Year-on-year, there is a significant decline in student engagement globally. There are several factors that have contributed to this decline. But, regardless of the root behind this academic phenomenon, it results in a common outcome – poor academic performance, especially in core academic subjects such as mathematics and science.
Applying child and school psychology when creating learning environments is a critical aspect that schools and colleges should carefully take into consideration.
Let’s delve deeper into the fundamental aspects of creating an optimal learning environment for peak student engagement.
What is student engagement?
There are different progress indicators that students can use to gauge their academic performance. These indicators are an essential source of information that could encourage students to improve their overall performance. However, student engagement does not primarily focus on such performance indicators.
On the contrary, student engagement involves educational psychology that encourages student motivation which ultimately broadens the understanding of educational material, contributing to well-versed graduate students.
The core aspects of student engagement involve motivation to learn, curiosity, optimism, passion and overall attention. By promoting engagement, students exhibit positive development.
What is an optimal learning environment?
An optimal learning environment is a multi-level approach to conditioning the psychology of a student to improve their academic performance and an overall general understanding of the subject matter being taught.
Within an optimal learning environment, students have heightened senses of all subjects being taught. Students engage freely in an optimal learning environment without fear of being criticised or feeling subpar. At the same time, an optimal learning environment leverages innovative educational tech to drive student engagement from all students.
11 ways to create optimal learning environments to promote student engagement
1. Create a safe space
If your classroom is welcoming and a place where your students feel safe to be themselves, it will automatically make them engage with the subject materials more. They’ll be able to concentrate fully on the task at hand without the need to mask certain behaviours or fear expressing themselves openly.
Making classrooms a bully-free zone goes a long way towards making students feel safer and more content with the learning environment, resulting in higher engagement levels.
Helping students out of the scope of an academic instructor’s role can make students feel safer and more prone to participate in class fully.
2. Encourage curiosity
When students are not asking questions about the subject matter, that could be an indication of an inattentive class. This academic phenomenon can be prevented by presenting material in an energetic manner with visual aids like an interactive whiteboard to try and guide students to understand educational material better.
To stimulate curiosity, ask students questions about current events and the reason behind everything they might encounter. For example, teachers that take care of creative studies could benefit from exposing students to different cultures. This could fuel them to have a hungry mind to explore and be more curious about other cultures.
Science teachers could focus more on the reason why certain chemical reactions happen or the reason behind the laws of physics. They can set the table by posing questions to students that make them curious to know more and as time goes on they can attain curiosity by themselves.
3. Foster creativity
Ultimate student engagement can also be attained through fostering creative problem-solving. When students invoke creative thinking, they extend far beyond passive learning. At the same time, creativity does not only apply to specific scenarios but it can be applied to a wide array of problems.
When students face similar or widely different problems down the line, they can easily solve them and prevent themselves from feeling discouraged which could dampen attentiveness and engagement.
An effective method of fostering creativity amongst students is visualising ideas and goals. In addition, collaborating whenever possible significantly improves creativity and student engagement.
Instead of having a fixed classroom layout, shake things up a little and allow students to collaborate by laying out chairs and desks in an efficient way for students to collaborate and remain engaged throughout the lessons.
4. Create different zones
While this strategy works best in a flipped classroom model or in a Montessori-style learning environment, it is a great option to improve the learning environment and may spark inspiration for a hybrid option.
Creating different physical class zones provides students with structure while also giving them the freedom to engage in a variety of types of learning.
An instruction zone is a space where you can engage in active teaching, and students can engage in active learning. Ideally, this space needs to be flexible – accommodating both large groups for lecture-style lessons and smaller groups for group activities or more intimate teaching moments.
A learning zone encourages students to engage in self-directed learning. It gives them a space that is tailored for focus and concentration and is great for individual work on projects and assignments. Be sure to store appropriate resources in a shelving system nearby so that they are easily accessible to students.
To help students to engage with one another, it might be worth setting up a collaboration and creation zone in your classroom. This can be a couple of round tables with various art supplies readily available, where students can work together on projects or encourage each other with various creative pursuits.
Making sure the learning environment is relaxed and varied by incorporating a gathering zone into your room is another great idea. This is a space reminiscent of a cafe in layout, with a variety of both standing and sitting desks available and refreshments on hand. Students can gather here to work on individual tasks together or to take a break and connect with their peers.
