In the Classroom

The 4 Best Types of Student Engagement You Want in Your Classroom

When teachers are coming up with ways to make sure their students are understanding the curriculum set before them, so many are at the end of their line. It seems to many that the only way to get Generation Z excited about the classroom is through a dog and pony show, and no one has time for that for each and every lesson. However, this simply is not the case. When it comes to success in the classroom, there are three distinct types of student engagement that will continuously get your students (and you) excited about school every single day.

There are four main types of student engagement that you want to strive for, and it should be noted that you likely want all four at some point during your classroom lessons. These types are not listed in any particular order because they can work together or separately depending on what is being taught. 

Direct Engagement

The first type of engagement is called direct engagement. Direct engagement with the teachers, teacher’s aid(s), and students creates a lot of excitement for your class. This type of engagement can come in many forms such as funny anecdotes from the classroom experience, really cool displays of what you learned in that lesson that day, or even just making sure that everyone’s voices are heard and their questions get answered. Giving your students and yourself this type of engagement will keep the attention on you, which is exactly what a teacher should be looking for in his or her classroom. 

Direct engagement can be done in a multitude of ways, or even a combination of them. Some examples may include using funny stories about your experience in the classroom that day or just talking about something really cool and interesting you learned with the class. The types of direct engagement are basically endless as long as it is related to what you are teaching that day and it keeps everyone’s attention. 

Direct engagement has traditionally been the best way to stand out among your peers as a teacher, and for good reason. It makes it personally engaging between you as the teacher and yourself as an educator, which is something that is not necessarily easy to do when it comes to teaching a large group of people all at once. 

Out of all the types of student engagement, this one will take you farthest with your students. It’s all about creating those relationships.

types of student engagement

Active Engagement

When there is something that is not being directly taught to everyone that causes the class to watch, it is often referred to as active engagement. Active engagement is when you are doing something to get everyone involved that has nothing to do with what the material being taught is. This can be as simple as a game of “Who can beat me in this round?” Or it could end up being quite complex, such as a simulation of what was just learned. If done correctly, active engagement will help your students better retain the information they are being taught, and it will give them a different way to remember it. 

Active engagement is also something that works well when you are not trying to teach anything specific in your class. This type of engagement can be used with just about anything because it makes up for what you are lacking at the moment. It gets everyone involved and makes you as the teacher seem like you are interested in them. This is a huge bonus when it comes to getting students excited about what they are learning because they do not feel like you are simply stringing together facts that have nothing to do with reality. 

One of the best types of active engagement involves hands-on activities. You don’t even need to invest a lot of money into this type of engagement, although that does help. It’s all about getting your students involved in something that is not directly related to what you are teaching at the moment and it can really spice up the lesson plan for everyone. 

For example, let’s say that you are doing a lesson on the types of cells and tissues in the human body. Instead of just having them sit there and listen to what you are saying, why not let them break down a piece of raw chicken into all the types of tissue that it has? This is something they can easily do themselves, but it causes an interesting effect because now they aren’t sure if they should be listening to you or what is actually happening with the chicken.

Another example of active engagement could be letting the students play a round of “memory” with cards that have types of cells and tissues on them. These types of student engagement games make it exciting because it’s not something they are used to doing in school, so it makes their attention automatically drawn to it. 

This type of engagement is best suited for those classes where the material you are teaching doesn’t really have anything to do with each other. This will make it interesting because even if the students aren’t interested in what they are being taught, they can still play games or do activities that are directly related to something they are interested in. 

Of the types of student engagement, this one is best used when you feel like your lesson plan for that day has more information than you really need or when what you want to teach does not have a lot to do with the material at hand. It helps make things interesting, which is good because if it’s not interesting then this type of engagement won’t work. 

Passive Engagement

This type of engagement is all about listening to what the teacher has to say. It’s quite different from active engagement because in passive engagement, the students are not involved and they just have to listen. Passive engagement gets everyone interested in the subject because it makes you seem happy about teaching it to them. Passive engagement is all about keeping your students interested in what you are saying, and the best types of passive engagement do so by keeping the subject simple enough for everyone to understand it. 

Passive engagement is also one of the types of student engagement that could be considered well-rounded because you get a little bit of everything from it. If you want your students to remember what you are saying, passive engagement is the way to go. This type of engagement can be used with just about everything because you don’t have to directly involve them in the lesson plan itself. 

For instance, let’s say that you are doing a lesson on types of cells and tissues in the human body again. Instead of just going on and on about it, you can ask them questions about types of cells and tissues. This makes it interesting for them because they get to learn at the same time with a little bit of competition involved. The kind of passive engagement they are learning from is known as knowledge comprehension.

Another example of types of passive engagement could be explaining a problem to your students and then letting them figure the way out on their own. You can also show them a solution to a similar problem that they might get later or in future classes, but it’s not directly related to this one. Of the types of student engagement, this one uses knowledge, which is how it’s so good at keeping the attention of your students.

Passive engagement can be used when you just need somebody to listen to what you are saying. If you go into a lesson without any types of activities planned out, this is always an option. It doesn’t matter if they have already learned about the types of cells and tissues in the human body because this will make it interesting for them. Passive engagement is best used when you have some time to kill and you don’t know what types of activities to do. 

Formal Engagement

This type of student engagement is all about giving praise or rewards after something has been done or achieved. 

For example, you can give out prizes to those types of students who are always on time and never go to class late or miss it altogether. The key here is that the types of engagement should be something they want, but it also depends on the types of class you teach in. You don’t have to use types of engagement that involve types of formal types of activity. You can use both types together and it will work out just as well as if you were to only use one or the other types. 

Giving types of student engagement is also good because everyone wants to get a reward for doing something good. The key here is to make sure you really mean it when you do formal types of student engagement. Formal engagement can also be used for positive reinforcement because it not only gives your students something they want but it also encourages various types of student engagement.

This method of engagement is very effective because it’s all about getting a reward and not necessarily having to change their attitude towards your class or yourself. 

The problem with types of student engagement like this one is that if you are doing it for the wrong reasons then they might start to question what is going on.   You want to make sure the engagement activity is something that they really want to do and if it’s not then you might be wasting your time.

Another thing is the parent factor. If you are using formal types of student engagement, you have to make sure that the parents are going to take this type of activity in a positive way. This means giving praise for positive behaviors rather than making it seem like you’re picking on them for doing something wrong. 

The final thing to keep in mind when using this type of student engagement is that it’s more than just giving out prizes or rewards after they have done something good. The key here is not only giving them what they want but also getting the students who need encouragement to do better.

This can be a problem with other types of student engagement so you need to make sure that the students who might not need the rewards are also taking part in this type of formal student engagement. It’s great for those hard-core types, but it may not be as effective on some other students. 

But the key here is that you are making sure to keep a good balance between different student engagement activities so that no one feels left out.

Stop Driving the Teacher Struggle Bus

Are you struggling with student engagement, apathy, or keeping your class on track? 

💫💫 There’s hope! 💫💫

Join my free teacher workshop “Choosing Choice” and in just 45 minutes, you’ll craft a practical plan to revitalize your teaching. Discover the magic of student choice in boosting engagement, gain quick implementation ideas, and explore strategies for year-long success. 

Unlike overwhelming workshops, my approach guides you in real-time, providing more classroom options, reducing stress, and giving you more personal time. 

Plus, you’ll earn a 45-minute professional development certificate and have 7 days of access. 

Don’t miss this chance to transform your teaching; click below to secure your spot now!

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After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at

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