How to measure student engagement

Published: August 9th, 2021

Boosting student engagement is a priority for schools all across Australia – in fact, it was the most commonly identified priority in relation to how edtech should be used in the classroom within the recent State of Technology in Education Report 2021. As such, teachers need reliable methods of measuring student engagement among their classes, in order to improve it.

Firstly, student engagement can be segmented into two broad categories:

  • Macro-level engagement – focuses on a student’s overall engagement with their school environment and usually does not consider engagement within specific courses or subject domains.
  • Micro-level engagement – refers to a student’s engagement within one course or subject, and how they engage within a specific peer group or classroom.

Schools can also view engagement through behavioural, cognitive and emotional lenses:

  • Behavioural engagement – addresses how attentive and active students are in the classroom and with the school in general. For example, is the student involved in any extracurricular activities related to the school?
  • Cognitive engagement – refers to how motivated and invested students are in their own learning process and how much they regulate and take ownership of it.
  • Emotional engagement – refers to students’ feelings about their teachers, peers, classroom environments, and general school experience. It also includes a student’s sense of belonging and how valuable they view their work to be.

Measuring student engagement

Keeping these different facets in mind, schools can begin to monitor engagement across groups and individuals. Good activities to try, include:

  • Quizzes and polls – these are a great way to get a quick snapshot of students’ topical understanding, and by extension, how much they have been engaging during lessons.
  • Entry and exit slips – teachers can start or end lessons with a quick entry or exit slip that asks a comprehension question from the lesson. Engaging with students in the few moments before or after class will give them the opportunity to reconsider lesson content while it’s fresh in their minds.
  • Interview assessments – a great way to get direct and insightful feedback from students is to speak with them informally one-on-one. These casual chats often help students to feel more comfortable while talking about the curriculum.
  • Checklists – teachers can give students a physical or digital checklist on a weekly basis and have them assess their own in-class participation. Students tend to be honest about their classroom participation, giving a good indication of their engagement.
  • Collecting student information – teachers can use data and insights to get a better idea of student engagement. Everything from attendance information to formative and summative assessment performance can help paint a picture for each student.

Being able to successfully measure students’ engagement, or levels of participation across a full class, helps teachers to identify areas of improvement within lessons. Boosting engagement could mean finding new and creative ways to present, or introducing new visuals for learning – it all depends on the student.

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