We talk a lot about student engagement in education. Most educators got into this profession for the students, and, as a result, we want their experience to be as engaging and positive as possible. There is far less written about teacher engagement, even though teacher engagement and student engagement are reciprocal. When teacher engagement dips, it has a negative effect on student engagement. When teacher engagement is high, it positively impacts both student engagement and achievement.

Why is understanding teacher engagement important?

Given the myriad challenges of the last two years, everyone in education should be concerned about teacher engagement. It impacts:

  • The rate of teacher turnover and attrition from the profession
  • Teachers’ feelings of self-efficacy, or confidence in their ability to do their jobs well
  • Burnout, or physical and emotional fatigue
  • A teacher’s level of job satisfaction
  • Student engagement
  • Students’ academic performance (Bakker et al., 2007; Klassen, Perry & Frenzel, 2012; McIlveen & Perera, 2016; Perera, Granziera, et al., 2018).

It’s critical to understand what teacher engagement is and what factors positively impact teacher engagement if we are going to attract and retain talented teachers. Given the increasing numbers of teachers blending online and offline learning, understanding the impact of blended learning on teacher engagement is an area of research that deserves more time and attention. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about this topic from my own research.

What is teacher engagement?

At the start of a keynote on reigniting teacher engagement, I asked a group of educators to tell me what words came to mind when they heard the phrase “teacher engagement.” Below is the wordcloud created from their responses. The largest words were repeated by the highest number of people. This cloud reflects the actions or physical manifestations of engagement, such as learning, interest, participation, focus, attention, and curiosity. However, to truly understand teacher engagement we must understand the dimensions of this motivational construct.

Teacher engagement is a multidimensional motivational construct that reflects a teachers’ choice to dedicate energy resources to their work. Many aspects of a teacher’s work can function to increase or decrease their engagement. I love that the word connection is the largest word in this cloud. It suggests the importance of relationships and human connection in the teaching profession. In fact, the role of a teacher’s relationships with students and colleagues is the reason I chose to ground my research study on teacher engagement in blended learning environments in a definition of teacher engagement that included the dimension of social engagement (Klassen, Yerdelen & Durksen, 2013).

The Four Dimensions of Teacher Engagement

The four dimensions of teacher engagement include: a) cognitive engagement, b) emotional engagement, c) social engagement with students, and d) social engagement with colleagues.

Cognitive EngagementThe degree to which teachers are attentive to and invested in their work.
Emotional EngagementThe teachers’ feelings about, degree of dedication to, and emotional response to their work.
Social Engagement with StudentsThe way in which teachers’ interactions with their students affects their feelings of energy or exhaustion at work.
Social Engagement with ColleaguesThe way in which teachers’ interactions with their colleagues affects their feelings of energy or exhaustion at work.

In a series of four blogs, I will explore each dimension of teacher engagement in depth, identifying the factors that positively impact that dimension of engagement. I’ll provide specific strategies and highlight blended learning models teachers can employ to spend more time and energy on the aspects of this work that are more cognitively, emotionally, and socially engaging.

As teachers navigate another challenging school year, it is critical that teachers, coaches, and school leaders understand teacher engagement and take proactive steps to re-engage teachers who are mentally and emotionally exhausted. It is critical that we focus on setting realistic expectations, embracing sustainable workflows, and prioritizing the parts of this profession that are likely to yield higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction.

If you are interested in blended learning and want to learn how to design and facilitate learning experiences using models that weave together active, engaged learning online and offline, you can sign up for one of my self-paced, online courses!

I’ll be opening registration for cohort 2 of my Blended Learning Coaching Course in January! If you or your coaching team are interested in joining cohort 2, which will run from beginning of March to early May 2022, you can explore the course content here. To request a quote for your coaching team, fill out this form.

8 Responses

  1. Everyone gets at that point in their career when they are a bit exhausted. It’s normal, you just burnout. But it takes a certain level of dedication to turn it around, and that is exactly where engagement comes in hand.

  2. The pandemic and remote learning definitely hinders that connection that is so needed for both teachers and students. It’s interesting that you broke engagement into four quadrants. Can an overabundance make up for a lack in another or do they all need to be equal/100%?

    • Hi Derek,

      I’m using the definition of teacher engagement validated by Klassen, Yerdelen & Durksen (2013). The dimensions of teacher engagement are not all equal. However, there isn’t an easy percentage breakdown given all of the factors involved in teacher engagement. I think of it more as a structure or framework we can think about the parts of this multidimensional motivational construct.


    • Hi Catlin,
      Good morning,
      Very good topics,
      If you don’t mind please help me , I need some articles relationship between teacher engagement with teacher retention.
      Thanks and best regards.

  3. I am using the four dimensions of teacher engagement by setting realistic expectations of myself and students. The four dimensions of teacher engagement include: a) cognitive engagement, b) emotional engagement, c) social engagement with students, and d) social engagement with colleagues. Being pro-active with my students and colleagues to ensure student success

  4. Hi Catlin! I have enjoyed learning and growing through your books, articles, and podcasts! I am in my 10th year teaching upper elementary, and have always been motivated to provide digital learning experiences for students. Your work with blended learning has really helped me find balance in the classroom. This in combination with UDL has allowed me to reach all learners this year in particular. As I begin my journey on a Doctoral Degree in Instructional Technology, I am interested in continuing similar research that looks at the most impactful ways to maintain teacher motivation and engagement, providing equitable digital learning experiences for students. I would love your insight on what directions you think would be great for me to look into as a research topic, that may compliment and possibly extend from you work. Was there an idea you came across that you thought should be looked into deeper?

    • Hi Allison,

      Thank you for the kind note! I’m excited for you and your doctoral journey. I loved my experience!

      Researching teacher engagement in blended learning environments is a great option because there isn’t a lot of research in that area. Student engagement is much more well-researched. My study focused on secondary teachers, so you could do a similar study on elementary teachers!

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Take care.

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