By Jana Nicol
Teachers can positively impact student engagement by guiding students through setting and meeting goals. This ties in well with multiple means of engagement in CAST's UDL Guidelines. This area of the guidelines addresses the affective networks of the brain, known as the "why" of learning.
In any given subject area, helping students realize what they need to work on and why can help increase their motivation to succeed. I've observed that many students, especially younger students, do not always recognize what skills they need to further develop, so they may not fully appreciate why it is important to listen, participate, or practice a given skill.
What does this have to do with affective networks? Using the example above, the student realizes that they need to practice their fluency so they can become a better reader. They are motivated and engaged in the goal of improving their fluency because they have been given concrete examples of what they can do to improve. Another motivator is that they know they are given time to practice and that the teacher will follow up with them to monitor their progress.
Meeting with students individually and discussing their academic progress helps build positive student-teacher relationships, which also promotes student engagement and motivation. Relationships are built during those conversations, and when students and teachers celebrate students' accomplishments together. You can also further build relationships, promote accountability, and motivation by asking students about their goals between meetings. Do they remember what their goal is? How are they progressing toward meeting their goal? What actions are they taking to meet their goal?
How to keep track of it all? Here are a couple of options:
- Use a conferring notebook,one for Math and one for Language Arts. Each book has a tab for every student. I take notes on each meeting I have with students, so whenever I meet with them it is easy to check their goals and take notes about their progress. I also keep a calendar in each book to help me remember to check in with students regularly.
- Use bulletin boards (possibly one for Math, one for reading, and another for writing). For example, the writing board could have a list of strategies (e.g. use uppercase letters, use punctuaion, use wonderful words, etc). Students could place a post-it with their name on it next to their own goal.
Goal-setting helps students become more actively involved in their own learning, which can help increase student motivation and engagement.