Engagement is defined as “the amount of time that students spend actively participating in learning activities” (Heflin & Alaimo, 2007, p.332). When a person is actively engaged, he/she is able to “attend to, recognize, analyze, and store important details or information and then use these details to create meaning (Carnahan, Hume, Clarke, & Borders, 2009, p. 7). If a student is not actively engaged in an academic task, he/she is not available for learning (Heflin & Alaimo, 2007).
Why is Active Engagement Important for Instruction?
When planning instruction, it is important to incorporate strategies to foster active engagement among students for several reasons. Active engagement may help lower the frequency of undesired behaviors (e.g. self-stimulatory, stereotypic). A study by Koegel, Anjileen, and Koegel (2010) found that focusing on student motivation helped decrease disruptive behaviors, which may be beneficial because disruptive behaviors can act as an impediment to learning. Active engagement in early learning is also important because it may create positive early learning experiences, which may continue to have positive impact on future academic performance and school experiences (Koegel, Anjileen, & Koegel, 2010). Also, the level of student engagement can serve as a predictor of academic outcomes and progress (Heflin & Alaimo, 2007).
Traditional teaching techniques such as lectures and lengthy verbal directions may inhibit or decrease student engagement in students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (Canahan et al., 2009). It may also be difficult to increase the motivation and engagement of students with ASD using traditional approaches such as grades or teacher praise as these students may not be motivated by such social reinforcers (Heflin & Alaimo, 2007). In order to address these challenges, there are a variety of strategies and interventions that may be implemented in the classroom in order to foster active engagement for students with ASD. This section will discuss the use of peer tutoring, incorporating student interests, and using student choice as ways to increase active engagement.
Learn more about active engagement here!