When we think of student engagement in learning activities, it is often convenient to understand engagement with an activity as being represented by good behaviour (i.e. behavioural engagement), positive feelings (i.e. emotional engagement), and, above all, student thinking (i.e. cognitive engagement). This is because students may be behaviourally and/or emotionally invested in a given activity without actually exerting the necessary mental effort to understand and master the knowledge, craft, or skill that the activity promotes.
In aiming for full engagement, it is essential that students perceive activities as being meaningful. Research has shown that if students do not consider a learning activity worthy of their time and effort, they might not engage in a satisfactory way. To ensure that activities are personally meaningful.
The notion of competence may be understood as a student’s ongoing personal evaluation of whether he or she can succeed in a learning activity or challenge. (Can I do this?) Researchers have found that effectively performing together an activity can positively impact subsequent engagement. To strengthen students’ sense of competence in learning activities, the assigned activities could:
Be only slightly beyond students’ current levels of proficiency
Make students demonstrate understanding throughout the activity
Show peer coping models (i.e. students who struggle but eventually succeed at the activity)
Include feedback that helps students to make progress
We may understand autonomy support as nurturing the students’ sense of control over their behaviours and goals. When teachers relinquish control (without losing power) to the students, rather than promoting compliance with directives and commands, student engagement levels are likely to increase as a result. Autonomy support can be implemented by:
Welcoming students’ opinions and ideas into the flow of the activity
Using informational, non-controlling language with students
Giving students the time they need to understand and absorb an activity by themselves
Collaborative learning is another powerful facilitator of engagement in learning activities. When students work effectively with others, their engagement may be amplified as a result, mostly due to experiencing a sense of connection to others during the activities. To make group work more productive, strategies can be implemented to ensure that students know how to communicate and behave in that setting.
High-quality teacher-student relationships are another critical factor in determining student engagement, especially in the case of difficult students and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. When students form close and caring relationships with their teachers and with the team, they are fulfilling their developmental need for a connection with others and a sense of belonging in society. Teacher-student relationships can be facilitated by:
Caring about students’ social and emotional needs
Displaying positive attitudes and enthusiasm
Avoiding deception or promise-breaking
Students’ perspective of learning activities also determines their level of engagement. When students pursue an activity because they want to learn and understand (i.e. mastery orientations), rather than merely obtain a good grade, look smart, please their parents, or outperform peers (i.e. performance orientations), their engagement is more likely to be full and thorough. To encourage this mastery orientation mindset, consider various approaches, such as framing success in terms of learning rather than performing.
Teachers need to recognize that all their students have dreams about what their futures will look like. “We recognize that Students have hopes and dreams and goals for themselves and we can help them to see how to get there”.