Research & Insights
September 14, 2020

State of Engagement Report 2020

GoGuardian Research Team

Why Engagement Matters

Amid a rapidly shifting educational context, identifying the components of an engaging learning experience is crucial. These findings can serve as fundamental principles for those interested in creating engaging learning experiences in traditional or digital classroom environments.


Engagement has proven to have a positive relationship with student outcomes, especially in student reading, math and science, and ELA scores. With the strong evidence indicating the importance of engagement for student outcomes, GoGuardian conducted a qualitative research study on engagement. After a methodology of interviews, focus groups, and field observations with over 450 students, teachers, school administrators, and education policy leaders, we found remarkable consistency as it relates to the elements of engagement, the factors that affect engagement in the learning experience, the indicators that signal an engaging learning experience is occurring, and the expectations for how an engaging learning experience prepares students for the 21st century.

With the changing landscape of K-12 education and the sudden shift to distance learning, these findings are additionally examined in comparison to existing literature on the factors that influence engagement in an online learning context. In sum, the study describes the themes that consistently emerge in relation to engaging learning experiences, highlighting commonalities across geographies, grade levels, and stakeholder groups, and placing the findings into the context of today’s hybrid learning environment.

6 insights from the research

  1. Engagement in a learning experience is difficult to measure, but easily recognized by teachers, school leaders, and students.
  2. The factors enabling an engaging learning experience remain remarkably consistent for both in-person and online learning.
  3. Factors that influence student engagement in the learning experience occur at the district, school, and classroom level—with personal circumstances further shaping the experience.
  4. Engaging learning experiences are characterized by students carrying the cognitive load, a sense of urgency, and opportunities for interactivity.
  5. Consistent indicators of an engaging learning experience are clearly observable in classrooms and among students; a few examples include auditory signals, emotional responses, and body language.
  6. Educational experiences that effectively prepare students for the 21st century teach the fundamentals of literacy, critical thinking, and the interpersonal and intrapersonal skills necessary for collaboration.

The Authors

Mariana Aguilar | Director Of Research

Mariana leads the Research team at GoGuardian, a team dedicated to enhancing GoGuardian's understanding of the digital learning experience and how to drive learning outcomes.

Kayla Sheldon | Research Associate

With a background in cyberpsychology and social-cognition, Kayla is currently focused on evaluating the impact of GoGuardian’s products on student engagement and well-being.

Rachel Ahrens | Research Associate

With a background in sociology of education, Rachel currently focuses on understanding the digital learning experience to maximize outcomes.

Phil Janowicz | Strategic Research Advisor

Phil has over 13 years of experience in education in academia and industry related to online learning as a former tenured professor and director of digital content. He currently focuses on working with university partners to understand the many facets of the digital learning experience.


  1. Gallagher, T., Bennett, S., Keen, D., & Muspratt, S. (2017). Examining learner engagement strategies: Australian and Canadian teachers’ self-report. Teacher Education and Special Education. 40. 51-64. doi: 10.1177/0888406416654213.
  2. Singh, K., Granville, M., & Dika, S. (2002). Mathematics and science achievement: Effects of motivation, interest, and academic engagement. The Journal of Educational Research, 95(6), 323-332.
  3. Reyes, M. R., Brackett, M. A., Rivers, S. E., White, M., & Salovey, P. (2012). Classroom emotional climate, student engagement, and academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(3), 700.


As the world of digital learning accelerates, GoGuardian believes it is critical that we study and understand the impact of the digital learning experience on student outcomes. Our research and insights are focused on understanding how the digital learning experience can be improved to maximize achievement in the classroom while unleashing curiosity.

At GoGuardian, we believe the internet is a learning tool and that education solutions are only as valuable as the impact they provide. So as Researchers, it is our job to conduct experiments and gather insights on the impact of the digital learning experience on students and schools.