Strategies to Increase Student Engagement

Today's Agenda

1. Understand reasons for low motivation and lack of engagement.

2. Increase understanding of human motivation.

3. Understand Levels of Engagement.

4. Obtain strategies to increase student engagement.

Reasons for Low Motivation & Engagement

According to Eric Jensen, (Teaching With the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition, Chapter 8), common sources of demotivation are:

  • Lack of positive relationships
  • Learned helplessness
  • Awareness of disrespect toward one's culture or ethnicity
  • Perception of threats
  • Brain anomalies
  • Drug use
  • Perception that class assignments or tasks are irrelevant

Disengaged Students IMPACT Behavior & the Dropout Rate

Educational Longitudinal Study (2002) Ranked Reasons for Dropout in 2006 by Student Dropouts.

Push, Pull, or Fall Out Factors

A student is pushed out when adverse situations within the school environment lead to consequences, ultimately resulting in dropout. . . .

Students can be pulled out when factors inside the student divert them from completing school. . . .

Watt and Roessingh (1994) added a third factor called falling out of school, which occurs when a student does not show significant academic progress in schoolwork and becomes apathetic or even disillusioned with school completion. It is not necessarily an active decision, but rather a “side-effect of insufficient personal and educational support” (p. 293).

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Gang Leader to Graduate - A Conscious Discipline Transformation
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DRIVE by Daniel Pink

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). Pink asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

RSA ANIMATE: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Engaging Students by Phil Schlechty

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5 Levels of Engagement

Phil Schlechty describes 5 levels of student engagement in the classroom. Read the brief description of each level below.
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ENGAGEMENT • The student sees the activity as personally meaningful. • The student’s level of interest is sufficiently high that he persists in the face of difficulty. • The student finds the task sufficiently challenging that she believes she will accomplish something of worth by doing it. • The student’s emphasis is on optimum performance and on “getting it right.”


STRATEGIC COMPLIANCE • The official reason for the work is not the reason the student does the work—she substitutes her own goals for the goals of the work. • The substituted goals are instrumental—grades, class rank, college acceptance, parental approval. • The focus is on what it takes to get the desired personal outcome rather than on the nature of the task itself— satisfactions are extrinsic. • If the task doesn’t promise to meet the extrinsic goal, the student will abandon it.


RITUAL COMPLIANCE • The work has no meaning to the student and is not connected to what does have meaning. • There are no substitute goals for the student. • The student seeks to avoid either confrontation or approbation. • The emphasis is on minimums and exit requirements—what do I have to do to get this over and get out?


RETREATISM • The student is disengaged from current classroom activities and goals. • The student is thinking about other things or is emotionally withdrawn from the action. • The student rejects both the official goals and the official means of achieving the goals. • The student feels unable to do what is being asked or is uncertain about what is being asked. • The student sees little that is relevant to life in the academic work.


REBELLION • The student is disengaged from current classroom activities and goals. • The student is actively engaged in another agenda. • The student creates her own means and her own goals. • The student’s rebellion is usually seen in acting out—and often in encouraging others to rebel.

watch the SNL skit on classroom management

david spade uses classroom management!

Respond to the Survey Below

Teachers as Designers

According to Schlechty, the primary task of the teacher is to design engaging tasks and activities for students that call upon students to learn what the school has determined they should learn and then to lead students to success in the completion of these tasks.

Teachers are, therefore, designers and leaders, and the role of teacher needs to be redefined to reflect this view. To redefine the role of teacher, it will also be necessary to redesign every other role in the school, including the roles of the superintendent, the board of education, and central office personnel, as well as principals and parents.

All of this redesign must reflect a clear understanding and acceptance of the fact the schools should be organized to nurture engagement rather than to produce attendance and compliance.

Thinking as a Designer
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Reflection Question

Click on this PADLET LINK to respond to this question:

How has my thinking changed about how to motivate students?

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Design Qualities of Context

There are four Design Qualities of Context:

  1. Content and Substance, which refers to what is to be learned and the level of student interest in the subject or topic.
  2. Organization of Knowledge, which refers to the way the work is organized—for example, using a problem-solving approach, discovery approach, or didactic teaching—with consideration for the learning styles that are assumed or are to be addressed.
  3. Clear and Compelling Product Standards, which refers to the extent to which students are clear about what they are to do, what the products they produce should look like, what standards will be applied to evaluate these products and their performances, and how much value students attach to the standards that are to be used; that is, do the students believe in the standards and see them as personally compelling?
  4. Protection from Adverse Consequences for Initial Failures, which refers to the extent to which the task is designed so students feel free to try without fear that initial failures will bring them humiliation, implicit punishment, or negative sanctions.
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Design Qualities of Choice

There are six Design Qualities of Choice:

  1. Product Focus, which refers to the opportunity to structure tasks and activity so that what students are to learn is linked to some product, performance, or exhibition to which the student attaches personal value.
  2. Affirmation of Performance, which refers to the possibility of designing tasks and activities so that the performance of students is made visible to persons who are significant in their lives, as well as designing the work in ways that make it clear that the quality of the performance of the student has meaning and value to peers and others whose opinions the student values and cares about.
  3. Affiliation, which refers to the possibility of designing tasks so that students are provided the opportunity to work with peers as well as with parents, outside experts, and other adults, including but not limited to the teacher.
  4. Novelty and Variety, which refers to the possibility of providing students the opportunity to employ a wide range of media and approaches when engaged in the activities assigned and encouraged.
  5. Choice, which refers to the possibility of designing tasks and activities so that students can exercise choice either in what they are to learn or how they go about learning that which it is required that they learn.
  6. Authenticity, which refers to the possibility of linking learning tasks to things that are of real interest to the student, especially when the student is not interested in learning what adults have determined he or she needs to learn.

Connection is a powerful motivating force for achievement

Watch the video below of the story of DJ Batiste. At the age of four he was kicked out of Head Start. At the age of thirteen he was in Juvenile Detention and still leading a large violent gang in Mississippi. At the age of 17 he was introduced to Conscious Discipline. Now, he leads and teaches from a different point of view and in turn inspires hundreds around the country with the message of Connection instead of Correction.

strategies to create student engagement

Practical Suggestions from Eric Jensen

  1. Eliminate threat.
  2. Set daily goals that incorporate some student choice.
  3. Work to have a positive influence.
  4. Manage student emotions and teach them to do it, too.
  5. Provide relevant curriculum and coherent activities.
  6. Give feedback.



Click on this PADLET LINK to respond to this question:

How will I plan my instruction differently, to incorporate strategies to engage students?