Woman writing on a whiteboard Photo courtesy of WOCinTech Chat

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned instructor, the dawn of a new semester is often one of the most overwhelming times of the year. There are syllabi to write, lectures to prepare and/or update, assessments to develop, and teaching assistants to train.

Unfortunately, all this preparation may be a sunk cost once you enter the classroom and realize you need to adapt your strategies based on class dynamics, size, room structure, or other variables out of your control.

After 20 years of teaching, Dr. James Lange from Assumption College has had numerous plans for classroom instruction upended. However, he shares the following four engagement strategies that always come through:

  1. Start with a writing exercise
    Begin class every week or so by having students write a half-page response to a prompt from the previous lecture or an assigned reading. Afterwards, encourage the students to discuss their responses. This is an effective way to get students primed for the day’s lecture while also bolstering their analytical and reflective skills.

  2. Tie everything together at the end of class
    Before they leave, give students five minutes to prepare a written reflection on the content discussed in lecture that day. You may ask them about real-world applications of theory, whether they’ve had any personal experiences with the subject, or how it compares to something they learned in another class.

    The exercise encourages students to pay attention and participate in lecture, while helping them cement new theories and concepts.

  3. Concept discussions
    Divide students into groups and assign them an article, paragraph, or concept to summarize and have them present it to the entire class. This fosters collaboration while also providing students with new ways of approaching concepts they may not have otherwise encountered.

  4. Polling
    Using electronic polling equipment or software, pose a question during lecture and have students select what they think is the correct response through their computers or smartphones. Afterwards, encourage class discussion after displaying the results. This will help identify whether students are understanding the lecture and whether you need to spend more time on a particular concept.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and marketing strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also a part-time faculty member at Centennial College and serves on the board of the Canadian Public Relations Society.