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Why engaging language teaching methods are important: How to engage the isolated learner?

Written by Benedetta Giuliani

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Since the pandemic both students and teachers had to accommodate to online learning either through online meetings or the use of online teaching platforms like Reactored.

Online platforms are great tools for teachers to use when it comes to online teaching, but engaging students even if they are motivated can be challenging sometimes.

What are these challenges and how to overcome them? Some useful tips will be provided throughout this article to encourage teachers with uncertainty or inexperience in facilitating an online learning environment so that they can understand and support their learners.

What is the difference between motivation and engagement and why both are important?

“A key distinction between motivation and engagement in practical pedagogical terms is that motivation refers to energy and direction  and the reasons for engaging is specific behaviours whereas engagement refers to energy in action, the connection between thought and actual behaviour” (Department of Education, Science & Training, 2005).

Interestingly a student can be motivated but disengaged at the same time. The reason why both are important is that engagement is needed for motivation to be translated into actual learning activities and positive results.

Students with low levels of engagement are more likely to drop out even when family, socio-economic status and education are taken into account (Rumberger, 2004).

The challenges of teaching students in an online environment

The lack of commitment is probably the hardest part to overcome, but teachers also need to take into consideration the possible anxiety associated with using technology, being out of one’s comfort zone, and inability or difficulties in peer interaction from the student’s part. (Gillett-Swan 2017)

There are also some external factors that are harder to influence. As online learning requires a constant access to the internet and certain IT equipment, for students that are not used to using a computer, the unfamiliar learning environment can be stressful and frustrating.

Focusing on technological problems can distract them from their learning matters. Furthermore, online learning platforms are sometimes not flexible enough to include every detail of a subject as it was meant to be.

How to overcome the factors that negatively influence engagement in an online setting

Implementation of active learning strategies that encourage students to actively participate in the online course content is essential to achieve the desired level of engagement. (Arshia Khan, Ona Egbue, Brooke Palkie and Janna Madden, 2017)

When trying to increase engagement finding creative, fun, and interactive ways of teaching can be a good approach. Furthermore, gamification of exercises and including “prizes” for the best achievements can also be a good way to increase engagement and motivation.

Technical problems are harder to counter but using online materials and platforms that do not have high hardware requirements or need strong internet connection can be a good countermeasure.

Dealing with anxiety, not being in one’s comfort zone and difficulties of peer interaction can be done through proper planning of student’s interactions.

For example, increasing group work based activities and creating groups on social media platforms where students can interact outside of your lessons is a good way to offer some additional chances for supervision and sharing thoughts with classmates to increase interactions.

To sum up, engaging teaching methods are important, as motivation alone is not enough. Engagement is essential for students to convert their motivation into actual effort towards their studies.

There are some challenges that are associated with online teaching but with the right countermeasures it’s possible to overcome them while maintaining a high level of engagement.

By Attila Szűcs – Sanako Language Ambassador


Department of Education, Science and Training. (2005) Schooling Issues Digest: Student Motivation and Engagement.

Arshia Khan, Ona Egbue, Brooke Palkie and Janna Madden, (2017) Active Learning: Engaging Students To Maximize Learning In An Online Course

Jenna Gillett-Swan (2017) The Challenges of Online Learning Supporting and Engaging the Isolated Learner

Prathiba Nagabhushan (2018) Engaging Adolescent Students in Contemporary Classrooms: Emerging Research and Opportunities

Are you a language teacher dedicated to inspiring others? Check out the rest of the Language Ambassadors blog!

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