Introducing a quiet, cornered-off space such as a reflection zone gives students a place to work without distraction or take a short mental health break if needed. It also works well as a reading zone, where children can go to enjoy a book if they finish a task early.
Lastly, it is important to have a presentation zone where students can present projects, ideas or other work to the class. Ideally, this zone will have an interactive display or a few interactive whiteboards.
5. Incorporate educational technology
A great way to improve student engagement is by incorporating educational technology into the learning environment. An interactive display is a great addition to the classroom and makes creating fun and interactive lessons much easier.
They also open up the possibility for a variety of different media types to be used within the learning environment, including video, podcasts, music and more. This can be done with ease by using one device rather than multiple devices, as would have been necessary in the past.
6. Give positive, task-related feedback
Constructive task-related feedback unlocks hidden potential from some students that might seem to be underperforming.
At times, students tend to be reserved and lack the enthusiasm to engage in class due to past experiences. However, we can rewire this thinking by being constructive and positive.
Instead of criticising a student’s errors, focus on building them up through positive feedback.
7. Build a supportive environment
It is important that teachers can engage all students, and this will require giving some students extra support. Students who are struggling will need some one-on-one assistance, and those who are thriving will need extra attention to make sure that they’re not bored.
With students on both of these extremes requiring careful attention, it’s a good idea to gauge the individual performance and engagement of all students and provide assistance whenever needed.
8. Improve school identification
Redeveloping school identification can encourage student engagement and overall academic achievement. Studies indicate that the perception students have of their school could have a significant impact.
By improving the general atmosphere and appeal of the school, students might be more prone to engage and perform better.
9. Establish a sense of belonging
Students that feel ostracised at school could have a higher probability of failing their academics due to being disengaged and feeling like they don’t belong. Therefore, try to establish a sense of belonging and instil it within each student.
For example, engage students by asking questions directly to individual students. However, ensure that the questions are simple or are well within the student’s potential. Alternatively, assign some level of responsibility to students that might be feeling ostracised to establish that sense of belonging and purpose.
10. Embrace diversity
People are different, and a community is made up of different people from various cultural backgrounds. Diversity is something to be embraced and presents an opportunity to engage students.
Encouraging students to understand one another’s cultural backgrounds without discrimination fosters respect and by extension creates a safe space for students.
11. Involve students in classroom management
When students are actively engaged in managing their learning space, they might be more prone to view it less as someplace mandatory to go to. On the contrary, students could develop a deeper sense of respect for their classroom and become more engaged with school activities.
Involve students when laying down “policies” for students to feel safe in class. It makes sense to involve students when creating policies that they should always remember. Also, allow students to vote for their prefect, monitor, or classroom representative.
This establishes a democracy that engages all students instead of the approach being unilateral.
FAQs about promoting student engagement
What are optimal learning environments?
Optimal learning environments are safe spaces for students to grow and acquire critical skills for their life beyond school. These environments foster positive psychology through active learning, allowing students to engage in the subject matter being discussed. Also, through the use of extracurricular programs, students attain higher engagement levels.
Which 3 factors characterise optimal environments for student learning?
In a nutshell, creating a safe space, productive learning, and critical soft skills development are 3 factors for an optimal learning environment.
Students might be more inclined to actively engage in the classroom when they feel heard and have task-related activities that engage all or most of their senses. Using educational technology is another critical aspect of creating an optimal learning environment.
Leveraging key innovations to improve the learning experience should be a top priority for skills development.
How do you create an engaging learning environment for your students?
Using technology-supported learning through educational video games could be a great start to optimise learning environments, especially in high school classrooms to engage students. Educational tech could be an essential resource that drives student engagement and contributes to overall youth development.
Another method to attain motivational outcomes is providing constructive feedback to students that helps pique their interest and curiosity in class. For science studies, practical experiments could improve the overall engagement of students.
What are the best ways to increase student engagement in the classroom?
Increasing student engagement could significantly minimise youth that is out of school. To attain these outcomes, it’s a great idea to encourage curiosity, involve students whenever possible, and try to use all their senses when teaching.
Promote student engagement with an interactive display
Ensuring students are engaged as they learn creates an optimal learning environment and helps them to get the most out of their education. There are some great ways to make learning easy, which include using technology like an interactive whiteboard.