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Health Science | Student Engagement

6 Top Ways to Keep Health Science CTE Students Engaged

August 26th, 2021 | 6 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through teaching experience of his own, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for AES, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students through listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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Every health science teacher knows the struggle of teaching students who are bored and unengaged. When students feel as though they do not have agency in the learning process, they become disinterested and detached.

It can be incredibly discouraging as a teacher when your students aren’t fully committed to your class. You want to do more to keep your students happy and engaged than simply throw in a random game or turn on a movie.

In this article, you’ll find six ways you can keep students in your health science CTE classes more focused and better engaged as they study essential course material.

The six strategies we’ll discuss are:

  1. Provide situations and examples relatable to health science students
  2. Promote active learning over passive learning
  3. Add learning games to mix things up
  4. Make connections between with your experiences in the field
  5. Role play scenarios your students may encounter as healthcare professionals
  6. Try blended learning

After reading this post, you’ll be better prepared to keep students focused and learning in your classroom.

Related Resources to Boost Engagement in Your Classes:

1. Provide Situations and Examples Relatable to Health Science Students

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Often, one of the most common causes of learners disengaging from a class is the perception that the material is not relevant to their personal situations. Examples that feel abstract and remote give the impression that course material is inaccessible or even unimportant.

Your students are young, diverse individuals with unique perspectives and experiences. Your lessons should feel relevant to them and reflect their personal differences while making connections to the real world.

When students can make connections to their own lives and future goals, they have more ownership and interest in the course material. Being able to talk about course material in the context of their personal experience boosts learners’ engagement. They feel they have something of value to bring to classroom conversations and are more likely to come to class prepared and focused, ready to respond to what others have to say.

2. Promote Active Learning Over Passive Learning

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Another way to easily increase student engagement with your courses is to regularly promote active learning in the classroom.

Too often, students are subject to only passive learning in their classes. Teachers present information verbally while students remain in their seats, sitting, listening, and watching. Students receive a lot of information in passive learning settings, but without active participation from each learner, how many of those details do they retain?

On the other hand, active learning requires students to interact and become involved in the learning process. Instead of compelling your students to passively listen for the entire class period, you can promote active learning by introducing ways for students to engage with course material and their peers.

Two simple ways you can encourage active learning are by including regular class discussions and critical thinking and decision-making exercises.

Implement Active Learning with Class Discussions

Few things do more to motivate student participation than a well-organized class discussion.

Your health science CTE courses are filled with opportunities for learners to talk to each other and connect current content to everyday issues that they will encounter in their careers.

The beauty of class discussions is that they allow students who are already beginning to master class material to reinforce their learning by verbally explaining critical concepts. Meanwhile, students in need of additional support benefit from hearing from their classmates and paraphrasing ideas in their own words.

As a teacher, these discussions are your way to bring the class together, reiterate key ideas, and ensure every learner is on the same page.

Focus on Critical Thinking and Decision Making Exercises

Activities involving critical thinking and decision-making are valuable extensions of the class discussion. These exercises promote active learning and prepare students for the real-life challenges of working in the health science field.

Critical thinking scenarios require students to discern, discuss, and decide important issues related to health science. By wrestling with decision-making exercises, they will gain a greater mastery of the material and be ready to face similar situations in the future.

You can apply these active-learning exercises in larger, full class discussions and smaller student groups, allowing you to vary your instruction and help bring out the best in your students.

3. Add Learning Games to Mix Things Up

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When your learners tire of regular lessons, you can overcome boredom by introducing fun learning games that refresh students’ memories.

Learning games are a reliable tool for prompting students to recall class material because they create a sense of friendly competition in the classroom. When they can play a game, learners are more likely to come prepared to do their best and actively participate. 

Games add variety to the regular classroom routine, and teachers can implement them to reach different types of learners. These activities work particularly well when helping students memorize complex concepts, such as medical terminology.

A fun game of Pictionary or a relay race can make the often difficult task of reviewing critical exam material far more enjoyable for students.

For more ideas on how you can use learning games to help your students succeed, read: 4 Engaging Medical Terminology Games to Boost Student Motivation.

4. Make Connections with Your Experiences in the Field

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If you are a teacher with previous experience working directly in a health science field, you can be a precious resource when sharing your experiences with your students.

You know firsthand that the lessons students are learning now will be essential to their success in health science careers. But sometimes, learners need a little extra encouragement to know that mastering the content in your course will someday help them serve others.

By communicating genuine examples of how studying the content in your course helped you in the field, such as using CPR or an AED in an emergency situation, you become an authentic resource students trust and listen to.

5. Role Play Scenarios Your Students May Encounter as Healthcare Professionals

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Role-playing is another opportunity to get students out of their seats and engaged with critical material in your health science CTE classes. While skill and procedure demonstrations are a common form of role play, it does not have to end there.

There are many situations your learners might encounter when working in healthcare facilities, such as listening to the needs of patients or communicating with a care team.

When implementing scenario-based role-playing, ask your students to act out what they would do in a given situation and give them helpful feedback that will guide them to become adept healthcare professionals.

Overall, role-playing in a group setting helps students stay engaged as they develop essential soft skills like communication, professionalism, and teamwork.

6. Try Blended Learning

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A final way you can boost student engagement is to try integrating blended learning into your classroom. Blended learning is an educational approach that relies on multiple teaching methods to help students learn more effectively than with a single process.

Most often, blended learning is a combination of traditional classroom instruction and digital learning. In this approach, digital learning augments the teaching, practice, discussion, and collaboration of conventional instruction with additional content elements.

Digital curriculum is not the only blended learning strategy available to teachers. Educators can also vary instructional materials, try new teaching techniques, and vary student assessment.

For more information about the different types of blended learning approaches, read our article on the Top 7 Blended Learning Strategies for CTE.

Keeping Your Students Engaged in Health Science CTE

Keeping your students engaged is one of the biggest challenges you will face in teaching CTE health science today. Thankfully, there are many ways to keep your students focused and learning.

Each of the methods in this article can go a long way to keeping learners interested in health science courses. But if you are looking for more strategies to keep students engaged, you can download our free eBook, “Keeping Students Engaged in CTE.”

This free resource includes tips and tricks from instructional designers, students, and educators like you. You’ll learn more about what’s killing student engagement, why “forced learning” doesn’t work, and how using technology can increase engagement.

Get Your eBook: Improve Engagement in Your Classroom