Jaime Patterson | December 2015

STEAM-ER Series: Engagement

Welcome to the STEAM-ER series!

Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing Engagement through Rigor for each of the STEAM content areas. In the STEAM-ER introduction, I shared five areas that encourage Engagement through Rigor: higher level thinking, engagement, deep inquiry, demonstration, and quality over quantity (see full intro article here). 

Last week, we looked at higher level thinking through Bloom’s Taxonomy and Depth of Knowledge. This week, we will look at another way of bringing rigor into the classroom through engagement.  Often confused with fun, engagement is the presence of student minds hard at work, ensuring that all student voices are heard. Thus, making all students a part of the learning process.

The Glossary of Education Reform defines engagement as: “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.”  The words that stand out most to me are curiosity and interest.  If we foster curiosity, then attention, optimism, and passion will follow. STEAM content areas inherently encourage engagement, and below is a compilation of resources that build Rigor through Engagement in the STEAM classrooms.


Science provides many opportunities for engagement through experimentation and labs. But, remember to use focused notes strategies for engagement while presenting information prior to the hands on experiments.  Life Sciences Education offers Biology-specific strategies for student engagement in Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity


Technology in, and of itself fosters engagement.  There are so may tools available for our students and teachers.  The University of Oregon presents a list of ways to use technology as a tool of engagement in the classroom in Teaching with Technology.


Teach Engineering has a great chart of engagement activities to use in the engineering classroom.  Check out the curriculum here.  Nova Teachers also provides a long list of engaging, student centered activities for engineering in Classroom Activities.   North Carolina State University combines engineering and other core subjects in a list of their favorite engineering activities.


The Minnesota Department of Education has documented engaging activities for six arts disciplines spanning kindergarten to high school.  Check out their curriculum for engaging activities in the arts by going to their Curriculum and Instruction page and scrolling to the frameworks section.


The National Evaluation and Technical Center offers a strategy guide for engagement in mathematics: Making it Count.  Edutopia also provides insight on motivating our students in mathematics in 9 Strategies for Motivating Students in Mathematics.  The ASCD provides a quick start guide to Common Core math in Unlocking Engagement through Mathematical Discourse.

These resources will help create Engagement through Rigor in all of the STEAM areas.
Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week: STEAM-ER Series: Deep Inquiry
Deep inquiry provides an opportunity for rigor in the classroom. Next week we continue our STEAM-ER series by taking a look at how we can provide opportunities for inquiry in the classroom.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.