Getting engagement in the classroom

On Monday I went to a Flipped Learning forum where 3 academics talked about how they were getting engagement in the classroom and amongst the students.

I came away with a number of interesting and useful ideas and I thought I’d share a couple here.

One of the academics in Engineering shared about how explicit she makes everything. Engineers are upfront souls generally, I’ve found, soundly pragmatic, and find it hard to sometimes see the point of things that are less technical and more interpersonal/psychosocial. So she makes things clear, like:
– They need to know the types of maths they should be competent in already
– They need a certain amount of hours a week to study, and she gets them to think about that. Too often, we see students trying to work full-time and study full-time. My personal view is that is sheer idiocy. It leaves no room for any form of life – relationships, exercise, downtime, sleep!
– She uses pre-videos that they can watch to get some understanding of what they do and do not know, before they come to class
– She gets them to a pre-lecture question in SPARKplus to be able to highlight how and where they are going wrong – this allows her to emphasise different elements in the lectures depending on what they’re struggling with
– She gets them to participate in problem solving in class

She also had some great analogies. I think that helping students understand where they are on the ladder to understanding and the ladder to passing fits well with the adult learning principles. Helping learners be aware of where they are and how far they need to go to pass is pretty critical. Another thing she did was encourage learners to make mistakes. I think this is also pretty important.

Another element that fits really well in adult learning principles is that she uses real world examples. Adult learners need to understand why they are learning things – fitting theories and problems that are elementary into where they sit in the real world.

The second academic in business shared how in his class, a class on accounting regulations, many students do not have strong reading skills and are often “preparing to hate” it. The class involves subjective judgements and blurry lines, which is hard for accounting students usually focussed on one correct answer. He uses a 4 pronged approach:
1. Provide context for their learning – e.g. how the regulation of charities really matters so funds get where they are supposed to (e.g. the ALS ice bucket challenge)
2. Story telling
3. Real world tasks
4. Support – emailing the students so that they are invited to contact him if they’ve done really poorly after the first assessment

Another thing that he mentioned in support is not calling it a “consultation” but a one-hour drop in class – it means that students are more likely to come by calling it a “class”.

The fhird academic talked about strategies starting from orientation and week 1 to get the students engaging with each other. Such as interviewing each other in the first big class, having lunch at DAB cafe, Facebook interaction, Twitter dedicated hashtag, blog and using Annotate and getting recent alumni back to talk about the jobs they are in and how they got there.

Anyway, I found the whole thing useful and interesting.


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About Georgina Barratt-See

Georgina manages the UTS U:PASS (UTS Peer Assisted Study Success) program, which assists students in 50 first and second year subjects with study sessions run by trained student facilitators. Georgina has 14 years experience in the Higher Education sector with interests in student leadership, mentoring, first year experience, teaching and learning.

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