Writing for KnowledgeWorks, Ted Toshalis provides an overview of 10 ways that teachers can drive student engagement in equitable ways. Excerpts from the piece appear below:
What should we do to increase student engagement?
- Access and opportunity – Open doors, supply tools, broker relationships and explain processes. Take nothing for granted when it comes to resource access and opportunity; always ask whether students have what they need to be successful.
- Evidence and high expectations – Establish and encourage a growth mindset orientation; resist and remove labels; stop all ridicule during cognitive struggle; avoid ability grouping; distribute rigor and depth of learning across the board so each student is challenged and supported to persist through struggle.
- Relevance and meaning – Use essential questions, inquiry-based lessons/unity, project-based learning, problem-based pedagogies, dilemmas, UDL, controversy and exposure to diverse communities’ ways of knowing to inspire curiosity and application of learning in real-world contexts.
- Autonomy, self-direction and ownership – Find out what students want to study and how they want to study it; then wrap instruction and assessment around those interests and the competencies needed for students to demonstrate their learning. Put students in charge of identifying where they want to develop their expertise; then work with them to execute that plan.
- Collaboration – Want complex thinkers? Provide complex problems in complex groups. Set up cooperative learning opportunities, ensure a diversity of perspectives in groups, assign rotating roles and incremental progress checks, monitor status differences and take time to check on process as much as product.
- Authenticity and responsiveness – Ask yourself: Where in your curriculum, classroom or school are your students supported to show up as their full selves? Provide opportunities to experiment and lessons that require the testing of ideas, expressions, alliances, beliefs and memberships. Offer structured occasions where students can try out draft versions of their selves and see how they are received. Ensure such learning opportunities leave room to counter dominant judgments and consider whose contributions are considered authoritative.
- Self-efficacy – Provide specific cues in the learning environment so that students can see how they’ll use their knowledge, strategies, resources and relationships to succeed. Avoid bland assurances like “You can do it!” Instead, keep feedback focused on how students can use the knowledge and skills they already have to promote far greater levels of engagement—and success.
- Self-regulation – Teach students to monitor their attention, deal with distractions, set goals, self-evaluate and take breaks. Model these skills and separate their components into distinct moves. Have students practice, report results and share what works for them. Praise the activities of experimentation, evaluation and revision, not personal qualities such as smartness or persistence.
- Relational connection – Check assumptions, check in and listen for experiences and feelings that might make it hard to engage in learning. Know what students need and get them help. Suggest discrete signals students can give adults to communicate when they might need adaptations or additional supports.
- Fun – Commit to frequent use of humor, silliness, games, adventures, novelty and surprises. It doesn’t have to be every day—weekly fun moments will generate students’ expectation that another one is just around the corner. Anticipation of fun is nearly as motivating as the fun itself.