Increasing Student Engagement

Based on the research of Dr. Marcia Tate’s “Don't Grow Dendrites” series, AVID Instruction, and Dr. Robert Marzano’s “Highly Engaged Classoom”

Students in today's classrooms learn very differently than the way most of the people teaching them were taught. Students today need and want to be actively engaged for effective learning to take place. The fundamental shift has to be from a focus on teaching and what is the teacher doing to a focus on student learning and the impact each activity and action in the classroom has on student learning.

Brain-Based Learning

The science of learning supports student engagement as one of the most critical components of meaningful and lasting learning for students. Research-based, best-practice instructional strategies not only engage students, but also make students an active stakeholder in their learning. Effective lessons are built with aligned curriculum and a purposeful design of high student engagement. The instructional focus of each and every lesson should be on designing engaging instructional activities.

Use Strategies That Yield the Top Results with Comprehension and Retention

Today's students want and need to be active learners and active participants in learning. The "sit and get" practices yield a retention rate significantly lower than the practices that include classroom talk, collaboration, discussion, practice by doing, reciprocal teaching, questioning for critical thinking, creating a product, project-based learning, and strategies involving inquiry.

Why is multiple intelligence theory, cumulative reviews, differentiation, multiple exposures, and spiraled reviews so important? Brain research says that we must hear or be exposed to new content a minimum of three times for comprehension and retention. Brain research also supports specific practices that yield the highest gains in both comprehension and retention.

Brain-based research is component of the science of learning that expound upon the way students are actively engaged with meaning and retention of content. There are 20 cross-curricular strategies that take advantage of the way all brains learn best. These strategies increase student achievement, decrease behavior problems, and make teaching and learning fun. These include:

20 Cross-Curricular Strategies That Take Advantage of the Way All Brains Learn Best

Brainstorming and Discussion: We remember what we talk about with others.

Drawing and Artwork: Drawing helps students encode new content for later recall.

Field Trips: We remember where we go in the real world.

Games: When playing a game, the stress level goes down and the retention rate goes up.

Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs: Having students design a mind map addresses both hemispheres of the brain.

Humor: He who laughs most, learns best. – John Cleese

Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs, and Models: There is a strong correlation between what our hands hold and what our minds comprehend.

Metaphors, Analogies, and Similes: Take what is unfamiliar to students and connect it to what is familiar and they will get it.

Mnemonic Devices: Acronyms and acrostics enable students to memorize lists of items.

Movement: Anything the brain learns while the body is in motion is long remembered.

Music, Rhythm, Rhyme, and Rap: Nursery rhymes and song lyrics learned while we are children are easily remembered as adults.

Project-Based and Problem-Based learning: When students are completing real-world projects or solving real-world problems, comprehension is facilitated.

Reciprocal Teaching and Cooperative Learning: We remember 90% of what we teach to someone else.

Roleplay: Involve me, I understand. Chinese Proverb

Storytelling: The brain remembers stories because they are connected together with a beginning, middle, and end.

Technology: Technology is a workplace competency which enables students to be college – or career – ready.

Visualization and Guided Imagery: Everything happens twice: once in the mind and once in reality. – Stephen Covey

Visuals: Show me, I remember. – Chinese Proverb

Work-Study and Apprenticeships: On the job training helps the content make sense.

Writing and Journals: The brain remembers what we write in long hand better than what we type on a computer.

The #1 Reason Students Drop-Out: Boredom resulting from ineffective, antiquated teaching strategies

“When I die I hope it occurs during a lecture because the transition from life to death will be so slight that I will hardly notice it.” …Mark Twain

Don't Grow Dendrites Series

This is a great series of books on Student Engagement, based on brain research on how all brains learn and retain in the most effective manner. Dr. Tate's website is Below are links to her research on student engagement: