Getting Started with Active Engagement

by Corinne Manogue

Signalling that this is not a traditional class

When teaching, if you launch into a long explanation about something with which the students have no experience, they will rapidly get lost in the details. They have no context to help them figure out what you might mean by the unfamiliar words you use and no framework to help them decide which details to attend to and which to ignore. The same is true with pedagogical strategies. Don't start with a detailed explanation about how your class is different from others or what education research says about why your methods are better. Start by doing. Choose an activity that you know will be successful (or, if it's your first time, that you have good reason to believe will be successful) in that it is engaging, fun to do, related to the content of the course in a readily identifiable way, and something that the vast majority of students can complete successfully. They should know that this is a non-traditional class long before you tell them so.

I like to start with the Star Trek Activity.

Choose something that the whole class can do together with you, so they experience that you are not abandoning your responsibility to teach them.

Don't expect your students to take social risks if you don't

Making it safe to be wrong

Picking up someone else's baby

The joys of kinesthetic activities

Using groups to model problem-solving in the brain

Dividing students into groups

Asking open-ended questions

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