Researchers examine how teachers can increase students' interest and engagement in the classroom

Oct 09, 2012

The National Center for Educational Statistics reported that only 73% of high school freshmen graduate within four years. For those students who continue their education at the collegiate level, slightly more than half (57%) earn a bachelor's degree and over 18% will leave college altogether. Although many factors can contribute to students' academic risk, negative emotions associated with learning—such as a lack of interest and engagement in their courses—could be a vital reason for students' disengagement, withdrawal, and failure in school.

Joseph Mazer's article, published today in Communication Education, explored how specific teacher can influence ' emotional interest, cognitive interest, and engagement.

Students' interest can be triggered in the moment by certain environmental factors such as teacher behaviors. Students who experience heightened emotional interest are pulled toward a subject because they are energized, excited, and emotionally engaged by the material. This increase in emotional arousal heightens a student's attention, making it easier to encode more information.

Mazer found that teacher immediacy behaviors stimulate emotional arousal in students, which leads to greater emotional interest and engagement. Teacher immediacy behaviors are enacted through verbal and nonverbal behaviors that generate perceptions of psychological closeness between the teacher and students. Teacher nonverbal immediacy behaviors include the use of eye contact, movement, , and vocal variety, among others. Students are drawn to highly immediate teachers because those behaviors facilitate a sense of liking and compel the student to approach, rather than avoid, the teacher.

Students who experience cognitive interest are pulled toward a subject because they possess a clear structural understanding of the course content. Teacher clarity behaviors can increase cognitive interest because they make information more organized and/or compehensible for students. Those behaviors can occur verbally, as teachers talk about course material, and nonverbally, through teachers' use of PowerPoint displays, handouts, and notes on the board. Mazer found that teachers can utilize explanatory summaries to highlight relationships among lecture content, use clear transitions to help students follow the lesson content, and implement visual materials to make abstract and unengaging material concrete and stimulating—building cognitive interest.

Mazer also found that students who are emotionally and cognitively interested in a course are more likely to be engaged in the learning process. Much like immediacy and clarity, Mazer found that students' emotional and cognitive interest lead to greater engagement, including silent (such as listening attentively) and oral (such as participating during class) in-class engagement behaviors and out-of-class activities (such as studying for class, talking about the class with friends).

Teachers are communicators, immediately personal symbols of the educational process, and figures that can ignite in students an interest for a particular subject area. Teachers have in their arsenals a repertoire of behaviors that can positively impact students in ways that have immediate and long lasting effects on interest and engagement. Immediacy and clarity are two such behaviors that can have substantive effects on students and promote a classroom environment where emotional and cognitive interest and engagement can flourish.

Explore further: Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

More information: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03634523.2012.731513

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Teacher influence persists in early grades

Jul 27, 2011

Having consistently good teachers in elementary school appears to be as important for student achievement as small class sizes, according to new research by a Michigan State University education scholar.

Relationships Improve Student Success

Jun 29, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- When students are underachieving, school policymakers often examine class size, curriculum and funding, but University of Missouri researchers suggest establishing relationships may be a powerful ...

Recommended for you

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

7 hours ago

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

9 hours ago

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

21 hours ago

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Within each strand of DNA lies the blueprint for building an organism, along with the keys to its evolution and survival. These genetic instructions can give valuable insight into why pathogens like Cryptococcus ne ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...