What's My Motivation? Tips for Keeping Students Engaged in Remote Learning
According to youth engagement consultant Adam Fletcher, "Students are engaged when they are attracted to their work, persist despite challenges and obstacles, and take visible delight in accomplishing their work." The positive impact of student engagement can be seen in academic performance, social skills, and graduation rates, with strong student-teacher relationships playing a key role.
When students feel their teachers truly know them and are invested in their achievements, they are more likely to be excited about school and to excel in their academics. At a time of widespread remote learning, it is more important than ever to maintain student engagement with everyone from the littlest learners to soon-to-be high school graduates.
For teachers seeking ways to boost engagement in the age of distance learning, here are some ideas:
Offer a different kind of "face time"
In-person office hours and casual catch-up chats in the classroom may not be happening much these days, but it's still important to carve out time to meet with students. Adapting to a new learning environment can be difficult at the best of times, so talking one-on-one is a valuable way to gain a sense of students' comfort levels and ease any anxieties about participating in online lessons or activities.
In that same vein, making use of breakout groups during online lessons encourages students to talk with one another, collaborate in creative problem-solving, share ideas and feelings, and generally engage in important social interaction.
Keep lessons dynamic
"Students lose interest in lessons more rapidly when online than in person," noted third-grade teacher Jessie Welcomer in a piece she penned for EdSource, "so I have found that keeping lessons dynamic with the use of multimedia, screen-sharing, and breakout rooms supports engagement and motivation in students." According to Welcomer, encouraging students to share photos of their art pieces and science projects with her and their classmates has proven to be a particularly effective motivator.
Maintaining consistency between the classroom and the computer screen
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and offices around the country shuttered abruptly, with many of us taking only the bare necessities for a work-from-home period of uncertain duration. By this point, those still working from home have likely retrieved additional items or made new purchases to facilitate learning and working remotely, and educators should be no exception. According to Edutopia, incorporating relics of the physical classroom into remote lessons "will help students adapt to the new virtual learning environment and keep things consistent for when you do go back to the classroom."
While some teachers are incorporating relics of the physical classroom into remote learning, others are going so far as to create full-fledged classrooms at home. For instance, high school chemistry teacher Jonte Lee turned his kitchen into a makeshift classroom and lab from which he teaches over Instagram Live a few times each week. Although Lee was unfamiliar with social media before the pandemic, he taught himself to use Instagram and Twitter to stay more connected with his students. According to Lee, the Instagram Live broadcasts proved particularly useful because "I was able to see students' questions in real-time and I was able to ask them questions and see how they’re thinking."
The bottom line
Just like their students, educators have faced a steep learning curve over the past few months. Yet despite all the change and upheaval, certain truths remain—including the fact that cultivating and maintaining engagement can have a positive impact on numerous aspects of students' lives. Simply put, keeping students engaged will continue to be key in remote learning, and we cannot let that fall by the wayside.