Student Engagement

Student Engagement – How do you do it?

June 2, 2017 11:28 am Published by

Some think it’s the unattainable dream, but students can be engaged in their learning, as long as the learning materials are designed with them in mind. Let’s have a look at a few things you can do to drastically improve student interest and learning outcomes.

What is student engagement?

According to Dr Hamish Coates, a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research, student engagement is defined as “students’ involvement with activities and conditions that are linked with high quality learning” (2007). The responsibility for a student’s engagement does not simply fall to the student; learning environments, teaching and resources need to be designed to facilitate active learning. This is a big undertaking, but there are a few strategies you can follow to ensure students are engaged.

Create a student-centric approach.

Don’t forget; it’s all about the student. No one likes to be overloaded with content. Content should be designed and written to address the student and their learning needs. Providing generic information to students that lacks significance won’t help them fulfil necessary learning outcomes or contribute towards their development.

Involving students in the learning process can be done through interactivity and innovation. Resources should cater to the student and be designed to ensure that students consistently have an opportunity to engage. According to a recent article published in Current Issues in Education, “today’s learners want to connect and communicate constantly and want an environment to support these connections” (Taylor & Parsons, 2011). Facilitating opportunities outside the classroom for students to interact with one another and connect to their studies is key to improving student engagement.

Challenge your students.

Formative and summative assessment should be centred around examining student progress and learning. Opportunities to check student progress should be frequent, to make sure that students don’t complete a unit or course with large gaps in their knowledge. Regular progress checks help to ensure students stay connected to the learning process and don’t lose interest, ultimately improving student outcomes.

When challenging your students, you should also make sure that they are challenged at an appropriate level. Having questions that are too difficult will only discourage students. On the flipside, if they are too easy, students will become bored. Any questions posed to students should relate directly to the content that they are learning.

Encourage them to imagine themselves in the industry.

Students are training towards a goal; this shouldn’t be forgotten. Make sure your content and teaching relates to real life, past student experience and future work wherever possible. Learning should always be contextualised in this way in order to make it meaningful for students; it should be relevant and real (Taylor & Parsons, 2011). In Vocational Education and Training, this contextualisation can be achieved through the inclusion of workplace photographs and case studies, encouraging students to relate their learnt knowledge to real life situations and work scenarios.

Inspire students to navigate their own learning.

It’s necessary to have a balance of autonomy and instruction. Providing students with an environment where independent learning is supported is key to ensuring that students are engaged.

Students who are able to take control of their learning can develop intrinsic motivation. Weimer (2012) emphasises the need for students to be able to work autonomously and in situations with others in her article, 10 Ways to Promote Student Engagement. She connects autonomous learning to fostering self-determination of learners, which supports their engagement. If you encourage students to take control, they are more likely to take ownership of and engage with the content they are being taught.

Student Engagement

Now what do I do?

Taking a new approach to encourage student engagement may seem daunting at first, but try to employ a few simple strategies to begin the change. This could be as simple as working a few contextualised examples into your teaching to help make the content more relatable to students, or adding more regular, short, informal assessments to check for student understanding. Use your imagination to see how you can adjust your teaching and resources to facilitate student engagement.

If you’re not sure how to best tackle student engagement, we’d be happy to help you navigate the application of these principles in your learning delivery. Feel free to get into contact and our educational consultants and learning designers can help you in this challenge.


Coates, H. (2007). Engaging Learners in Higher and Vocational Education. Research Developments 18(4). Retrieved from

Taylor, L. & Parsons, J. (2011). Improving Student Engagement. Current Issues in Education,

14(1). Retrieved from

Weimer, M. (2012). 10 Ways to Promote Student Engagement. Retrieved from

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This post was written by Eliza Prescott