Students tend to engage with concrete ideas and examples better than they do with abstract concepts. This is why, if you teach a lot of theory, you need to find ways to make your instruction interesting, engaging, and relevant, said Tyler Griffin, assistant professor at Brigham Young University, during his recent Magna Online Seminar, “Online Learning That Lasts: Three Ways to Increase Student Engagement & Retention.”
To help students engage with the content, Griffin suggested answering the following question: Why should students care about this content beyond the fact that they need to know it so they can pass the course?
“The answer you're looking for is something associated with their lives, their struggles, keeping in mind that they've got other things going on beside the course,” Griffin said.
He suggested another questions to consider: Whose questions are you helping students answer, yours or theirs? “If the answer is always your questions, then you're going to disengage more of them more often,” he said.
To help make the learning more relevant, Griffin suggested letting students answer each other's questions. “You will find that this creates more of a sense of buy-in, a sense of ownership from the students. And the more ownership they feel, the more likely they are to engage at all levels with your content and with your course and have positive feelings about it.”