Student Motivation


Student Engagement

Student engagement involves the frequency and level of student participation in the class. We generally talk about three types of engagement: student-to-student, student-to-content and student-to-instructor:


Student-to-student engagement activities encourage students to participate in their own learning by providing opportunities to process information, practice skills, problem solve and think critically, all while fostering peer relationships.

  • Share with students the benefits of engaging with peers.
  • Help students set communication norms/expectations.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for students to engage with each other during class, especially during the First Four Weeks.
  • Coach students to be active participants in partner and group activities.
  • Keep in mind that positive group experiences have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall college success (Astin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006).
  • See the Classroom Climate domain of the Teaching Effectiveness Framework for more ways to connect students with one another.
  • Utilize examples of student-to-student engagement such as group assignments, discussions, peer reviews, debates, role-playing exercises, student-led discussions and student-led exam-reviews.


Student-to-instructor engagement – Authentic and supportive student-to-instructor engagement builds trust and a sense of belonging in a classroom. When instructors include students in decision-making, ask for student feedback, and share their academic passion, students are more likely to ask questions, admit misunderstanding, and take responsibility for learning.

  • Share research/content passion with students.
  • Reach out to students who aren’t participating.
  • Ask for frequent feedback on your teaching.
  • Make sure every student knows they belong in your class.
  • Set communication norms/expectations, and let students know how you will communicate with them (email, announcements, Canvas inbox, etc.).
  • Establish an instructor presence in your course.
  • See the Classroom Climate domain of the Teaching Effectiveness Framework for more ways to develop rapport with your students.
  • Utilize examples of student-to-instructor engagement such as discussions, blogs, journals and feedback.


Presenting content in a variety of modes (i.e., reading, listening, discussing, viewing, hands-on) engages students at different times and in different ways depending on their learning preferences. Variety provides multiple opportunities for students to draw on their strengths for some content, build different strengths, and to think critically.

  • Use a variety of instructional strategies.
  • When you use technology or instructional strategies, make sure you use them purposely not just because they exist.
  • Offer choices on assignments.
  • Share the purpose of assignments and alignment with course outcomes.
  • Keep direct instruction short or break it up with checks for understanding.
  • Utilize examples of student-to-content engagement such as quizzes, discussions, games, writing assignments, reflections, lab simulations, presentations, portfolios, concept mapping, research, student-generated study guides or quiz and exam questions, guest speakers, (virtual) field trips and authentic assessments (see video below)