Strategies to engage your students in learning

Students discussing in a groupAt TLS, we regularly receive questions from instructors asking for ideas to enhance their teaching and improve students’ engagement in class. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions and responded with teaching strategy suggestions. These suggestions include brief descriptions and examples that we’ve chosen based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types.

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If you’d like to talk with us about how to implement any of these or other teaching strategies within your particular teaching context, tls [at] mcgill.ca (contact us) for a one-on-one consultation.

Check out more teaching strategies here and recommended resources.

Click on a question and scroll down to see suggested strategies!

How do I ensure that students are prepared for class?

First day course outline/myCourses scavenger hunt

Instructions:

  1. Display a short list of questions on the screen (or distribute on paper) that will draw students’ attention to important information in the course outline and/or to main features of the course website.
  2. Using a mobile device (e.g., laptop or tablet), have students work in pairs or small groups to search for the answers.
  3. Ask students to post the answers to a designated myCourses discussion forum.

Read a more detailed description of this strategy.

Examples:

  • Where are the assignments and assessments described?
  • On which days will there be in-class quizzes?
  • What’s the policy in this course for the use of electronic devices in the classroom?
  • What does the policy on Academic Integrity say? Summarize it in 140 characters.

Questions from readings

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to create questions on assigned readings focusing on main ideas.
  2. Instruct students to post questions before class to a myCourses discussion forum. These questions can inform your lesson planning and be used as the basis for in-class discussions.

Variations:

  • Students address questions in the myCourses discussion forum prior to class.
  • Questions are assigned to small groups for in-class discussions.

3-2-1: Purposeful reading

Instructions:

  1. Inform students which reading they need to address for this activity. Then, give students the following instructions:
    1. Describe the three most important aspects of the reading (e.g., concepts, issues, factual information), justifying your choices.
    2. Identify two aspects you don’t understand, and briefly discuss why these confusing aspects interfered with your general understanding.
    3. Compose a question that you would want to pose to the author of the text, the answer to which should go beyond the reading content and your two areas of confusion.
  2. Have students submit their 3-2-1s online through myCourses before the class where the reading will discussed.
  3. Review students’ submission before class to see what they’ve understood and what their areas of difficulty are.

Variations

Van Gyn, G. (2013, May 6). The little assignment with the big impact: Reading, writing, critical reflection, and meaningful discussion. Faculty Focus [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/the-little-as...

Test-taking teams: Readiness assurance

Instructions:

  1. Prior to class, assign a reading that addresses key concepts related to the material students will encounter in that class.
  2. Create an assessment with multiple-choice questions that address key concepts from the reading. Create the questions carefully so that the answers are not all immediately obvious and therefore require discussion.
  3. At the beginning of class, have students complete the assessment individually.
  4. Form small groups of students.
  5. In their groups, have students agree on the best answer to each question and justify their response. Groups should agree on answers via consensus rather than majority vote.
  6. Reconvene as a whole class, and ask a representative from each group to indicate the agreed-upon response.
  7. Discuss any variability in responses, addressing questions that arise. Explain that these concepts will provide the framework for the day’s class.

Examples:

In an education class that addresses curriculum instruction, a question that encourages discussion and draws students’ attention to key points of the reading is posed:

Which of the following best describes the meaning of the author’s phrase “novice culture” in characterizing aspects of many universities’ approaches to improving learning?

  1. The university promotes mentoring between “novices” (students) and “experts” (instructors).
  2. Students establish their own communities of practice, assimilating knowledge from peers.
  3. Reform and improvement efforts are more often mechanical and particularistic, rather than based in systematic research and the wisdom of practice.
  4. A culture that emphasizes the role of the student as a beginner, who requires the guidance of more qualified leaders to learn.

Variations:

Have students vote for the most suitable responses using online polling.

How do I encourage discussion in class? Even with large classes?

The first few suggestions lend themselves particularly well to large classes.

Think-Pair-Share

Instructions:

  1. Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  2. Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  3. Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  4. Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.

Examples:

  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.

Variations:

  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Polar opposites

Instructions:

  1. Present the class with two versions of a theory (or corollary or law of nature), of which one is incorrect. For instance, one could be the opposite of the other. 
  2. Have students examine the problem carefully to determine which version is correct. 

Example:

In a physics course: Heavier objects always fall faster than lighter ones; heavier objects do not always fall faster than lighter ones.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Picture prompt

Instructions:

  1. Show students an image—related to course content—with no explanation.
  2. Ask them to
    1. identify/explain it and justify their answers or
    2. write about it using terms from your lecture or
    3. name the processes and concepts shown.
  3. Do not give “answers” until students have explored all options.

Variations:

  • Have students work in small groups.
  • Begin the class by displaying a picture or cartoon meant to provoke an emotional reaction or discussion.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Town meeting discussion

  1. Introduce a topic or case problem.
  2. As objectively as possible, provide background information and a summary of opposing viewpoints. Use documents and visuals if necessary.
  3. Solicit students’ viewpoints using a “call on the next speaker” approach: the student who finishes speaking calls on the next student speaker (from among students with raised hands).

Suggest students speak briefly so that many students can participate. Establish a time limit if appropriate.

Example:

In a political science course: Gerrymandering is the process of intentionally changing voting districts’ geographical boundaries. While some people claim that gerrymandering is an unjust manipulation of power by elected officials, other people insist that it is a justified approach to district reallocation that allows elected officials to create a legacy for their political party and constituents. State your point of view and discuss.

