New Methods for Engaging Students

Engaging StudentsEngaging students — a hallmark talent of the exceptional teacher — is easier to name than define. Are you exceptional? What are your tactics for engaging students? On May 28-29 of this year, the US Department of Education along with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation gathered for a Reimagining Education Conference to find out what makes American educators engaging and exceptional. They convened thought leaders for an “action oriented gathering on reimagining American education.”

The multitalented and multifaceted Pharell Williams reflected on the conference for the Huffington Post. His message was clear – that despite the negativity we read in the media, there are wonderful, impressive and exciting things happen in classrooms across America!

He comments on the meeting, “It’s a gathering that brings together the best minds in education to share innovative practices of in-school and out-of-school learning designed to connect learners’ interests, their social groups and opportunities for academic and employment advancement, known as “connected learning.” He ends his article by quoting President Obama, “I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people… that encourage them to create and build and invent — to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.” As part of my summer of reflection I want to know, how do you go about engaging students to become those creators, builders and inventors?

As a teacher you are inherently in a position to inspire; so I ask, how do you inspire? Over the past year I have been researching new methods and approaches for engaging students. For instance, are you an outrageous teacher? Dr. Stan Pogrow of San Francisco State University drew from his years of experience to design a teaching model to banish boredom and student apathy. He believes that if teachers use dramatic techniques in their lessons, they will be outrageous teachers and engage and motivate even the most resistant learner. He defines outrageous classroom management: “Outrageous classroom management means getting students to engage in these behaviors without lecturing them on it, but by creating a scenario within which they naturally do so.”

How do you deliver content in your classroom? The most common approach I observe is a teacher lecturing with the use of a PowerPoint slide show. I know first-hand that this is not a great method for engaging students. Are you an interactive lecturer or a passive lecturer? According to Harvey F. Silver for the ASCD, the goals of an interactive lecture are to increase engagement, build information management skills, develop note-taking skills, deepen comprehension, build background knowledge and develop habits of the mind. He claims that using an interactive lecturing approach will work for motivating and engaging students, while increasing learning and achievement. It builds from the traditional model adding enthusiasm and aiming for a more conceptual and collaborative approach to content delivery.

Download a free recording of our recent webinar Habits of Mind for Successful Students. Presented by Dr. Andrew Ordover.

Being a positive example of a life long engaged learner may be the best method for engaging your students today. Lawrence Reed, columnist for the, asks readers to, “close their eyes for just a few seconds and think of one or two people who have motivated you, encouraged you, spurred you on. Then ask yourself, was it because of what they said, or what they did?” What are you doing in the classroom that sets an example for life long learning? Do you share with your students your own interests and passions? Sugata Mitra, winner of the TED Prize learned first-hand that given the tools, children will become masters of their own learning. He developed Self Organized Learning Environments “to help design the future of learning by supporting children all over the world to tap into their innate sense of wonder and work together.”

The commonalities I find between all of the engaging methodologies are inquiry based learning, teaching by example, collaboration and connection! What are you doing that leads to engaging students and inspiring them to achievement? What makes you an exceptional teacher? Let’s connect! In the comments below please make some connections! Post your favorite methods, techniques or strategies for inspiring or engaging students? Share your success stories! Thanks in advance, I look forward to your inspiration!


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