One of the most well known television game shows in the history of the genre is Family Feud. If you’re not familiar with the show, it goes something like this: a survey group asks one hundred people a question like, “Other than a birthday, what’s a good reason to throw a party?” Contestants are then asked to guess the top eight, six, or four answers. My all time favorite host, Richard Dawson, would go to the answer board and yell out, “Survey says . . .” and let the board reveal the answers.
What does any of this have to do with teaching and learning? I’m glad you asked. When it comes to student engagement, we don’t have to guess what kinds of lessons and activities engage students. Researchers Diana Neebe and Sharon Sikora have already done the survey. During the pandemic, their school made a conscious shift toward a student-centered project-based instructional model. After an extended period of time, they surveyed the high school students and asked about specific projects, assessments, and learning experiences to determine which were most engaging. They produced an overview of their findings in the article What Students Have to Say About Improving Engagement (https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/what-students-have-to-say-about-improving-engagement). Here are some of the things they learned from reading 4,187 lines of open-ended responses from students:
- Partnership – Students want opportunities to work with one another and with the teacher. Students find meaning in the relationships and state that they were vital to student engagement.
- Real-world – Students noted that examples drawn from real-life experiences within their own communities help motivate them to learn.
- Safe place – Students want classrooms to be safe places where questions are asked, mistakes are made without penalty, and encouragement is frequent.
- Reflection – Students identified opportunities for reflection as a powerful force in their own learning.
- Individual experiences and ideas – Students want to explore their own ideas and filter them through the lens of individual experience.
- Tracking their own data – Students who maintained data regarding their progress found they were more engaged in their learning.
- Simulations and role playing – Students desire activity, and they noted that opportunities to participate in simulations and role playing types of activities helped them learn.
- Expression of Personal Opinions – Students are people with individual thoughts and feelings. They noted high levels of engagement when they were allowed to include opinions and back them up with facts.
- Visual representations and creative displays – Students want to show off their work. Creative representations of content knowledge and growth in understanding rated highest in terms of engagement.
- Input in assessment design – Students who were able to assist in creating the rubric for assessment indicated higher levels of engagement in the learning process.
As you prepare for next week, think about what the survey says and how you might incorporate some of these elements into your classroom. You and your students will be glad you did!