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: World population likely to peak by 2070

More information: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10… 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

World population likely to peak by 2070

8 hours ago

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

8 hours ago

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

12 hours ago

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

Data indicate there is no immigration crisis

Oct 22, 2014

Is there an "immigration crisis" on the U.S.-Mexico border? Not according to an examination of historical immigration data, according to a new paper from Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

User comments : 0