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Teachers: How to Strengthen High School Student Engagement

By The Room 241 Team February 12, 2013

High school teachers have a hard job. The students in high school have minds of their own and oftentimes want to be anywhere else than in the classroom. But, as difficult as it might be, it is the teacher’s job to keep the students engaged. When students are engaged, many benefits are achieved. For starters, the students behave better in the classroom and they get higher grades. They are also more confident learners who are much more likely to actually retain the information they are learning. For these reasons, strengthening student engagement should be every teacher’s goal.

The problem is that strengthening student engagement is easier said than done. High school students are one of the most difficult ages to try to teach. Strengthening student engagement takes a teacher with fortitude. According to Dr. Richard D. Jones, an author and senior consultant at the International Center for Leadership in Education, student engagement falls completely in the hands of the teacher. A teacher cannot simply tell students that they need to listen better or interact more without any follow through.

He is a strong believer in an approach called Engagement-based Learning and Teaching, or EBLT. This teaching strategy has six main objectives that every teacher should strive for. These objectives work cohesively through three domains, involving students cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally. Here are the six objectives every teacher should use for strengthening student engagement.

Build 1-on-1 Relationships

When students feel valued by their teacher, they are much more willing to follow instructions and give their best in the classroom. Teachers should invest time getting to know each student. They can do this through individual conference sessions or simply by having the students fill out an “about me” paper on the first day of class. They should learn each student’s learning style as well so they can make sure to have a variety of lesson plans so every student has an equal opportunity to learn.

Develop New Skills and Habits

Teachers already have an innate ability to lead students while motivating them. However, that does not mean that there is not room for improvement. Teachers should be willing to learn new skills and habits in the classroom that will improve student engagement.

Incorporate a System

When teachers use consistency in the classroom, students know what to expect. When they know what to expect they can better prepare for what is to come. When teachers use systematic strategies in their teaching, the students learn better by developing their own habits around them.

Take Responsibility

As previously mentioned, teachers need to realize that how involved the students are depends on how engaging the teacher is. Very few high school students will be naturally engaged in learning without any help from the teacher. When teachers realize that strengthening student engagement is their job, they can start to get the job done.

Get Everyone Involved

It is not enough for one teacher to be committed to strengthening student engagement while the rest of the teachers just stick to their old ways. The entire high school should be involved with making every class more engaging for students. If students can stay involved and intrigued throughout the entire school day, everybody wins.

Realize the Importance of Professional Development

Strengthening student engagement is not as simple as adding in a few contests or group activities and calling it a day. Teachers need to realize that student engagement is something that is ongoing. Teachers need to be invested in the education of their students and be committed to helping them succeed. They should always be looking for new ways to improve their teaching skills. This can be done through additional classes, observing other teachers, or even taking suggestions from the students.

High school students are a tough audience to please. They have a lot going on in their lives and they are at the age where learning is no longer fun. When high school teachers are committed to making the learning environment enjoyable, everybody wins. Students will perform better and teachers will have an easier time controlling the classroom. Student engagement is the answer for many problems high school teachers face on a daily basis.

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