Five ways to get students engaged and learning
To motivate students can be a real challenge, but it's clear that an engaged teacher is the key to inspiring learning.
While the educational climate has changed drastically over the years, one thing remains constant: if students aren't engaged in your class, they won't absorb what you're teaching them.
Here are five ways to get your students excited about learning:
1. Make sure students know what they're in for and why they're in class
No matter the amount of tricks you have up your sleeve, sometimes you just can't seem to connect with your students. Some issues that run deeper than just not making the material interesting.
If you repeatedly run into the same issues with your class, it might be time to think critically about what's really going on.
When you're trying to figure out why a group of students is having trouble engaging, start by making sure they know exactly what they're in for.
Are they confused about an assignment? Are they struggling because they don't know what they want to get out of this class?
It's easy for students to get frustrated when they feel you're asking them to do something without explaining why they should do it, but if you're not making it clear why something matters, then there's no way for them to understand how important it is or how much effort is required of them.
You can explain the importance of an assignment by relating it to material that has already been covered in class, but try not to assume that your students have retained everything from the previous lessons.
Sometimes this means repeating yourself more than you'd like, but it's better than assuming that they have understood everything that came before.
2. Create a classroom culture that fosters student engagement
What is the best way to foster student engagement? One way to foster student engagement is to create a classroom culture that fosters it. Engagement is a heightened state of motivation, involvement, and absorption in what one does. This definition emphasizes the importance of having students feel motivated and involved in their work.
To create this environment, you want to create a classroom culture that is neither too friendly nor too formal. You want to keep the class casual enough for students to feel relaxed and not worried about saying the wrong thing but at the same time professional enough for students to feel like they can be taken seriously and can produce work to the best of their ability. You also want your class to be academically rigorous so that students know they must work hard and do their best if they want to succeed.
3. Give students choices in their work and allow them to be creative
Students are more engaged in their work when they have a sense of ownership. When students are given choices in what to do, they feel more responsible for the outcome.
Choice can come in several forms, including choice of partner or mentor, choice of topics, choice of process, or choice of product.
Given these kinds of choices, they are more likely to take ownership over their work and responsibility for it. They are less likely to blame others for bad outcomes. And they are more likely to persist in the face of setbacks.
Staging the work
In a recent lesson, my students had to write a persuasive letter to a fictional government official. They had to present three reasons the official should support a particular issue.
As they were working, I walked around and asked them questions.
What is your assertion?
What evidence do you have to prove your point?
What kind of language do you use?
How can you strengthen your argument?
Then, I presented them with a list of topics that included governmental affairs, business issues, and social media.
My goal was to give them options so they could have ownership in their work. Most students picked governmental affairs as their topic. They picked it because it is an important issue for our community now.
In the future, as more students experience this exercise, they will feel empowered as they see the importance of their work and they will probably become better writers, too.
4. Create an open environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes
It's important to create an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. I think creating this kind of learning environment is about encouraging students to have the expectation that they are going to accomplish something by working hard at it. Creating a learning environment for young people where they know that they are expected to be successful is important.
It's not just about telling them they will be successful, but also helping them understand how much effort is needed, and how hard it will be work, to achieve their goals. It means giving them lots of opportunities for success along the way. It means letting them know that their effort will be recognized and valued, even if their end result is not what you would hope for.
Learning environments need to give students the opportunity to make mistakes, without getting too upset or holding too tightly to high standards. You want students to know that although mistakes may cost them points on a test or lower their grade, they won't hold it against them forever. Mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process, and students need to know that you recognize this and will help them move forward from it.
5. Use technology to enhance your teaching and make it more engaging
The more we use technology in our teaching, the more we learn that it is not a gimmick or a quick fix solution. It is the twenty-first century and we need to adapt and provide students with more of an engaging learning experience. We need to keep up with the technology and develop new ways to implement it in our classrooms.
We can no longer rely on old ways of teaching students. Technology can help us create a more interactive learning environment for all students. Technology can be used as a tool for us to be more hands on and provide students with opportunities to learn in different ways.
Technology is here to stay, so let's embrace it and use it wisely so we can give our students an opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge that they will be able to apply when they enter their chosen career fields.
Commit to providing students with a high-quality education. Technology has the potential to transform the face of education.
It's our responsibility to teach students how to integrate digital tools into their education.
Effective teachers make education engaging
It's not only a challenge to capture attention in class, but also to maintain it. The challenge is compounded when the students in your class have been "disenchanted" by previous teachers and have lost faith in their own abilities to learn.
A teacher who can help them regain their confidence and see the possibility of self-learning is valuable indeed.
Students who feel respected will be more engaged, more likely to make an effort, more likely to get excited about what they're doing, and more likely to be interested in your instruction.
Students are often criticized for being lazy, but that's rarely the case. Sometimes, they're not lacking in motivation; they're lacking in interest. The main difference between a student who is interested in what you're teaching and one who's not is whether or how much you engage him.
The teacher is an artist, creating a dynamic environment in which to share and develop ideas with passion and rigor.
Think about your students as people, not just receptacles for knowledge. Once you have engaged your students, the process of learning will take on a life of its own.