We don’t need to tell you that student engagement is important. But we can share some research-backed best practices on how to make lessons and projects more engaging.
Turn lessons into challenges
Remember how motivated you were last time you were challenged? Unleash that by turning lessons into challenge. By engaging students with a challenge, they connect with their learning at a deeper level. You can make nearly any lesson into a challenge. For example:
- A lesson about buoyancy can involve designing a boat to hold the most pennies before sinking.
- A lesson about heat transfer can be turned into a game of who can keep ice from melting for the longest amount of time.
- A book report can be turned into a carnival game.
Studies show that this type of gamification can help improve learning.
An engaged student may go off in a direction that you’re not familiar with. A lesson on chemical and physical reactions might veer into a student looking into diet coke and mentos and you might not even know what nucleation is (it’s not in the Next Generation Science Standards!)
And that’s OK.
An engaged student doesn’t need a teacher to answer their questions, they need a teacher to guide them to the answers to their questions. Don’t be afraid of not knowing. Instead, challenge the student to find the information themselves, but provide assistance on which resources they should use. This helps students build critical thinking and problem solving skills for the next time they encounter something they don’t know.
Let artists flourish
When a student wants to paint a robot or do their book report in different colors, it often doesn’t look like learning. However, these types of artistic flourishes are often metacognitive processes that have been shown to improve learning.
Here are other ways to help engage more design-focused students:
- Have them create an instructional video, complete with graphics and voiceovers.
- Challenge them to create a play or story about the lesson.
- Partner them with students who don’t have artistic flair so that they can learn from each other and build 21st century skills like teamwork and collaboration.