Originally published November 10th, 2014/Updated September 27th, 2016
Welcome to our blog series: Engaged Learning! In upcoming weeks, we’ll be thinking about student engagement and a variety of strategies for increasing student engagement in your class (both in-person and online). Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, this series will gather us all around key considerations for student engagement and hopefully help to facilitate a larger conversation across MSU and beyond. Today, since this is the first post in our series, we’ll discuss just what we mean when we’re talking about student engagement and begin to get you thinking about what you want student engagement to be in your class.
“Student engagement” is a popular term for describing optimal responses from students to their experiences in higher education: participating in class, using campus support services, and ultimately staying in school to finish a college degree. That’s why, for example, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) looks at a spectrum of “educationally purposeful activities” inside and outside of the classroom as they assess levels of student engagement across higher ed. Since we are most focused on what student engagement looks like in a classroom, we’ll dive in here, but also acknowledge that other forms of student engagement are important and very much connected to one another along a spectrum.
For the sake of our work in the classroom, we’ve found Great School Partnership’s Edglossary definition of student engagement most helpful: “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.” Here we get a picture of students wanting to learn what is important in our disciplines and classes, successfully completing our course, and eventually completing a degree. But, as you can imagine, this classroom engagement looks different based upon your discipline, class, and overall learning outcomes. It also hinges on the relationships you build with students, between students, and in how you facilitate authentic opportunities for all of you to engage with the questions and challenges that actually drive your discipline.
(Re)defining Engagement in Your Class
Since we teach and learn across a variety of disciplines, with a variety of learning outcomes and discipline-driving questions, student engagement can take many forms. While there may be some similarities, engagement in an English class may look different than in a Science class, since our disciplines use different lens on the world and value making claims and meaning in different ways. We assess learning differently too. To begin the process of thinking about what student engagement does or could look like in your class, here are some questions to consider:
1) What are the key questions and challenges driving you and the work in your discipline? Why/how might students care about these questions and challenges with you?
2) What does a student, fully engaged in what matters in your discipline, and on their way to meeting the learning outcomes in your course, look like? What do they know? What do they do? How do you hope they’ll get there?
3) What multiple form(s) does/could “attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion” take in relation to what matters to students and your discipline? How could learning activities best facilitate this engagement? How will you know if these learning activities are facilitating this engagement?
4) Overall, how do you already teach in ways that support optimal student engagement with your discipline and class? In what areas do you want to grow?
These questions are starting points for you in beginning to identify key aspects of student engagement. These questions also begin to help you recognize what you’re already doing towards optimal student engagement as well as areas where you may want to grow. Hopefully, these questions raise awareness that leads to the student engagement you hope for towards your learning outcomes and overall success for students in and beyond your course.
We’d Like to Know: How did you respond to some of the questions about student engagement above? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Erik Skogsberg is a PhD Candidate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education (CITE) at MSU. His current research focuses on early career teacher development toward the inclusion of youth literacies, digital literacies, and culturally sustaining pedagogies in the secondary English classroom. He has facilitated courses and professional development focused on teaching methods, disciplinary and youth literacies, digital literacies and educational technology, and teacher mentoring. In his current role as the Teacher Learning Designer in MSU’s HUB for Innovation in Learning and Technology and the MSU Graduate School, he supports graduate teaching assistant professional development across campus. Follow him on Twitter: @erikskogs.