How can teachers assess engagement?

In my last post I described what we mean when we talk about “engagement” by students at Quest Forward Academies. Engagement is so important that it’s one of three components of the Quest Forward Learning assessment model. (I’ll talk about the other two in a later post.) In these high schools, teachers record data on each student’s engagement after every class period. Mentors regularly talk with students about their engagement. Schools factor engagement into course grades and communicate progress on engagement through learning reports, which are made available to families and students at the end of each term. Putting the focus on engagement encourages students to be responsible for their own learning and to invest in their learning — an attitude and skill that will benefit them throughout their lives.

To assess engagement, teachers mark each student on a scale ranging from “Low” to “Medium” to “High” engagement. The tracking of daily course engagement is low stakes (unlike a test or quiz). It can be done quickly at the end of a class period. This measurement isn’t intended to be precise, but rather a subjective reflection by the teacher on each student’s engagement on that day.

A screenshot from the Quest! app shows a mentor scoring a student's engagement for the class period, moving a blue circle along a horizontal scale to the end, which reads "high."
Recording each student’s engagement assessment on a sliding scale is quick and easy for mentors.

Rather than one rubric that applies to every situation, we use four common scenarios to define high engagement:

  1. Participation in a class discussion, 
  2. Coming prepared to work independently, 
  3. Completing a group project or quest, and 
  4. Participating in a mentor-facilitated activity or demonstration. 

Generally, if teachers observe students meeting two or more criteria associated with the scenario they would consider the student highly engaged. Although the specific expectations vary based on students and their strengths and weaknesses.

Mentors and students use the data from the engagement assessments to have meaningful conversations. They talk about work processes, a student’s investment in their learning, and ways a student can take more ownership over their learning experiences.

A screenshot from the Quest Community app shows how a mentor assessed student engagement scores over a long period of time, displaying a visual representation of trends in her engagement in class.
Mentors record scores often, enabling students and mentors to reflect upon and learn from trends.

Tracking engagement allows students to see how they engage over time, how it connects to their learning, and improvements they have made or can make. These engagement assessments encourage students to reflect and grow. It helps students to be drivers of their own learning, rather than passengers along for the ride.

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