Three Simple Ways to Engage & Empower Your Students

Since the return from COVID learning, educators are challenged by increased student disengagement. As John Hattie pointed out, “no manner of school reform will be successful until we first face and resolve the engagement problem.” In our research at Meaning-Centered Leadership, we identified several keys to engagement and empowerment. Educators must be careful to have a keen focus on how they engage and empower their students. At M-CL we suggest the following three strategies:

  1. Relationships: Engagement starts with creating trust by building positive interpersonal relationships. If teachers are not strategic about building positive relationships and engaging students in dialogue that supports the maintenance of positive relationships, they will struggle to engage their students. Classroom activities that allow students to share aspects of their lives and bring their true authentic selves into the room will help build that engagement. Activities like Community Circles and Good Things, allow educators to do quick whip-arounds. Starting the week off with these opportunities allow students the space for authentic sharing that leads to deeper engagement and builds an atmosphere of trust. 
  2. Deep Learning: Within that trusting atmosphere, educators will then be able to challenge students to deeper levels of risk-taking that is necessary to drive deep thinking and active inquiry. In this environment, students are able to work cooperatively while examining the meta-cognitive strategies needed for complex processing. Inquiry learning and high-rigor project-based learning engage and empower students to use the cognitive strategies that are foundational to learning. 
  3. Physical: In many schools, students are expected to stay seated for an hour. Then they move down the hallway to another sedentary hour. Study after study has described the positive impact of incorporating movement in the classroom. According to the NEA, physical movement increases academics and promotes healthy social-emotional regulation. Consider bringing movement into each lesson by taking some simple steps. I have observed students in a high school chemistry class doing a song and dance to remember important concepts; in a 6th-grade class, a teacher had students do factor jumping jacks. Simple activities like stand and talk or gallery walks will get students moving. 

With a focus on engaging and empowering students, educators can build classroom environments that are healthier and result in deeper learning for all students.