At a basic level, engagement is becoming “immersed in an activity that is intrinsically motivating” or experiencing a state of “flow”(Falecki et al., 2018, p.106). Flow, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990), describes a state of being in which one becomes so engaged in an activity that they seem to lose track of time, such as a musician completely losing themself within the music. Engagement is associated with character strengths of curiosity, zest, bravery, love of learning and leadership (Wagner, 2019). According to Dr. Peggy Kern (2022), there are three types of engagement that can be focused on to improve student wellbeing: behavioral, emotional/psychological, and cognitive engagement.
- Behavioral engagement includes school attendance, coming prepared to class, following classroom rules, and active participation in learning.
- Emotional/psychological engagement includes enjoyment of learning, a sense of belonging, and a feeling of safety. For students to be engaged their fundamental needs of autonomy, relatedness/belonging, and competence must be met (Fredericks et al., 2004).
- Cognitive engagement includes paying full attention, a willingness to exert effort, and the use of different learning strategies. Cognitive engagement also includes providing students with challenging activities and limiting classroom distractions. Dr. Kern says, “Flow is more likely to occur for intrinsically motivating activities, when the challenge of a situation meets the individual’s skill and ability to meet the challenge, and attention is completely focused" (Kern, 2022, p.7).
The interventions in this section will focus primarily on improving these three areas of student engagement. These activities will encourage your students to “become immersed in worthwhile pursuits” and to use and develop their own individual strengths (Falecki et al., 2018, p.104).
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. HarperCollins.
Falecki, D., Leach, C., & Green, S. (2018). PERMA-powered coaching. In S. Green, & S. Palmer (Eds.), Positive psychology coaching in practice. New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315716169.
Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept, State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74(1), 59–109. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059
Kern, M. L. (2022). PERMAH: A useful model for focusing on wellbeing in schools. In K. A. Allen, M. Furlong, S. Suldo & D. Vella-Brodrick. (Eds.), The handbook of positive psychology in schools 3rd edition. Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003013778
Wagner, L., Gander, F., Proyer, R., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and PERMA: Investigating the relationship of character strengths with a multidimensional framework of wellbeing. Applied Research in Quality of Life. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9695-z