5.17 Closing Remarks

Whatever your chosen teaching method, you almost certainly want your students to engage wholeheartedly in their own learning. I recommended, in Chapter 2, Elizabeth Barkley’s book on Student Engagement Techniques (Barkley, 2010). It is worth listing here some of the tips she advocates, as ways of promoting student engagement. The following list is taken, selectively, from her contents pages: You can read fuller details in her book. The techniques apply across virtually all teaching methods; the bold emphasis and italic comments are mine:

  • Expect engagement; (if you do not expect an engaged attitude, you will almost certainly not get it);
  • Reward learning rather than behaviour; (e.g. give marks for understanding something, not for turning up at the session);
  • Promote student autonomy;
  • Teach things worth learning; (not as easy as it sounds!)
  • Devise engaging learning tasks; (to be successful at this you may need to investigate what it is that your students find engaging. This is almost certainly not the same as what you find engaging!);
  • Try to rebuild the confidence of discouraged and disengaged students;
  • Clarify your role; (e.g. I’m here to help you learn and understand, especially the difficult bits, not to tell you how to answer exam questions);
  • Help students develop learning strategies; (e.g set some reading with critical thinking outcomes – see Chapter 4.3);
  • Activate prior learning; (e.g. from other earlier modules);
  • Teach for retention; (not for short-term memory, with the exam as a memory dump);
  • Limit and chunk information; (i.e. structure the material you wish the students to understand in accessible amounts. There is no shame in bite-size information, as long as it forms part of a coherent overall structure and pattern, set by you!);
  • Do not adopt an authoritarian role; (you should expect the students to be your intellectual equal. If you are sometimes disappointed, don’t let it show!);
  • Reduce anonymity – learn students’ names and help them learn each other’s names; (this is difficult in large classes, but you might be able to use technology, e.g. clickers or a spreadsheet containing a class list, to help you);
  • Be consciously inclusive; (e.g. make a particular effort to  involve students who are usually silent);
  • Subdivide large classes into smaller groupings; (sometimes, not all the time);
  • Assess the starting point for your students; (do you really know what they have learned, or been exposed to, in previous modules?  Do you know the range of prior attainment in the class, especially for first year classes who have entered from a variety of previous establishments?);
  • Help students learn to self-assess; (peer marking is one way they might be helped to do this, but critical thinking tasks can also be helpful);
  • Offer options for non-linear learning; (why should all students wait until you are ready to expose the next topic later in the module? Might some of them not enjoy getting ahead right now, in parallel rather than in series with your current topic?);
  • Include learning activities that involve physical movement; (no, not the launching of paper planes, unless you are teaching aerodynamics);
  • Consider creating a graphical version of the syllabus; (so that the students can more easily spot the relationships among your various topics. It’s interesting for you too.).

Good luck with all this.

End of Chapter 5   (please add a comment)

One Response to “5.17 Closing Remarks”

  1. Peter Goodhew

    Topics which need to be added include: Undergraduate research (both individually and in groups, which could be quite large); competency-based education; BYOD (bring your own device);


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