How To

How to Increase Student Engagement: Tips, Activities, and Strategies for Teachers



Written by Dr. Sandra Markowitz, an experienced educator with 17 years in the field of Instructional Technology. Passionate about assistive technology, Universal Design for Learning, instructional strategies, and workflow solutions, Sandra brings innovative approaches to her teaching.


In the realm of modern education, teachers face an ongoing challenge: captivating student attention and fostering meaningful learning experiences – a task that is often easier said than done. 

As we navigate the complexities of online learning which have been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding ways to increase student engagement becomes more crucial. But fear not, dear educators, for in this digital age, we possess an arsenal of strategies and activities to tackle this challenge head-on.

Why is Student Engagement So Important?

Before diving into strategies, let’s first understand why student engagement is so important. Engaged students are active participants in their learning journey, exhibiting higher levels of motivation, concentration and retention. They are more likely to develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Increased engagement also fosters a positive classroom environment, paving the way for collaborative learning and nurturing a sense of belonging among students.

Why is Increasing Engagement a Challenge?

Despite the importance of student engagement, it remains a difficult task. The traditional one-size-fits all approach often fails to resonate with a diverse group of learners, leading to disinterest and disengagement. 

Factors such as digital distractions, lack of face-to-face interaction, and limited personal connection pose significant barriers for educators. There is no universal solution for every student, every teacher, or every classroom, but it’s important for educators to be equipped with a variety of strategies they can explore according to their unique situation.

Strategies to Increase Student Engagement

Fostering Interactivity

  • Incorporate interactive multimedia elements such as videos, quizzes, and simulations to pique students’ curiosity and cater to diverse learning styles.
  • Utilize online discussion forums and virtual breakout rooms to encourage active participation and collaborative problem solving.
  • Integrate gamification elements such as leaderboards, badges, and rewards to create a sense of completion and motivation.

Cultivating Personal Connections

  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with students to provide feedback, address concerns, and establish a rapport beyond the walls of the classroom.
  • Encourage peer-to-peer interactions through group projects, study groups, and collaborative brainstorming sessions.
  • Share personal stories, real-world experiences, and relevant anecdotes to make learning more relatable and engaging.

Promoting Autonomy and Choice

  • Empower students with autonomy by offering a range of learning pathways, project topics, and assessment formats to cater to individual needs and interests.
  • Implement self-paced learning modules and flipped classroom approaches to allow students to take ownership of their learning journey and explore topics at their own pace.
  • Provide opportunities for student voice and choice by providing assignments with choice boards to foster a sense of ownership and agency.

Harnessing the Power of Technology

  • Utilize educational technology tools such as interactive whiteboards, virtual reality simulations, and augmented applications to create immersive learning experiences.
  • Explore platforms such as educational apps, online learning platforms, and virtual field trips to supplement traditional classroom instruction and spark curiosity. 
  • Provide ongoing training and support for both educators and students to ensure integration of technology into the learning process.

Remember, it’s important to see what works for you according to your classroom’s needs. This is a process that may need attention over time, and it can help teachers to have ways to measure and track their student’s engagement.

Measuring and Tracking Engagement

When it comes to measuring student engagement, we need to look at both their actions and thoughts. From an educator’s perspective, we have a few different ways to measure student engagement:

Attendance Rates

Regular attendance is a foundation indicator of student engagement.  Rostering tools and attendance tracking systems can provide real-time data on students’ presence.  Educators can identify patterns and intervene early if students are frequently absent, ensuring they stay connected and engaged in the learning process.

Participation Levels

Active participation is a strong indicator of students’ involvement and interest in the subject matter.  Tools such as interactive polling software, group collaborations, chat functions, and peer-to-peer interactions can assist teachers in identifying engagement disparities among students and tailor inventions to foster a more inclusive learning environment. 

Task Completion Rates

Task completion reflects students’ commitment to learning and their ability to stay on track with assignments and assessments.  For example, Progress Learnings’ task management tools enable teachers to assign tasks, set deadlines, and monitor completion rates in real time. By providing timely feedback and support, teachers can motivate students to stay engaged and strive for academic excellence.

Student Feedback

In addition to behavioral measures, it’s equally important to solicit feedback directly from students to gain insights into their learning experiences and preferences.  Tools like surveys, peer evaluations, and reflective journals empower students to voice their opinions and contribute to the co-creation of a supportive learning environment.

Data and Analytics

Using data analytics tools can provide valuable insights into student engagement patterns and trends.  Progress Learning’s analytics dashboard offers customizable reports that enable educators to track areas of improvement and measure the effectiveness of interventions.  By harnessing the power of data-driven decision making, teachers can optimize instructional strategies, personalized learning experiences, and enhance student outcomes.

Troubleshooting and Adaptation

There will be times when despite our best efforts, certain strategies fail to yield the desired results. During such moments, it’s crucial for educators to adopt a growth mindset and embrace a culture of continuous improvement. 

Rather than viewing setbacks as failures, see them as opportunities for learning and growth. Engage in reflective practice, seek feedback from students, colleagues, and educational experts, and be willing to iterate and refine your approach based on feedback and insights.

Student Motivation

Understanding what truly motivates students lies at the heart of enhancing engagement. While intrinsic factors such as autonomy, mastery, and purpose drive long-term motivation, extrinsic rewards and recognition can serve as short-term incentives. By tapping into students’ passions, interests, and aspirations, educators can cultivate a sense or purpose and relevance that transcends the classroom, fostering a lifelong love for learning.

  • Autonomy: Giving students choices and control over their learning can enhance their motivation. For example, allowing students to choose from a selection of topics for a research project or offering flexible deadlines for assignments empowers them to take ownership of their learning journey.
  • Mastery: Providing opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate their skills can fuel their motivation. For instance, incorporating scaffolded learning activities that gradually increase in complexity allows students to build confidence and competence in a subject area. 
  • Purpose: Connecting classroom learning to real-world relevance can increase students’ motivation. For example, providing lessons around current events or personal interests can highlight the practical applications of academic concepts and inspire students to engage more deeply with the material.

The quest to increase student engagement in the digital classroom is both a challenge and opportunity for educators. By embracing innovative strategies, educational technology, and creating a culture of student-centered learning, teachers can empower students to become active participants in their educational journey. Remember, the key lies not in a one size fits all solution but in offering adaptive approaches that provide the diverse needs and interests to engage all learners.

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