Beyond Student Assessment Data: Are Your Engagement Strategies In The Classroom Working?

Learn about assessing student engagement in the classroom
Contributed By

Lauren Davis

EdTech Editor, Former Department Chair and Instructional Coach

Beyond Student Assessment Data: Are Your Engagement Strategies In The Classroom Working?

Posted in Pro Tips | August 17, 2018

But, what does the data say?

You’ve thought about it, heard it asked, or asked others at least once along your journey as an educator. After all, it is a valid question. We need to know whether or not our engagement strategies in the classroom are actually working. And what better way than by closely analyzing student assessment data, right?

Well, not necessarily—at least not in isolation.

In education, student engagement refers to the degree of attention, optimism, curiosity, interest, and passion students show for what they’re learning which extends to the level of motivation they have to progress their education. Sure, student assessment data will give you some valuable insights about your students’ learning and progress, but this type of anecdotal data only shows us a small piece of the overall pie. While you may be able to see how well a student can demonstrate their understanding of the content, it would be pretty challenging to determine his level of curiosity or passion simply based on test results.

In the grand scheme of things, passion, motivation, and optimism toward learning will propel students much further than rote memorization for test taking. In our digital age, basing all of our insight regarding the state of student engagement on student assessment data seems like an archaic method that leaves a ton of relevant data—the kind you get from formative assessments and daily interactions with students—vastly underutilized.

So, want to know if those student engagement strategies in the classroom are really making an impact? Consider this.

Student Assessment Data Improves

Okay, okay—I know I just warned you about placing all your student engagement eggs in the assessment data basket, but this kind of concrete data is a good place to start. Here’s the thing about test data: Although it doesn’t provide a completely comprehensive view of the student or their engagement level, it does provide an honest, baseline upon which we can build.

By carefully analyzing student assessment data, we can begin to see trends in learning. If the data is trending upward, it’s safe to conclude that your engagement strategies in the classroom resulted in student learning.

Collaboration And Sharing Increase

Participation is often the default strategy when we want to get our students engaged in learning. We often think that if we can just get them talking to each other, they’ll be thoroughly engaged and the job is done. But collaborating and sharing can be a sticky situation. On one hand, too much talking can lead to off-topic conversations that send student engagement zooming in the wrong direction. But on the other hand, forced conversations can have an equally detrimental effect. When it comes to collaboration and sharing, look for signs that students are genuinely interested in working together and learning from each other. A good way to tell is by listening to the types of questions they’re asking each other and how the other student responds.

Students Exercise Their Strengths And Show Ownership

Students develop a sense of confidence when they’re allowed to work autonomously and with their peers on assignments that challenge them. This translates directly to students having the opportunity to work on activities that they can be proud of, whether it’s the result of a profound interest or that tingly feeling you get when you’ve accomplished something on your own.

Behavior Issues Lessen

Students follow the rules and norms of the environment, and generally just do what they’re supposed to do to demonstrate appropriate levels of respect and responsibility in class. When your engagement strategies in the classroom are effective, it’s obvious that students are concentrating and paying attention, even if they’re not directly engaged in the discussion. Because students in this situation are persistently focused on learning, they’re not focused on fighting boredom by disrupting the learning environment.

Students Ask Quality Questions

When the content is important and relevant to them, students are motivated to generate better questions. And nothing gets the ball rolling in class like an impromptu discussion on the day’s learning topic. Encourage your students to ask better questions by providing them with a list of stems, a proven formula, or even an engaging game.

Students Have “The Flow”

The ultimate sign of high student engagement is what Mikhaly Czikszentmihalyi calls “flow.” Flow is “a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” It’s “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Now, that’s engagement.

Luckily, student engagement strategies in the classroom are strongly influenced by the action of the teacher. And the great thing is, when it catches on, it can spread like wildfire.

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