Student engagement is all about increasing their achievement orientation, honing their intelligence and giving a boom to their skills. Most research on student engagement has till now been made using the randomized samples from middle and high schools. The current age places a heavy focus on the betterment of the students in terms of their study habits, skills, commitment and engagement towards achieving their goals. In this regard, teachers have a determining role to play, augmenting student engagement by creating strong interpersonal relationships. In terms of offering a single, holistic definition embraced by all teachers and researchers alike there is quite little agreement among factions. But in lines to the various definitions that have been offered till now, student engagement can be defined in terms of their cognitive, academic, emotional, behavioral, social and psychological skills.
All of the educators are of the view that students have a potential of becoming successful and distinguished learners – without this premise, any teaching techniques and tactics would be made redundant. But with the notion of engagement we must consider its binary opposite: disengagement. There are a number of reasons for which students feel disconnected with their studies, their school, their teachers and their peers. To foster student engagement, teachers need to adopt certain strategies. Below are the 5 ways in which this hallmark can be achieved.
1. Unbiased Interaction
In line with the various studies conducted in educational psychology, we can safely state that virtual and personal interaction between the students and teachers can foster student engagement. Student indeed desire to have better relationships with their teachers and thus, encouraging solid student-teacher rapports is mandatory to student engagement. The old fashioned teacher-versus-student approach where the teacher is the “boss” of the class only serves to create the “use-versus-them” feeling. Teachers need to get closer to their students, using their role as teacher to facilitate learning and not place themselves on a pedestal of authority. This is not to say that teachers must not be in a position of authority, but they must not use it in to create a boundary between the teacher and the student.
Moreover, the students also need their teachers to know and understand how they learn. We do not all learn in the same way and we do not all learn at the same pace. Some students may be visual learners, other auditory and so forth. Teachers need to also be trained in identifying students with learning difficulties such ADHD or even those who are being help back due to poor sight or hearing problems. The tendency for teachers is to “run with the fastest” students leaving others to cope and learn by their own means. Students who are left “behind” may feel alienated and apart. They may gradually begin to dislike their teacher, their class mates and their school. The more deep-rooted disengagement becomes, the harder it will be to reverse.
In short, the students demand a productive learning environment that would be marked by the interdependent relationships of the students and teachers.
2. Sense of Shared Responsibility
Most students are of the view that their university professors and teachers are not committed towards helping them outside the class. In other words, teachers offer their advice and experience only when they need to and within the classroom context. It is also not unusual for a teacher to be described as “unapproachable” by his or her students. Allowing a more collaborative form of learning that is less teacher focused and more student focused is essential. Whilst at university, lectures often demand a more teacher centered approach; primary and secondary learning is, however, a great occasion for teachers to reduce “teacher talking time”. Students can be encouraged to work in groups or correct each other’s home work. Teachers can also encourage collaborative classrooms by “eliciting” as much as they can from students, rather than constantly providing all the information themselves.
Imparting the students with knowledge and skill is a shared responsibility. It is the duty of the teachers to help the students cross the bridges and rivers, which they have to encounter throughout the course of their education.
The classroom practices that have been reported to be the most effective are based on inquiry, problem solving, active learning, exploration as well as pair work and group work. Today’s students stand out for their need to explore, with an innate urge to find answers to difficult questions or problematic situations. Students need to be challenged but not all students respond to the same challenges or to the same level of challenge, even in a homogenous group of students with similar (but never identical) abilities.
Just like we take our own path into the internet cyberspace, similarly the students endeavor to learn about their subjects. Surely, the need to explore and know is rooted in our collective unconscious. The reasons for which the students get disheartened from the pursuit of knowledge is due to a number of factors: biasness of the teachers, the element of favoritism, lack of mutual responsibility, independent relationships, professionally dogmatic approach of the teachers and most importantly, the lack of relevancy. Teachers often underestimate just how much their students know. They may moreover, dictate lessons with teacher talking time at its highest throughout. Further to this, they may consistently seek to point out student errors, even when those errors may be inconsequential. Both these can lead to student disengagement and harbor feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. Teachers do not need to correct every error. They can moreover, encourage class mates to correct each other’s errors or get them to revise their work in pairs or groups, thereby shifting the focus away from the teacher to a more student centered approach.
4. Digital and Technological Interventions
Technology has slowly worked its way into everyone’s’ life and the inevitable impact of technology cannot be discounted or sidelined. It is today not uncommon for people to carry out courses by correspondence and teachers to email notes and essays to their students. But the network of communication is also supported between students themselves via technology. Students and teachers now form part of the network whereby they can all virtually help each other, thereby actually facilitating learning in many ways. Traditional face to face learning of course still plays a very important role but there is today another face to all this and it happens via technology. They can share discussions in forums, email notes, look up information whilst in class. They also have access to more information than ever before. Thanks to all this, they can be more engaged into their own education.
We can even look at smart phones, Skype, Facebook and Texting Technologies all being used towards sustaining student’s engagement. The teachers and educators should capitalize on this trend and should make use of technology for inducing an attitude change in the students which would be directed towards their study habits and intellectual growth.
5. Fostering Collaboration and Encouraging Community Building
If the environment, in which the students are taught lacks context, is not relevant and is highly sterile, then transfer of a broader spectrum of knowledge cannot be made possible as students might become unreceptive or reticent to imbibe something explained with a context they cannot relate to. Moreover, it is also the teacher’s responsibility to transform the classroom into a balanced community rather than just a bunch of competitors, quite nerds and demotivated students – all classroom factions hinder balanced dynamics that encourage rather than champion engagement. Learning, in reality, is more than just competition and getting the desired grade point average.
As a conclusion, it can be said that student engagement should be taken as a strategic process of growth and learning. It is by using the above mentioned tips and maneuvers that teachers would be able to create collaborative and committed thinkers, unbiased entrepreneurs, courageous learners and true lifelong performers.
Karl McDonald is a free lance writer who enjoys writing about a variety of topics. Topics of special interest include genetic DNA tests, prenatal testing, statistical research and research methodology and Information about Paternity Testing. The author regularly contributes informative and/or scientific articles to a number of blogs and info sites.