Variation:

In lieu of the instructor presenting opposing viewpoints, have students present them.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 86.

Brainstorming

Instructions:

  1. Set a time limit.
  2. State the issue.
  3. Have students generate ideas regarding the issue.
  4. Have students categorize, combine, condense and refine ideas.
  5. Do a whole class debrief.

Example:

In a human resources course, students suggest strategies to ensure that a hiring process (from posting a position announcement through the interview process and the job offer) is run equitably. Given a specific context (employment sector, position requirements, workplace environment), students brainstorm what strategies can be used in terms of communications, outreach, interview set-up and interview questions, and discuss potential challenges they might expect.

Variations:

  1. Students articulate the relationships among the ideas.
  2. Complement brainstorming with a mind mapping activity.

Brainstorming can be combined with other strategies, such as:

Wisdom of another

Instructions:

  1. After any individual brainstorming or creative activity, pair students up to share their results.
  2. Call for volunteers who found their partner’s work to be interesting or exemplary to share that work with the whole class. Students are sometimes more willing to share in plenary the work of fellow students than their own work.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Truth statements

Instructions:

  1. Either to introduce a topic or check comprehension, ask students to list “It is true that ...” statements on the topic being discussed.
  2. Engage the class in discussion where questionable statements have been made.

Examples:

In a sociology course:

  • The once-feared Thalidomide has always been recognized as a cancer fighting drug.
  • Vaccines have always been erroneously linked to autism.

 

(These two statements are excerpted from: Beloit College. (2016). Mindset List for the Class of 2020. Retrieved from https://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2020/). 
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Questions from readings

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to create questions on assigned readings focusing on main ideas.
  2. Instruct students to post questions before class to a myCourses discussion forum. These questions can inform your lesson planning and be used as the basis for in-class discussions.

Variations:

  • Students address questions in the myCourses discussion forum prior to class.
  • Questions are assigned to small groups for in-class discussions. 

Buzz groups

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into small groups.
  2. Assign students a specific problem to solve or a question to address. Allot a set amount of time for students to engage in the task; enforce the time limit.
  3. Ask students to briefly present their findings to the whole class so that you can respond to comments and encourage discussion.

Example:

In a communications class for engineers, students receive a technical manual and are asked to re-write different sections to make them accessible to a non-expert audience.

Variation:

When students present their findings, challenge groups to contribute only ideas that haven’t yet been mentioned. 

Focused listing

Note: Focused listing need not take more than a few minutes. It can be used before or after instruction.

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to take out a sheet of paper and generate a list based on a specific topic. Let students know how much time they have to create their list.
  2. Have students share their lists in small groups and identify the two or three most important points.
  3. Have students share the most important points with the whole class.

Examples:

  • In an educational psychology course, students provide examples of defining characteristics of Piaget’s stages of cognitive development.
  • In a political science course, students identify the pros and cons of a government’s proposed course of action currently in the news.

Variations:

  • Students make a focused list prior to the discussion and then add to the list—correcting any prior misconceptions—at the end of the class period.
  • Students brainstorm in small groups and type their lists.
  • You can combine Focused Listing with 4 Corners (also known as Write around the Room).

Roundtable writing

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups of four.
  2. Communicate a time limit for this activity that will allow all group members an opportunity to participate.
  3. Display a discussion prompt on the screen or board.
  4. Ask students to pass around a sheet of paper clockwise on which they write—in short phrases or sentences—their respective responses to the prompt.
  5. Have students read their responses aloud in their groups so that peers can reflect upon them while the paper moves around the group.
  6. Conclude with a whole-class discussion of students’ responses.

Example:

In a course on scientific principles, this prompt is shown to the class: “Identify important scientific discoveries of the 20th Century in the field of medicine.”

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 299.

Variations:

  • Use fairly simple, straightforward prompts that keep the paper moving around the group.
  • Encourage student to respond or build on) the comments of those who have already written on the sheet.
  • Use in conjunction with the “muddiest point” strategy: students write down their muddiest point, check those muddiest points that have already been written by others and expand as appropriate. Follow up by facilitating a discussion of the muddiest points.
  • One student can assume the role of Scribe. The Scribe writes down each student’s responses on a computer, creating a file that can be saved and emailed to the group participants or the whole class.

Mind mapping

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to identify key concepts about a topic.
  2. Provide students with examples of various mind map (visual representation) formats that can be used to express relationships among concepts. The examples should illustrate the use of basic elements, such as boxes, arrows (uni- or multi-directional), simple hierarchical relationships or “webs” coming from one central point.
  3. Have students create a mind map of the relationship among the key concepts.
  4. Ask students to compare and contrast their mind maps in pairs, working towards a single map that incorporates all agreed-upon elements.

Examples:

  • In an international relations course, students create a visual representation of the purposes, scope, impact and reach of the United Nations.
  • In a pharmacology course, students create a critical distinctions chart to compare and demonstrate the differences among similar drugs.
  • In a biology course, students draw the phases of mitosis, including a labelled diagram of the cell at each phase.

Variation:

Use software to develop maps in small groups on computers; have students share their maps with other students either in class or in online in myCourses.

