Student achievement gaps receive a great deal of attention in the United States. Articles and documentaries remind us that, according to testing data, U.S. students are lagging behind students in other countries in math and science at an alarming rate. Society is so consumed with these achievement gaps that it has pressured schools and educators to almost singularly focus on closing them. But if you ask people about the student engagement gap, what can they tell you? Can they point to neatly packaged statistics and studies regarding which students are engaged and which are not? Even those working in the education field are alarmingly unclear about what student engagement is and, perhaps more importantly, why educators should be concerned with increasing student engagement in their classrooms.
Focusing first on increasing student engagement, rather than on improving test scores, can actually foster greater gains in students’ academic, emotional, social, and behavioral achievement (Klem & Connell, 2005). Students often complain of being taught content and information over strategies and skills. When asked what increases their engagement in and connection to school, students’ responses are not surprising: more hands-on activities, relevant curriculum, interesting material, and—most influential to student engagement—caring, interested teachers (Yazzie-Mintz, 2006).
In order to increase student achievement in the classroom, students need to be engaged in ways that honor their innate ability to multitask, network, and shift direction quickly. While it is not necessary to abandon student assessment and data analysis in order to focus solely on student-determined, self-directed learning, it is essential for educators to focus first on skill development and student engagement methods as a means for increasing academic gains and student success. Together with students, educators must view learning and educational success as a blend of content and skill mastery, each dependent upon the other, and neither mutually exclusive—but both relying on student’s engagement in the classroom and with the material.
Visit ERS to order the complete report on student engagement and learn about:
Defining Student Engagement
Benefits of Student Engagement
How Does Student Engagement Happen?
Understanding Digital Natives
Student Engagement in Their Own Words
Why Are Students Disengaged?
Other Causes and Consequences of Disengagement
Increasing Student Engagement: The Importance of the Teacher
The Teacher as Coach
Doing Things Differently, Not Doing Different Things:
What Teachers Can Focus on Right Now
Differentiation and High-End Learning
Involve All Players