Professional Development: Student Engagement


Alejandro Lozano, M.A., M.Ed.


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Ivy Hawn Staff
Ivy Hawn Staff


What is Student Engagement?


What is student engagement? According to Fred Newmann, author of Student Engagement and Achievement in American Secondary Schools, engaged students make a “psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success (grades), but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives” (pp. 2–3). According to this definition, an engaged student is one who is intrinsically motivated to learn—that is, motivated from a desire for competence and understanding, or simply from a love of learning, rather than a desire for a good grade, a teacher's approval, or acceptance into a good college.

Research shows that engaged students experience greater satisfaction with school experiences, which may in turn lead to greater school completion and student attendance rates, as well as lower incidences of acting-out behaviors. Researchers have also found that student engagement results in other, less obvious, benefits. As Stipek writes in the Handbook of Educational Psychology, engaged students are more likely to approach tasks eagerly and to persist in the face of difficulty. They are also more likely to seek opportunities for learning when the extrinsic awards are not available—for example, after formal schooling has been completed—positioning them to learn more over time than their disengaged peers.

Engagement is an essential prerequisite for the development of understanding. If we want students to understand what they learn in school and apply the knowledge and skills to real-life situations, we must make them go beyond restating basic facts on multiple-choice or short-answer exams. This development of understanding cannot happen if students are not engaged. Thus, this PD will explore the various factors that influence the levels of student engagement in the classroom with the aim of strengthening current practice.


Today, we will cover:

-How emotions, interest, perceived importance, and perceptions of efficacy contribute to student engagement

-How to employ daily strategies and opportunistic strategies to heighten student engagement

-How preconditions and pedagogy influence the level of student engagement exhibited by students

-Basic psychological concepts covering memory, sensation/perception, theories of intelligence, motivation, brain structures involved in learning, and neuroplasticity as it relates to student engagement




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