Student Engagement in 2021 & Beyond

2020 was a tumultuous year that catalyzed change in the education system unlike any we’ve seen in recent history. Among the biggest challenges has been how to keep students engaged amidst shifts in the learning landscape. As we look to the new year ahead, let’s consider where student engagement may be headed — and what schools can do to prepare now.


Getting Back on Track With Social & Emotional Learning

While educators have long recognized the critical role that social and emotional learning (SEL) plays in student success, the pandemic and recent social justice upheavals have underscored its importance. Research has shown that the “Maslow Before Bloom” approach improves academic achievement by an average of 11 percentage points. SEL also supports positive student attitudes towards school, encourages kindness and empathy, and can reduce depression.

Last year, educators were tasked with the challenge of adapting SEL strategies for remote, hybrid, and socially distant in-person learning. Remote teachers employed check-ins and unstructured time for students to interact with one another at the start of class, frequent brain breaks, and movement or mindfulness activities to combat Zoom fatigue, provide more opportunities for students to develop social awareness and relationship skills, and keep kids engaged.

Nevertheless, there will be some antisocial habits to unlearn. This year, as more and more students return to school, the focus will be on giving students the tools they need to confidently re-enter in-person learning environments and begin to make up for lost socialization time.

The political and social discord of 2020 also highlighted SEL’s critical role in enabling students to process current events. In 2021, we expect to see a continued emphasis on SEL as a method to help students constructively engage with the broader world around them. Strategies may include daily emotional check-ins encouraging students to label their emotions and tie emotions to current events, or using SEL to promote social awareness among students through self-awareness.


Technology-Supported Student Engagement Innovations

  1. Interactive Panels: Interactive panels proved to be an invaluable distance learning tool, enabling teachers to unite at-home and in-class learners and support student engagement with more opportunities for remote interactivity. Our 2020 State of Technology in Education report found that interactive panels are the top edtech tool used in schools.  As schools reopen, interactive panels will play a key role in helping students re-acclimate to the classroom, while also serving as a passport to worlds beyond classroom walls.  Using panels like Promethean’s ActivPanel, teachers can provide students with transportive digital experiences such as a digital field trip to the Egyptian pyramids or connecting with other classrooms around the world. To learn more about how to leverage Promethean tools to drive student success, visit Powering Student Engagement with Promethean.”
  2. Learning Across Devices: The 2020 State of Technology in Education report also revealed that tablets and iPads rank among the top technology tools used in schools. Smartphones continue to be an increasingly common classroom tool, and with the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality learning, we can expect to see the proliferation of learning across devices continue. With it comes new opportunities for immersive and personalized learning.
  3. Personalized Learning Technologies: Personalized learning has been touted as the future of learning for the past few years, but with developments in AI/ML technologies, 2021 will be the year that individualized instruction starts to become a reality for more students. Remote learning has amplified student inequities: while some students have access to tutors and parental support, others have struggled to even secure a reliable wifi connection. This means that as students go back to school, classes are likely to be more dramatically stratified than ever before. Personalized learning technologies will enable schools to meet students where they are.
  4. Pressure-Tested Teaching Tools: The pandemic expedited the adoption of apps that will continue to prove useful beyond the crisis. In addition to already popular resources like Kahoot and Khan Academy, 2020 saw a surge in the usage of tools like Flipgrid, Mentimeter, and Padlet, all of which survived trial by fire throughout the pandemic. Lesson delivery software like Promethean ClassFlow and ActivInspire also proved to be invaluable and saw increased adoption. With a new generation of teachers with on-the-ground training in these technologies, we expect to see these pressure-tested teaching tools claim a place in the teacher toolkit for years to come.


Multiple Ways of Assessing Engagement

This year we expect to see schools continue to re-evaluate methods of student assessment, moving towards less transactional, more understanding-based grading. A growing number of schools are expanding legacy A – F grading systems to incorporate standards-based grading (SBG). Rather than issuing a single overall letter grade, SBG evaluates student comprehension of smaller incremental learning targets.

As schools increasingly leverage lesson delivery software in the classroom, teachers will have new opportunities to take advantage of supplementary and alternative student merit tools such as digital badges that can be awarded to students on the basis of subject mastery. Promethean’s ClassFlow enables teachers to award badges to individual students, groups, or entire classes.  Teachers can create their own badges with custom point values or select from hundreds of teacher-created badges.

SBG places students’ and educators’ focus directly on improving student understanding, rather than on mere assignment completion or raising grades. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to SBG, 2021 will see more and more schools incorporating SBG approaches and tailoring them to meet their specific needs.

Forward-thinking schools will also give students a variety of ways to demonstrate their understanding. Classroom software now enables teachers to poll students in the moment of teaching, allowing them to engage students and measure student engagement instantly. Instant polling features like those available through ClassFlow allow teachers to deploy a wide variety of polls, including multiple-choice, word seed, and creative, which allows students to draw responses. With the proliferation of new education technologies and emphasis on personalization, we expect to see a renewed focus on giving students different ways to show what they know.


Prioritizing Professional Development

The pandemic brought the urgent need for tech training into sharp relief;  it quickly became clear that a lack of teacher tech training put many schools at a serious disadvantage. Our State of Technology in Education report revealed that roughly one-third of respondents’ schools are lacking a formal strategy for using technology.

2021 will see the continued adoption of learning technologies; that same Promethean report found that 82% of educators will use edtech in the next ten years. With this comes a renewed focus on professional development for teachers, with an emphasis on learning how to leverage new technologies to drive advancements in student engagement to make up for the 2020s missed gains.

Increasingly, districts are turning to edtech partners to help drive professional development. In the coming years, we will continue to see the role of edtech companies evolve from technology providers to professional development partners that not only offer expertise on how to use classroom technologies but how to use them to transform approaches to education.


Bright Horizons

After a year of unprecedented challenges, 2021 presents new opportunities for educators to critically re-engage students. Employing new approaches to student engagement will help schools make up for lost ground and drive innovation for student success.

To learn more about what Promethean can do to help measure student engagement in your school, contact us to schedule a demo today.