How to Increase Student Engagement in Science Classrooms

Ginelle Testa

In times when students seem more disengaged than ever in STEM classes and in general, it’s important to be trying tried and true and new tactics to motivate them. We hope we can provide a mix of both with these 9 tips. 

1. Connect learning to real-world examples

Connecting science to everyday life is an important aspect of teaching and helping students understand why they’re learning what they’re learning. There are so many examples of it from cooking to electricity that can keep students feeling engaged with STEM learning.

In Labster’s simulation, The Carbon Cycle: Reduce carbon emissions, students will help Farmer Greg understand the wider issues affecting his corn production. They’ll identify the different reservoirs and how they are connected, and then determine how human emissions affect the cycle by playing with the 3D model.

Virtual lab with pigs and farmer.

2. Call in experts

Do you know any scientists who’d be willing to come speak to your classroom in-person or virtually? If not, you can use the resource: Skype a Scientist, which connects scientists to classrooms around the globe. Students can come prepared to ask your guest questions! This is one great way to get them engaged in the classroom. Additionally, seeing representation in the STEM field is especially important for women and students of color to feel like they belong. 

3. Utilize interactive visuals

A study by Learning From Science News found that people had an easier time digesting and engaging with information when visualizing it. “The possibility to access information through clicking, sliding, or zooming-in might provide a more direct and personally meaningful experience of abstract phenomena and thus facilitate comprehension and learning.”

One way to use these visuals is through Labster’s virtual labs. One of our popular biology labs is Cellular Respiration: Measuring energy consumption during exercise, where students are employed to help a basketball team understand the science behind cellular respiration, so they can improve their training and durability.

4. Encourage collaboration

There are so many ways to encourage collaboration among STEM students. A study found that, “Collaborative learning applied in Science classes represents a favorable opportunity for: getting  the students actively involved in their own learning  process, achieving  sustainable  acquisitions, increasing their motivation and interest for the area of Science.”

5. Prep them for a career

Science classrooms prepare students for a future STEM career. It’d be helpful to let them pursue that interest by assigning material that aligns with career choices they might be interested in. Even if they don’t know what they’re interested in yet as a future career path, you can help them explore options by aligning lessons with various careers. 

In Labster’s simulation, Polymerase Chain Reaction, students will explore a real-world application, analyzing unique genetic fingerprints to solve a murder case. This could be interesting for a student who wants to pursue forensic science. 

Crime scene with victim on ground in virtual lab setting.

7. Take field trips (virtual or in-person)

In-person trips are great, but even virtual trips can be hugely beneficial in helping students implement what they’re learning in the classroom as well as keep them engaged! Field trips allow for adventures students might not otherwise get a chance to have. 

In Labster’s simulation, Conservation of Energy: maximize the mechanical energy of a rollercoaster, students can take a trip to an amusement park! They’ll learn how manipulating the mass, height, and velocity of a roller coaster affects its overall potential energy and kinetic energy.

Rollercoaster in a virtual lab.

8. Flip the classroom

Want to reignite the engagement and passion STEM students had as children? Try flipping the classroom! In a flipped classroom, instructors assign video lectures, reading material, and simulations as homework. Students can learn the concept at home before entering the lab during class.

9. Use ChatGPT

AI can be scary for many educators, but there are ways to make it work for your students. Here are some ways they can use ChatGPT: 

  • Brainstorming ideas: When working on research projects or experiments, students can use AI to generate ideas, hypotheses, or potential approaches to a problem.
  • Creative learning: Students can use AI to generate science-related stories, essays, or poems, encouraging them to think creatively about scientific concepts and make connections to other areas of their lives.
  • Peer review and feedback: AI can provide constructive feedback on students' written work or presentations, helping them refine their communication skills and better understand the material.

Questions for consideration:

  • How do you best engage students in your science classroom?
  • Can you use any of these tips to supplement the way that you’re teaching?

If you were interested in any of these virtual labs, we have a catalog of 300+ simulations.

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