Interactive Learning for Student Engagement and Success
October 2, 2015
New and effective teaching strategies are something today’s educators are constantly on the lookout for. Finding strategies that also meet the Common Core requirements as well as keep students engaged can be especially difficult to discover. However, many of the most successful teachers out there have found a way to do both with profound success.
These education professionals are using interactive learning strategies to engage their students. They are taking real-world problems, bringing them into the classroom and allowing students to dig into them and develop their own solutions.
Studies published by Northeastern University have shown that teachers who actively engage the classroom by developing interactive projects and then lead class discussion about the topic increase classroom comfort, preparation, and ultimately retention of materials. Not only are these techniques producing students that are able to retain more information, but they are sparking new passions for students that could eventually evolve into successful careers in later life.
Using the great outdoors to teach a lesson is a magnificent way to both involve students and create a sense of wonder for the outside world. Numerous studies suggest that early educational experiences outdoors play a significant role in instilling environmental awareness in students that they will carry into adulthood. Furthermore, learning outdoors has been shown to improve student attendance, test scores and attitude toward learning new things.
In order to meet outdoor education needs, most classrooms partner with a local organization that allows the school to utilize the land during class time. Depending on the location, experts may be provided to teach some lessons. For instance, The Outdoor Lab Foundation, a non-profit organization, helps support the Outdoor Education Learning Program that 6th grade students in Jefferson County, Colorado participate in.
Interactive learning has brought a whole new set of skills and ambitions to students at Washington-Lee High School in the form of an elective class on geographic information systems — a powerful mapping technology software with applications in almost any field of study. Every semester, the students in the class choose a professional mentor that they will then help by completing a study for them. Student projects range from working with city planners to map storm water drainage systems to working alongside the Department of Fish and Wildlife to map wetlands in a given area.
These projects are not only fully interactive and engaging to students, but they are teaching them real-world skills that can be applied directly to a career after, or in some cases before, graduation. Students are able to develop professional relationships and complete something that makes a difference in their community. Many of the students are pleased with the topics they learned in the class; after all, they chose what they did based upon their interests not because they were told what to focus on. Some even continue their mapping software education on the side after the class is complete.
Another interactive learning technique stems from the use of computer games to teach students about abstract concepts in a game-based way. Educational games come in every shape and can be designed to cover nearly any topic that a teacher is interested in covering. They have been shown to keep students involved through their fun and competitive nature. Computer games have also helped educators identify where students are struggling the most. These topics can then be covered more thoroughly in the classroom lecture.
One example is through Sim City, a game where users simulate managing every aspect of a city. Teachers can set limits or goals for students to obtain in a set amount of time, such as raising the population or implementing specific policies, while keeping everything else in working order. For students, it provides an opportunity to understand the interconnectivity of the resources around them. For example, how growing industries impact environmental quality.
Interactive classes such as these bring out the best in students. Incorporating interactive lesson plans into the classroom can greatly improve student interest, retention and test scores. Arguably, some of the most successful members of our generation are those that latched on to a project or study that caught their attention and invited them to learn more. Providing students with new passions is the best part of teaching, let’s do more of it!
Brittni Brown is a current masters candidate at The University of Idaho. As a child of parents in the school system (her mother was a substitute teacher before becoming an administrative assistant at her local middle school), she has grown up interested in education policy and is interested in new, innovative ways to teach.