What Binge Watching Tells us About Classroom Engagement

A recent survey by Netflix showed that more than 60% of people binge-watch between 2 and 6 episodes of a show in one sitting – that is an hour to six hours of content! When I attend education conferences and sit in on professional development sessions, I tend to cringe when experts tell teachers and administrators that students do not learn when they are seated all the time. They usually go on to say that if the lessons involved more movement and less “seat-time”, more students would be engaged.

Do you know how much movement is involved when my younger brother aimlessly watches Youtube on his tablet for hours?

Almost none.

Today’s Population Is Programmed to Sit

Today, Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to their screens. Whether it’s watching TV, working at a computer, or browsing their smartphones, people are becoming more and more attached to their devices. While some do it for work purposes, others choose to spend this much time on their devices for recreational purposes. They enjoy binge-watching Netflix and playing video games like Fortnite.

We have all walked into a meeting or a training session before where all we saw were people checking their phones. We have all also watched movies or shows that have gone hours on end. The fact of the matter is that if the lesson or meeting does not engage them, they will find something else to do.

Teachers Need to Boost Engagement

Two out of every three high school students in a large survey say they are bored in class every day. Worse yet, a whopping 75% of students say lessons just aren’t interesting. In response to boredom, educators and experts have been calling for regular movement as a way to boost engagement and reduce disruption.

While movement and physical activities in school are important, there is no scientific evidence that sitting for a couple of hours leads to reduced engagement. We need to stop blaming the kids and making excuses for the adults.

We need to make lessons more fun and engaging, not necessarily just getting kids moving. Instead of citing too much seat time as the cause for disruption and lack of engagement, we’d like to propose another culprit: teachers are not creating engaging enough lessons. It is safe to say that if teachers created or taught lessons that were fun and engaging kids and adults alike will sit still – and reducing seat time might not be that much of a problem.

I tend to cringe when experts tell teachers and administrators that students do not learn when they are seated all the time.

Changing Your Classroom Environment

To boost engagement and reduce disruption, you also need to find a classroom strategy that is proactive and easy to implement. Here are three steps to achieving this:

1 - Observe

Before you can create the ultimate classroom strategy to engage your students, you need to evaluate your specific situation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of disruptive behavior happens in your classroom?

  • What time of day are students least engaged?

  • Do disruptions happen in specific areas of your classroom? I.e. at the back or front of the class.

  • Does the surrounding environment distract students from your lesson?

The key is to observe student behavior while also establishing whether or not you have created the best learning environment for them.

2- Modify

Once you know which aspects of your classroom and lessons work and which ones don’t, you need to make changes. You could:

  • Add stimulating visuals to your classroom

  • Reduce clutter and create more space between students

  • Divide your classroom between individual and group activities

  • Improve the acoustic quality of the room

  • Adjust the lighting, temperature, and airflow of the classroom

  • Reevaluate your lesson plans to make them more fun and entertaining

The key is to make sure that your students are comfortable while also creating a productive and engaging space for them to learn. You also need to have a clear line of sight so that you can answer any questions and see to students that need extra help.

3- Follow-Up

Once you find a system that works, follow-up on the changes you’ve made to keep your students engaged in their lessons. What works one month could stop working the following one. You need to stay active and alert to create an effective classroom environment all year round.

Adapting your lesson plans and the way you interact with your students will hugely influence what they take away from the classroom. Unfortunately, finding the time to redesign your lesson plans while also putting together your curriculum can be difficult.  

Working with a team of professionals with a track record of successfully implementing programs will give you back time to focus on your individual students, making sure that they are receiving the education they deserve.