4 corners (write around the room)

Instructions:

  1. Post large sheets of paper in each corner of the classroom. Each sheet of paper should have a different question written on it that relates to a topic being discussed in that class.
  2. Form groups.
  3. Provide each group with markers.
  4. Have each group move to a corner and brainstorm a list in response to the question posed. Set and keep a time limit for this activity to ensure that students have sufficient time at each of the corners.
  5. Have groups move clockwise to the next corner and add to the previous group’s responses. There should be no repetitions in responses. Only new responses should be added.
  6. Bring the class together for a whole-group discussion of the contents of each list.

Example:

In an English literature course: What are recurring features of Lord Byron’s poetry? How do these stylistic elements hint at his intended audience? What are the key traits of the Byronic hero?

Variations:

  • Students can put a check mark next to previously listed responses that are consistent with their lists.
  • Once students have completed this activity, they might organize the results using concept mapping so as to further solidify their understanding of the concepts’ relation to one another.

Directed questioning

Instructions:

  1. Pose engaging and challenging questions.
  2. Ask students to work in groups to respond to the questions.
  3. Have students report their responses.

Example:

In a case law course, give student groups a question such as “What are two decisions that support your position? Explain your reasoning.”

Lecture reaction

Instructions:

  1. After a lecture, divide the class into four groups:
    1. Questioners, who ask two questions related to the material
    2. Example givers, who provide applications
    3. Divergent thinkers, who must disagree with some points of the lecture
    4. Agreers, who explain which points they agreed with or found helpful
  2. Allow students time to prepare their thoughts.
  3. Engage the whole class in a discussion where students contribute their questions and perspectives.

Variation:

Students have a discussion in groups of four, where each member has one of the four roles.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

How do I get students to ask good questions?

Learning starts with a question

Instructions:

  1. Distribute an instructional handout, such as a chart, diagram, image or text that will stimulate students’ curiosity.
  2. Ask students to study the handout with a partner.
  3. Ask pairs to write questions next to content they don’t understand.
  4. Call the class together and respond to students’ questions.
Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 94.

Think-Pair-Share

Instructions:

  1. Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  2. Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  3. Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  4. Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.

Examples:

  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.

Variations:

  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Student questions - group decided

Instructions:

  1. Stop the class.
  2. Group students into fours.
  3. Ask students to take five minutes to decide on the one question they think is crucial for you to answer right now.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Student-generated questions

Instructions:

  1. At the start of the semester, pass out index cards.
  2. Ask students to individually write questions about the class and their expectations.
  3. Ask students to rotate the cards through the room, with each student adding a check-mark if they agree this question is important for them.
  4. Collect the cards and use them throughout the course to address students’ most frequent questions.

Variation:

On a day when you will address an especially challenging topic in class, ask students to write a question about the topic based on the associated readings for that day.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Student-generated questions based on peers' presentations

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into small groups in which each student will give a brief, prepared oral presentation on a topic that builds on course readings and class discussions.
  2. Explain that students listening to the presentations should write 1 or 2 questions that address the presentation content in relation to course content.
  3. Ask students to submit their questions to you. These questions can subsequently be used for in-class or online discussion, for preparing students for an upcoming exam, or as prompts for subsequent assignments.

Variations:

  • In small classes, presentations can be given to the whole class rather than to small groups.
  • In large classes, questions can be submitted by pairs or groups.

How do I move away from traditional lectures so that I capture students’ attention and have more interaction with them? Even in large classes?

Ten-two - Interactive lecture

Instructions:

  1. Share information with students (e.g., through lecture, presentation) for ten minutes.
  2. Stop for two minutes while students, in pairs, summarize/recap the content or address a question you’ve posed.
  3. Ask if students have questions.
  4. Repeat the procedure.

Example:

In a course on U.S. History of the 20th Century, the instructor asks students to summarize the economic impact of the Great Depression on the North American labour market in the 1930s and 1940s.

Variations:

  • Encourage students to pair up with different peers each time this activity is carried out.
  • Pairs can pair up (making groups of 4 students) to summarize the 3-5 key points or “take-aways” from the class session.
  • This activity may be used when students are watching peers’ presentations.

Picture prompt

Instructions:

  1. Show students an image—related to course content—with no explanation.
  2. Ask them to
    1. identify/explain it and justify their answers or
    2. write about it using terms from your lecture or
    3. name the processes and concepts shown.
  3. Do not give “answers” until students have explored all options.

Variations:

  • Have students work in small groups.
  • Begin the class by displaying a picture or cartoon meant to provoke an emotional reaction or discussion.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Think break

Instructions:

  1. Ask a question.
  2. Allow 20 seconds for students to think about the question before you go on to address it.

Variation:

Have students write a response while you also write a response.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Updating notes

Instructions:

  1. Every 10-15 minutes, pause your lecture to allow students a few minutes to compare their class notes so far with other students, fill in gaps, and develop joint questions.
  2. Solicit questions from students.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Word cloud guessing

Instructions:

  1. Before you introduce a new concept/topic, show students a word cloud related to that concept or topic. (Word clouds can be generated online with Wordle, Tagxedo, or Tagul).
  2. Challenge students to guess what the concept/topic is.
  3. Provide an explanation of the new concept/topic.
  4. Allow students time to reflect on whether or not they had guessed accurately.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Socratic questioning

Instructions:

Pepper students with questions, always asking the next question in a way that guides the conversation toward a learning outcome (or major driving question) that was desired from the beginning. (Read about using Socratic questioning.)

