Improving Student Engagement

A big part of STEM education is getting students to apply science, math, engineering, and technology concepts to actual problem-solving activities. STEM projects, like robot building and mini hackathons, can foster an engaged classroom through the more active and collaborative nature of these exercises.


But activities and experiments can be time and resource intensive. They also don’t work for every lesson and subject, whether within or apart from STEM fields. In these cases, getting students to engage and pay attention in class can be a constant challenge for any educator.

Why is lack of attention in class such a common problem? Is there anything that can be done to get more students paying attention and engaging with their lessons?

What Prevents Students From Paying Attention?

Statistics for the average attention span by age usually show that the older one gets, the more their capacity for paying attention increases. For example, a preschooler will be able to focus for 6 to 12 minutes, which gradually increases to 30 to 50 minutes by the time they reach high school.

However, attention spans can be difficult to accurately gauge and track for a lot of reasons. Not only do attention spans vary greatly from one person to the next, in one situation to the next, but digital technology has been a very recent and major disruptor to how humans focus.

Scientists are still working to understand just how much the internet— and specific facets like social media—have changed the way we absorb and process information. Technological changes aside, numerous studies have sought for answers on why students go off track.

Stress, anxiety, boredom, lack of motivation, and a poor understanding of prerequisite material are some of the more common issues that interfere with individual focus.

Overall, an instructional approach that’s directed to the whole class, with fewer opportunities for participation or interaction, that continues for intervals or segments that are longer than 10 minutes, all lead to disengagement for students of any age.

Classrooms with more distractions, like posters and sources of background noise, also can pull attention away from lessons, especially when students are naturally inclined to seek more sensory stimulation when the lesson fails to engage them.

Concentration Strategies That Work

Even for the most charismatic and dynamic teachers, it’s not possible to completely isolate students from the distractions that sometimes steal their attention. Constantly fighting them or outright removing them isn’t productive.

Instead, better student engagement techniques can make lessons more relevant and immersive. Small adjustments to learning spaces and teaching methods that account for disengagement can be very effective.

Educators will also need to adapt to individual learning styles, emotional factors, and student abilities where and when possible. This can be as simple as leading with rewards rather than punishment to drive engagement, which reduces stress and anxiety for students.

For example, periodic pop quizzes that add extra credit rather than grade deductions can be simple but powerful motivators. Students who do poorly after one lesson needn’t feel discouraged, only motivated to pay closer attention and do better at the next opportunity.

Incorporating more group discussion and concept reinforcement exercises can also be more effective than an uninterrupted, classroom-wide lecture. The addition of learning aids that activate more senses, including visual, audio, and other sensory experiences can keep students engaged despite potential distractions.

Taking short breaks to allow students to stretch and get their blood flowing, while they reflect on the most recent portion of the lesson, can also aid in concentration as much as active student engagement activities.

Why Engagement In The Classroom Matters

Without student engagement, a teacher’s best and noblest efforts are easily rendered moot. This is why opportunities for interaction and immersion need to be used as much as any other instructional approach.

Students who are engaged In learning do more than just retain lessons and score higher on tests, they derive meaning from their educational experience, and that’s important for avoiding behavioral issues and cognitive decline.

Students who are engaged in the classroom experience are participating within a social structure, which is valuable for building self-esteem and recognizing their own unique abilities and strengths.

Article Sources:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *