Know Thy Students: How to Engage Students in the Classroom

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As an educator, you arguably have one of the most challenging jobs in the world: engaging your students in the classroom so you can teach them. Knowing how to engage students is critical to being an effective educator; if students aren’t engaged, they’re likely not learning[1]. The modern age doesn’t make it any easier, either. Teachers today can often face larger classroom sizes[2] and potentially shorter student attention spans[3]. Furthermore, many teaching methods that were successful 20 years ago may not be as effective[4] at engaging students today

For instance, the average 21st-century child has been exposed to technology since birth and thus may have a shorter attention span, but they may also have a more natural understanding of how to work a computer. Thus, incorporating technology in the classroom may be a way to help some children absorb more information. Some students, however, may prefer to learn out of a book, as it is more concrete to them than words on a screen. Educators, more than most, are well aware of the variety of methods through which students learn, but finding a way to engage a whole classroom of students is a real challenge.

According to the National Institutes of Health[5], our brains retain information by the process of learning in three types of memory: short-term, long-term, and working memory. Studies show[6] that engaging students by stimulating their curiosity and igniting their interest in the subject material is the most effective means of transferring information into their long-term memory. Get them interested, and you get them learning and retaining information more readily.

However, every student is different, and identifying the learning needs of each child is important. Not every student benefits from the same method of learning. Unfortunately, teachers generally do not have enough time to instruct each student on an individual level according to his or her singular needs. Therefore, discovering which methods of teaching will engage a classroom of students is one of the most crucial and difficult challenges an educator will need to overcome.

How Surveys Can Help You Engage Your Students

When teachers are faced with classrooms full of new students at the beginning of a term, how can they determine what will motivate them? With all of the possible variations in learning styles, educators need to ask questions to determine how to engage your students. But it’s also important to know which questions to ask, as well as how to quickly and accurately evaluate your students’ responses.

Thankfully, student surveys and questionnaires comprise research-based questions, which are tested and proven over time to produce the most informative data on engaging students. Plus, a high-quality student survey will provide valid and reliable information quickly, information that can be applied both on a school-wide scale and in individual classrooms, so teachers can get their students on track from the start.

In addition to the basics, like gender, ethnicity, and age, student surveys can provide the following information about your student body as a whole, and much more:

  • • Student-teacher relationships at school
  • • Information about students at home and in the community
  • • Teacher involvement
  • • Student alcohol, tobacco and other drug use
  • • Student mental health
  • • School climate
  • • Other student behaviors such as:
    1. o Violence
    1. o Bullying
    1. o Absenteeism and suspension


Knowing these factors gives you an edge in determining how best to approach a lesson to stimulate your students’ interest in what you have to teach them. Studies show[7] that students who are engaged in their work are keener to learn, they try harder when challenged with something that they are encouraged to master, and they take delight in their accomplishments. As a teacher, knowing how to engage your students is crucial to ensuring that they retain subject material so that they can succeed in their courses and beyond. By using surveys periodically, you can determine not only how to begin a term’s lessons, but how to adjust and improve your teaching strategy at different points during the semester as well. Therefore, surveys could help make your job as an educator just a little bit easier.

[1] de Frondeville, Tristan. “How to Keep Kids Engaged in Class.” Edutopia. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

[2] Litvinov, Amanda. “Budget Cuts + Teacher Layoffs = Larger Class Sizes.” National Education Association. Retrieved by on March 7, 2016.

[3] Richtel, Matt. “Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say.” New York Times. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

[4] Bajak, Aleszu. “Lectures Aren’t Just Boring, They’re Ineffective, Too, Study Finds.” American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

[5] Cowan, Nelson. “What are the Differences between Long-Term, Short-Term, and Working Memory?” National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

[6] Bernard, Sara. “Science Shows Making Lessons Relevant Really Matters.” Edutopia. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

[7] Collier, Laura. “Grabbing Students: Researchers have Identified Easy Ways to Boost Student Success by Increasing their Engagement in Learning.” American Psychological Association. Retrieved from on March 7, 2016.

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