Variation:

A group of students writes a series of questions for homework and leads the exercise in class.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Reverse Socratic questioning

Instructions:

  1. Instruct students to ask you questions.
  2. Answer questions in such a way as to goad another question immediately but also drive the next student question in a certain direction. (Read about Using Socratic questioning.)
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Pass the pointer

Instructions:

  1. Place a complex, intricate, or detailed image on the screen.
  2. Ask for volunteers to borrow the laser pointer to identify key features or ask questions about items they don’t understand.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Guided note taking: Fill-in-the-blank handout

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a handout that addresses important points you would like students to pay attention to during the class. Leave portions of the text blank for students to fill in.
  2. Distribute the handout in class.
  3. At the beginning of class, ask students to fill in the blanks. As they listen to the lecture, they should be attentive to whether or not they have filled in blanks appropriately.

Examples:

  • In a biology course: Homology refers to __________________.
  • In an English literature course on Shakespeare: There is a question as to whether one man, the man we know as William Shakespeare, actually wrote the body of literature attributed to him. There are at least ________ pieces of evidence that point to another person. They are ____________________________.

Variations:

  • Students fill in the blanks throughout the class rather than at the beginning.
  • Make the handout available to students as an online document that they can download and fill in.
Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 73-74.

How do I integrate team work/group work into my classes?

It is important to note the difference between team work and group work:

“A group of students coming together to work on an assignment is not the same thing as a well-functioning team. The students in any given group may sometimes work together, but they may also be inclined to work independently, simply pooling their work with no discussion, and they may spend a great deal of time in conflict over work-related or personal issues. In contrast, members of an effective team always work together—sometimes physically together and sometimes apart, but constantly aware of who is doing what. They take different roles and responsibilities, help one another to the greatest possible extent, resolve disagreements amicably, and keep personal issues (which may occur when any collection of people work together) from interfering with the team functioning. With a group, the whole is often equal to or less than the sum of its parts; with a team, the whole is always greater” (Oakley et al., 2004, p. 13).

Read about setting up team work:

  • Oakley, B., Felder, R. M., Brent, R., & Elhajj, I. (2004). Turning student groups into effective teams. Journal of Student Centered Learning2(1), 9-34.
  • Pursel, B. (n.d.). Working with student teams. Schreyer Institute Self-Paced Modules, Penn State University <http://sites.psu.edu/schreyer/>.

Student questions - group decided

Instructions:

  1. Stop the class.
  2. Group students into fours.
  3. Ask students to take five minutes to decide on the one question they think is crucial for you to answer right now.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Two-stage exams (or quizzes or tests)

Instructions:

  1. Allot 2/3 or 3/4 of class time for students to individually complete an exam. (Essay-type questions are not recommended.)
  2. Have students do the exam individually and turn in their papers.
  3. Place students in groups of 3-4 students.
  4. With the remainder of class time, have students do and submit the same or similar exam.
  5. Allocate the exam grade according to a pre-determined formula, e.g., 85% for the individual exam and 15% for the group exam.

Read about Two-Stage Exams.

Variations:

  • Students redo the exam but open-ended questions are now multiple choice or ranking tasks.
  • Add a more challenging question that was not on the individual exam.

Jigsaw

This strategy works best when knowledge needs to be pooled to address a problem.

Instructions:

  1. Divide a large topic/scenario into small portions.
  2. Divide students into “expert groups”; each group studies an assigned portion and addresses a question(s) related to that portion. Encourage students to take note of key points.
  3. After the students have learned about their specific portion, split up the expert groups so that new groups are comprised of one member from each of the expert groups.
  4. In the newly formed groups, have topic experts present their information, integrating knowledge of their respective portions into the new group’s collective understanding so as to address a larger, overarching question.
  5. In order to assess students’ learning, call upon groups to share their collective understanding with the whole class.

Example:

In an educational psychology class, students are asked to become familiar with a specific autism spectrum disorder in their “expert groups”. They then move into their newly formed groups and the topic experts present their information. Each group then co-develops a plan for how they can support students with diverse learning needs in the classroom.

How do I set up groups?

Deck of cards

Instructions:

  1. Distribute one playing card to each student. (You can designate a student to randomly hand out cards as peers enter the classroom.)
  2. Ask students to form groups by:
    • suit (e.g., clubs; hearts) for large groups
    • card type (e.g., two or four of a kind) for small groups
    • run (e.g., ace-2-3; 9-10-Jack-Queen-King) for various size groups

For large classes, use more than one deck of cards.

Count off

Instructions:

  1. Count students off from 1 to 10 until each student has been assigned a number.
  2. Ask students to get together by grouping all students assigned #1, then all students assigned #2, etc.

Note: Adjust the amount of numbers you assign according to class size and the size of groups you’d like for a given activity.

Birth month

Instructions:

If uniform group size is not required, have students group themselves according to their birth month.

How do I create a learning environment in which students feel comfortable giving each other constructive feedback?

Check out TLS’ Peer Assessment Resource Document, which addresses developing trust in the peer feedback process by obtaining buy-in from students, and supporting students with providing and receiving constructive feedback on one another’s work.

How do I get students to solve problems?

Learning through failure

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students.
  2. Assign groups the task of deliberately designing something for failure. Groups may be assigned the same thing or something different.
  3. Allow groups the opportunity to share what they’ve created, along with their thought processes for the creation.

Examples:

  • In a civil engineering course: Design a bridge that is likely to collapse or a tunnel that is likely to flood.
  • In a food science course: Create a diet totally lacking in nutrition.
  • In a political science course: Outline the most oppressive or unworkable government imaginable.

