Any engaging class incorporates frequent student-driven participation, and in a perfect world, we would have engaged students 100% of the time. But, as we know, establishing an environment that encourages open discussion and participation can be quite the feat. Oftentimes, students aren’t comfortable sharing in large lectures, or they fail to come prepared, and stay quiet. Luckily, there are things you as the instructor can implement outside of the classroom that will ultimately encourage students to engage, discuss, and share with one another.
Preparing Ahead of Time
Pre-class work is always a great option to ensure your students come prepared and ready to participate. But rather than simply asking students to read a number of articles or pages from their textbooks ahead of class, consider incorporating a discussion component using Harmonize as a means to encourage asynchronous, collaborative discussions amongst students (and instructors alike). Harmonize is different from other discussion tools as it offers a “pinboard” style discussion. Students can build ideas off of one another, or add a variety of components to each post, including embedded URLs to websites, videos, and images, rather than just text responses. The collaborative nature of this kind of discussion is preferable to many students, and may foster more authentic discussions regarding shared ideas during class. Harmonize also offers a journaling feature, which can be private between students and instructors. Offering a private option to discuss with students is a great way to provide encouragement for apprehensive learners, and overtime develop confidence, which will translate into the classroom.
To establish an environment where students feel comfortable and open to learning, engaging, and sharing, it is important that you, as the instructor, provide opportunities for both your students to get to know you, and you to get to know your students. Consider requiring students to attend office hours once or twice throughout the semester. This can serve as informal an “check-in” with your students, providing a space for you to offer feedback and additional support, while simultaneously establishing a professional relationship that encourages students to perform their best in your class. Time and time again, students have expressed that knowing their professor cares about them as both a learner and a person makes the ultimate difference in their classroom experience. If your goal is to increase student engagement or participation, then the starting point might be creating a professional relationship that displays your concern for their experiences. For more reading about increasing attendance at office hours, see this guide from Stanford University about how to make the most of your office hours.
Meeting Students Where They’re At
If you already have students regularly attending office hours, or if you decide to implement mandatory office hour visits in the coming semester, consider holding your office hours or other meetings in student spaces, such as the Michigan League or Union. Offering your time in a student-friendly space could encourage students to attend your office hours out of both convenience and comfort, and studies show increased office hour attendance equals higher student achievement.
Instructor-led study sessions are another great way to increase participation in your class. We know that students can be apprehensive to share in their larger courses, so offering informal study sessions will appeal to those who prefer smaller settings. Sessions like these will also aid in creating relationships amongst students, which will ultimately encourage collaboration and willingness to share during the large class sessions. Providing students with a low-stakes platform to take risks can make all the difference in the actual classroom.
For more information about increasing participation in your classroom, schedule a consultation with the Learning and Teaching Consultants today!
Effective office hours. TeachingWriting - Stanford University. (n.d.). https://teachingwriting.stanford.edu/teaching/meeting-students/effective-office-hours
How to improve student engagement outside of the classroom. Kritik. (n.d.). https://www.kritik.io/resources/how-to-improve-student-engagement-outside-of-the-classroom#:~:text=Whether%20it%20be%20watching%20video,completing%20group%20work%20in%20class