Student engagement is crucial for learning. Students who understand the rules and routines of the classroom and have something to do are less likely to engage in disruptive behavior, allowing the teacher to focus more on instruction. Engagement is only heightened when teachers make learning come alive. Warm, caring, and responsive teachers inspire students to focus on classroom activities, be it a read-aloud in an early childhood classroom or a writing activity in an upper grade classroom.
Research demonstrates a strong association between high levels of Classroom Organization and student engagement. Students in highly organized classrooms exhibit less time off task and more time focused on learning. If you think about the purpose of this domain (what teachers do to manage students’ time, attention, and behavior in the classroom), this makes sense. High levels of Classroom Organization are also associated with executive functioning skills, which help students better attend to the task at hand.
Classroom Organization is not the only dimension that affects student engagement. Emotional Support is also associated with student engagement and buffers the typical negative association between problem behavior and approaches to learning. That is, when Emotional Support is high, we see a decrease in problem behaviors, leading to higher levels of engagement.
Rimm-Kaufman, Barody, Larsen, Curby, and Abry (2015) examined the relationship between CLASS scores and student engagement during mathematics instruction in sixty-three 5th grade classrooms. They used three methods to study engagement: 1) a time-sampling observational system that indicated whether students were engaged or disengaged, 2) teacher report of engagement, and 3) student report on engagement. In addition, they measured four types of engagement: cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social engagement.
Results of the study showed that students in classrooms with higher levels of Emotional Support reported greater cognitive, emotional, and social engagement, whereas students in classrooms with higher Classroom Organization reported greater levels of cognitive, emotional, and social engagement. Girls in classrooms with higher levels of Instructional Support reported higher social engagement, but this was not the case for the boys.
This research is exciting because it helps us understand in very tangible ways steps that teachers can take to increase student engagement. And students who are not engaged aren’t learning.
Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., Baroody, A., Larsen, R., Curby, T. W., & Abry, T. (2015). To what extent do teacher-student interaction quality and student gender contribute to fifth graders' engagement in mathematics instruction? Journal of Educational Psychology, 107, 170-185.
Everyone experiences stress in their daily lives. Some of it, like deadlines or first date nerves, are good stress. It propels you forward and helps you accomplish goals. Some stress, like the car in front of you slamming on the brakes, is acute, but temporary. But a more concerning type of stress that’s gained a lot of attention in the past few years is toxic stress, long-term, unrelenting exposure to stressful situations. In young children, this stress can alter the development of the brain, creating shortcuts to the parts of the brain that “turn on” stress responses and limiting connections to the parts of the brain responsible for learning and reasoning.
Social-emotional skills are key to student success. These skills include the ability to recognize and regulate emotions and behavior, take others’ perspectives, and make sound choices. Children who have good social-emotional skills have an easier time making friends and maintaining strong relationships with teachers and peers.
I embarked on my longest trip to date to provide a pre-conference presentation and keynote address at the Early Childhood Care and Education International Rendezvous in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. During my three days at the conference, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend over 15 research presentations by early childhood educators from around the world including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Austria.
Strong cognitive skills in early childhood are associated with later school success. Cognitive skills are the mental processes that help us think, analyze, reason, and solve problems. These mental processes are complex and include a number of sub-skills that include attention, perception, memory, use of language, problem solving, and creativity – a set of skills referred to as executive function.