Variation:

Present students with a scenario that includes a failure, such as why a bridge collapsed. Ask students to brainstorm all the reasons they can imagine, in the context of the scenario, why the bridge collapsed. Follow-up with an activity that would allow the students create a solid bridge suitable for the given scenario.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 62.

Send-a-problem

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups.
  2. Provide each group with a problem.
  3. Ask students to write a solution to the problem on a sheet of paper.
  4. Instruct students to pass the problem—with the solution hidden—to another group, who will write a different solution to the problem without looking at the previous group’s solution.
  5. After several passes, have each group examine all solutions on the paper they ended up with and decide on the best solution.
  6. Call on groups to present their chosen solution to the whole class.

Example:

In a political science course, “How would you increase voter participation among voters with limited physical mobility?”

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 232-233.

Pass the problem

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups.
  2. Give groups a problem to solve or a case to analyze.
  3. Ask students to identify and write down the first step in solving the problem or analyzing the case.
  4. Have students pass the problem to the next group for them to identify and write down the next step.
  5. Continue until all groups have contributed.

Example:

In an urban planning course, address how a city could pilot and then implement a city-wide composting program over a period of several years.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Ranking alternatives

Instructions:

  1. Give groups a problem to solve or a case/situation to explain.
  2. Ask students to think up as many alternative courses of action to solve the problem or explanations of the case/situation as possible.
  3. Compile a list. (You can designate a student to take notes.)
  4. Ask students to work in groups to rank the alternatives by preference.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Buzz groups

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into small groups.
  2. Assign students a specific problem to solve or a question to address. Allot a set amount of time for students to engage in the task; enforce the time limit.
  3. Ask students to briefly present their findings to the whole class so that you can respond to comments and encourage discussion.

Example:

In a communications class for engineers, students receive a technical manual and are asked to re-write different sections to make them accessible to a non-expert audience.

Variation:

When students present their findings, challenge groups to contribute only ideas that haven’t yet been mentioned.

What's the principle?

Instructions:

  1. Provide students with a list of principles used to solve problems in your field.
  2. Present students with a problem.
  3. Have students assess what principle to apply in order to solve it.

Variation:

Have students generate the list of principles used for problem-solving.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Roundtable writing

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups of four.
  2. Communicate a time limit for this activity that will allow all group members an opportunity to participate.
  3. Display a discussion prompt on the screen or board.
  4. Ask students to pass around a sheet of paper clockwise on which they write—in short phrases or sentences—their respective responses to the prompt.
  5. Have students read their responses aloud in their groups so that peers can reflect upon them while the paper moves around the group.
  6. Conclude with a whole-class discussion of students’ responses.

Example:

In a course on scientific principles, this prompt is shown to the class: “Identify important scientific discoveries of the 20th Century in the field of medicine.”

Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 299.

Variations:

  • Use fairly simple, straightforward prompts that keep the paper moving around the group.
  • Encourage student to respond or build on) the comments of those who have already written on the sheet.
  • Use in conjunction with the “muddiest point” strategy: students write down their muddiest point, check those muddiest points that have already been written by others and expand as appropriate. Follow up by facilitating a discussion of the muddiest points.
  • One student can assume the role of Scribe. The Scribe writes down each student’s responses on a computer, creating a file that can be saved and emailed to the group participants or the whole class.

Simulations

A person, system or computer program demonstrates an action, symptom or scenario that illustrates a problem.

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to take the appropriate action or to give a detailed verbal explanation of what they would do to solve the problem or address the situation.
  2. In a whole-class discussion, debrief students’ responses.

Examples:

  • Students in a health and safety course practice using a defibrillator with a lifelike mannequin.
  • Students in an investment course buy and sell stocks in a trading room simulation, evaluating the success of their portfolio and explaining their rationale for various decisions made.

Variation:

Students take turns role playing the appropriate action, symptom or scenario, to which peers then respond.

How do I prepare students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations?

Learning through failure

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students.
  2. Assign groups the task of deliberately designing something for failure. Groups may be assigned the same thing or something different.
  3. Allow groups the opportunity to share what they’ve created, along with their thought processes for the creation.

Examples:

  • In a civil engineering course: Design a bridge that is likely to collapse or a tunnel that is likely to flood.
  • In a food science course: Create a diet totally lacking in nutrition.
  • In a political science course: Outline the most oppressive or unworkable government imaginable.

Variation:

Present students with a scenario that includes a failure, such as why a bridge collapsed. Ask students to brainstorm all the reasons they can imagine, in the context of the scenario, why the bridge collapsed. Follow-up with an activity that would allow the students to create a solid bridge suitable for the given scenario.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 62.

Critical debate

Instructions:

  1. Present a problem or pose a question to the class.
  2. Divide the class in half.
  3. Assign each half a position to support.
  4. Moderate a class debate where students address the merits of one position over the other.

Example:

In a labor relations course, students debate proposed cuts to an employee benefits package. Half the students represent the business, which has been charged with reducing its budget; the other half represent the employee union, which objects to some of the proposed modifications.

Variations:

  • After arguing for one side, students argue for the opposite side, attempting to elicit new rationales.
  • Have students argue the side that is opposite to their true beliefs in order to deepen their overall understanding of the issue.
Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 180-181.

