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Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • August 2, 2016

What Students Want You to Know About Engagement

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Right now lots of educators, just like you, are thinking about the school year ahead.

What lessons worked really well last year? What are we going to do differently? How? What is going to engage and excite students?

When it comes to the big engagement question, we’ve always found putting ourselves in a student’s shoes is the way to go. It’s why we piloted our product with students and got their feedback before anyone else when we launched Chalkup years ago. We wanted to hear from them about their experience, needs, and wants in a classroom setting.

As you plan your course for the next year, consider these student-centric items.

Timing is Everything

Sometimes we think of the perfect thing to say long after the fact. Maybe it’s after class, on the drive home, or following the big meeting.

The same thing happens to students. The best questions and ideas don’t always come in a 40-minute class period. Judging students completely on their participation within that timespan is an opportunity missed.

Giving students tools to continue conversation and share ideas once the bell rings not only provides shier students an avenue to participate, but taps into the questions and ideas that don’t occur to us during class time.

The best questions and ideas don’t always come in a 40-minute class period.

Outside of school, it’s completely reasonable for a colleague to circulate an email after a big meeting with a brand new idea he or she thought of after the fact. This kind of reflection and communication is normally encouraged, actually. At least it is in our office. Can’t hurt to facilitate the same kind of curiosity and culture of sharing early.

Just Like Adults, Students Have Unique Communication Preferences

Adults communicate in different ways. We have our preferences for how we prefer to share ideas. Students are the same way, and giving students multiple ways to connect and share ideas facilitates an added level of engagement while helping students develop and better understand these preferences.

This point goes beyond the idea that there are students who are uncomfortable speaking up in class and who prefer sharing thoughts that they can edit via a course-wide platform. Sometimes it’s easier to flesh out an idea one-on-one with a peer. There are people who aren’t necessarily shy, but are better written communicators than they are oral communicators.

And we’ve all walked out of a group setting feeling like we’ve had a handle on everything, only to develop a very obvious question just five minutes later.

These preferences don’t indicate more or less intelligence. They indicate different types of intelligence.

“When Will We Actually Use This?”

I’d say by now that it is a time-honored tradition to have students ask their teachers “when will we ever use this?!”

There’s something pragmatic about the question. It expresses an underlying desire to gain skills and information that will be the most relevant and useful outside of the classroom environment. (On the other side of the coin, there’s something to be said about being well-rounded and knowledgeable in many areas, even if something isn’t directly applicable to a career skillset. Knowledge is beautiful! Crave information! We’ll save this rant for another post!)

But what if we apply that logic to the way your class operates? Less “when will I use this information in the real world” and more “when will I use these tools or work in an environment like this ever again?”

To up class engagement, think through your class management. What are the rules and expectations? How do they mirror the responsibilities and expectations that will be placed upon students a few years down the road? How can a classroom setting prepare students for those experiences?

Students want to be ready for life outside of school. And that preparation goes beyond what material is delivered and into how that material is delivered.

Join the team.