Measuring Student Engagement - Challenge Map
Challenge Map


Measuring Student Engagement

The Challenge

Districts want to know if their innovative initiatives and instructional approaches — like digital learning, project-based learning, and maker education — lead to higher student engagement, and if highly engaged students perform better academically. Many districts are determined to increase student engagement in learning, but find it difficult to understand how engagement can be observed, documented, and measured. Additionally, districts are seeking ways to measure attitudes and behaviors they want to see in students, including curiosity, interest, agency, and persistence, but they need support finding valid tools and integrating them into their assessment practices.

In the Words of District Leaders

What we're trying to do is to change our data including which questions we ask our elementary kids. ‘Does school cause you to be more curious?’ We find out that we have schools where kids say ‘No, I'm not more curious as a result of being in school.’ We say ‘What do we need to change about the pedagogy, the curriculum, assessment and the resources kids have that lead to kids to see themselves as more curious learners?

“If you talk about academic achievement and you dig down a little bit deeper other than just the test scores, I think it would be the engagement and the student engagement into the academic program. How is it relatable? Is it relevant? And then you could probably draw some conclusions about the academics. We’ve tried to get to some of those answers through surveys, vicarious feedback, forums, and focus groups. But, it’s really difficult to really pinpoint how students are engaged in the curriculum. It’s one thing to be engaged in school, but are they engaged in the curriculum? Do they understand why they’re being taught what they’re being taught? Does that make a difference in academic performance?”

Ideas from the Field

  • One district is “trying to really go after qualitative factors of learning that build a higher level of engagement” by creating music studios within the school that allow students to not only create but produce music.
  • Another district spoke about focusing on different metrics that incorporate engagement alongside academic factors.


Check out the following research-based resources for more information about measuring student engagement:

Measuring Student Engagement in Upper Elementary through High School: a Description of 21 Instruments – From REL Southeast, this report reviews the characteristics of 21 instruments that measure student engagement. It summarizes what each instrument measures, describes its
purposes and uses, and provides technical information on its psychometric properties.

Surveys of Student Engagement – These tools, developed by Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation & Education Policy, are student-focused surveys that investigate the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of students about their school work, the school learning environment, and their interactions with the school community.

The Student Engagement Instrument (SEI) – From the University of Minnesota, this validated student self-report survey was designed to measure cognitive and affective engagement.

How Do We Know When Students Are Engaged? – In this Edutopia blog, an educator defines student engagement and describes what it looks like in the classroom.

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