Brain drain

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups of 5 or 6.
  2. Hand out an empty grid of six rows and three columns to every student.
  3. Provide a prompt or task at the top to brainstorm. Each student brainstorms possible answers in row one.
  4. After three minutes, each student passes their paper to the student on their right and works on row 2 (without repeating any answers from row 1).
  5. Continue to pass the paper until the sheet is filled in.
  6. Debrief to find the best answers.

Example:

In an agriculture course: What are the implications for society of the disappearance of bees?

Less produce in grocery stores Beekeeper unemployment  
     
     
     
     
     
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Point-counterpoint

Instructions:

  • Introduce an issue that can be debated.
  • Ask students to work in pairs or small groups.
  • Assign half the class the task of coming up with arguments to support one side of the debate and the other half of the class to support the other side. (Multi-faceted issues with more than two arguable points can also be used.) Students prepare their arguments in class.
  • Call the class together.
  • Randomly choose a student to begin the debate. The student presents one argument.
  • Call on another student to present a different argument or a counter-argument.
  • Move the debate along quickly and stop the discussion once new arguments are exhausted.
  • Summarize the arguments.

Variations:

  • Instead of sharing arguments in a whole-class discussion, pair students so that they argue one-on-one. Every student is therefore simultaneously engaged in the debate.
  • Assign students the task of summarizing the arguments.
  • Assign students a follow-up assignment related to the in-class discussion.
Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 90.

Presentations

Instructions:

  1. Assign a research question related to a real-world problem.
  2. Explain to students that they will share their findings in an oral presentation.
  3. Discuss your expectations for presentations with students (e.g., presenters [individual, pairs, or small groups]; length; level of formality; structure; technology use). Decisions about each of these elements should be aligned with desired learning outcomes and available class time.
  4. Involve students in setting rubric criteria for assessing the presentations.

Variations:

Simulations

A person, system or computer program demonstrates an action, symptom or scenario that illustrates a problem.

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to take the appropriate action or to give a detailed verbal explanation of what they would do to solve the problem or address the situation.
  2. In a whole-class discussion, debrief students’ responses.

Examples:

  • Students in a health and safety course practice using a defibrillator with a lifelike mannequin.
  • Students in an investment course buy and sell stocks in a trading room simulation, evaluating the success of their portfolio and explaining their rationale for various decisions made.

Variation:

Students take turns role playing the appropriate action, symptom or scenario, to which peers then respond.

Case studies

Instructions:

  1. Provide students with cases they are likely to encounter in situations outside the classroom.
  2. Allow time for students to read the case(s) and ask questions about them.
  3. Ask students to apply their learning to address the cases.

Examples:

  • In a course in medicine, students are asked to match findings to interventions applied, and articulate the implications for the patient.
  • In a finance course, the instructor presents students with numerous loan applications for start-up businesses. Students evaluate which loan applications will be approved and which will be declined, and justify their responses.

Variation:

This strategy can be combined with Think-Pair-Share: students first generate a couple of approaches to the case individually and then pair up. In pairs, students share their proposed scenarios, and then choose one to develop in depth.

Steinert, Y., & Snell, L. S. (1999). Interactive lecturing: Strategies for increasing participation in large group presentations. Medical Teacher, 21(1), 37-42. Available at http://med.ubc.ca/files/2012/03/Interactive-Lecturing-Strategies.pdf.

Student-created case studies

Instructions:

  1. Divide the class into pairs or small groups.
  2. Assign students the task of creating a brief case study, i.e., a description of a concrete situation that illustrates an issue or problem to be addressed.
  3. Groups present their cases to the class and lead the case discussion where peers address the case.

Example:

Students in a physical therapy course create a case study in which a physiotherapist is asked to propose a treatment plan for a sports injury, given certain symptoms and background information.

Variations:

Students prepare their cases in advance of the class.
Instead of whole class presentations, groups pair up and exchange case studies.

Silberman, M. (1996). Active learning: 101 strategies to teach any subject. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, p. 116.

Movie application

Instructions:

  1. Have students form small groups.
  2. Provide students with examples of movies that made use of a concept or event discussed in class.
  3. Ask students to identify at least one way the movie-makers got it right and one way they got it wrong.

Examples:

Variation:

Ask students to find examples of movies that made use of a concept or event discussed in class.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

How do I get students to analyze and synthesize information?

Mind mapping

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to identify key concepts about a topic.
  2. Provide students with examples of various mind map (visual representation) formats that can be used to express relationships among concepts. The examples should illustrate the use of basic elements, such as boxes, arrows (uni- or multi-directional), simple hierarchical relationships or “webs” coming from one central point.
  3. Have students create a mind map of the relationship among the key concepts.
  4. Ask students to compare and contrast their mind maps in pairs, working towards a single map that incorporates all agreed-upon elements.

Examples:

  • In an international relations course, students create a visual representation of the purposes, scope, impact and reach of the United Nations.
  • In a pharmacology course, students create a critical distinctions chart to compare and demonstrate the differences among similar drugs.
  • In a biology course, students draw the phases of mitosis, including a labelled diagram of the cell at each phase.

Variation:

Use software to develop maps in small groups on computers; have students share their maps with other students either in class or in online in myCourses.

Classify

Instructions:

  1. Divide students into groups.
  2. Distribute a collection of items (e.g., images, words, sentences, artifacts) to each group.
  3. Allow students time to examine the items and classify them into categories.
  4. Ask participants to share their classifications and the reasoning behind them.
 

