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The Secret to Student Engagement

Keeping students engaged is critical for learning. Research shows that active learning techniques like think-pair-share, debates, and games combined with relationship-building between instructors and students boost motivation and participation (Kramer Ertel, 2022). Getting to know your students, bringing course concepts to life through real-world application, and varying activities frequently are key to captivating learners (Roberto, 2021).

Harvard Business School Publishing has released a collection of articles focused on boosting student engagement. Here are a few important key takeaways:

  1. Get to know your students personally and relate course material to their lives and interests. Use techniques like surveys, informal meetups, and sharing stories/examples about yourself to build rapport.

  2. Establish clear expectations for participation from day one. Use methods like cold calling, peer feedback, and banning the podium to get broad involvement.

  3. Make the "so what?" of course topics explicit. Explain why the material matters and how it applies to students' careers or passions outside the classroom.

  4. Vary teaching methods often, every 7-10 minutes. Incorporate techniques like think-pair-share, debates, games, case studies, videos, and polls to keep things lively.

  5. Foster social bonds among students through icebreakers, group work, and sharing personal stories/interests. A sense of community boosts participation.

  6. Ask for student perspectives regularly through end-of-class surveys, office hours discussions, and informal check-ins. Use their input to improve engagement.

  7. Be authentic and bring your real self into the classroom when appropriate. Show you care through actions big and small.

Learn more about student engagement by reading the full collection of Harvard Business Publishing Education’s Must Reads: Student Engagement articles.

NOTE: Portions of this post were written with the assistance of generative AI.


Kramer Ertel, P. (2022). 10 Creative Ways to Better Engage Your Students. Harvard Business Publishing Education.

Roberto, M. (2021). Engaging Students on the First Day and Every Day. Harvard Business Publishing Education.

Gallo, C. (2022). Educators' Most Effective Attention-Grabbing Techniques. Harvard Business Publishing Education.



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