Student Engagement Pt. 1

Studies have shown that student engagement drops significantly as students graduate from primary (elementary) school and enter into secondary/ junior high school. The MusicEdu Suite is designed to boost engagement in classroom/ general music. Recently, I sat down with Kate Hargraves, CEO of MusicEDU, and with our mission in mind “to give every child the opportunity to enjoy music in the classroom, by creating engaging and relevant curriculum solutions that support teachers”, we discussed all things Student Engagement. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.


In her research, Kate came across a definition that she really loved. She said “In education, student engagement is defined as the level of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion a student shows when learning or being taught. Which [then] extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.” ( This definition gets to the heart of what student engagement is because it touches on the giving and receiving nature of engagement.


Content is key! In education, you cannot have a conversation about holding a student’s attention without talking about the topics covered and the content taught addressing the topics. Kate says it is crucial that from the students’ perspective the topic(s) and content are relevant.


To keep a student engaged you have to pique their curiosity. It’s knowing “something [they either] like the sound of or it’s something they know a little bit about and would like to know more about” and using it to your advantage.


This is a bit of a hard one because it has to be something that is interesting for the whole class. However, this is where you can present something that allows your students to put on their discovery hats and go exploring. Kate says “this is where music teachers have the advantage over other disciplines because you have music. [Most] students love listening to, playing, or talking about music. It’s a super cool topic.”


“Music can give students a sense of self, a sense of hope. It’s an expression tool that can build confidence and purpose within the student” Research conducted on optimism has shown its positive effect on general health and wellbeing. As we seek to educate the whole student this is huge. Students need a positive, hopeful outlook on the future and they need to feel like there is a real-world connection to what they are learning.


An engaged student looks like all of the above. When we’ve grabbed their attention, piqued their curiosity, captured their interest, they’re optimistic and passionate, we have a highly engaged student. “An engaged student is excited about what is happening at their school, what they are learning. They contribute to the learning environment and are psychologically committed to their school”


First impressions are made in the first 5-8 seconds of taking in a new environment. As the teacher, you control the environment that your students walk into. Changing that environment is something you can do right now to boost engagement. Here are some questions to help you consider your first impression.


You are 12 years old again and you are about to walk into the music room you currently teach in…. You’ve just changed schools to junior high or secondary school...

What are you expecting the music classroom to look like? 🔸Which artists are your favorites? 🔸 Do you play an instrument, or have you never had the chance? 🔸 As you walk into your classroom, what does it look like? 🔸 A music room? 🔸 Is it exciting? 🔸 Does it spark interest? 🔸 Do the posters on the wall reflect the type of music/artists you like, or does it remind you of elementary school? 🔸

Does the room reflect both the playing/performance aspects of the modern-day musician as well as the technology/production side?


In part 2, we get to the heart of how Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) and the MusicEDU Suite help maximize engagement.