Thursday, March 12, 2015

Increasing Engagement in a College Classroom

A lot of college professors don't come from an education background.  They are incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable about their subject areas but don't know as much about how to help students retain that information.  Elementary, middle, and high school teachers spend a lot of time learning about how to keep students engaged and what types of activities help students truly learn material.  I'm not sure what we let that go when students get to college.

I currently teach at a couple 2-year community colleges.  My students range from high schoolers to individuals old enough to be my parent.  Just like when I taught high school and middle school my students have a variety of learning styles and needs.  Sometimes, in class, I see students zoning out and missing important information that I'm providing.  I think college professors need to do more to help their students succeed, and that means increasing engagement and even some differentiation.

I am not advocating that we do away with all lectures.  Learning to listen, focus, and take notes on just the most important things are crucial skills.  However, I think that needs to be balanced out with other learning opportunities.  Our end game should always be that students know the material- how we get them there shouldn't matter too much.

Here are some of the strategies I use in my college classroom.  So far, I have been met with little to no resistance from the students.  In fact, with several of them I've been told that they're fun, interesting activities or assignments.  Some of what follows is specific to an English classroom but some can be used in many subject areas.



1.  Journal Entries- I have three sets (trying to finish a fourth) that I choose from and post for the first 5 minutes of class every day.

2.  Task Cards- Some I've come up with some I've purchased from other sellers.  I even started making my students move around the room.

3.  YouTube Videos- There are some really creative people out there who have created awesome videos.  It really helps break up my classes.

4.  PowerPoints- These truly help my visual students and keep me focused and on topic.  (I'm guilty of being a rambler, anyone else?)

5.  Background Music- I find instrumental music to be relaxing and calming when students are working quietly.  It also makes me less likely to interrupt.  (I don't do well with silence.)

6.  Greeting the class- Every day I start with asking my class how their lives are going.  It's been proven time and time again that students need to feel valued.  I also share a little about my life.

7.  Exit Tickets- I'll ask students to write the answer to a question down on a slip of paper as they leave so I know if they understood the most recent concept covered.

8.  Pop Quizzes- I rarely announce a quiz.  This helps to encourage students to come to class and to keep up with the readings.  I keep them short, 5 questions typically, so they are easy to grade.

How do you engage your students?  What techniques from your high school classroom could still work in the college classroom?

Thanks for reading!

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