All teachers strive for engaging lessons that lead to productive outcomes for their students. When students are engaged in class, they learn more. However, getting and keeping a class interested is a challenge. Research shows that the average attention span of a student is as long as their age. Other research paints a picture of widespread passive disengagement in classrooms, for example in an Australian study it was shown that 1 in 4 students were compliant but quietly disengaged.
Below are some teaching strategies to encourage engagement and enhance learning outcomes.
1. Simplify Things
When teaching new content, the use of complicated and new vocabulary can overwhelm certain students. A great strategy is to simplify the content - using easier vocabulary can provide students with a rudimentary foundation for new concepts as they are introduced. Speaking at a lower grade level can ensure an equal level of understanding and communication among the class.
2. Promote Active Learning
Student participation is a critical part of effective teaching and leaning. Students need opportunities to speak, problem solve and work with others. Some strategies you can adopt include:
- Cooperative Learning Strategy: This method forces participation by making all students responsible in a group setting. In this method, tasks cannot be completed without all participation from all of your students.
- Inductive Teaching Strategy: Give your students a concept, then encourage them to make their own observations, and share them with the class. These observations can then be compared. This strategy is useful in helping students consider other perspectives and further develop their concepts.
3. Good Student-Teacher Relationships
Effective teachers develop productive relationships with their students – they get to know them and take a particular interest in their overall development and progress. Effective teachers work collaboratively to benefit student learning.
Teachers with good relationships with their students are better positioned to mitigate problems when they arise, and can be the difference between a student accepting or resisting rules in the classroom. It's not about whether students 'like' their teacher necessarily, but having a mutual level of respect, and where teachers are provide good guidance.
Show students that you care, by listening actively, valuing their opinions, greeting and talking to them, having patience, and respecting their individuality.
4. Reduce Talk Time
Teacher Talk Time (TTT) is the amount of time that a teacher talks relative to the amount that their students contribute, expressed as a percentage. TTT is a key indicator of teacher effectiveness - data suggests that a higher ratio of TTT is counterproductive for a number of reasons:
- It limits the amount of student talking time;
- It shows classroom monotony leading to student loss of concentration and boredom;
- It means students are only that of respondent.
- It means student autonomy is limited.
John Hattie explains TTT in more depth here:
Visible Classroom gives you a way to record lessons, receive transcripts of lessons, and track your TTT.
4. "Know Thy Impact"
Professor John Hattie, a world leader in teaching, believes that a key strategy a teacher can adopt is to 'Know thy impact' or know how much of an impact you are having on learning in the classroom. Hattie argues that teachers must have an awareness of their impact and factor this into their teaching style.
In his book, "Visible Learning for Teachers", Hattie suggests 8 Mind Frames necessary for teachers to create powerful learning outcomes for students:
- My fundamental task is to evaluate the effect of my teaching on students’ learning and achievement.
- The success and failure of my students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do. I am a change agent.
- I want to talk more about learning than teaching.
- Assessment is about my impact.
- I teach through dialogue not monologue
- I enjoy the challenge and never retreat to “doing my best”.
- It’s my role to develop positive relationships in class and staff rooms.
- I inform all about the language of learning.
Check out this awesome video below visualizing Hattie's 8 Mind-frames!
Although we'd like to think that students are always engaged, we know that this isn't true. However, an awareness for your teaching style and methods can allow you to dramatically improve learning outcomes for your students.
The tactics above are pivotal to enhancing student success. Simplifying content, promoting active learning, and keeping an eye on our talk time and talk speed are all powerful tactics to promote engagement among students. Thanks to the academic works of John Hattie and others, we have real evidence to support this.