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How to Engage Students in Learning

How to engage students in learning? ≡ Ways to make education more engaging

Teaching is not a spectator sport, neither is learning. That is why not all the teachers can keep their students engaged in their course or the classroom. Accordingly, students can never learn anything just by sitting in the classroom and listening to their teachers, as well as spitting out prepared answers or memorizing pre-defined assignments. One of the key factors of a learning project success is Engagement. There are some common effective techniques for boosting the engagement. Check yourself if you leverage all of them.

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How to engage students in learning? ≡ Ways to make education more engaging

Research suggests that incorporation of some interrelated activities in any teaching pattern can significantly boost students’ engagement. This engagement is done emotionally, cognitively and also behaviorally — thereby positively influencing the learning and knowledge of students.

In other words, students can relate the learning to their past experiences and can apply that throughout their daily activities.

Engagement is the secret key to learning. When students actively engage or participate to pursue knowledge, they are actually preparing for themselves a better life ahead  –  Tom Dewing, Ho Ho Kus Associate and consultant for Silver Strong

However, during teaching, it is common to observe the students’ noticeable lack of interest or motivation in the classroom. This particular behavior is not only hard to correct but is also detrimental to the classroom dynamics. It undermines the positive energy for which you work so hard, expecting to build rapport with your students and create a sense of community.

Therefore, it is crucial for every teacher to build a strong relationship with their students. Meet them where they are and make an attempt to understand them. To achieve this, teachers need to develop a strategy that actually works as an instructional management plan. This will help in promoting specific thought patterns (between teacher and students) and in achieving desired learning goals effectively.

To prevent students stray from the course and to keep them engaged in learning, there are some common teaching tips that every teacher should incorporate into their overall teaching pattern.

Here are the measures that you can take to engage students in learning:

  • Tap into students’ prior knowledge

  • Learn students’ interests

  • Organize classroom discussions

  • Design highly relevant learning activities

  • Integrate Modern Technology

  • Foster Competition among Students

  • Provide Timely and Regular Feedback in Terms of Progress

Let’s discuss each one of them in more detail.

Tap into Students’ Prior Knowledge

You can motivate students to learn if, being a teacher, you link the course outline or program with their prior knowledge. Students are rarely interested in taking up lectures when they hold no prior knowledge of the topic.

The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows – David  Ausubel, educational psychologist

Understanding what your students already know can greatly help you tailor your teaching to the appropriate academic challenge level and identify and correct any misconceptions. For example, you can begin your lecture with a few open-ended questions, asking students to answer them in pairs.

Additionally, you may ask some multiple-choice questions that are based on the information you expect them to already know. This will help you in spotting the areas where you need to fill the gaps in understanding and leaving out the ones students are already aware of. Use the gathered information to build a course that would provide them with additional knowledge and link it with their existing understanding. Nevertheless, tapping into learners’ prior knowledge is an effective way to start the new course and an even better way to get learners involved with learning projects right from the beginning.

Optimize Learning with Effective Instructional Design

Engaging students in learning begins with the foundation of your courses. A well-structured and thoughtfully designed training program can make all the difference. Instructional Design, the science of crafting effective learning experiences, is the key to creating courses that captivate learners.

Maximize Your Course’s Impact with Professional Instructional Design Services

Don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your students’ learning experiences. Visit our Instructional Design Services page to learn more about how we can help you maximize the potential of your training courses.

Learn Students’ Interests

Sometimes there comes the situation when your students do not like your course material and they are quite disinterested or disoriented in learning. To overcome this issue, H. Richard Milner, a Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that students can be more motivated to work if they see the connection between course materials and their personal interests.

So, use the fascinations or interests of your students and find out what your learners like the most or are passionate about. Use these areas of interest as natural motivators to increase their engagement in learning. You can use many simple strategies to incorporate such areas of interest into your course outline. This will help them in understanding the material better and increasing their retention ability. Also, this helps in drawing the learner’s attention toward the subject and improving their attention span, along with the time spent on each task.

Therefore, make the most of this easy-to-incorporate strategy and include the interests of learners throughout their course material. One of the ways to do this is to create assignments that would enable students to share their interests and experiences with other fellow learners. For instance, science students might prefer to explore common factors through various films or video games. This practice also requires you to engage in conversations with students on your own and learn more about and from them.

Organize Classroom Discussions

During the learning journey, a teacher shouldn’t always be at the center of discussion. They should encourage the learners to share experiences and events from their community or home. When there is an appropriate environment for that, the engagement of the learners is much higher.

Let your learners express with each other about happenings of their lives, both inside and outside the learning curve. This will enable them to substantiate their positions and listen to others. They should be allowed to discuss whatever information they like discussing. Once you encourage such ‘rap sessions’, your learners will develop topics which they like to discuss. Moreover, you can too, decide some topics for them which would allow them to have a debate over an issue and to share their individual perspective, about a specific theme.

In this manner, learners will get an opportunity to develop their own voice, and you being a teacher will gain a lot of knowledge about your students.

Flipping the Classroom

Flipping the classroom is a proven method to engage students in learning. It involves a pedagogical approach in which the traditional lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Instead of learning new concepts in class, students are introduced to new content at home, typically via online videos. Then, in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions that facilitate a deeper understanding of the material.

This teaching strategy helps students gain control of their learning pace, leading to improved comprehension and retention. For educators, it presents the opportunity to spend more time interacting with students, addressing their difficulties, and adapting teaching strategies to individual learning styles. A report by the Flipped Learning Network and Sophia Learning found that 85% of teachers who flipped their classrooms noticed improved student grades.

Embrace Collaborative Learning

Collaborative learning is a significant strategy to enhance student engagement. This approach emphasizes the teamwork aspect of education, allowing students to learn from each other. It could involve group projects, study teams, or online discussions. When students work together, they learn to communicate, empathize, and develop social and leadership skills.

