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Student Engagement in the Classroom

Abstract

In a classroom full of 25+ students who all have competing needs and competing abilities a teacher is tasked with teaching students a set curriculum. Teaching is more than just teaching a set curriculum; teaching is about finding the potential in each student and helping them to excel and tap into their potential.

The key to that potential is student engagement.



It is well known that student engagement will ultimately lead to positive class experience for the student and positive academic outcomes. There are many tools and strategies a teacher can incorporate into a class lesson to enhance engagement and edQuire is one such tool.

edQuire is an AI based analytics application installed on each student laptop that shows the teacher in real time how students are responding to the lesson. Once a teacher sets a task for students to complete on their laptop it is difficult for teachers to see if the student is remaining on task. edQuire measures the students’ activity and sends a live report to the teacher’s computer.

edQuire is a tool to help teachers set in motion a proactive teaching experience between teachers and students. The data rich information that is recorded and analysed shows teachers what activities students respond well to and which activities they do not. It allows teachers to tailor strategies for each student by providing insight into their students’ preferred learning style. All of this leads to better engagement.


Problem statement

Student engagement in the classroom is a focal point for teachers to assist their students to flourish and excel.

While the approach to student engagement is multifaceted, one key area deserving of attention is the role of computer use in the classroom. Although the introduction of digital technology has opened up the potential to transform the classroom lesson, it is only effective if the student remains engaged with the lesson.

However a teacher is at a disadvantage because of the physical nature of the laptop means that screens are facing away from the teacher. Whilst a teacher can walk around the classroom to check if students are on task, this is a time consuming activity and students can easily switch between screens when a teacher approaches. Students who disengage in the classroom often or for long periods of time will not flourish and excel.



A teacher is faced with two considerations:

1. What tools are available to a teacher for early intervention early if an individual student is disengaging with the task on hand in the classroom?

2. How can a teacher assess if a lesson plan is effectively engaging the class as a whole?


Background

A teacher’s primary aim is to teach and it is well established that engaged students will learn more and better develop critical thinking skills.

Research from the Grattan Institute states that as many as 40 percent of students are disengaged in class for a variety of reasons. Of that 40 percent, one quarter of the students are considered “compliant but quietly disengaged”. So while a student is not noisy and disrupting the class, the lack of engagement is a source of concern. The direct causes of this are difficult to pin down to one simple answer. However in the classroom it is possible that a student may find the subject too hard or too simple, the student is bored, or perhaps finds the teaching style is apathetic.



A Western Australian study cited by the Grattan Institute states that students can quietly disengage in a variety of ways:

· Intermittent workers – work when they believe they are being watched and move off task when the opportunity arises;

· Easy riders – work more slowly than other students lowering teacher expectations;

· Ghosts – those who go completely unnoticed by their teacher.

The study tracked students over a four year period and found “unproductive students were on average one to two years behind their peers in literacy and numeracy”.

Teachings styles vary and teachers may need to adapt to find the right fit for the students in the classroom. Studies show that “teachers being clear, setting high expectations for student achievement, and working hard to develop good relationships with students” will improve student engagement and learning. Further “student skills is self-regulation, such as self-monitoring and self-evaluation, are vital in life-long learning”.


Solution

Student engagement needs to be analysed in two ways:

1. The individual student

2. The whole class

EdQuire is an application that is installed on student laptops to record a student’s activity including applications used and websites browsed. Using an AI-based algorithm the application records this data, analyses it and categorises the activity. A simple colour-coded overview is displayed on the teacher’s computer screen letting the teacher know in a glance if the students are:

· On-task (green)

· Off-task (red)

· Independent task/self-directed learning (blue)

· Unclassified (orange)

The data assessed by the AI software achieves a 93% accuracy rate.


Whole Class

In the first instance the teacher can see if the whole class is engaging with the task. If a screen appears mostly red then the teacher can instantly change tact to re-engage the class.



This teacher, for example, found students were looking at DC comics so the teacher restructured the lesson quite quickly to incorporate DC Comics into the lesson plan.

Further, the colour-coded system is useful in tracking individual student engagement at any given moment with a simple glance without taking the teacher away from teaching the class.


Individual Student

It is also beneficial for the teachers to be able to refer to the data at a later time. edQuire allows the teacher to produce reflective reports to make a proper assessment of class engagement. For example, at the bottom on each student is a summary bar to show the overall on-task/off-task history for each student.

Within this data is a key feature of edquire: the Distractibility Index (DI). Simply, the DI calculates how often a student goes off-task and how long a student spends off-task. These two indicators are calculated together to position the student along the DI. edQuire measures the student’s computer activity every minute to thoroughly assess the student’s behaviour. It is important to ascertain whether a student is distracted constantly. University studies have shown the more often a student switches between tasks the less information is retained. A student who goes off task once a minute for ten minutes will retain less information than a student who goes off task once for ten minutes.


Analysis over time

Data that is recorded on a daily basis can be used to produce reflective reports. The reflective reports can be used to determine in a measurable way to ascertain whether students are meeting outcomes.

Students can be grouped to show how much impact disengagement has on outcomes.

In this slide (figure), students in the bottom left show they have low DI however they have not met required academic outcomes. Another barrier is stopping these students from excelling. The students in the top right have high DI but they are also high academic performers. This could be an indication that the students find the subject matter too easy.

This type of analysis will aid teachers in early intervention.


These are the kids of movements you can expect with intervention.


Student Feedback


edQuire conducted a trial with 153 students over an eight-week period. edQuire was installed on their computers and the students were allowed to assess their own behaviours in class. The purpose of the trial was to measure the student’s own self-evaluation.

The amount of time spent off-task was reduced by half almost immediately and remained low throughout the entire eight-week trial. This is a promising development as it fosters a co-operative relationship between teacher and student. Involving the students in their own assessment produced positive outcomes rather than the students feeling they are simply being monitored.



Conclusion

Students engaged in the classroom will perform better in standardized testing and foster critical thinking skills that will benefit students as they enter the workforce. Teachers deal with completing student needs and abilities on a daily basis and providing data to teachers to help better plan class lessons and intervene early with students who may be falling behind.

edQuire is more than a monitoring application; the data allows teachers to produce reflective reports on a multitude of factors and gives students’ insights into their own study habits.



References

Goss, P., Sonnemann, J., and Griffiths, K. (2017). Engaging students: creating classrooms that improve learning. Grattan Institute.