Why Use Engaged Pedagogies?

Initial Publication Date: April 22, 2015

Engaged Students are Successful Students

Evidence-based research on learning indicates that when students are actively involved in their education they are more successful and less likely to fail2. A new PNAS report by Freeman et al., shows a significant decrease of failure rate in active learning classroom compared to traditional lecture (see graphs).

Pascarella and Terenzini summarize their comprehensive study, How College Affects Students as follows, "Perhaps the strongest conclusion that can be made is the least surprising. Simply put, the greater the student's involvement or engagement in academic work or in the academic experience of college, the greater his or her level of knowledge acquisition and general cognitive development"6.

Engagement Increases with Student-Centered Learning Techniques

Not only are students more successful when they are engaged in learning, but studies also show that the type of instruction can increase student engagement1,5,6,7. How faculty deliver the curriculum can increase student's active engagement and knowledge acquisition making it more important to student learning than the content1,5,7

Active and collaborative instruction coupled with various means to encourage student engagement invariably lead to better student learning outcomes irrespective of academic discipline3,4. Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics1,2,3,5,6.

Employers are Looking for Competency, not Content

Twenty-first Century skills needed for effectiveness in the workplace and becoming an informed citizen are focused on competencies, not on specific content. The use of engaged pedagogies help students develop these competencies.

  • Business leaders are stressing the importance of developing a broad range of skills. The 2003 Business–Higher Education Forum report, Building a Nation of Learners, listed the following skills and attributes of a nation of learners: leadership, teamwork, problem solving, time management, self-management, adaptability, analytical thinking, global consciousness, and basic communication (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).
  • The AAC&U College Learning for the New Global Century (opens pdf) study included the results of an employer survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates (2006). The top two responses to the question, "Most important skills employers look for in new hires" were teamwork and critical thinking and reasoning.
  • STEM Workforce Competencies find that traditional scientific skills paired with additional strengths in interdisciplinary work, ability to collaborate and communicate, and "soft skills" help employees be adaptable, motivated and capable in their jobs.

Examples of Engaged Teaching Methods »


  1. Astin, A., What Matters in College? Four Critical Years Revisited, 1993, San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass.
  2. Freeman, Scott; Eddy, Sarah L.; McDonough, Miles; Smith, Michelle K.; Okoroafor, Nnadozie; Jordt, Hannah; Wenderoth, Mary Pat; Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics (opens as pdf), 2014, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci.
  3. Kuh, George D.; Kinzie, J.; Schuh, John H.; Whitt, Elizabeth J.; Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter 2005, 2010., Jossey-Bass, p 416.
  4. Kuh, George D., What Student Engagement Data Tell Us about College Readiness 2007, AACU Peer Review, v9 n1
  5. Light, Richard J., 'The Harvard Assessment Seminars: Explorations with Students and Faculty about Teaching, Learning, and Student Life. Second Report, 1992
  6. Pascarella, Ernest T.; Terenzini, Pateric T.; How College Affects Students: A Third Decade of Research, Volume 2 2005, Jossey-Bass, p 848.
  7. Smith, Karl A; Sheppard, Sheri D.; Johnson, David W.; Johnson, Roger T.; Pedagogies of Engagement: Classroom-Based Practices . Journal of Engineering Education, v 94, 87-101

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