According to an article published recently by KQED, participating is not the same thing as being engaged although they might look similar.
The big difference is that participation is when a student is doing it but if they do not make meaning of the material, they are not actively engaged.
Researchers identified eight qualities to determine if students are engaged in the activity.
1. Does the activity allow students to personalize their response
2. Are the expectations clear and well modeled?
3. Do the students feel they have an audience beyond the teacher?
4. Are students able to socially interact so they are discussing the material?
5. Are mistakes valued as part of the discussion. Are students allowed to make mistakes in a safe environment.
6. Are students allowed a choice within the activity?
7. Does the activity always connect to the real world?
8. Is the activity new and still cool for the students?
The researchers admit it is hard to have all eight qualities for every activity but if a teacher is able to have three for any activity, it increases cognitive engagement to between 84 and 86 percent of the time.
In addition, the three chosen qualities should be visible to anyone who walks into the room. All students should be able to explain what they are working on, what the teacher's expectations are and how the activity will lead to learning.
It is also important to set up immediate feedback for the activity so students increase their learning. If you decrease the amount of assignments and increase the feedback so its more immediate, students will increase their learning. Feedback does not necessarily mean handing fully corrected work back. Instead it can mean giving examples of proficient, below proficient, and above proficient work.
So when you create an activity for students keep in mind the eight qualities designed to help increase engagement rather than just participation.
Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear back from people.