Student Engagement in Learning and Teaching

I\’ve been doing a lot of thinking about engagement lately. The term is used a lot in educational articles and materials but what does it mean? The Community of Inquiry model illustrates several components associated with engagement. In my reading of the literature, the presence of the teacher is pivotal for developing characteristics associated with engagement.

Source: Wikipedia Community of Inquiry model – image by Matbury (2014)

The teacher is not only primarily responsible for designing learning activities and assessments but is also the person setting up and facilitating the learning environment (i.e., aspects in the categories: physical, psychological, resources and infrastructure) ((Knowles, Holton & Swanson, 2012).
Therefore, it makes sense that the teacher is the most important factor influencing student engagement.

  • So how will you know if your students are engaged? 

This is not just about them paying attention and taking part in activities, as you will see by this list of attributes. Students are known to demonstrate particular characteristics (attributes) when engaged in their learning.

Attributes of student engagement 

  1. Self-determination – take control, organising, setting goals and timelines, decide what they want to learn and when. 
  2. Self-efficacy – belief in own abilities, persistence and prepared to take risks.
  3. Autonomy – able to work alone, or with peers, make own decisions, independent of teacher.
  4. Collaboration – work with others to create something, make decisions with peers. 
  5. Peer interaction – connecting, communicating, sharing with peers. 
  6. Problem-solving – sorting out challenges independent of teacher and asking for assistance, asking questions.
  7. Immersion in learning tasks – interested, emotionally connected, curious, actively learning.
  8. Curiosity and interest –  students are motivated to learn and seek out information.
  9. Enjoyment – learning is regarded as fun.
  10. Positive attitude to learning – self-organised and willing to participate in the learning process.
  11. Satisfaction – happy with the learning experience.
  12. Willingness to respond to challenges – enjoys being questioned, problem-solving and when expected to do better.
Students may exhibit that they are engaged in different ways, but the role of teachers is known to be really important in helping them to develop their capacity to take part in the learning process (Zepke, Leach & Butler, 2010). The main influencing factors for encouraging engagement are shown in the diagram. As you can imagine, the way in which the learning environment and the learning process is designed and facilitated is crucial.
Factors influencing student engagement
Wordle by Bronwyn Hegarty (2018)


A number of researchers have explored the components of engagement and how they influence students to take part in the learning process. These lists in this post include the main ideas I have gleaned from my reading and are also based on two seminal measures of engagement; the AUSSE (Australasian Survey of Student Engagment) and the SSES (Staff Survey of Student Engagement) (Richardson & Radloff, 2014).

This post is based on an article that is currently being prepared for publication, and a link to this will be provided (with all the references) once this is published.