A college professor, former marketing executive, and K-12 teacher, Norman Eng offers easy changes to incorporate into the classroom to help students better absorb college material in Teaching College: The Ultimate Guide to Lecturing, Presenting, and Engaging Students. Below are some of his key points.
1. Create a student avatar. With his background in marketing, Eng calls for instructors to create an avatar (in web design called a persona) or a humanized version of your typical student. Use what you know about your students’ demographic and psychographic backgrounds to create an embodiment of your learner. Include an actual photo and give the avatar a name. Create a narrative for the generalized version of your student.
Armand is a 19-year-old first generation college student who holds down two jobs in addition to carrying a full load of classes. He struggles to get to class but is committed to completing his accounting degree so he can join his uncle’s business. He is reticent to ask for help and struggles with some writing assignments.
Having an avatar reminds instructors to always address the needs and constraints facing their students and address those issues in when teaching.
2. Use name cards. Ask students to write their names on a 5X8 index card folded in half lengthwise. Eng says this tactic not only helps instructors learn names (or at least call on students using their names) but also helps students communicate more with one another.
3. Insist on participation. It’s easy to only call on students who raise their hands, but it’s usually the same handful who do so. To reach the entire class, tell students you have a “no opt out” policy and will expect everyone to be ready to participate. This helps students remain focused and accountable.
4. Require reading responses. Eng uses a strategy called “questions, quotations, and comments” (QQC) to encourage completing readings. He asks students to respond to readings informally by jotting down a question about the reading, an interesting quotation, or comment/reaction. Then, to hold students accountable, he suggests that instructors follow up in every class session by taking a few minutes to ask randomly picked students about the reading. Eng collects the written brief response entries several times during the term and assigns them a grade.
5. Start class with an activity, not a lecture. If the day’s lesson is about writing bad news messages, begin the session by asking students if any of them received rejection letters to colleges they applied to. Then follow up with a discussion of how those rejection letters were composed. End with the lecture about how and why bad news messages are written the way they are.
It’s still early enough in the new academic year to add these simple steps to your teaching. Tell us how it works out, or share your own teaching tips and tricks to improve rapport and engagement!