Recent legislation was passed to address this very issue. Throughout 2020 we saw just how important student engagement was in impacting learning outcomes, and new federal funding has been allocated to support improvements. 

New CARES funding was passed in December to address the very real student learning loss we’re seeing in schools throughout the country, including the implementation of new technologies and processes to augment distant learning engagement. Let’s look at three tangible ways to leverage new resources to improve engagement and learning outcomes in 2021.

Creating Connection Between Teachers and Students 

The connection between teachers and students is a foundational element of successful learning outcomes. A recent analysis of 46 studies by Review of Educational Research found a link between a strong connection and short and long-term improvements in student engagement, grades, and attendance, and lower dropout rates and fewer suspensions. Regardless of background, having a stronger relationship with a teacher can help a student perform better in school and succeed in the long term. 

To build this connection with remote students, teachers can implement a series of changes including:

  • Virtual Open-Door Times – Implement recurring open-door times when students and parents alike can discuss lessons, ask questions, request help, or raise specific concerns. Replicating the five-minute conversations a student might have with a teacher between class or on the way home is challenging online, but can build an important bridge. 
  • Address Social and Emotional Needs – One of the key elements of in-person learning is the ability of a teacher to observe and respond to a student’s emotional state. Body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice can all indicate if there are issues that need to be addressed and can inform teachers that their lesson plans need to be adapted. Virtually, this is difficult to replicate, but synchronous time dedicated to social interactions, chatbox implementation, and online surveys asking how a student is feeling can help capture some of the same components. 
  • Live Lessons When Possible – Live lessons allow students to engage and ask questions of teachers in real-time. Recorded materials and asynchronous lessons are still valuable, but when they fully replace the live interaction between students and teachers, students can quickly become frustrated. Interactive visual lessons taught in real-time can have a greater impact than plain text and static images. View demos of Boardworks’ readymade k-12 lesson content designed to address this very problem. 

Helping Students Achieve a Flow-State

Flow-state is an experience in which persistent thoughts and feelings of self-doubt fall away and the individual becomes immersed in the task at hand. For students, this can be an immensely powerful tool, helping to improve brain performance and boost motivation. It makes learning a pleasant experience and can help overcome the most common obstacles to engagement. 

  • Help students achieve flow-state – To communicate the value of flow-state and how to achieve it, introduce the basic concept to students in a context they will understand. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk on the subject is illuminating and accessible, while real-world examples focused on athletics or the arts can be more tangible for students who have never experienced flow-state in an educational setting. 

Some of the key components needed to achieve a flow-state include:

  • A challenging but achievable activity
  • Clear, focused goals that help guide students
  • Elimination of outside distractions, especially in remote learning environments
  • Immediate feedback to help with self-reflection on the activity
  • A careful balance of urgency and calm. Avoid anxiety. 
  • A topic or format that is interesting and engaging for the student

Not every activity will be perfectly suited to every student to achieve a flow-state, but by discussing the nature of this mindset with students, providing the resources needed to self-reflect, and building interactive lesson plans that speak to students in different ways, it’s more likely that they can reach this state more often. 

Offer Students Choices in How They Engage 

Students who are given choice in how they engage with lesson materials show greater autonomy, competence, and sense of relatedness within the group setting of a digital classroom.  

This can take many forms – the materials that a student studies, the assignments completed, the people with whom they work, and the mode by which they engage with materials. 

  • Offering Different Level Worksheets on the Same Subject – Provide students a way to select their difficulty level based on confidence in the subject matter. Boardworks was designed to support this, allowing teachers access to all grade levels to easily offer differentiated activities within the same topic. 
  • Offering Different Ways to Engage with a Topic – Consider supporting different ways in which students can demonstrate learning. For example, a history project on Presidents could ask a student to select a President and complete any of a number of activities: write a summary of their achievements, write and give a speech about their political policies, or present a visual representation of their legacy. 
  • Offer Student-Led Discovery Activities – Instead of providing a set number of static activities through which students can demonstrate their learning, create opportunities for project-based learning. This could include, providing open-ended questions that allow students to choose and explore a topic on their own. By giving students agency over this decision, they feel ownership and are more engaged in the subject matter. 

Such an approach can help students lean on their individual strengths and showcase their learning in ways that traditional lesson plans may not support. 

The Value of Increased Engagement

Higher levels of engagement are directly linked to stronger academic performance, higher rates of attendance, and long term success. By addressing the reasons a student might disengage, leveraging technology to differentiate instruction, and teaching students valuable tools like flow-state, engagement levels can be greatly improved even in a remote setting. 

With new CARES funds now available to support technologies, programs, and processes that address student engagement, now is a perfect time to evaluate how best to support your students whether in the classroom or in remote/hybrid learning environments. Contact Boardworks today to learn about our K-12 lesson content designed to address this very problem. 

Want to read more about how to support teachers and students in this unprecedented year? Download our white paper: Supporting Teachers and Helping Students Excel in an Unprecedented Year:

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