Holding students’ attentions can be hard, especially in a large classroom where courselessons tend to be less personal. College lecture halls can often turn into vast rooms of day dreaming minds. With so many people in one room, nobody is pressured to listen or participate the same way as, say, a 20-person class.
The problem is made even worse as the majority of college students use laptops and tablets to take notes, which is only a click away from social media feeds, cat videos and a whole world wide web of distractions.
Luckily, there are tried-and-true techniques to reengage students even in a lecture hall setting.
Embrace the Tech Democracy
As mentioned above, students love technology. But what exactly are they doing on these devices? Studies show that almost 30 percent of the time we spend online is dedicated to social networking. That means sharing, commenting and posting. Why is this relevant? Well, it says that students love sharing their thoughts and seeing others do the same.
Active learn and classroom response strategies, like classroom polling, draw students out of the redundancy of passive listening back into active engagement. For example, polling platforms like Poll Everywhere, allow instructors to share open-ended questions with their audience which can be answered via text, smartphone app, custom URL or Twitter. This can be utilized for icebreaker questions at the beginning of each lecture or used periodically to hold students’ attention.
Active learn polling software can also be useful for class attendance, pop quizzes, grading, discussing sensitive topics and garnering audience feedback or questions without pausing the lecture. As you can tell, this is a helpful solution for turning cell phones and other weapons of mass distraction into useful classroom aids.
Drop KnowledgeLike Socrates
One of the best ways to push pupils into a more involved role is to turn the regular student-teacher dynamic on its head. Place the onus of directing class discussion back onto the students. The Socratic method is one way to do this.
At its core, the Socratic method is all about encouraging students to question their assumption and backup their opinions as a way to drive critical thinking. Start by asking a difficult or controversial question for open discussion. Allow students to carry the conversation however they wish, only intervening if the conversation becomes redundant, tangential or comes to a halt. You can also play moderator in case some students are being left out or conversationbecomes dominated by a few players.
This technique is useful for classes of all sizes including lecture halls, since students are more likely to remember a heated (yet respectful) in-class debate rather than bullet points on a PowerPoint slide.
At best, students are only as engaged as their professor. At worst, they are snoozing on their notebooks. To keep pupils awake and interested, try shaking up your lectures with relevant anecdotes or humor. You don’t have to force it, but it may be helpful to provide some entertaining context around the subject matter being covered. After all, the human mind is better primed to remember stories rather than facts and figures.
This is what is known as active teaching. Other options include asking rhetorical questions followed by a pause to allow students time to stew on the information being presented; showing striking images on the presentation screen to benefit visual learners and memory; or providing contemporary, real-world examples to make the topics more relevant to your students.
We Yearn to Learn
Of course, every class is unique. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different active learn or active teaching techniques each semester to see what meshes best with your teaching style and your students’ needs.