All educators would like to see their students engaged in classroom activities, not just enduring them. While it can be difficult to pinpoint student engagement, we can often identify it when we see it. If you have worked in a classroom, chances are you have a few stories about moments when one or more of your students were truly engaged. What did that look like? What made you think that the student was engaged? Unpacking a few of my favorite stories of genuine engagement has revealed four keys to increasing student engagement.
1. Arrange Instruction to Ensure Success
A failing student is almost always a disengaged student. Students that come to class every day and get everything wrong are rarely engaged. They may be motivated to succeed, but without actual success, it is very difficult for the student to become engaged in classroom activities. “What’s the point – I know I’m going to get it wrong” is a common statement from this type of disengaged student.
One of the best things a teacher can do for their students is to sequence instruction in such a way that students can be successful throughout. Arranging instruction to ensure success is made up of two main components: meeting the student where she is, and using errorless learning (Sidman, 2010) procedures. Whenever feasible, use pre-training readiness assessments to get data indicating the ideal starting point for a student. Knowing exactly where a student is makes it much easier to determine what should be taught next. And, if you can identify the optimal instruction to be delivered, you can then sequence the instruction in such a way that students are correct far more than they are wrong.
2. Increase Active Responding
When students sit idly while the teacher talks, the teacher has to hope that all of the information somehow sinks in and can be used by the student later on. But when students are actively demonstrating learning by speaking, writing, building, or responding with a MimioVote™ assessment, they are more likely to show the teacher, as well as themselves, that they are learning. Active responding has been shown to be one of the most significant factors in the production of learning (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1984). If more learning is occurring, students are more successful, and are thus more likely to be engaged in the classroom activities.
3. Provide Continuous Feedback
While active responding is important, it is equally important to give students continuous feedback related to their performance in order to accelerate learning. As the guru on feedback and performance, Dr. Donald Tosti, has stated, quality feedback has two purposes: (1) to help motivate and (2) to help change the form of a response (Tosti, n.d.). Feedback should always be clear, useful, and motivational. All of Dr. Tosti’s guidelines for delivering feedback are important, but one attribute of good corrective feedback is often overlooked. While a teacher who is working diligently to provide continuous feedback may correctly deliver the positive feedback immediately following a successful attempt, corrective feedback should be delivered before the next opportunity, rather than after the incorrect attempt (e.g., “This time, place the 1 above the number in the tens’ place).
For more on Dr. Tosti’s extremely helpful guide to providing feedback, visit http://www.ispi.org/archives/resources/FeedbackandPerformance_Tosti.pdf
4. Add Value to Learning
Last but not least, add value to learning. Adding value can take multiple forms, but for now, we will focus on two primary types: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic, here, refers to point systems or grades (e.g., coins for correct answers that are traded in later), while intrinsic refers to value that is found in progress, success, or enjoyment. Both types will lead to harder working students, but student engagement tends to be most apparent when students are motivated by progress through or success with the instructional tasks at hand.
To really build student engagement, you want your students to find value in the successful mastery of the content. In a math sequence, for example, students could apply mathematical principles to building small homes in a real or virtual world. Upon completion of the small homes, they could begin to apply more complex principles to the construction of more complex structures, like bridges and skyscrapers.
Mimio Reading Programs and the Four Keys
MimioSprout™ early reading and MimioReading™ individualized instruction employ all of the four keys described, plus many more strategies to help build student engagement. Instruction is arranged to ensure continual success by carefully placing students exactly where they need to begin, and pacing and sequencing instruction in such a way that students get over 90% correct, on average, across all instructional segments. Students respond frequently (20 or more responses per minute), and the software assesses and adapts continuously to student performance. Success is celebrated at every point of progress, and corrective feedback is always delivered in a way that is informative and encouraging. Value is added through earning systems that include coins and coin redemption, but primarily focus on building value in successful mastery of the program objectives, and ultimately, the ability to read.
While teachers and principals love Mimio’s research- and evidence-driven individualized reading programs because of the great results, students will tell you how fun and engaging they find every moment of the instruction.