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5 Student Engagement Factors to Consider for Reopening

Trenton Goble

Vice President, K12 Strategy, ‎Instructure

The last year has challenged teachers, schools, and families to adapt to unprecedented changes to teaching and learning. While we’ve examined the challenges of the pandemic, questions remain: What does the future of education look like? And how will the last year impact teaching and learning moving forward?

We have marveled at the heroic commitment and efforts of educators as they worked to keep students learning. Teachers adapted to the reality of teaching online, adopted new tools, stayed connected to students, and remained dedicated to each student’s success. Parents and students persevered, too, and perceptions around remote learning began to shift.   

As a company focused on elevating learning and amplifying teaching, we work to ensure educators have the tools they need to engage students and improve learning outcomes. However, the definition of student engagement evolved during the past year as teachers found new ways to connect with students.

Working with Hanover Research, we recently surveyed educators and parents on the impact of COVID-19 and perceptions around student success. The consensus? Despite last year’s challenges, everyone is more open to new ways to teach and learn. What do the findings tell us? 

1. Technology supports connectedness

Ongoing technology use will be essential to supporting classroom activities and ensuring students stay engaged and parents stay informed, both in and outside the classroom. According to educators we surveyed, technology will become increasingly important (81 percent) as remote learning continues to impact classroom practices in the future (67 percent).

2. We have work to do to achieve equity

The pandemic didn’t create inequity — it exposed it. Too many students still don’t have equal access to essential technologies. According to the National Education Association, an estimated one-quarter of all school-aged children live in households without broadband access or a web-enabled device. 

Our survey respondents echoed this challenge, as educators reported that hardware acquisition would be a priority for future funding. This is especially true as creating a familiar “digital classroom” helps ensure equitable access for students whenever and wherever they learn.

3. Engagement should be at the top of everyone’s list

For students to be successful, they need to be engaged. Educators (92 percent) identified student engagement as the leading metric of student success and expect it to grow in importance (73 percent) next year. 

But how do we engage students in a way that makes learning personal? The right technology, coupled with innovative instructional strategies, is how we start providing personalized learning, measuring student engagement, and recreating classroom experiences — all essential to ensuring students remain engaged while learning remotely.

4. Time to ditch the hyperfocus on test scores

While kids continue to feel pressure around high-stakes tests, their perceived value has decreased dramatically. According to the research, in terms of measuring student success, respondents perceive standardized test scores as the least important among 14 factors, at only 29 percent. 

When it comes to formative assessment or assessment for learning, however, things look different. To check students’ understanding, 76 percent of educators delivered formative assessments during remote learning. If we want to keep students on track, we need a fundamental shift in thinking toward embracing an actionable approach to assessment that’s part of the regular instructional cycle. 

5. Nothing beats connection with a quality teacher

Parents surveyed point to high-quality instruction (85 percent) as the most important factor impacting their children’s success. Looking at social emotional factors, educators (99 percent) and parents (91 percent) rated “the student’s relationship with teachers” as the top factor. This reinforces what we know to be true: Nothing replaces a teacher who cares about their students. This makes supporting teachers with professional development more critical than ever.

The last year has taxed educators, families, and students alike, and I want to offer my sincerest thanks to each of them. Especially educators: Thank you for remembering to put students first and for your ongoing efforts. 

Visit instructure.com/k12research to get further insights from the Instructure State of Teaching and Learning research. 

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