Open Search
Open Navigation

Teachers know that student engagement positively effects their overall growth and helps prepare students to lead productive and meaningful lives. There are several available teaching resources for educators looking to improve student engagement and create the best possible learning experience for them. The strongest teachers know how to pick effective teaching practices that best fit their classes based on age, learning styles, and both group and individual needs. 

Explore Education Programs

Why Student Engagement Matters

The best lessons in the world won’t be enough if a student is not engaged in the learning process. Without effective engagement in the classroom, kids may have a harder time reaching their full potential. Studies show that student engagement is necessary to foster learning and growth. According to a 2018 Gallup Study, engaged students are 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about the future than their disengaged peers. According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), student engagement involves three dimensions:1 

  • Behavioral engagement: focusing on participation in academic, social, and co-curricular activities 
  • Emotional engagement: focusing on the extent and nature of positive and negative reactions to teachers, classmates, academics, and school 
  • Cognitive engagement: focusing on students’ level of investment in learning

8 Core Practices to Increase Student Engagement

As a teacher, you already use many effective teaching strategies to increase student engagement such as communicating clear learning goals, accommodating different learning styles, and creating a positive learning environment. Great teachers know they should provide constructive feedback and positive reinforcement on students’ work and be flexible with lesson plans and strategies when needed. 

Like students, learning for teachers is a lifelong journey. The following are some additional methodologies for professional development to improve engagement no matter the age group or subject matter. It's often beneficial to combine several strategies to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment.

  1. Active Learning: Requiring students to actively participate in the learning process through group discussions, problem-solving exercises, and hands-on projects will empower them and create a deeper connection to the learning experience.
  2. Integrate Technology: Educational technology tools and platforms can make lessons more interactive and engaging through multimedia presentations, educational apps, and online resources. 
  3. Relate Content to Real Life: Connecting lesson content to real-world applications shows students the relevance of what they are learning and how it can be applied to their lives.
  4. Incorporate Student Interests: Any time you can tailor lessons that align with your students’ interests creates personalization. You can also use this strategy to give students autonomy by letting them choose project topics, presentation formats, and other assignment details.
  5. Collaborative Learning: Encouraging collaboration among students through group projects and activities fosters teamwork, social interaction, shared responsibility, and provides opportunities for peer learning.
  6. Inquiry-Based Learning: Encourage students to ask questions, explore topics independently, and seek solutions. Cultivate a sense of curiosity by posing intriguing, open-ended questions that prompt students to investigate and discover answers or explore topics beyond the curriculum.
  7. Use of Humor: While teachers are serious about educating their students, using fun and humor is a great way to support the lessons and create a positive and enjoyable atmosphere. However, be mindful of cultural sensitivities and appropriateness.
  8. Reflection: Allow time for students to reflect on their learning experiences, which can enhance metacognition and deepen understanding.

Elementary School Students (PK-Grade 6)

This article has provided several effective teaching practices that can be used for almost any classroom environment. However, some age-specific practices can be helpful to increase student success for elementary students such as keeping lessons short and varied to maintain attention spans and interest while preventing boredom.

  1. Storytelling: Narratives, whether read aloud or created together, can capture the attention of young learners. Some teachers even use puppets to add a playful and entertaining element to lessons.
  2. Visual Aids: Utilizing visual aids such as charts, diagrams, and colorful illustrations can support understanding and enhance comprehension.
  3. Music and Songs: Like visual aids, integrating music and songs into lessons through the use of rhymes and tunes can help reinforce concepts and create a lively, memorable learning experience.
  4. Movement Breaks: Gone are the days when students were required to sit at their desks all day. Allow for short breaks that involve movement, stretching, or quick, physical games to help students release energy and refocus. Providing flexible seating options like standing desks, cushions, or wiggle seats can also help.
  5. Thematic Units: Organize lessons around interesting themes that capture the imagination of elementary students which can also provide a context for learning across different subjects.
  6. Incorporate Nature: Whenever possible, take learning outdoors for nature-based activities or bring elements of nature into the classroom to enhance engagement and curiosity. 

