What is Engagement?
Engagement is a key predictor of achievement. It is essential for student success. You might be wondering what it means to “engage” or how you can measure something as complex as engagement. These are common questions that don’t have one right answer among experts in education.
At Opportunity Education, we define engagement in a very specific way. Student engagement, whether during class or outside of class, refers to the role students play and the actions they take to drive their own learning. Engagement is more than participation.
4 Actions for Engaged Learning
Because engagement is key to learning, student engagement is assessed daily in each course. While it is our job as educators to engage students, students are also responsible for taking actions to engage in their own learning.
At Quest Forward Academies, we ask students to take 4 actions to engage deeply in their learning:
- Prepare: Come to class prepared and be ready to focus on the task(s) at hand. Complete pre-work (i.e., reading, reflecting, developing questions, other homework) thoughtfully, rather than skimming over readings or quickly completing tasks to check them off to-do lists.
- Focus: Focus on what is happening in the moment during class time. Sometimes this means listening quietly to peers or mentors, asking questions, sharing ideas, helping others, or working on an artifact. What it means to “focus” depends on the goals and nature of each day’s activities. However, students should not be multitasking, working on quests or artifacts from other classes, trying to play games, texting, etc.
- Contribute: If the class involves a social component, students should actively contribute. Do a fair share of work in groups, not let someone else carry the load. If a group holds a discussion, students should listen, ask questions, offer comments, ask others for their opinions, or restate others’ questions for clarification. For some students, higher engagement might mean speaking up more in class. For others, it might mean listening more, not asking the same question multiple times, or not trying to be the first to talk.
- Invest: Express investment and put forth effort in artifacts, projects, and activities. Students ask thoughtful questions, go beyond minimum expectations for activities and artifacts, work hard to complete complex tasks, and generally show care about the work. Students may take initiative to modify artifacts based on interests, or seek help when they are struggling to engage fully.
Expectations for engagement depend on the goal of the class session, as well as each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if the class is having a discussion or debate, a mentor might observe a highly engaged student doing the following:
- Actively listening
- Asking questions
- Answering questions or responding to someone else’s idea or opinion
- Speaking an appropriate amount (not oversharing or trying to talk all the time, not refusing to talk when called upon)
We would define high engagement differently if the goal of the class period was to work independently. For example, a mentor might expect all pre-work to be completed and for students to focus, meet their individual goals, and ask for help when needed.
Emphasizing engagement in these ways encourages students to take ownership of their learning and be an active participant in the learning process.
Read more about Quest Forward Learning assessment and methodology.
Jolene Zywica, PhD
Dr. Zywica is Opportunity Education's Senior Director of Learning Strategy. She ensures that the resources, tools, and experiences designed for teachers and students effectively support teaching and learning. Prior to joining the team in 2014, Jolene dabbled in teaching both high school and college students, was a high school literacy coach for 5 years, and has spent over 18 years designing and studying the impact of learning programs aimed at engaging students through active learning and technology.