Student Engagement - Challenge Map

Student Engagement

Student Engagement

The Challenge

This challenge ranked as practitioners’ #1 priority in spring 2020.

Explore Visualization

Educators recognize that student engagement is critical for learning. Districts are adopting a variety of innovative approaches (e.g., project-based learning, personalized learning, maker education, etc.) to promote student engagement by helping students take ownership of their learning, connecting the classroom with the real-world, and preparing students for college and careers. However, maintaining engagement can be challenging when students find learning experiences to be “boring” or “too difficult.” For many districts, measuring engagement—that is, identifying specific behaviors associated with engagement and documenting them systematically—is also a pain point.

Challenge Stats


Respondents reported this challenge is widespread


Staff from suburban districts responded this challenge is urgent


Staff from urban districts responded this challenge is urgent

Ideas from the Field

  • Some schools are incorporating a project-based approach to subjects like social students and sciences so that content is relevant, and authentic, and engaging for students.
  • One district meets with 50 middle school and high school students each month to hear about their experiences and desires, incorporating student voice and interest into future programming and course offerings.

In the Words of District Staff

It's been difficult to find engaging materials that keep students interested. I'm not interested in assigning a bunch of worksheets for kids to complete throughout the day at home.
Elementary school teacher
Spring 2020

“I think one challenge comes when school gets difficult. Every kid at some point in his or her education reaches that point where it gets harder, right? And... when it gets hard to do, they don't always know what to do. So some kids sort of give up... I think that that can come when the content gets hard and it can also come when things aren't as interesting for students.”

“We're trying to ask our elementary kids, ‘Does school cause you to be more curious?’ If students say, ‘No, I'm not more curious as a result of being in school,’ We say, ‘What do we need to change about the existing pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and resources to 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?”


7 Ways to Spark Engagement - From Edutopia, this blog describes why strengthening students’ sense of connectedness to their learning is a worthwhile goal, and shares simple ways to do it.

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.

TeachFX - TeachFX is a useful tool for tracking and visualizing how much students are talking during a lesson, which can help teachers make students more active participants in their learning.

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