Explore Education Programs

Middle School Students

As students approach middle school, they can be ready to take on more responsibility and advanced topics. Incorporating effective teaching practices that meet these needs will also support their continued academic and personal development during this crucial transition between elementary school and high school.

  1. Project-Based Learning: While project-based learning can start in PK-6 classrooms, in middle school you can design and elevate course material to include more challenging projects that explore topics in greater depth and detail.
  2. Interactive Discussions and Simulations: Foster interactive class discussions where students can express their opinions, debate ideas, ask questions, and engage in meaningful conversations. This promotes critical thinking, active listening, and effective communication. Using interactive simulations helps make abstract concepts more tangible and engaging which can be particularly effective in science and mathematics.
  3. Peer Teaching: Encourage students to take on the role of teachers by having them explain concepts to their peers. This reinforces understanding and provides them with a different perspective.
  4. Goal Setting: Involve students in setting academic goals for themselves. This promotes a sense of ownership over their learning goals and helps them stay motivated.

High School Students

There needs to be a mindset shift during the transition of teaching middle school to high school. High school students benefit from a balance of challenge, relevance, and autonomy so tailoring your teaching practices to meet these needs can significantly enhance engagement and overall learning outcomes. It is also important during this last stage of their secondary education to help prepare them for real-world challenges they may face at college or the workplace.

  1. Relevance to Real Life: Take advantage of any opportunity to emphasize the real-world applications and practical importance of the subject matter to their lives and interests. You can connect lessons to current events or design lessons around real-world problems and scenarios. This strategy helps further develop valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  2. Provide Leadership Roles: Consider using a flipped classroom model where students review instructional content at home and engage in interactive, application-based activities during class time. Encouraging debates and open discussions on complex issues helps further develop critical thinking skills, allows students to voice their opinions, and fosters a deeper understanding of various perspectives.
  3. Career-Focused Learning: At this stage, high school students are starting to focus on college and which career they may want to pursue. Bringing guest speakers and industry experts to the classroom to share their experiences and insights provides students with a real-world perspective and exposes them to different career paths. See if your school will support mentorship or career exploration programs that connect students with professionals in their fields of interest to increase student engagement. 
  4. Advanced Learning Projects: High school students should be ready at this point to participate in more advanced projects such as literature circles to encourage independent reading, critical analysis, and communication skills. Or, have students create and maintain project portfolios throughout the year to showcase their progress over time and instill a sense of pride in their accomplishments.

Teaching Programs at Alliant International University

Training to become a PK-12 teacher should include a combination of academic and real-world experience. The California School of Education (CSOE) at Alliant believes in a model of scholarship paired with practice and offers a variety of online degrees, certificates, and credentials in education. By pursuing a higher education at Alliant, you can build your teaching skills to enhance student learning. Other benefits include:

  • Multiple degree options, including credentials and certifications, master’s, and doctoral degrees, many of which offer specialized emphases
  • Credential programs approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) and Arizona Department of Education
  • Multiculturalism interwoven throughout the curriculum and rooted in university culture, giving you an educational experience rich with diversity and inclusion

Students who experience a higher level of engagement in the classroom are better prepared for the future. Beyond the academic benefits, using the effective teaching practices mentioned in this article can also increase attendance, build motivation, improve behavior, and further develop the curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning.

Start your journey at Alliant if you want to become a teacher in California or Arizona. Instructors model teaching excellence by creating course content that impacts future student achievement.


  1. Student Engagement: Why it Matters. Published April 8, 2022. Accessed January 17, 2024.…

You might also like

Back to Blog
Learn More
peter byun

The privilege of helping people learn English

Dr. Peter Byun has a passion for teaching and sees his students as future leaders. “When you teach ESL learners, don’t think of it...

Learn More
Tanya MacMartin

Testing their independence and challenging ideas

Why Dr. Tanya MacMartin loves teaching middle school kids. “I try to encourage our candidates to see that there is beauty in every...

Learn More
teacher talking to students

How to Become a High School Teacher in California

Flip through your fondest memories and you may come across a recollection of a high school teacher who made a substantial impact...