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Business Education | Student Engagement | New Teacher Advice

5 Ways to Keep Students Engaged in Business Education Classes

August 12th, 2021 | 9 min. read

Mike Cescon

Mike Cescon

With past experience in teaching, a couple of degrees in writing, and an upbringing immersed in medical jargon, Mike is positioned well to hear out the most common questions teachers ask about the AES curriculum. His goal is to write content that quickly and effectively answers these questions so you can back to what matters - teaching your students.

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We’ve all seen it: the bored expressions, the glazed-over eyes, the constant peeking at phones. Even if your business education course has excellent material, it can be challenging to keep your students engaged in class. And if students aren’t engaging with the course, can it really be said they’re learning?

Business education teachers often approach AES worried about whether their classes or teaching styles are exciting enough to keep students invested. In response, we’ve looked into relevant, reliable methods you can implement to make your course as enjoyable as it is informative.

After all, you need more resources than the occasional humdrum game sprinkled in to drive student interest in your classroom. That might work for the elementary level, but if your students are high schoolers, then they’re a little more mature, and if you want to win them over, your strategies will have to be, too.

In this article, we’ve compiled five ways you can keep your business education students engaged in the classroom:

  1. Use Relatable Situations and Examples 
  2. Promote Active Learning Over Passive Learning
  3. Add Role-Play Activities to Mix Things Up
  4. Incorporate Project-Based Learning
  5. Try Blended Learning

By the end of this article, you’ll be better able to keep your students’ attention by using dynamic, time-tested strategies.

1. Use Relatable Situations and Examples

student engagement strategy use relatable situations

Every teacher from math to business has heard their students complain about how they can’t see a practical use for the course material they’re learning. Chances are you’ve heard this, too. 

To circumvent students’ feelings that course material is irrelevant to their lives, try using relatable situations and examples to clarify its importance.

Why Relatability Matters

The truth is, your students are young, diverse individuals growing up in a world that’s constantly shifting and changing. They’re often overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they’re exposed to day-to-day. 

If you want your course to grasp their attention, you have to make your lessons feel relevant to your students by connecting them to your students’ sense of the world.

How You Can Make Your Business Curriculum More Relatable

It’s simple to make your course material more relevant to the lives of your students. The best way is to think about your students’ lives and what’s important to them. Consider what they value or what they spend their free time doing. Then take those insights and apply them to your lessons. 

For example, if you’re teaching a marketing unit to your students and you know they spend a lot of time on Instagram, why not focus parts of the unit on how Instagram marketing strategies work? You could even have your students complete a small marketing project where they create an Instagram page for a product they like. 

When your students can make connections between your lessons and their own lives and future goals, they better own the material and will engage more with it.

2. Promote Active Learning Over Passive Learning

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Passive learning is learning where students sit and listen or watch a video, presentation, or lecture. 

On the other hand, active learning is learning where students interact with and get involved in the learning process. 

By promoting active learning in your classroom, you directly involve your students in the lesson at hand, and this naturally leads to further engagement with the course material.

Why Active Learning Matters

No student wants to sit around and watch the teacher talk at them day after day. Lecturing is an important tool in every teacher’s toolbox, but it’s also important to include the input of your students in your teaching process.

If a student knows that you want to hear their thoughts on the material and expect them to contribute, this pushes them to think more about each lesson and come to their own thoughts and conclusions on it.

How You Can Engage Your Students Through Active Learning

Active learning can be promoted through various teaching styles and classroom activities:

  • Class discussions are helpful in including each of your students and gaining their input on a particular topic. Try rearranging the desks in your classroom into a circle so that everyone can see each other and each person feels like they’re equally contributing to a conversation. 
  • Critical thinking and decision-making exercises can also be valuable tools in promoting active learning. Try asking your students more complex, abstract questions that force them to put pieces together in their heads or take some sort of decisive action. When students have to think deeply about a topic, they’re more likely to engage with it. 
  • Opportunities for collaboration and group learning can also be sought out to push your students to work together and combine their thoughts to answer a question or solve a problem. By having your students collaborate and share their knowledge, they may end up gaining valuable perspective on a specific topic or subject straight from one of their peers.

3. Add Role-Play Activities to Mix Things Up

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They say if you want to get to know how someone thinks, you should walk a mile in their shoes. Why not apply that saying in your classroom?

Role-play activities are a useful tool not only to give your students a taste of real-world scenarios, but also to drive their investment in your business ed course. 

By adding role-play activities into your classroom, you train your students to engage creatively with course material while simultaneously developing important soft skills.

Why Role-Playing Helps

Having your students take part in an actual skit or mock interview forces them to walk in the shoes of the role they’re playing. They have to think how their character thinks, act how they would act, and all of this goes a long way toward engaging them in the lesson. 

