Student Engagement Strategies That Work

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As the day wears on, it’s not uncommon to see learners becoming unfocused, disengaged with classroom tasks, restless, noisy or silent. The most demotivating aspect of disinterested students is their unwillingness to learn. A Gallup student poll (2014) reports that nearly 50% of the learners were “either not engaged (28 percent) or actively disengaged (19 percent) in school” (Collier, 2015). 

There are many causes for disengagement or demotivation, such as:  

  • fear of failure 
  • learning is not a priority 
  • the students perceive it as irrelevant to their lives 
  • the students are unable to relate to the content or the teacher as they might find the mode of delivery dull and uninteresting. 

Teachers are often only as good as their students so a disengaged class can be a frustrating experience.  

Thankfully, there are many strategies backed by research that can help. Students can be trained to have growth mindsets where they perceive themselves as confident learners who enjoy learning. Their attitude is more positive and if they do fail an exam, they will promise to do better next time rather than blame their inability to pass. Teachers can support students by praising them for their effort rather than their inherent qualities. Secondly, students’ self-esteem can be raised if they expect to do well and value the learning experience. Thirdly, if students feel that the learning is useful to their lives, they will prioritize it and find it relevant.  

What works in the classroom? 

Some strategies which have proven to be successful are given below: 

  1. There is evidence that student engagement increases significantly when they are allowed to do activities rather than sit passively. Group projects enhance confidence and increase chances of success. Students enjoy learning where there is less use of textbooks and fewer tests.  
  2. Students enjoy learning when they have more control over it. For example, they can demonstrate their learning through PowerPoint, artwork or acting out on a stage or platform. 
  3. When learners have autonomy, they have greater motivation. Autonomy means that learners can choose their learning materials or activities. 
  4. A positive student-teacher relationship is known to work wonders. If a student likes his teacher, there is a greater chance of successful learning and greater motivation too. 
  5. Engendering a mastery-based system where the focus is on learning the content and not on grades. If the student does fail, he is given a chance to revise the content and do the test again. The promise of a second chance is the intrinsic motivation to continue to succeed. 
  6. Setting short-term goals helps learners to see how far they have come and what they need to work on. This is a powerful tool for success and student engagement. 
  7. Technology-integrated classrooms are helpful with student engagement as they allow for more individualized instruction and personalized feedback. In fact, some learning management systems can adjust the tasks to the student’s level based on his responses. 

Are there any other strategies for student engagement in the classroom that have worked for you?  


Collier, L. (2015). Grabbing students: Researchers have identified easy ways to boost student success by increasing their engagement in learning. American Psychological Association, 46(6), 58. 

Mrs. Ozma Siddiqui is an English language instructor and has been in the field of English teaching for over 20 years. She has taught both the tertiary years and the international curriculum to young adults and beyond. Besides teaching, she is a reviewer of papers for the International Journal of English Language and Education. Mrs. Ozma has earned the MA in English Literature and ELT and the MA in Education. She is also qualified as a holder of the Trinity Postgraduate Diploma in TESOL. Mrs Ozma is currently a research scholar in Education and her primary interests lie in second and foreign language instruction, methodology and language acquisition, curriculum and testing.


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