Using Positive Student Engagement to Increase Student Achievement (page 2)

— The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Concentrate on Active Learning and a Relevant Curriculum


Instructional strategies such as collaborative learning and experiential learning as well as designing an accessible and relevant curriculum have been shown to greatly increase student engagement in learning (Akey, 2006; Heller et al., 2003). Examples of these instructional strategies that might support student engagement include the following:

    • Group activities and assignments
    • Long-term projects
    • Hands-on activities
    • Differentiated instruction
    • Lessons and activities that draw from students background, interests, and academic needs

Students learn more and retain more information when they actively participate in the learning process and when they can relate to what is being taught (Akey, 2006). Drawing connections between information taught and real life—such as everyday life, social issues, and personal concerns of the age group of students—is highly effective in engaging students in the lesson (Heller et al., 2003). For instance, a middle school English teacher might select persuasive writing topics that preteens can easily relate to or a high school physics teacher might use roller coasters to reinforce Newton’s Law of Motion. Research states that “the extent to which students interests are incorporated is significantly related to their academic achievement” (Heller et al., 2003, p. 12). Research also has shown that the inclusion of students’ interests in the learning process increases student engagement in learning (Akey, 2006; Heller et al., 2003). Therefore, positive student engagement can positively impact student achievement.

Offer Support and Encouragement

Additionally, student engagement is positively correlated to teacher support (Akey, 2006; Garcia-Reid et al., 2005). Several studies have found that students who noted that their teachers were supportive and cared about their success were more likely to be engaged in the classroom and perform well academically (Heller et al., 2003; Akey, 2006). One study found that students who do not feel confident in their ability to succeed are not likely to attempt to do the work (Akey, 2006). Building a student’s confidence is not about falsely telling students how great they are. Instead, it is about assessing student weaknesses and strengths and developing ways to address them at developmentally appropriate yet rigorous levels. Additionally, acknowledging student academic growth and improvement is another way to build student confidence. It is crucial for teachers to “create collaborative, supportive environments with high but achievable standards” because it greatly effects students’ engagement in school and learning (Akey, 2006, p. 32.)

How Can Schools Help?

It is important to note that there are many environmental factors—poverty, neighborhood violence, family discord—that may contribute to student disengagement, but there are several interventions that school administrators can implement to reduce the effects of negative outside influences and in turn encourage positive student engagement in learning (Garcia-Reid et al., 2005; Warner, Weisst, & Krulak, 1999). Interventions such as increasing parental involvement, offering extracurricular activities, and improving school safety may enhance student engagement in the classroom.

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