Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Measuring Student Engagement in Google Classroom

Are you measuring engagement or compliance? Either way, what information can we get from Google Classroom to help us better engage students.
Measuring Student Engagement in Google Classroom

Did you miss the August 30th presentation on Measuring Student Engagement in Google Classroom? I shared strategies for using Google Classroom to increase engagement and what to look for in both Google Classroom and in Schoolytics.com to help you know if it is working.

This FREE webinar is sponsored by OTIS and requires that you register. Registration will allow you to have access the webinar recording. Creating a free OTIS account also provides you access to many other free professional learning opportunities.

Student Engagement

Student engagement for learning matters. When students are TRULY engaged the learning lasts longer. According to Wikipedia:

“Student engagement occurs when “students make a psychological investment in learning. They try hard to learn what school offers. They take pride not simply in earning the formal indicators of success, but in understanding the material and incorporating or internalizing it in their lives.”

One source I frequently refer to when thinking about student engagement is this article by Taylor and Parsons (2011).

“Windham (2005) recommends that, to engage learners in learning, new educational curriculum and activity must include – “Interaction, Exploration, Relevancy, Multimedia and Instruction” (pp 5.7-5.9).”

From the handbook of student engagement:

“individuals thrive best in classrooms that meet their personal and social needs.”

Engagement is Not a Unicorn

My go to expert on student engagement is Heather Lyon

I asked her to share some tips on student engagement. She provided me with several from her soon to be released book The BIG Book of Engagement Strategies: A Continuation of Engagement is Not a Unicorn (It’s a Narwhal)

  1. Remember Goldilocks, people are not being non-compliant if the task is not the right size for them (too hot or too cold). Goldilocks wanted the porridge, she just did not want it if it was not right for her.
  2. You can not measure engagement by looking.
  3. Engagement means that people want to do what they’re doing (they like the task).
  4. You can like the task but need a consequence (positive or negative) to do the task.
  5. People who are highly engaged (absorbed) do not need to be asked about what they are doing – they tell you.
  6. [tweet]Never mistake compliant behavior for engagement.[/tweet] It is not. Compliance is simply a disengaged person who is extrinsically motivated to do the task.
  7. In far too many classrooms, as long as students are compliant with the behavior expectations (stay in your seat, do not shout out, etc…) they can be non-compliant with the learning expectations (read silently, work with a partner etc…)
  8. No one can be absorbed in everything.
  9. Absorption is not the goal for every student for every class every day.

Measuring Engagement

Now, let’s be honest. Oftentimes when we are saying engagement we really just mean compliance. This can be muddy water, we can be measuring compliance when we mean to be measuring engagement and vice versa. Sometimes the metrics are the same. Oftentimes the metrics are elusive. What makes for engagement is what we observe rather than what we record. When it comes to looking at Google Classroom data, what does it tell us about student engagement? Or does it simply tell us about how compliant a student is?

We can only measure what we record.

The first step in measuring student engagement is collecting data that demonstrates engagement. If you do not design Google Classroom to provide indicators of engagement, then engagement metrics can not be obtained.

  • Create choice assignments, what choices did students choose to engage with?
  • If students do not complete tasks it is certainly an indicator of a disconnect with the class. Reflect on why students did not complete the task.
  • Completing all tasks but not extending the task would indicate compliance. Provide students with opportunities to go further if they choose.
  • Use the ask a question feature in Google Classroom to poll the students about their passion for learning. Do they indicate they are deeply interested in the learning?
  • For collaboration and discussion tasks, are students contributing the bare minimum? What evidence do they provide concerning their participation.
  • Relationships with the teacher improve engagement in a course. Use Google Classroom to go beyond assignment collection.


One reason I work part time for Schoolytics is I am passionate about data and about student engagement. Good data helps us to improve. In addition to the indicators in Google Classroom, we can use the additional metrics, charts, and reports in Schoolytics to help us know if students are engaged, or at least if they are compliant.

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