Posts Tagged "student engagement"

Student Engagement Series (Part 2)

As discussed in our previous post on student engagement, educators hold different views of what it means for students to be engaged in learning. Not surprisingly, research has identified several dimensions of student engagement. These include behavioral engagement, emotional or psychological engagement, and cognitive engagement.  When students are behaviorally engaged, they participate in the academic as well as the social and extracurricular components of schooling.  When students are emotionally engaged, they feel good about their school and learning experiences, as well as their relationships with teachers and peers.  When students are cognitively engaged, they are invested in academic tasks and motivated to learn.  While behavioral and emotional engagement help to set the stage for learning, cognitive engagement has the strongest connection to improved academic outcomes.

There is some overlap between behavioral, emotional, and cognitive engagement in the six teacher conceptions of engagement identified by Harris  (2008) (i.e., behaving, enjoying, being motivated, thinking, seeing purpose, and owning); however, seeing purpose in learning and owning one’s learning are most closely aligned with cognitive engagement.  In our next post in this series, we will explore how educators can design lessons and select instructional materials that facilitate students’ ability to (1) see purpose in their learning and (2) own what they learn.

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Student Engagement: A Multifaceted Construct

Most policy makers and educators agree that student engagement is a critical to improving learning outcomes. However, as we have learned, student engagement is a multifaceted construct that lacks a clear definition. In developing Learning List’s editorial reviews, we interview educators who have used featured products with students, and we ask interview respondents to explain how products engage students in learning.  Some educators explain student engagement in terms of students’ on-task behavior and participation in class activities, others recognize engagement when students enjoy learning, and still others say students are engaged when they want to learn and value what they are learning.  Our experience is not unusual.  A 2008 study by Lois Ruth Harris that explored teachers’ understandings of student engagement concluded that “teachers do not hold similar understandings of what student engagement means.”  Through a set of semi-structured interviews with teachers, Harris identified six qualitatively different categories of student engagement among teachers’ views. These included:

  1. Behaving: Students are well behaved and participate in class activities,
  2. Enjoying: Students enjoy school and have fun while learning,
  3. Being motivated: Students are motivated and confident in their ability to learn,
  4. Thinking: Students think about  what they are learning,
  5. Seeing purpose: Students see the purpose in what they are learning, and
  6. Owning: Students own and value their learning.

Over the next few weeks, this blog will consider the concept of student engagement with a focus on how school administrators and teachers can recognize meaningful engagement and select instructional materials that support and enhance efforts to improve engagement.


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Engaging Students in Science

In this TEDtalk, high school science teacher Tyler DeWitt discusses the importance of making science fun for students.  He highlights the need for teachers to help students connect to science through storytelling and the use of accessible language, pointing to the use of precise language and jargon in science textbooks as sources of disconnection.   He explains that if young students grasp science concepts somewhat imprecisely, they are more likely to be successful than if they become frustrated with the opaque language of some textbooks:

“If a young learner thinks that all viruses have DNA [they don’t], that’s not going to ruin their chances of success in science. But if a young learner can’t understand anything in science and learns to hate it, [then] that will.”




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January 2022