Evidence of Engagement

How Do We Know When Students Are Engaged?

Dr. Michael Schmoker, an educational author and former teacher, reveals findings from research in his book, Results Now, that indicated that of 1,500 classrooms visited, 85 percent of them had engaged fewer than 50 percent of the pupils in the lesson. In other words, just 15% of the classrooms had more than half of the students paying attention to the instruction at the very least.

So, how do they determine whether or not a pupil is engaged? What does it look like to have “engaged” students? Here’s some evidence to look for based on my numerous observations:


Keeping an open mind (alert, tracking with their eyes)
Making a list of things to remember (particularly Cornell)
I’m paying attention (as opposed to chatting, or sleeping)
Inquiring about things (content-related, or in a game, like 21 questions or I-Spy)
Providing answers to questions (whole group, small group, four corners, Socratic Seminar)
The following requests (participation, Total Physical Response (TPR), storytelling, and Simon Says) were fulfilled.
As a result of this (laughing, crying, shouting, etc.)


You may meet with students one-on-one or in small groups…

Reading with a critical eye (with pen in hand)
Performing/presenting, inquiring, exploring, explaining, analyzing, and experimenting) Interacting with other pupils, gesturing and moving)
To distill the descriptions above and get to the heart of the matter of student engagement, whether for teacher-directed learning or student-directed learning, engaged simply implies that students are actively participating in the learning process. Is it unexpected that this is the case? No, I don’t believe that. If meaningful learning is to take place, pupils must be at the very least participants in the process, rather than merely products of the learning process.


I feel that the majority of teachers when they direct-teach, can pick up on audience cues and can determine if a student is not interested or involved in the material. The majority of teachers react to what they observe and alter their instruction to engage all of their students. The fact remains, however, that no matter how hard teachers try to make their lectures more fascinating, they are still lectures, and having pupils simply listen is still a passive action. The solution is straightforward: To promote student engagement, a teacher must also increase student activity, which means that the instructor must ask the students to do something with the knowledge and skills they have gained. Learning activities should be interspersed throughout the presentation. Allow them to practice. Get them up and going. Activate their conversational skills. Engage students in such a way that it is difficult for them to refrain from participating.

The ultimate goal of engagement is to put the student in command of his or her education. When pupils are given a rich learning environment and a strong incentive to study, they will undertake all of the hard work of learning, with the teacher only serving as a facilitator. It appears to be quite simple.

I do not attempt to belittle the amount of time and effort that went into developing those rich learning situations, customized motivators, and engaging learning content. Furthermore, it is a little hazardous. Occasionally, it works like a charm, and other times, it would have been wiser to delegate seat work to someone else. However, we will not stop striving, developing, and enhancing until we achieve success.