Teachers want their students to learn, but they also want them to be interested in learning and excited about learning, which will ameliorate both the experience and the process. If you’ve ever tried getting students excited about subject material that is less than exciting, you know this isn’t always easy.
There are a lot of different factors that come together to make a student successful – and the combination varies from student to student. Some rely on natural ability, some rely on the success of their peers to motivate them, others need a huge teacher-parent-peer support system to make any academic success happen. That said, nearly every student can be successful – at least to some degree- if they’re engaged.
Many people often equate ‘engaged’ with ‘motivated’, but the two are not the same. A motivated student may want to learn, but they may not be engaged. Engagement doesn’t mean that they’re excited about learning or happy about school. It doesn’t mean they pay more attention in class or spend more time on their homework.
It doesn’t just mean that they are compliant with school rules and academic assignments. An engaged student may be and do many of these things, but those things do not equal engagement.
So what exactly does an ‘engaged’ student look like? Tell us what you think – Drop us a line in the comments below, mention @DailyGenius on Twitter or head over to the Daily Genius Facebook page and leave us a message there.
An engaged student…
- Is involved in making decisions: Engaged students are involved in making decisions about their education. This can range from giving input on types of projects they want to work on, asking to delve deeper into subjects that interest them in class, where and when they do their homework at home, elective classes to take, and more. Students are more engaged when they take part in planning and making decisions about their learning.
- Offers opinions, suggestions, and ways to improve: Engaged students take the opportunity to offer opinions, suggestions, and ways to improve. This holds true both in and out of the classroom. Using some examples from above, an engaged student will take the opportunity to tell the teacher that they’d really like to do a group project when the teacher asks the class, rather than deferring to whatever the teacher will decide and not offering a suggestion. Alternatively, let’s say a student’s parents make a rule that the student must come straight home and do their homework immediately. An engaged student might ask their parents to have an hour or two ‘off’ after school hours before they start doing their homework, rather than coming straight home and beginning the homework if they know that time will help them blow off some steam and relax before delving back into schoolwork.
- Sees the bigger picture and understands its importance: If you had asked me about the ‘bigger picture’ of my education when I was younger, I might have been able to tell you that if I didn’t do well in school, then I wouldn’t be able to go to a good college and then I wouldn’t get a good job. (My father used to threaten me by telling me I’d have to be a school bus driver if I didn’t get good grades.) But the bigger picture is actually much bigger than that – students should know that in life, like in school, they have a voice, there are consequences for their actions, and more. Engaged students have learned this by doing.
- Respects and appreciates their teachers and their peers: Most kids are taught to respect their elders, at least to a degree – and teachers fall into this category by default. But that doesn’t always mean that students respect them. Even fewer students truly respect their peers. This behavior absolutely needs to be encouraged. Helping your students see the value in their other teachers and in their peers will help them find their own value in the equation.
- Wants to work hard to make things better and to learn more: This is where most people confuse motivation with engagement: engaged students do want to work hard to improve their learning environment and to enable themselves to learn more. Some of this is motivation (natural or otherwise encouraged) and some of this is learned.
- Values teamwork and is a reliable team member: Teamwork in school often means the ‘smart’ kids doing all the work for a group project. Moving beyond this, engaged students can see teamwork as a valuable tool that can help them learn. Touching on the ‘respect’ item above, students can learn that they can draw on their teammates strengths and offer their own strengths to the group to make a more robust, stronger team than each individual piece.
- Knows that their voice is heard: If a student knows that they can voice their opinion, that’s great. But if the teacher simply brushes it off because it is a student suggestion or because it isn’t the direction the teacher planned on going in – it teaches the student that their opinions will get tossed aside. This doesn’t mean following what the students always want. It may mean more strategic class polling and doing some planning about what you can ‘give’ on and what you can’t in terms of student request, but it will be worth it in the long run.