within the classroom environment.

For children of all ages, students will learn more when they are actively involved in finding the answers.  Don’t just stand at the front of the classroom and tell them the answers; make them discover it themselves. Depending on the year level and situation that might mean project-based work, a trip to the library or even asking a student to stand up and summarise what you have just said and let them teach the class for a bit.

Prepare an Arsenal

Students can quickly get bored when presented with the same style of teaching day in and day out (as can the person providing the teaching), which it is why it is important to have a whole arsenal of teaching tools and weapons at your disposal. By this I mean teaching methods and styles, activities and prompts that can focus attention and boost engagement.

There is a wealth of resources available to educators, from Dave Burgess who recommends ‘Teaching Like a Pirate’ to establish rapport and increase passion to Dr Graham Dodd who encourages movement in the classroom to not only fuel the brain but enhance learning and mood.

Having different teaching styles and methods not only keeps the classroom fresh and students alert, but it caters to different learning styles and can help develop a range of different real-world skills, from teamwork, research methods, public speaking and critical thinking.

Related articles: Tips to spice things up in the classroom 

Shannon Meyerkort

Shannon Meyerkort is a freelance writer and the author of "Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed our World", now available in all good bookstores.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
SchoolNews - Australia