Student Engagement: Both Cognitive And Behavioral

Sep 30, 2019 | Shift


Student Engagement: Both Cognitive And Behavioral


by Drew Perkins, Director of ThoughtStretchers Education

Engagement is a buzzword in education. While behavioral engagement and capturing student imagination, which involves visible actions and participation, has long been the focus of attention, cognitive engagement, which encompasses mental involvement and active thinking, is sometimes overlooked.

Understanding Behavioral Engagement

Behavioral engagement is what we often think of when we hear the term “engagement.” It refers to the observable actions, responses, and involvement of individuals in a particular activity or task. In the context of education, for instance, a student who is actively raising their hand to answer questions, participating in class discussions, and completing assignments on time can be considered behaviorally engaged.

The Importance of Behavioral Engagement

Behavioral engagement is undeniably important. It signifies a person’s active participation and commitment to a task or a goal. In an educational setting, for example, a behaviorally engaged student is more likely to attend classes regularly, complete assignments, and contribute to a positive classroom atmosphere. Similarly, in the workplace, employees who exhibit high levels of behavioral engagement tend to be more productive, punctual, and cooperative.

The Role of Cognitive Engagement

While behavioral engagement is vital, it is only one piece of the engagement puzzle. Cognitive engagement, on the other hand, goes beyond observable actions and delves into the realm of mental involvement, critical thinking, and problem-solving. It involves actively processing information, making connections, and seeking a deeper understanding of a topic or task. A cognitively engaged student not only participates but also actively thinks about the subject matter, asks questions, and connects new information to existing knowledge.

The Significance of Cognitive Engagement

Cognitive engagement is crucial because it facilitates deeper learning and more meaningful experiences. When an individual is cognitively engaged, they are more likely to:

1. Retain Information: Actively thinking about and processing information enhances memory retention, leading to a better grasp of the subject matter.

2. Problem-Solve: Cognitive engagement fosters critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are essential in both academic and real-world scenarios.

3. Develop Intrinsic Motivation: The act of mentally engaging with a task can lead to a sense of intrinsic motivation, making the task more enjoyable and fulfilling.

4. Encourage Curiosity: Cognitive engagement encourages individuals to ask questions and seek out new knowledge, fostering a lifelong love of learning.

5. Enhance Creativity: Active thinking and reflection often lead to creative insights and innovative solutions to challenges.

6. Improve Decision-Making: Cognitive engagement equips individuals with the tools to make well-informed decisions in various aspects of life.

While behavioral engagement is undeniably important, cognitive engagement is equally crucial in achieving meaningful and lasting outcomes. Whether in education, the workplace, or personal development, cognitive engagement enhances learning, problem-solving, motivation, and creativity.

It’s essential to recognize that both types of engagement complement each other, and striking a balance between them can lead to well-rounded personal and professional growth. So, as you’re lesson and unit planning, remember that being mentally engaged is just as important as being physically present – because it’s the combination of both that truly makes a difference in student learning and success.


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