Engage Students with Activities

You, as the expert, can design activities to help students think more critically about the content. This can be achieved inside the classroom while you are there to facilitate discussion and correct misconceptions. Activities can help the students link disparate pieces of information together, scaffold the skills and concepts they need to construct knowledge, facilitate and guide questions, and link the knowledge to its application in the outside world.  Have students:

  • Brainstorm an idea at the beginning of the class before you present the material, then debrief and the end of class
  • Fill in instructor-prepared system charts using the information presented
  • Develop a matrix of key concepts presented in the lecture. Give them one minute to write after each main idea
  • Answer short open-ended questions by writing a few sentences and then discussing with a partner
  • Draw concept maps to link together pieces of information
  • Write predictions about an outcome you are about to reveal
  • Chose the “best” answer from among different outcomes to a short case study
  • Walk the instructor through the steps needed to solve a question for the day
  • Evaluate writing or problems that have been written by someone else (anonymous, maybe even you).
  • Develop a rubric for an excellent paper.

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Engage Students with Lectures

The engaging lecture can be a rewarding experience for our students. Lectures that open up a window on the teachers mind or relate exciting research experiences can be highly motivating.

To keep students engaged you can build variety into your delivery by “chunking” the class into sections of around 15 minutes. Use a shift in energy, change the focus, change the stimulus, or change the means of delivery.

  • Include music, visuals, pictures, quotes, and stories to tap into students’ emotions
  • Show a short video clip to relate the material to the real world
  • Move to a different part of the room
  • Use electronic devices to ask students to reflect on what has been said in the last 15 minutes
  • Use clickers to check for common misconceptions
  • Ask students to talk to the person next to them to tell them what they have learned in the last 15 minutes
  • Bring in a guest speaker, either physically or virtually

When planning an engaging lecture, ask yourself:  “And what will my students be doing?”  Consider how the students will be involved in their learning and what you can do to facilitate the best learning.

Engage Students with Real-life Applications

The more you can apply what you are teaching to students’ day-to-day lives or what’s going on in the world today, the more motivated and engaged students will be.  Real-life applications can tap into or awaken curiosity and give more value and meaning to what they are learning.  Consider the following ways to provide opportunities for authentic encounters with the material:

  • Invite guest speakers to talk about how the course content is used in the field
  • Relate some of the interesting aspects of your own or other research around UT
  • Feature relevant articles in newspapers, journals or magazines to make connections to current events and the culture.
  • Introduce case studies where students have to grapple with the “messy” real-world issues

NEXT: Design your class to be interactive