Student Engagement Technique (SET)

Barkley, E. F. (2010). Student Engagement Technique. A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brief Summary of Chapters 1 to 4

“Learning begins with tudent engagement.” (p.4)

Student engagement = Motivation X Active Learning

Motivation and Active Learning work synergistically and, at the far end of the continuum are the transformative peak experiences.


Motivation = Expectancy X Value

Expectancy = the degree to which students expect to be able to perform the task successfully

Value = the degree to which they value the rewards as well as the opportunity to engage in performing the task itself


Self-Efficacy Theory

If a student is confident in her ability to perform a task successfully, she will be motivated to engage in it.

Attribution Theory

Students’ belief is shaped by their perceptions of why they have succedeed or failed in the past.

Self-Worth Models

When students don’t succeed they would prefer to question their efforts rather than their ability.

Four Typical Student Patterns
  1. Success-oriented student: accustomed to success, accept occasional failure
  2. Overstrivers: successful student but anxious
  3. Failure-avoiders: avoid too challenging tasks
  4. Failure-accepting: feel hopeless


Extrinsic rewards = quick fixes but counterproductive to have a student truly engaged

“Flow” = deep intrisic motivation _ may be helped by instructor if:

  • Goals are clear
  • Feedback is immediate
  • the challenge is balanced

Teacher can increase motivation by taking steps to increase the value of the learning to student and helping student hold optimistic expectations about their ability to succeed.

Active Learning

The mind is actively engaged. WHen new learning in readily comprehensible (it makes sense) and can be connected to past experiences (it has meaning) retention is dramatically improved.

Learning is a dynamic process.

Promoting Synergy between Motivation and Active Learning

  1. By creating a sense of classroom community
  2. By helping students work at their optimal level of challenge.
    • Tasks must be sufficently difficult to pose a challenge, but not so difficult as to destroy the willingness to try (p.27)
    • Three broad approaches to helping student work in their optimal challenge zones.
      1. Assessment and feedback
      2. Teaching metacognitive skills
      3. Empowering students as partners in the learning process. (When st have the power to make decisions regarding their own learning, they can take steps to ensure they are working in their optimal challenge zone).
  3. By teaching so that students learn holistically (We cannot seperate emotion, cognition, and the physical body).

My Reflection about this Reading

See Journal 1.

As a student, I would classify myself as an overstrivers. Difficult for me to assept failure because I always think I could have done better. The positive aspect of that is that I try to think of what I could have done better. The negative aspect of this category is to be always anxious.

As a teacher, I consider that I have been working pretty well on building community of learners. I am very interested in working better on the optimal level of challenge. I am aware of this as being important for the students’ engagement and I do try to always make sure my students in French are at the right level; I always take the time to talk to them about it if I have any doubt. I also try to be sure that the learners at the Literacy Center are getting activities that challenge them enough but not too much. Al ot of students at the Literacy Center has a low level of motivation, it try to “hold optimistic expectations about their ability to succeed” by telling them when I think an activity was too easy for them and aks them if they have the same impression.

Regarding the 3 broad approaches to helping student work in their optimal challenge zones, I believe I have made huge progress especially in my French courses in adding assessment and feedback. I still have to work on that at the Literacy Center and this is my short term plan. I have some hesitation doing about how to do that with the tutors I am training because they are volunteers. However, maybe they would feel like their work is more valued if I did  some assessment of their work. My technique now is to reinforce their learning by reminding them important points in the teaching process.

I do have to work more on teaching metacognition to my students. I already work on that in my French courses but it is a difficult taks with the students at the Literacy Center. My Video about instructional strategies is about in-class portfolio, basically helping my students to learn how to take notes. I am really planning to do that soon but helping them to take better notes is my way to help them oragnize the new knowledge they are acquiring and analyse it.

Regarding the holistic aspect of teaching, I think I do cover the emotional and cognitive aspect a lot in my teaching but certainly not the physical aspect. Except maybe when I expalin to my French learners how to pay attention to non-verbal communication.


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