Examples:

  • In an art history course, show students images of sculptures.
  • In a geology course, distribute selections of rock types.
  • In a linguistics course, distribute lists of different types of phrases or clauses.
  • In a religious studies course, show images of ritual objects.

Variation:

Students can work individually rather than in groups.

Think-pair-share

Instructions:

  • Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  • Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  • Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  • Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.

Examples:

  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.

Variations:

  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Critical debate

Instructions:

  1. Present a problem or pose a question to the class.
  2. Divide the class in half.
  3. Assign each half a position to support.
  4. Moderate a class debate where students address the merits of one position over the other.

Example:

In a labor relations course, students debate proposed cuts to an employee benefits package. Half the students represent the business, which has been charged with reducing its budget; the other half represent the employee union, which objects to some of the proposed modifications.

Variations:

  • After arguing for one side, students argue for the opposite side, attempting to elicit new rationales.
  • Have students argue the side that is opposite to their true beliefs in order to deepen their overall understanding of the issue.
Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, pp. 180-181.

4 corners (Write around the room)

Instructions:

  1. Post large sheets of paper in each corner of the classroom. Each sheet of paper should have a different question written on it that relates to a topic being discussed in that class.
  2. Form groups.
  3. Provide each group with markers.
  4. Have each group move to a corner and brainstorm a list in response to the question posed. Set and keep a time limit for this activity to ensure that students have sufficient time at each of the corners.
  5. Have groups move clockwise to the next corner and add to the previous group’s responses. There should be no repetitions in responses. Only new responses should be added.
  6. Bring the class together for a whole-group discussion of the contents of each list.

Example:

In an English literature course: What are recurring features of Lord Byron’s poetry? How do these stylistic elements hint at his intended audience? What are the key traits of the Byronic hero?

Variations:

  • Students can put a check mark next to previously listed responses that are consistent with their lists.
  • Once students have completed this activity, they might organize the results using concept mapping so as to further solidify their understanding of the concepts’ relation to one another.

How do I get students to reflect on their learning? To know what they don’t know?

Exit cards

Instructions:

  1. Prepare a prompt that you will ask students to respond to in the last 5 minutes of class.
  2. Show the prompt on the screen or write it on the board.
  3. Ask students to respond individually, in writing. They can write on paper or post their response to a myCourses discussion forum. Let students know whether or not you would like anonymous submissions. (Anonymous submissions can be enabled in myCourses. Click to read how to enable anonymous discussions.)
  4. Have students submit their responses and then exit class.
  5. Review students’ responses.
  6. Decide whether or not to summarize results for sharing with students.
  7. Decide how students’ responses may inform your teaching in future class periods.

Examples

  • “What were three key points or “take-aways” from today’s class?”
  • “What is a question you have about what we discussed today?”
  • “What did you want to learn more about?”
  • “Create a quiz question based on today’s discussion.”
  • “Which topics from today’s class do you think would be important to include in an end-of-module quiz?”

Variations:

  • Use exit cards according to the 3-2-1 format (see 3-2-1: Purposeful Reading in this document):
    • Any class: Write 3 things you learned in today’s class; 2 questions you have about today’s material; 1 aspect of today’s class that you enjoyed.
    • In a course on the International Criminal Court (ICC): Write 3 differences between the ICC and tribunals such as Nuremberg, 2 similarities between the ICC and tribunals, and 1 question you still have. (Example from: Facing History <https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-strategies/3-2-1>.

Note to future self

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to write a letter to a “future self” that describes their current thinking on a course-related topic or concept where students need to see progression of thinking.
  2. Collect the letters.
  3. Redistribute the letters to students in class at a later date.
  4. Ask students to read their letters and reflect on how their thinking has changed.

Variation:

Provide students with envelopes on which they fill in their mailing address. Collect letters and envelopes for mailing to students at a later date by Canada Post.

Advice letter

Instructions:

  1. Sometime during the last week or two of classes, ask students to write a letter of advice to future students on how to be successful students in that course. Allow students to decide whether or not to include their name.
  2. Collect the letters.
  3. Share the letters with students the next time you teach the course.

Variation:

Have students email you their letters.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Muddiest point

Instructions:

  1. Toward the end of class, ask students to write down what seemed most confusing to them – the “muddiest point” of the class period. Encourage students to be specific when identifying the source of confusion.
  2. Have students submit their writing.
  3. Begin the next class by reviewing selected “muddiest points” and using students’ feedback as entry points for discussion of areas that multiple students found to be unclear.

Examples:

  • What was the “muddiest point” of the material discussed today?
  • Write one thing that wasn’t clear to you from today’s class material. Why do you think this was confusing?

Variations:

  • Students attempt to answer one another’s “muddiest point” questions.
  • Students indicate what information they would need to better grasp the course material discussed.

One minute paper/Free write

Instructions:

  1. Assign a topic or pose a question pertinent to the content of a given class period.
  2. Ask students to write for 1-5 minutes on the topic or in response to the question.

Examples:

  • In a survey course on art history, students describe the characteristics of Impressionism.
  • In a Canadian studies course: “What are some of the ways in which climate change is affecting the Arctic and its inhabitants?”