Playing a role like this also ties in well to helping students develop professional soft skills like public speaking, interviewing, or speaking with customers. For those going into business, the ability to communicate effectively is essential to success. 

Not to mention, if done right, it’s just plain fun!

How You Can Promote Role-Playing in Your Classroom

Role-playing can take several forms within your classroom:

  • Mock interviews allow students to gain firsthand experience in submitting to a job interview. As they sit down to be interviewed for a fake position, they get into the mindset of a job candidate, learning valuable interviewing techniques and gaining a better look at how they function under pressure.
  • Customer service situations allow students to interact with fake customers in various fictitious scenarios. The customer might be angry, filing a complaint, reluctant to spend money, or more. By interacting with these customers, the student gains a better sense of what it means to hold a customer-facing position and determine whether it’s a right fit for them. 
  • Business presentations involve students pitching a business idea or plan to their fake boss or a panel of judges, who may then rate the presentation based on its effectiveness. This scenario will help students develop planning, presentation, and public speaking skills, all very useful for a career in business. 

4. Incorporate Project-Based Learning

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Incorporating class projects is essential to getting students to think deeply about the components of a particular topic.

Depending on the project’s nature, you can also help students to gain experience in skills like teamwork, planning, or creative design. 

When you push students to brainstorm and execute projects, you foster their creativity and critical thinking and drive them to engage with the course.

Why Project-Based Learning Matters in Business Education

Taking a project from idea phase to full-fledged execution is a lengthy process that engages all parts of a student’s mind, forcing them to think critically and creatively about accomplishing their goal. 

Projects push students to generate original ideas and bring their personalities to the table when it comes to coursework.

If it’s a team-based project you’re implementing, you also encourage students to develop communication and teamwork abilities that will serve them well in the working world.

How You Can Incorporate Projects in Your Classroom

The best projects not only push students to think deeply about the course material, but also allow them to express themselves freely, flex their creative muscles, and have fun!

For example, this Juice Box Packaging Design project showcases a quick, interesting, and creatively focused project that can draw student attention. 

In this project, students help a fictitious company called Juice-Tree to design new juice box packaging to better compete in their market and appeal to their chosen audience. 

Over the course of the project, the students will have to consider several marketing factors they learned about in class, including product planning, marketing, pricing, and audience, while also allowing them to exercise their artistry and bring their own unique touch to their design.

5. Try Blended Learning

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Blended learning is an education strategy that includes both digital and traditional teaching methods to help students learn. 

It combines classic teaching techniques--like lectures or presentations--and the latest in educational technology--like digital curriculums--to form a “blended” experience that captures the best of both. 

When you incorporate blended learning in your classroom, you foster an environment where students can engage most fully with your course material.

Why Blended Learning Matters

Usually, in a blended learning environment, traditional instruction introduces students to course material and focuses on hands-on skill and practice. The digital aspect is included to provide additional content that reinforces key concepts in students’ minds.

This multifaceted teaching style presses all of the buttons students need in order to learn. Roughly 70% of students claim they learn best in a blended learning environment, after all, and E-learning in particular can increase retention of information by up to 60%.

It’s only natural that as technology becomes more and more central to the lives of teachers and students, its importance to the educational process will continue to grow. Blended learning takes that philosophy and runs with it to provide a more interesting, engaging learning environment for students.

How You Can Include Blended Learning in Your Classroom

There are several blended learning strategies you can implement in your classroom, including:

  • Using multiple types of instructional resources ranging from textbooks, to free online resources, to test prep materials. Some lessons might be better taught from a textbook, while others are better suited for a video from a digital curriculum. By using the best resource for a lesson--changing it up as you go--, you’ll be capturing the essence of blended learning and keeping things fresh for your students to keep them attentive. 
  • Balancing old and new teaching techniques to find that sweet spot between traditional instruction and more experimental styles. Open with a classic lecture to introduce concepts to students before moving into a digital module to help them hone their skills. After all, blended learning doesn’t mean dumping old methods--just trying new ones!
  • Varying your assessments so that student performance is measured more comprehensively. Many students will check out of a class if they know there is only a single test or essay due at a unit’s end. Instead of that, perhaps intersperse your course with digital quizzes, presentations, or peer-assessed assignments that go beyond the typical stress-inducing test or essay.

Need More Strategies to Keep Business Students Engaged?

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Business education teachers like you may be satisfied implementing these strategies in your classroom to drive student engagement.

However, depending on the needs of your class, you may need even more in-depth techniques and insights to ensure your students are as invested as they should be.  

If you’re interested in a deeper look into the issue of student engagement and how to solve it in your classroom, check out our ebook Keeping Students Engaged in CTE.

This guide will provide you with tips and tricks from experts all over education to help you in making your class as engaging for your students as it is for you:

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