There’s one challenge every school leader can relate to. How to keep students engaged and learning to the best of their ability?
With many schools adapting to remote learning, keeping students connected and engaged with teachers, classes, and school culture is more important than ever.
Unsurprisingly, research shows where students are more attentive and actively participating in their education, the better student behaviour and academic achievement.
There’s one key element to student engagement that is an underlying source of success, but is often overlooked: student voice.
This article explores evidence-based strategies for using student voice to enhance engagement school-wide.
Give students a voice in their classroom to improve learning engagement
The Students at the Centre Series says that “The more educators give students choice, control, challenge, and collaborative opportunities, the more motivation and engagement are likely to rise.”
Encourage teachers to start seeking regular input and feedback, particularly about decisions that directly impact students. By contributing their views, concerns and ideas, students become active participants in their class environment. Providing an environment that facilitates open communication also gives students confidence to flag learning progress concerns. As the term moves along, teachers can take what they learn and use it to adapt the lessons to student needs. Students feel that they are heard, and are more likely to engage with their learning.
Promote school-wide engagement by seeking student input
Schools should look beyond the classroom when it comes to engagement. School culture and cohesion has an impact on each individual. Everyone wants to feel pride and be part of something.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Education faculty member Gretchen Brion-Meisels posits that when schools find ways to welcome student opinions, they feel appreciated and supported and ultimately connected to their school community.
New research from the University of Melbourne suggests that schools should create an environment that empowers students to have a voice on how they operate:
“While undoubtedly it is emerging in proactive schools, most schools do not have policies and processes that enable students to participate in making decisions about the school – the environment, the rules and regulations, the curriculum, the assessment, and the adults in the school.”
Ask for student input on both serious and lighter issues. Participating in school-wide decisions enables students a sense of agency in their learning environment.
Encouraging teacher professional development is also more effective as part of a school-wide program where teachers can discuss the input they collect from students.
Find the right technology
There’s an overwhelming amount of technology available to support schools and teachers, and we know that students are often savvy consumers of technology.
The question becomes “What is the right technology for our school?”. Try to look for systems or apps that are straightforward to use, and that look and feel like those students are already familiar with. Fewer barriers will make students more likely to participate and enjoy the experience.
When you have identified the gaps in technology, create a testing group of students who are able to try a new platform and provide feedback before implementing it widely. A great way to amplify student voice in a structured way, this gives students responsibility in the school and saves you from implementing technology that won’t generate engagement. The best indicator of engagement with technology is usage rates - many platforms can give you an indication of usage as a part of their analytics.
Additionally, technology can help to amplify student voice by providing a simple method of gathering student input, while giving teachers clear insight based on responses. If you use technology to seek student input, quieter students will get a say when they normally wouldn’t speak up.
When you try new engagement strategies, it’s important that you measure the results in some way. Counting student smiles won’t confirm your progress as well as trackable data. Measurement over time provides hard evidence of improvement, or the need to make change. Implementing a consistent way to measure engagement will make decision-making easier and more effective. If possible, use simple technology systems. It doesn’t need to be a big, time-consuming task.
Giving students a voice in their education both in the classroom and the broader school can be one of the easiest ways to enhance engagement. Use technology to measure baseline engagement metrics, activate student voice in structured, supported ways, and you may find those metrics increase significantly over a short period of time.
Loop’s student feedback app is being used by teachers and schools around the world to ask questions and get responses instantly. Use it for fast votes, surveys and insights on anything in the classroom or school-wide, as often as you need. Best of all, you can measure everything quickly and easily to make informed decisions.