Variations:

  • This strategy can be used as an “exit card” —a means for students to summarize what they understood to be the key points of the class period. (See: How do I get students to reflect on their learning?)
  • Students can approach a new topic by writing down what they know and want to know at the beginning of the class, and then follow this at the end of the class with a reflection of what they learned.
  • Word Journal: Students summarize the entire topic of the class on paper with a single word. Then, they write a paragraph to explain their word choice.
Word Journal: Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Dialogue journal/clinical log book

Instructions:

  1. Explain that students will be both writers and responders.
  2. Clarify parameters and expectations for writing and responding to journal entries.
  3. Explain to students:
    1. They should draw a line down their journal page a few inches in from the right margin.
    2. On the left side of the page, the writer reflects upon an assignment, clinical experience, lecture, class activity or discussion and writes comments and questions.
    3. The respondent reads the journal entry and on the right side of the page, responds with their reaction, ideas, questions for clarification, etc.
  4. Read students’ journal entries and responses.

Example:

In a course on clinical practice, students reflect upon their stage or other experiences with patient care – decisions made are explained with a rationale, and outstanding questions are posed for feedback.

Variations:

  • Keep a community dialogue journal for all students to record questions or ask for clarification; students respond to one another’s questions within the journal. Questions may also be addressed in-class. Alternatively, a myCourses discussion thread can serve this purpose.
  • Have students write their journal entries in letter format.
Barkley, E. F., Major, C. H., & Cross, K. P. (2014). Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

One-sentence summary

Instructions:

Ask students to creatively summarize the topic in one sentence that incorporates who/what/when/where/why/how, as appropriate.

Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Harvesting

Instructions:

  1. After an experience/activity in class, ask students to reflect on and write down:
    • what they learned
    • so what: why it’s important and what the implications are
    • now what: how the learning can be applied
  2. Have students share their responses in small groups or with the whole class.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Get one, Give one

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to fold a piece of paper in half and write “Give one” on one side and “Get one” on the other side.
  2. On the “Give one” side, ask them to write four insights from today’s material.
  3. Have students stand up and find a partner. Each student shares one idea from their “Give one” side of the paper and writes down one idea on the “Get one” side of the paper.
  4. Have students continue finding new partners in an effort to fill their “Get one” side of the paper with new ideas.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

How do I get students to become aware of their misconceptions?

Polling

Read about Polling @ McGill.

Instructions:

  1. Using their mobile devices, ask students to open polling software.
  2. Project a question on screen or write it on the board. The question should take into consideration students’ typical misconceptions of a given concept.
  3. Poll the class.
  4. Display the results.
  5. Ask students to address the question in pairs.
  6. Poll the class again.
  7. Display and compare responses.

Example:

In a plant science course, “What is the appropriate method of watering a typical orchid?”

  1. Water daily with a watering can.
  2. Put three ice cubes near the roots every week.
  3. Stand the plant in water for a short period of time.
  4. Spritz leaves with a spray bottle regularly.

Drawing for understanding

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to illustrate an abstract concept or idea.
  2. Have students compare drawings.
  3. Address any misconceptions that become apparent.
Yee, K. (n.d.). Interactive techniques. Retrieved from http://www.usf.edu/atle/teaching/handout-interactive-techniques.pdf. Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

Think-Pair-Share

Instructions:

  1. Pose a question (orally, in writing on a board, or projected onto a screen).
  2. Ask students to think about the question on their own (1-2 min.).
  3. Ask students to pair up with someone sitting near them and discuss their responses/thoughts (2-3 min.).
  4. Regroup as a whole class and call for volunteers or randomly choose a few pairs to share their responses.

Examples:

  • In an epidemiology course, students offer potential diagnoses and treatments based on photographs of medical conditions and patient case histories.
  • In an education course that addresses classroom management, students describe how they would respond to an off-task student’s interruptive behavior. Students come up with a solution individually, then justify it in pairs, and then come to a consensus on an appropriate approach to the scenario.

Variations:

  • Intentionally choose different pairs to give summaries of their ideas each time this activity is carried out.
  • Have students work together to create a synthesis of ideas or come to a consensus.
  • After the pairs have discussed their responses, have two pairs discuss together (in groups of four students), in lieu of randomly choosing pairs to report out to the entire class.
  • Use visual stimuli (e.g., photographs, diagrams) as prompts for discussion.

Pre-and Post-quizzes

Instructions:

  1. Create a 1-page quiz that addresses the primary focus of the class.
  2. Have students take the quiz at the beginning of the session, and then set it aside.
  3. Proceed with class instruction.
  4. Leave adequate time at the end of the session for students to take the same quiz again, and compare their responses to the previous quiz. Students will immediately see what they have learned.
  5. Have students turn in their quizzes, thereby affording you timely feedback on students’ learning.

Ensure that sufficient time is allotted to convey the correct answers at the end of the session and to answer any questions that arise as a result.

Example:

In an introductory biology course, students are asked to put the steps for meiosis in order and label the structures both prior to and following the class instruction.

Variations:

  • Student responses to the pre-quiz can be incorporated into review sessions later in the course.
  • Students can write a one-minute paper following the quiz to summarize what they learned.

How can technology tools support my teaching in class?

McGill supports a variety of technology tools that can be used to promote student interaction with and engagement in their learning. View a visual depiction of educational technologies to support teaching and learning.

To explore pedagogically sound ways to implement technology tools:

How do I “flip” my classroom?

“Flipping the classroom” means that “students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates” (The Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University).

Many of the strategies proposed in response to other questions support the flipped classroom approach.

Contact TLS if you would like to discuss flipping your classroom.

How do I have a student attend class remotely?

Students can “attend” class remotely with Zoom videoconferencing and web conferencing software (free). It’s easy to learn, but don’t hesitate to contact TLS for support.

McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.