How can I assess the level of student engagement in my class?

posted June 20, 2017 and revised January 6, 2023
by Stephanie Chasteen, University of Colorado Boulder

Instructors who are attempting active learning are often concerned that students won’t like it, or will resist. It can be hard, even in the middle of a course, to gauge how well-engaged students are. This article focuses on ways to assess student engagement, both formally and informally. For ideas on how to address problems in student engagement see the Expert Recommendation "How can I set clear expectations and motivate students so that they engage in active learning?”

Interested in more ideas on student engagement? You can see all my articles on helping students engage in active learning, and also download a PDF summary of all recommended engagement strategies.

Assessing students' perceptions of the course and instructor

One of the best ways to assess student perceptions and engagement is through a mid-semester evaluation. Some ways of doing a midterm assessment include:

  •  Stop Go Change 3-question survey to assess how things are going, or another informal survey. This is best done after ~2-3 weeks of class so you have time to make corrections.
  • See if your teaching and learning center offers mid-course student assessments (details of how one institutions does this here).
  • Hold a focus group with students (or ask a colleague to do this) to hear about how students would like to learn, and then share this information with the class as a whole.

Listening to your students, and addressing problems early can increase students’ sense of autonomy, and their trust in your good will (see my separate article on student engagement).

Below are several validated assessments you can also use:

  • Classroom climate inventory. Measures student perceptions on the classroom climate and the atmosphere for learning.
  • Instructor credibility scale. Measures student perceptions of instructor credibility (competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness).
  • Facework scale. Students reflect upon instructors’ attending to facework (mitigating potential threats to a student’s image in social situations).

Assessing student engagement or resistance

Assessing student expectations about the course

Assessing students’ learning attitudes and habits

There are several additional assessments of student attitudes towards learning on PhysPort’s Assessments Page.

Assessing student motivation and goals for learning

This article is a product of the Framing the Interactive Engagement Classroom project, led by Stephanie Chasteen (University of Colorado Boulder), with collaboration from Jon Gaffney (Eastern Kentucky University) and Andrew Boudreaux (Western Washington University). Many thanks to University of Colorado reviewers Rebecca Ciancanelli and Jenny Knight, plus undergraduate assistant Maya Fohrman. This work was generously supported by the University of Colorado Science Education Initiative and the University of Colorado Center for STEM Learning, via a Chancellor’s Award. Please contact Stephanie Chasteen with any comments or questions.

Image courtesy of PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder