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

posted June 20, 2017 and revised July 5, 2017
by Stephanie Chasteen, University of Colorado Boulder

Chapter 5: Assessment. This expert recommendation is part of a series on helping students engage productively in active learning classrooms.

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 chapter focuses on ways to assess student engagement, both formally and informally.

The goals of this project is to identify and disseminate strategies that instructors use to engage students in active learning classrooms. This project arose from 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.

Click here to access the entire set of Expert Recommendations on productive student engagement. You may also download a zip file of all recommendations and activities (26 MB), a PDF of these articles, and a PDF summary of our recommended strategies.

Assessing students perceptions of the course and instructor

One of the best ways to assess student perceptions is through a mid-semester evaluation, such as Stop Go Change or another informal survey. You can also ask a colleague to hold a discussion with your students in a mid-course assessment (details here). Or, you could hold a focus group with students (or have your teaching and learning center to do for you) to hear about how students would like to learn, and then sharing this information with the class as a whole. Listening to your students, and addressing problems early can increase students’ sense of autonomy (see Chapter 3: Motivation), and their trust in your good will (see Chapter 4: Class Community).

Below are several validated assessments.

  • Classroom Climate scale. A short survey to examine student perceptions of the supportiveness of classmates, the instructor, and the instructor’s responsivity.
  • 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).

Midterm surveys

Use a mid-semester survey to find out mid-stream what students don’t like about the course, and try to address it. Even a simple feedback form such as Stop-Go-Change can provide useful information. Or, you could hold a focus group with students (or have your teaching and learning center to do for you) to hear about how students would like to learn, and then sharing this information with the class as a whole. Listening to your students, and addressing problems early can increase students’ sense of autonomy (see Chapter 3: Motivation), and their trust in your good will (see Chapter 4: Class Community).

Below are several validated assessments that you can use to more systematically measure engagement in your course.

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

Assessing students perceptions of the course and instructor

One of the best ways to assess student perceptions is through a mid-semester evaluation, such as Stop Go Change or another informal survey. You can also ask a colleague to hold a discussion with your students in a mid-course assessment (details here). Below are several validated assessments.

  • Classroom Climate scale. A short survey to examine student perceptions of the supportiveness of classmates, the instructor, and the instructor’s responsivity.
  • 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).

Image courtesy of PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado Boulder