Improving Student Engagement – It’s Time for Formative Assessment

Improving Student Engagement - It’s Time for Formative Assessment

We wrote a blog last year entitled Instructional Strategies: Raising Hands in Class and the Outlier Effect in which we discussed how hand raising in class can have a detrimental effect on both teachers and students. Teachers can’t elicit evidence of student learning holistically, making it harder for them to effectively teach the entire class. This leaves some students with a learning deficit that if left unchecked can manifest itself over time.

Formative assessment strategies, many of which we’ve blogged about and can be found in our teacher professional development program, Keeping Learning on Track™ (KLT), help to improve student engagement while giving teachers that all important evidence of student learning. Research has shown that increasing student engagement improves student learning, which is why formative assessment is so powerful!

In one example, Finn, Pannozzo, and Voelkl (The Elementary School Journal, 95(5), 421–434, 1995) found that students who are inattentive, withdrawn, and disengaged in the classroom have poorer academic performance when compared to engaged students. Teachers rated the classroom behavior of 1,013 fourth-grade students on the student participation questionnaire. Results indicated that engagement (defined as effort and initiative taking) were positively correlated with grades from the end of the previous year and scores on the Stanford Achievement Test (.40 and .59) while inattentive or disengaged behaviors were negatively correlated with these measures (-.34 and -.52).

In yet another experiment, Skinner, Wellborn, and Connell (Journal of Educational Psychology, 82 (1), 22–32, 1990) investigated the relationships between children’s perceived control, student engagement, and academic achievement. The engagement, defined as participation and emotional tone, of 200 elementary students was assessed by their teachers. Path analyses were performed to examine the model of teacher behavior, perceived control, engagement, and academic outcomes. As predicted, higher engagement translated into higher academic performance, as measured by grades/achievement.

While hand-raising has seemingly forever been the gold standard for teacher-student interaction, it may be time to replace it with formative assessment-based strategies designed to engage the entire class. The classroom benefits and results speak for themselves.


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