Empower, recognize, encourage: Foolproof ways to engage students

Keeping students engaged in the classroom is crucial to long-term learning and success. According to a Gallup study, “School Engagement Is More than Just Talk,” engaged students are 2.5 times more likely to report excellent grades and 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about their futures, when compared with their actively disengaged fellow students.

Findings like those in Gallup’s study show the importance of focusing not only on student performance, but also student engagement in the learning process. The question remains, however: How can you make sure your students are engaged? CERTIFIED Ambassador, Jessie Kalloo, gave some great insights into student engagement on the CERTIFIED podcast. Read on to discover how to engage your students in your classroom and beyond.

Establish an open classroom

Teaching and instructing have their place. You need to set aside time in your schedule to educate students on new concepts and ideas. Equally important, however, is time for students to work and collaborate openly. Creating this open classroom, leaving time for questions and time to work on projects and assignments, gives students time to learn at their own pace. Plus, students can really connect with the content you’re sharing, without feeling rushed or pressured to move on to the next task.

When you’re creating your teaching schedule, don’t forget to focus on an open-ended learning approach. Jessie mentioned how he loves his open classroom on the podcast. He said, “Making a comfortable learning environment and relating to the students makes it a lot easier for them to learn and grow. If we give them that flexibility, I believe that we'll see success across the board.”

Empower students to be leaders

Flexible, open classrooms allow students the time to learn and progress at their own pace. In your classroom, you’ll recognize learners who grasp the material easily and are excited to progress even further. Giving these students the opportunity to share their passion and excitement via tutoring or leading a group discussion is a great way to engage the entire class.

Jessie has seen that those advanced learners become leaders, helping other students with labs, projects, and other assignments. This empowers both the student leader and the student learner because they are collaborating and growing as a group.

Recognize and acknowledge their efforts

Creating an open classroom can often feel like you’re stepping away from your role as leader in the room. However, when you allow students to lead and grow independently, you’re giving yourself more time to focus on individual behavior and performance. This gives you more time to acknowledge and reward students who are putting in the work.

According to an article from Quantum Workplace, organizations with employee recognition programs are 12x more likely to have strong business outcomes. You can see the same strong outcomes in your classroom when you take the time to recognize your learners’ hard work. Give shoutouts in class, write home emails to parents, or even, as Jessie suggests, recognize students on social media. Students enjoy seeing their work touted online, since it allows them to share it more broadly with their friends and family.

Recognition doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming, says Jessie. Just make sure it’s genuine and meaningful.

Keep it hands-on

Your students want to learn and progress. But there’s not much to get excited about with persistent lectures. Make sure to break up the monotony with hands-on projects. And if you want to level up your project, you can incorporate students’ interests to put a real-world spin on their learning experience.

In Jessie’s networking classroom, he has students create a network between one of the class’s favorite teams and its coach. You can keep things focused on the learning objectives that matter while still adding a spin that keeps them engaged and excited. This does mean that you'll need to take time to learn more about your students, their interests, and what matters to them. Get creative and find ways to plug their interests into your curriculum.

Get students outside the classroom

Jessie’s last piece of advice for teachers: Get outside the classroom. Take students to industry events, field trips, or even competitions. Help them see the relevancy of what you’re discussing in the classroom. See it in action.

If you’re short on time or budget, you can get students outside the classroom by helping other educators on-campus. For example, Jessie’s IT students frequently help other educators with their computers, networking, and IT equipment. The more real-life experience you can give the student, the more engagement you're likely to get.

Want to hear more ideas on how to get your students engaged? Jessie shares it all in his podcast interview. Take a listen to the CERTIFIED podcast here.