Gradient Learning

Student Engagement


50% of students say they are not engaged in what they are learning in school most of the time.

2021-22 Speak Up Research Project

80% of teachers say they are concerned about their students’ engagement in classroom-based learning.

2023 Gradient Learning Poll
Student Engagement

The Student Engagement Gap

Low student engagement is top-of-mind right now for many educators, families, and communities. There is a common understanding of the connection between student engagement and student academic achievement—if students are engaged in what they are learning in school, the process of learning is more effective, and that will result in demonstrable academic outcomes.

According to the 2023 Gradient Learning Poll, among the top reasons teachers say students are struggling to stay engaged are:

Lack of intrinsic motivation for learning in school


chosen by 75% of the teachers

Need for skills to self-direct the learning process


Need for development of skills in reading and math


Students do not see the relevance of what they are learning in school


Long-term impacts of school disruptions


Student engagement is critical to learning. Strong student engagement in learning is characterized by curiosity, participation, and a drive to learn more.

According to the Gallup Student Poll, “engaged students are 2.5 times more likely to say that they get excellent grades and do well in school, and they are 4.5 times more likely to be hopeful about the future than their actively disengaged peers.”

Gallup Poll, 2018

How do we measure student engagement?

“[When students are engaged] student curiosity, discussion, questions, and participation increases.”

High School Teacher (Iowa)

The 2023 Gradient Learning Poll asked teachers to consider the multitude of ways that they identify and measure student engagement in their classrooms. Teachers agreed that focusing on how a student is connecting with the classroom content and activities can help determine their level of engagement.

Here are the key ways that teachers say they identify and assess their students’ engagement levels:


Students making connections between topics and ideas


Level of student participation in discussions


Students asking thoughtful, in-depth questions

How do we increase student engagement?

“Teaching needs to unleash the innate desire to learn.”

Grade 9-12 Teacher (Utah)

Educators know their students best, and their insights are critical for identifying ways to boost student engagement. Teachers ranked the following strategies as “highly effective” ways to engage students in the learning process:

Building stronger teacher-student connections


78% of teachers rated as highly effective

Connecting learning to real-world skills


Leveraging students’ personal interests and passions within learning


Incorporating active, hands-on learning experiences


Celebrating class and individual student successes and growth


Facilitating meaningful student collaborations


Helping students develop trusting bonds with each other


95 percent of teachers say it should be a priority for every school to support teachers with the tools and strategies they need to increase and sustain student engagement.

Here’s what teachers say they need:


Planning time to revise current lessons to support student engagement


Dedicated classroom time to get to know students better


The ability to select curriculum/resources that meet the needs of their students


Best practices for classroom management when providing students with more choices


Structured 1:1 time with students


Professional learning on student engagement strategies

Educators agree that student engagement is important, and they are concerned about low student engagement in classroom-based learning. To support teachers as they create classroom environments that nurture student engagement, it is essential for school and district leaders to explore what teachers need to be more effective in combating this engagement gap.

About this poll

The Gradient Learning Poll is conducted in partnership with Project Tomorrow, a nationally recognized, education nonprofit organization with a focus on understanding the impact of new learning models and interventions on student outcomes and teacher effectiveness. From October-December 2022, the Gradient Learning Poll conducted an online survey of over 400 educators across the country—including respondents from all 50 states—to better understand their views on the state of education, specifically related to student engagement.

400+ teachers surveyed

Grades 4-12
ClassroomSpecial EducationInstructional Coaches




Type of teachers

  • Classroom
  • Special Education
  • Instructional Coaches
Grade 4-5Grade 6-8Grade 9-12Other





Grade level assignment

  • Grade 4-5
  • Grade 6-8
  • Grade 9-12
  • Other
1st year1-3 years4-10 years11-15 years16+ years






Years of experience

  • 1st year
  • 1-3 years
  • 4-10 years
  • 11-15 years
  • 16+ years



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