Kate Marriott

Student Engagement

The term ‘engaging lesson’ is something that every school teacher is all too familiar with hearing. But what does it mean to create and deliver an engaging lesson?

Since the return to classrooms from lockdown, many teachers have reported that students have become more passive, have low motivation levels and feel disengaged from learning. This is due to multiple socio-economic factors which hindered many students as their learning continued in their homes which were not necessarily conducive learning environments.

So what can teachers do to improve motivation and re-engage students with their learning? Dr David Sousa defines student engagement as the “amount of attention, interest, curiosity, and positive emotional connections that students have when they are learning, whether in the classroom or on their own” (2016, p. 17).

But what does this look like in practice?

Below are some ideas you can incorporate into your planning to help students engage further with their learning.
Quick writing tasks 

Long periods of writing can be a daunting task for some students but it’s understood that in KS4 and 5 this is an important aspect of preparation for exams and dependent on subject, can be a prerequisite of the course. Quick writing tasks is one way to ensure that everyone in the classroom is active and involved. Taking a pause during a discussion to allow students to write allows them time to gather their thoughts, identify areas of confusion, and assess reactions to the material being covered. 

Incorporate discussions into your lessons

It’s easy to fall into the trap of planning lessons which involve students listening to a teachers exposition and then completing an activity related to what they have just been told. But how much time do you set aside in lessons for students to discuss and share their opinions? Students feel engaged when they feel listened to and their opinions form part of the learning process and can also be an opportunity for the teacher to address misconceptions or challenge opinions to develop critical thinking.

Share your Curriculum Vision

Think about what your vision is for your curriculum and share that with your students. For Middle Leaders, think about the purpose of your curriculum and what you want students to achieve by the end of the course. This vision should be shared with students so that they are aware of the purpose behind their learning and how their skills and knowledge will be developed. Having a vision will also help with planning lessons that are aligned to your vision and in turn motivate students to learn and develop subject related skills.

Have a look at this History example and think about what the vision could be for your subject area:

I want all students to have a balanced view of world history with a strong understanding of events underpinned by rigorous investigations. I want student knowledge to be enriched through discussions and presentations and enrichment activities that add further context to past events. I want students to confidently interpret the significance and impact of past events and be able to make connections to the present.

Relate learning to the real world

Bring learning to life by connecting learning to real life. Many teachers can attest to hearing ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ when teaching certain topics, so think about how you can create real life scenarios for students to understand topics better. When last did you apply Pythagoras’ theorem? How is making a cup of tea an example of diffusion? By bringing learning to life you can help students understand concepts in a more meaningful way which will help them engage more with their learning.

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