As an instructor, you’re interested in student engagement.

  • Are your students fully present when they’re in class?
  • Do they participate in discussions and show an eagerness to contribute?
  • Does the class mean more to them than just a grade on a transcript? 
  • Are they moving beyond mere memorization into deeper levels of learning and understanding?


The more frequently you answer “yes” to these questions, the more likely it is that you feel they’re engaged in the class, and engaged with you.

But did you ever stop to wonder if your students are watching you to see how engaged you are in the process as well?

As part of the Cengage Learning Student Case Study, fourteen students let us in on their thoughts about instructor engagement. We asked them about the ways that their instructors engaged them in the learning process, as well as the ways that their instructors engaged with them on an individual basis.

In general, I find that my instructors…


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A few quick highlights from the survey:

  • All of the fourteen students noted that their instructors encourage critical thinking and discussion (with nine stating that this happens “often,” and two writing that this always happens).
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, thirteen of the fourteen students noted that instructors assign reading or work in the required materials.
  • Six of the fourteen students wrote that their instructors often or always use technology other than PowerPoint® during the lecture.
  • Eight of the fourteen students said their instructors assign online homework, reading, etc. often (with two stating that they always have online assignments, and four noting that online materials were assigned some of the time).
  • The majority of the respondents noted that instructors apply course material to actual, real-world examples with some degree of regularity.


The good news? None of the students said their instructors never exhibited any of these behaviors. And only one student said that instructors rarely apply course material to actual, real-world examples. The one area that received more than one “rarely” response? “Use of technology other than PowerPoint during a lecture.” (Many of you may find this unsurprising; it’s likely that you frequently use this presentation software as well.)

Another finding from the student responses: just as you’d like your students to respond to what you’re presenting, students want to know that you’ll respond and interact with them. Fortunately, the survey shows fairly positive signs here. Three out of fourteen students noted that their instructors always provide opportunities active involvement. But don’t fret; six said this happens “often” and five said it happens “sometimes,” so these students do feel that they have these opportunities on a regular basis. Of the fourteen students, all of the students wrote that their instructors are responsive to e-mails and student requests most (if not all) of the time–which is understandable, considering your own workload and the number of students with whom you interact. Furthermore, all fourteen of the respondents wrote that their instructors show genuine interest in students and their learning at least some of the time.

But wouldn’t you like for them to believe that you’re always showing a genuine interest in their learning? Wouldn’t you like to be seen as the passionate and responsive educator that you know you are?

How can you demonstrate that you’re engaged with your students?

Here are just a few quick tips that you can adapt for your courses. You may be implementing many of these already; but review the list and see if it sparks some new teaching ideas for you.

  • Lecture with style. Think about what engages you when you’re listening to a speaker, and incorporate some of those techniques into your lectures.
  • Mix up your presentation techniques. Whether you’re presenting in a classroom or presenting online, endeavor to bring something new into your presentations every so often. Do a demonstration; show a video clip; or, discover some new student engagement techniques you may not have considered using before.
  • Try out some new (or new-to-you) tech tools. Need some ideas? Cathy Scott makes some suggestions based on your preferred style of presenting. If you want some additional inspiration, refer to Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins and Damon Givehand’s article, which gives you five more reasons to integrate technology into your teaching.
  • Apply a variety of active learning strategies. Incorporate new discussion techniques (including real-time online chats) that foster community and the sharing of ideas. Employ class-opening activities that motivate learning and interaction. Or, as Jennifer Hurd suggests, try mixing up the arrangement of desks and chairs in your classroom; you’d be surprised how this could promote participation and collaboration among your students.
  • Use real-world examples, such as interactive maps that illustrate economic trends or case studies that encourage investigation and discussion of important concepts.
  • Consider new learning solutions, such as Cengage Learning’s MindTap, that spark student engagement in the learning process through reliable and relevant course content, interactive activities and resources, and a convenient online platform that allows them to access their material anytime, anywhere. (Download our whitepaper to learn how MindTap can increase student engagement, drives student success, and leads to improved outcomes.)


Want ideas from students themselves? Read some student responses to the question: What do you need from  your instructor to get the most out of your education? 

And now… we’d like to hear from you! Share your thoughts on instructor/student engagement below.