by Alexa Haverlah, TLED Content Marketing Intern 

When was the last time you showed off your work to friends and family? Maybe it was your thesis or an awesome learning activity you designed. Feeling pride in one’s work is a great example of emotional engagement, one of three key components of student engagement. IGI Global defines Emotional Engagement as involving interest, boredom, happiness, anxiety, and other affective states, and the sense of belonging and values, any of which could affect learners’ involvement with learning. Bloom's Taxonomy

Given this month’s theme of Student Engagement in the TLED calendar, it might be helpful to look at Bloom’s Taxonomy, more commonly used to write learning objectives, in terms of engagement from lowest-to-highest. The pinnacle of engagement is represented by Create, where one produces something unique based on their understanding of the material. 

“[Creation is] where your brain is most connected to what you’re learning,” says Chelsea Biggerstaff, who runs the Orientation/Onboarding program for new Austin Community College faculty. 

During their first semester at ACC, new faculty come together for monthly onboarding sessions to discuss challenges they are facing in the classroom, among other things. The majority of these challenges reported by new faculty deal with lack of student engagement, notes Biggerstaff. New faculty say: 

    • “I’m teaching to a bunch of blank screens.”  
    • “A student disappeared; I haven’t heard from them.” 

Both of these challenges are demonstrations of Behavioral Non-Engagement: apathy and absenteeism. Biggerstaff utilizes the chart below to differentiate between the three key components of engagement and to provide examples of engagement and non-engagement for each type, Behavioral, Cognitive, and Emotional. 

Key Component

Explanation

Engagement

Non-engagement

Behavioral

Observable behaviors demonstrating effort, persistence, and help-seeking

Attendance, active participation, content-relevant discussions and questions

Sleeping, off-topic conversations, unproductive use of technology, help seeking to avoid tasks

Cognitive

Meeting or exceeding course requirements, investment to master challenging problems or tasks

Correct use of vocabulary, small group in-depth discourse on lesson topics, reflection on their own thinking

Rehearsal and repeating vocabulary verbatim

Emotional

Interest, enjoyment, sense of belonging, or value in course topics

Connecting content to personal lives, academic studies, or career fields; pride displayed in work

Bored, rejected, neglected, frustrated, angry, and anxious students

Emotional engagement is Biggerstaff’s personal favorite. “When people are emotionally engaged, they’re interested. You can see head nods, people are giving you eye contact. They feel like they belong, they feel safe. They see value in what you’re teaching them,” she says. 

According to the 2019 Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE), nearly 98 percent of students said that they would recommend ACC to a friend or family member – greater than the 95 percent score that both national and peer colleges received! SENSE results also offered areas where ACC can improve:  

    • making new students feel welcome
    • making students feel they are a part of a community through more group work and icebreakers
    • connecting students to academic support resources 

The areas of improvement suggest ACC should focus on improving students’ emotional engagement in the classroom. So what can faculty do to create an engaging learning environment? ACC students have the following suggestions: 

TLED Calendar May

ACC students report that faculty… 

    • Having passion (enjoyment) 
    • Being energetic (enjoyment) 
    • Promoting social activity (sense of belonging)
    • Incorporating real-life ideas (connecting content to personal lives) 
    • Showing genuine care (showing interest)
    • Reviewing early & often 

… helped them to be more engaged in a course.

Critically, five out of six suggestions refer to emotional engagement, indicating that emotional engagement could be the key to student success! For ideas on how to increase emotional engagement in your section, watch Biggerstaff’s workshop, “Building Community in the Online Environment,” here

Additionally, faculty can refer back to Bloom’s Taxonomy as a way to reflect on the level of emotional engagement required in student assignments. While all levels are necessary for learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy is useful in thinking about which kinds of assignments inherently produce greater emotional engagement than others. 

What percentage of your assignments ask students to… 

    1. Answer True or False questions, Select Multiple Choice, Fill-in-the-blanks (Remember) 
    2. Write a summary, Think-Pair-Share (Understand) 
    3. Present their work, Conduct lab experiments, Make up their own examples (Apply) 
    4. Compare-and-contrast, Debate, Report/Survey (Analyze) 
    5. Edit their peers’ work, List Pros & Cons, Write an argumentative or persuasive essay (Evaluate) 
    6. Write a grant or research proposal, Perform/Present, Develop and describe new solutions or plans, Develop criteria to evaluate product or solution, (Create)? 

*For additional information, check out a list of curated resources.

As students master the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and climb toward the Create level, so, too, do they reach the essence of emotional engagement: pride in their work, a sense of belonging within their community, and value in their education.