What is Student Engagement and How Can Administrators Foster It?

Ginelle Testa

Institutional success is often measured by various metrics, such as graduation rates, academic achievements, and alumni success. However, at the heart of institutional success lies student engagement. 

Student engagement refers to the degree to which students are involved and invested in their education, both inside and outside the classroom. When students are engaged in their learning, they are more likely to succeed academically, feel a sense of belonging within the institution, and become active members of their communities.

Modern Campus case studies discovered:

  • “Harford Community College students who attend campus co-curricular events are 53.7% more likely to persist through to the next academic year than their non-engaged peers.”
  • “First-year Arkansas Tech University students who record at least one hour of community or volunteer service have a 94% retention rate — 22% points more than their peers who didn’t record any community or volunteer service hours.”
  • “Valdosta State University students who attend at least 10 events per semester are 13 percentage points more likely to persist through to the next semester.”

Despite its importance, student engagement is at an all-time low. We recently hosted a webinar where several educators talked about this issue. Students are barely showing up to class, and when they are, they’re distracted by their phones or laptops. They aren’t completing assignments, or they are haphazardly. Educators have a lot to bargain with. 

So, as an administrator, how can you help?

Definition of student engagement:

Student engagement encompasses various aspects of a student's educational experience, including motivation, interest, and involvement in learning activities. It can also involve their emotional and social connections with the institution, their peers, and their instructors. Essentially, student engagement refers to the extent to which a student is invested in their educational journey.

Importance of student engagement for institutional success:

Student engagement has been shown to impact academic outcomes positively. One study found that “The three dimensions of student engagement (behavioral, emotional and cognitive) were positively correlated to the academic performance of the students.” Engaged students are more likely to perform well academically as they are motivated and interested in their coursework.

Additionally, engaged students are more likely to persist and graduate as they feel connected to the institution and have a sense of purpose, as was shown in the case studies above.

Moreover, student engagement is key to building a strong and vibrant institutional community. Engaged students are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities, connect with their peers and instructors, and take advantage of the resources and services offered by the institution. This, in turn, creates a positive and supportive learning environment that benefits all students and contributes to the institution's overall success. Research has proved a correlation: “Findings report a significant association between students' services and student success and persistence.”

Role of administrators in fostering student engagement

Administrators play a critical role in fostering student engagement as leaders within the institution. Here are some of the key ways in which administrators can support and promote student engagement:

1. Collecting and analyzing data to inform engagement initiatives

Administrators can collect and analyze data on student engagement to inform their engagement initiatives. This can involve gathering feedback from students, tracking engagement metrics, and using data to identify areas for improvement and develop targeted engagement strategies.

2. Establishing a culture of collaboration and communication

Encouraging open communication between all stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, and administrators, is also important for creating a culture of collaboration and engagement. When all stakeholders have opportunities to share their ideas, feedback, and concerns, administrators can gain valuable insights into the needs and experiences of the institution's community. This can inform the development of policies and programs that better support student engagement and success.

3. Creating policies and procedures that support engagement

Administrators can establish policies and procedures that prioritize and support student engagement. This can involve setting expectations for student behavior and involvement, providing resources and support for engagement initiatives, and creating a culture that values and rewards engagement.

4. Actively pursuing DEI initiatives

Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion creates a more inclusive and welcoming environment for all students, making students from all backgrounds or identities feel included. DEI initiatives can help to address systemic barriers and promote social justice within the institution and the broader community. By providing support and resources for historically marginalized student populations, DEI initiatives can help to improve engagement.

According to a study, “The students said that the sense of belonging, fair treatment, free exercise of thoughts, and fair attitude that they felt in the school encouraged them to become more actively engaged in the school.”

5. Providing professional development opportunities for teachers

Administrators can provide teachers with opportunities to learn and develop their skills in creating engaging learning environments. This can involve offering workshops, training sessions, and other forms of professional development that focus on strategies and techniques for promoting student engagement.

6. Providing resources and support

Administrators can provide instructors with resources and support to help them engage students effectively. This can include access to instructional technology, funding for course materials, and support for innovative teaching approaches.

Ultimately, by investing in student engagement, administrators are investing in the future success of their institution and the students they serve.

Are you an administrator looking to improve student engagement in your science courses? Look no further than Labster! Our virtual lab simulations provide students with a digital learning experience that engage and motivate them to learn. 80% of students who used Labster said they were now more likely to continue to enroll in STEM courses. 
Schedule a free Labster consultation.
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