When it comes to classroom participation, research continues to confirm what you and most faculty members experience each day: A limited number of your students make the majority of contributions.
Although getting more of your students to participate is challenging, the good news is that you can do it, and it doesn’t have to involve such tactics as “cold calling” on students or resorting to a points system. Here are a few tips for getting started.
Increase your wait time.
Talk about how you think discussion is better when many students participate.
Get students to discuss what makes participation a valuable learning experience for them.
Don’t let some students participate too often.
Listen carefully when students speak and thank them for their contributions.
Focus on students when they are speaking.
Look directly and encouragingly at students who don’t speak.
Use something the student said in your follow-up commentary.
Ask a thought-provoking question and give students 30 seconds to jot down some ideas.
Put the question (or part of it) on the board or in a PowerPoint presentation.
Ask an important question and then let students briefly talk about it with those nearby.
If a student offers a great explanation or has an interesting idea, label it with the student’s
name and refer to it subsequently.
Do your best to find something positive to say about a first-time contribution.
Take care when responding to wrong or not-very-good answers.
Don’t always have the right answer to every question.
Talk informally with students before class begins, after it’s over, when you see students on
campus or via email.
Define participation broadly.
Expect great answers.
Excerpted from “How Do I Get More Students to Participate in Class?” Magna Publications, 2009.
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