Research shows that deep learning can happen when our students are behaviourally, cognitively, affectively and socially engaged. But what can teachers do to increase students’ engagement levels in the language classroom?
Repeated empirical observations tell us that we can engage students in the language classroom when the following 5 Cs are present in our lesson.
Choice. Students need to have a sense of control over their learning. When they are given some freedom in terms of the kind of tasks they can choose to do or not to do, they are likely to be more motivated. For example, in a reading class, students can choose to read two storybooks from a list of 10 books. In a writing class, students can choose to work alone, in pairs or a small group when they work on their first draft.
Competence. Students are more willing to work harder and more enthusiastically when they know that they have the knowledge, skills and ability to complete the task either individually or with support from their peers. Having positive self-efficacy can make a big difference in terms of how much or how little effort students will put in. When they know that their effort is likely to bear fruit, they will become more engaged and motivated.
Curiosity. Students are by nature curious beings. They want to know how things work, how to solve problems, how to solve a mystery and how to gain new knowledge. In other words, curious students often engage in knowledge-seeking behaviours. When our lessons spark their curiosity, they will eagerly inquire, explore, analyze and synthesize information using available resources to satisfy their desire for new knowledge.
Challenge. When the tasks we set in class are challenging (but not too challenging) and the students are able to complete them successfully, they will feel a sense of achievement. They feel proud about themselves and want to enjoy more emotionally fulfilling experiences in your language class.
Collaboration. Students need to have a sense of relatedness, to feel that they can seek help from their peers and that they see their peers as friends and not competitors. The literature on cooperative learning shows that students are more willing to explore and share ideas in group settings, to put in more efforts when completing language tasks and to develop more positive attitudes towards language learning. In other words, they become more engaged and motivated.