Education Evolutions

Empowering the student voice leads to increased engagement

After-school academic coaches are empowering the student voice and using feedback to increase engagement.

After eight long hours of a school day, it’s understandable that a high school student would prefer to be anywhere else than a classroom. After-school programs that focus on academic achievement have a unique challenge. They must engage students who may experience learning fatigue from their already academically demanding lives. The Lana team in DC began its 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) program at Cardozo High School this month. We know that empowering the student voice is critical to maintaining engagement. We listened to our students, and the message was clear. Our students are motivated to learn through play, and they aren’t afraid of a little friendly competition.

Student feedback directly resulted in our team transforming academic lesson plans into educational games. Surveying students both formally and informally reported positive responses to icebreaker games such as Big Wind Blows and Four Corners. The most widely favored activity is playing Monopoly during students’ free time. Most of our current program participants are athletes thanks to our partnership with the athletic department at Cardozo High School. They routinely report enjoying all our activities that involve competition. As a result, our programming has implemented subjects such as algebra, geometry, and poetic devices into games. Our team uniquely crafts them to engage students while meeting our programmatic goals of increasing literacy and performance in mathematics.

Gamifying the Curriculum

Gamifying our curriculum has led to increased engagement in program activities. Additionally, we have seen the development of a positive, friendly culture in our after-school program. We utilize games like Mathonopoly, where players need to solve algebraic equations to earn money and buy properties. These games encourage students to flex their mathematics skills. However, we found them to also lead to increased engagement and a supportive environment. Additionally, the creation of unique educational games tailored to our students’ interests has shown great promise. We developed SAT Mathlete Jeopardy, a Jeopardy-style game in which students had a 50-50 chance of choosing an SAT math section question or an NBA trivia question. This earned the enthusiastic engagement of all our available program participants and allowed us as program leaders to gauge their mathematics levels firsthand.

By continuing to present our students with feedback-driven, gamified learning opportunities, we hope to maintain their engagement with program activities, develop their academic skills, and create a positive culture that will promote social and emotional well-being for all our students.

Transforming academic lesson plans into educational games increase student engagement.
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