According to a study published by the National Education Association, collaborative learning leads to higher achievement, more positive relationships among students, and increased self-esteem. It transforms the classroom from a teacher-centric space into a learner-centric one. Incorporating collaborative learning can also be advantageous in preparing students for the 21st-century workplace, which values teamwork and communication highly.

Design Highly Relevant Learning Activities

Aiming for learners’ engagement, it is imperative that the learners perceive your designed activities as meaningful and helpful. Some research suggests that students cannot be engaged in learning up to a satisfactory level if they fail to consider their learning activities worthy of putting effort or investing time. To consider the worst, they may disengage with the course entirely, as a natural response.

Therefore, before you design the learning activities you must take the advantage of their areas of interest, and their learning preferences. To make sure that the developed learning activities will motivate the student to get more engaged in learning, you must keep them personally meaningful.

For instance, connect these activities in accordance with their prior experiences and previous knowledge, reflecting the value or meaning of the assigned activity in relevant ways.

Also, an expert or adult modeling should also assist students; by demonstrating why a particularly designed activity is worth investing time and effort and when and how this can be applied in their real lives.

Integrate Modern Technology

The majority of teachers are leaving out the traditional learning patterns and adopting more advanced application of technology. Such measures are adopted to encourage student engagement in learning at a better level, make them exert more effort in learning and to make them excited to accomplish their learning goals. Students follow through their learning process often using modern technology.

The students, who get an access to modern online technology, like this learning pattern immensely. Similarly, many students including me now use modern technology as an ultimate tool to obtain students’ engagement in learning – David Harms, Instructor of Social Studies, Perrysburg

Some of the examples you can refer to are the following:

ChatGPT and other AI-based tools

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dramatically changing the educational landscape, and tools like ChatGPT are at the forefront of this transformation. These AI-driven applications assist in personalized learning, adapt to students’ learning pace, and provide immediate feedback, enhancing engagement.

For instance, ChatGPT can interact with students, clarify their doubts, and provide detailed explanations on a wide range of topics. Teachers can use AI tools to automate repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus more on their students. AI can also help educators analyze student performance data, identifying areas of improvement.

A study from soocial.com revealed that 24% of respondent educators who have already started using AI in their classrooms found it beneficial. As technology evolves, AI tools will likely become an increasingly common component in classrooms, helping to engage students in their learning journey.

Unlocking the Power of Mobile Learning

Mobile learning is no longer a luxury but a necessity. To truly capture and engage modern students, educational initiatives must embrace the convenience and flexibility that mobile learning offers.

Today’s learners are on the move, and their education should be too. Mobile learning, or mLearning, allows students to access educational content at their convenience, fitting seamlessly into their busy lives. It empowers them to use educational technology on their mobile devices in ways that suit their preferences and lifestyles.

Curious to learn more about the transformative potential of mobile learning? Dive deeper into the topic by exploring our article on ‘What Is Mobile Learning?‘. Discover how it can seamlessly integrate into your learning ecosystem, offering unparalleled flexibility and accessibility in today’s fast-paced world.

Foster Competition among Students

Competition is a great way to motivate students to learn better or to make them engaged in learning more naturally. When a teacher develops a sense of competition among his/her students, it encourages the students to do what is needed to remain ahead of others. In other words, the sense of competition is basically student’s continuous personal evaluation which they make to understand how well they can succeed in a challenge or learning activity.

According to many researchers, if students perform an activity effectively, it can create a positive impact, leading to more learning engagement. Hence, to strengthen this sense of competition amongst learners, the developed learning activities must be:

  • A little beyond the current proficiency level of the student

  • Designed to help students show understanding throughout the learning activity

  • Well incorporated with feedbacks that will eventually assist students in their learning process.

Provide Timely and Regular Feedback in Terms of Progress

Students need to know the weak areas in which they need to put efforts to improve. And if students fail to recognize such low-performance areas, they fail to improve their learning. Such situation discourages them and often disengages them from their course.

Therefore, providing feedback is crucial to give students an explanation of where they are performing satisfactory and where they need to excel efforts, where they understand the material correctly and where incorrectly. When students receive regular feedback about their performance they respond more positively and remember the experience of what is being learned.

However, if you wait too long to provide feedback, the moment gets lost and the student fails to connect the feedback with the required action. However, the feedback focus should always be based essentially on the good learning areas of the students — area in which they are performing well. It is highly productive for students and their learning; to know the accuracy and inaccuracy of their work, when provided with adequate explanations or examples. Also, to keep your feedback effective and action-oriented, use the technique of a feedback sandwich.

Elevate Continuous Education with Engaged Lifelong Learners

Lifelong learners are a unique breed. Driven by curiosity and a thirst for new knowledge, they are motivated to explore, adapt, and grow throughout their lives. However, the path to keeping them engaged isn’t without its hurdles. These students are often balancing learning with busy lives, careers, and a myriad of commitments.

For educational initiatives offering continuous education, the ability to captivate these learners is paramount.

Explore our Continuing Education for Universities product page to discover how Raccoon Gang can help you transform the learning experience for this unique and valuable demographic.

Conclusively

Now that you know how to engage students in learning, do you apply any of these engagement facilitators when implementing or designing various learning activities? If not, you should start right away!

All of these effective approaches to boost students’ engagement in learning are not complex, but they might require you to invest adequate time in planning. Yet, they hold great potential to assist teachers in deepening their students’ knowledge, building strong relationships with students, and developing instructional and curriculum practices that are way more meaningful to students.

After all, a good learning pattern is beneficial for both teachers and students, and while you may initially find it challenging to incorporate, this will eventually bring positive outcomes for everyone associated with the course.

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