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Student Engagement During COVID-19

As schools begin to reopen, teachers across the country have been working hard to ensure that all students have the tools to succeed in the unpredictable school year ahead.

Student engagement is the most important thing for us. Research from 2020-21 shows that the engagement gap between students in low-income and high-income households and between white students and students of color is increasing because COVID has made inequities worse. Meanwhile, studies show the startling effects of COVID on our students’ mental health:

It is good for students to reopen schools, however, it is not enough to get students back on track, especially students facing situations of disadvantage. But the good news is that research shows that Meaningful Student Involvement can make the difference.

Since the start of the pandemic, many schools have increased one-on-one supports for students. For example, students at Davis Middle School in Compton, California, created a Mars Mission to stay engaged during the school year, and reinforced their learning this summer with a school-based program to deepen their work. This project reflected their interests and pushed their classroom into brave new territories in a lot of ways, including 3-D printing, CAD, and much more.

A key focus of Meaningful Student Involvement is making students feel valued and useful in the school around them, helping to positively impact academic achievement and their sense of well-being. Making sure students have a trusting teacher champion for Meaningful Student Involvement who helps other teachers turn to students has been especially important to help students adapt to the disruptions caused by COVID nationwide.

Finally, Meaningful Student Involvement continues show students they can improve education. From activities focused on learning, connection, and affirmation, to career guidance and post-secondary planning activities, Meaningful Student Involvement continues to focus on showing students that they are important right now and in their bright futures—and we help them build on those futures!

5 Steps for Student Engagement during COVID

I’ve been talking with teachers throughout the pandemic about what works now. Here are five ways you can prep students for this next school year:

  1. Plan for Remote and Teach Situationally: Plan your classes to happen remotely and then adapt if you teach in-person. We know that making materials, developing curriculum and more are easier online, and with the power of students to help its even better!
  2. Think Student Engagement First: Many students are more challenged to persevere through challenges when they’re online. Luckily, our curriculum gives them plenty of opportunity for ownership over their learning and shows them how to do that. Remember to give your students choices and opportunities to pursue their own interests. Pair them with other learners online or in-person for motivation and to make tasks more personally relevant.
  3. Change Classroom Expectations: Clear expectations and ways of engaging students that work for online learning can also work for in-person learning. Its essential to engage students consistency with common online tools and expectations.
  4. Be Responsive: Think about having students move through different groups and activities for small-group instruction and conferencing, peer learning and independent work. Students should know when and where to seek help from you and their peers, and using Meaningful Student Involvement they should know exactly what they’re doing for other teachers.
  5. Get Free: Work to free up your time so that you can connect more deeply with all learners whether online or in-person. That’s a tall order, but by fully using technology and the power of students, teachers can get freer and be more engaged with learners.

Whatever happens in this new school year, we are determined to close the student engagement gap and improve education. If you’d like to learn more about the ongoing impacts of the pandemic and how we are helping students prepare for the challenges ahead, contact me today!

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Adam F.C. Fletcher is available to consult, speak, and write.