Between Summer and Fall 2020, about a dozen instructors who expressed having success with engaging students were interviewed about their strategies. This document summarizes key ideas. For responses to interview questions, see the Engaging Students Interview document.
- What is your vision for what a well-functioning course would look like?
- How can you describe what everyone needs to do to achieve your vision?
- Explain the options for engaging (chat, emoticons, raise hand, speaking, etc.).
- Express your expectations for frequency of participation.
- Share examples of the types of questions, comments, and discussion you want to see.
- Offer students low-stakes opportunities to practice questioning, commenting, discussing.
- Ask students to establish group norms for acceptable interactions.
- Address slumps in expected engagement by talking with students and making adjustments.
- Use techniques such as exit slips and in-class activities to provide opportunities for students to meet expectations rather than simply grading attendance.
- What are students’ needs given who they are (e.g., first-year) and where they’re located?
- How can you connect the content to students’ personal and cultural frames of reference?
- What do you share about you, and what is your in-class/on-screen presence like?
- How do you want students to relate to one another?
- Survey students to get to know about their backgrounds, majors, and professional interests.
- Tell stories about your experiences (professional, personal, observational) before class.
- Help students make social connections by sharing music, comics, books, and movies.
- Welcome students as they enter the class space (whether physical or virtual).
- Use announcements not only for reminders but also for opportunities and points of interest.
- Meet with each student individually or in groups at least once in the semester.
- Encourage, but do not require, the use of cameras and Zoom avatars.
- Use current contexts as a way to approach the course content.
- Plan activities that will prompt students to share and correct understandings with one another.
- What frequency is useful for you to check in with students?
- How can you set up students for success in their responses to your prompts?
- How can you use activities to reinforce the type of engagement you want from students?
- How can you use written and verbal cues and/or technology to initiate participation?
- Check in with students frequently (e.g., every ~5-8 minutes) to check on understanding.
- Let students know in advance if you’re going to call on them, so they can prepare.
- Pose questions using tools such as Zoom polls, chat, or Kahoot.
- Provide clear activity instructions and guidelines, including how you expect students to engage.
- Coach students during competitive or collaborative games or other compelling activities.
- Avoid overwhelming students by trying to do too much in too short a time.
- Remain for additional discussion after class ends.
- How can you structure collaborative experiences such that students will clearly benefit from working with their peers?
- Encourage in- and out-of-class collaboration using documents in Office 365 and Google Suite.
- Provide meaningful, 10+ minute assignments for small groups in Zoom Breakout rooms.
- Form groups according to logical clustering (e.g., time zone, topics of interest, etc.).
- Share examples of quality discussions and/or expected deliverables, so students can calibrate.
- Facilitate asynchronous conversation with tools like Canvas Discussions and Microsoft Teams.
- How can you check in with students about their feelings of curiosity, energy, and excitement?
- How can you motivate good work and accountability through feedback?
- How can you gauge students’ awareness of expectations for work?
- Use whiteboard annotations, chat, and polls to collect measures of students’ state of being.
- Implement periodic peer evaluation to reinforce student accountability for engaging.
- Implement regular low stakes assessments to help students take stock of their own understanding and determine where they need to budget time to engage more deeply.
Set the Scene
- How can you improve the hardware and software toolset within your instruction?
- Take advantage of two monitors to both share your screen and monitor class in Zoom through the participant list and chat.
- Explore functionality options in Canvas and Zoom to enhance your students’ experience.
- Identify a tool that supports the way you might present including options for annotation.
- Arrange your physical and/or virtual set up to best help convey your passion for the topic (e.g., stand in front of your home camera).
- Archive course meetings to support students who might have to miss class or those who want to review material again.