Joseph Thomson

Primary Teacher

Kilsyth Primary

  • Digital Learning: Pupil Engagement

What impact does online social interaction have on pupil engagement?


The purpose of this enquiry is to answer the question “Does online social interaction have an effect on pupil engagement?” In other words, if a live meeting is arranged with the class to give them a chance to interact on a social level with their classmates and the teacher, are they more likely to stay online and engage with the online learning for that day. Subsequently, will they continue to engage on days when there is no or little social interaction with their classmates. 


To answer this question, we also need to look at what effect social interaction normally has on the children within the classroom environment, and can this type of interaction be successfully recreated online? Children normally sit side by side with their classmates and are able to talk and discuss their work with them. This type of social interaction in the classroom can help with the development of the children’s problem-solving skills and cognitive operations (Doise, 1975). By working together, the children are able to solve problems together which they may struggle with separately by sharing their thought processes and thinking with each other. They will also have time during break and lunch to interact socially through play and chat. This kind of interaction is important to a child’s social development and is vital particularly in the case of autistic children who may find these types of social interactions difficult. The school is a place where work can be done to improve their social skills in a controlled environment (William Stainback, 1982) This kind of interaction is extremely hard to replicate online. One way this can be done is through live catch-up sessions mediated by the class teacher, through teams.  The children would be encouraged to switch on their camera for these meetings as being able to see their classmates would hopefully help encourage interaction between the children. One difficulty with online learning is making sure the children engage in the learning and do not switch off or drop out of the learning system. A study into further education suggested if students are encouraged to engage in online socially interactive lessons then the dropout rate will be less and the engagement level can be maintained (Wei Wang, 2019). But does this stand true for the primary school environment? Would the children engage in the learning more if they knew there was an online social interaction with their classmates and teacher?

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