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What’s So Important About Student Engagement?

Written by
January 25th, 2018

Presented by Dr. Chris Balow – Transcription Below

Introduction 

Hello, everyone. I’m Dr. Chris Balow from Illuminate Education, Chief Research Scientist, and welcome to the Illuminate Whiteboard Series. Today we’re gonna talk about a really important topic, student engagement. This is a really big topic, it’s major, but we’re gonna break it down for you in just a couple minutes and give you some of the really important concepts related to student engagement. Now, first, the question is what is this notion of student engagement? It’s a really multi-dimensional construct and we can think about it in these three broad categories of presence, passion, and mental control, and we’ll break that down a little bit further, here as we go along.

Quick History of Student Engagement
First, a little bit of history about student engagement. Now, it’s been around for a long time and it really has its roots in dropout prevention because we noticed lots of kids were dropping out and they were tuning out and we really conceptualized this as a boredom factor. But it’s really much deeper than that, and it’s more than just attendance and engagement in academic tasks. There’s really this very strong mental health component.

The Disengagement Cliff

So what’s important is that the current status, a new study by Gallup in 2015 showed that 50% of students across America are disengaged. But wait, it’s actually worse than that. There’s this disengagement cliff that occurs beginning around ninth grade where we find that only one-third of students are engaged actively in their learning, and so that’s a serious problem. And so the impacts of this are absolutely tremendous on our students. Studies are showing that students who are engaged are 200% more likely to attend college. I mean, that’s incredible. But on the other hand, students who are disengaged are 700-times more likely to tell us that they are discouraged about their future, and from a psychological perspective, discouragement is one of the hallmarks of disengagement.

What Can We Do About It?

So as I said, there’s a strong psychological basis around disengaged students, and we can really break that down into three areas: relatedness, autonomy, and competence. So you as a professional educator, as a parent, as a matter of fact, what can you do to help your student become engaged? Well, in terms of relatedness, it’s important that you are a caring, involved adult. Every student needs that. In fact, studies show that that is the single most important factor in students being engaged is having that one adult who is really engaged and cares about the student. Additionally, you need to listen, and you need to be very consistent in how you respond to students. Students really need consistency in adults in their life.

Structure and Autonomy

The other important concept and area that you can make an impact on engagement is in the area of autonomy, and this applies to adults as well, but students who have some autonomy and engaging in their own learning and involvement will be more likely to be engaged in their academic tasks. So you have to remove some control from the kids, within reason. You can’t give them free reign on things. You need to offer options and provide the rationales to students. Why do they need to learn this information? Why are they engaged? And they’re more likely gonna think inside their own head about why this is important.

In Conclusion

And finally, we have to build competence because competence, if you’re competent in something, you’re gonna be more engaged. And the way we do that is to provide really accurate corrective feedback so students know exactly what they’re doing well, what they need to improve on. Additionally, deliberate practice. Now, that’s a whole area of study, so I’m gonna push you to read more about that, but that’s a way that students are sequentially learning the skills and they know what they know today, what they’re gonna learn tomorrow, and so you focus on one small step at a time while engaging in relatedness and autonomy.

So hope you’ve enjoyed this quick snapshot of student engagement. Thank you very much.

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