Anyone with access to a computer or smartphone should be able to come up with a simple definition of student engagement.
For instance, I found this definition of student engagement from The Glossary of Education Reform:
“…the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.”
Although this definition is appropriate, it fails to capture the complex nature of this topic. Student engagement is more than just a term for a dictionary to define. It’s not a buzzword for schools to use in their promotional materials. Student engagement is a concept whose application is unique to each individual student.
Traditionally, and as the above definition illustrates, student engagement is thought of only in the sense of academic achievement. However, higher education is not just about academic achievements. I would posit that educational outcomes should also encompass elements related to personal development.Therefore, when we define student engagement we should include components such as socialization, artistic endeavors, vocational pursuits, and intellectual growth.
Hence, an engaged student is involved not only in a passionate pursuit of their academic studies but is involved with the institution as a whole.
After all, higher education institutions are about more than just academia. Most institutions have a culture that includes sports, arts, career instruction and social clubs. These things are a part of a student’s education when they attend university or college. Therefore, a student’s involvement in an institution’s culture is also a part of what defines their engagement.
So, if we define student engagement as being about how involved students are with their studies and their institution, then we must consider how best to engage students in both these areas.
For starters, students don’t exist in a vacuum. Popular research suggests that students are best able to connect with their institutions when the key members of said institution (administrators, teachers etc.), are also engaged.
Secondly, studies also show that students who feel a sense of community with their peers are more likely to feel a sense of belonging to their school. Therefore, social opportunities are a large contributing factor to student engagement.
Things you can do to promote student engagement:
- connect students with their classmates by encouraging collaboration through study sessions
- make campus services, department heads and the administration easily accessible to any student who needs information or help
- create and effectively communicate social events that foster social networking such as club fairs, concert events and game nights.
It’s also a good idea to create a social networking platform that’s specifically for and used by students at your institution. This gives students a way to communicate and connect with their peers in a setting they’re familiar with. It also helps eliminate some of the intimidating factors involved with meeting new people face-to-face. In addition, you can also use this social platform to communicate information about events and services for students.
The conversation about student engagement has only just begun and believe me, it’s going to be a long one. We’re going to do our best to keep the discussion going, so stay tuned to our blog to get the latest information and updates.
We’d also love to hear from you:
How do you promote engagement in your school?
Leave us your answer in the comments!
Information in this post is derived from research provided by Tara Tressel.