Instructional Strategies to Engage your Students

At Teaching and Learning Services, we regularly receive questions from instructors asking for ideas to enhance their teaching and improve students’ engagement in class. We’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions and responded with instructional strategy suggestions. So, if you’d like your students to be more engaged in their in-class learning, we encourage you to keep reading.

In response to each question, we propose several instructional strategies—along with brief descriptions and examples—that we’ve chosen based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types. Many of them are even available as 2-3 minute how-to videos! Our suggestions are not an exhaustive list of instructional strategies. For more ideas, check out our list of recommended resources.

The ideas below are intended to inspire you to try out different ways of engaging students in their learning. If you’d like to talk with us about how to implement any of these or other instructional strategies within your particular teaching context, tls [at] mcgill.ca (contact us) for a one-on-one consultation.

Would you like to share strategies you’ve tried? tls [at] mcgill.ca (Contact us); we’d love to hear from you!

How do I ensure that students are prepared for class?

Suggested strategies:

Questions from readings

Instructions:

  1. Ask students to create questions on assigned readings focusing on main ideas.
  2. Instruct students to post questions before class to a myCourses discussion forum. These questions can inform your lesson planning and be used as the basis for in-class discussions.

Variations:

  • Students address questions in the myCourses discussion forum prior to class.
  • Questions are assigned to small groups for in-class discussions.

3-2-1: Purposeful reading

Instructions:

  1. Inform students which reading they need to address for this activity. Then, give students the following instructions:
    1. Describe the three most important aspects of the reading (e.g., concepts, issues, factual information), justifying your choices.
    2. Identify two aspects you don’t understand, and briefly discuss why these confusing aspects interfered with your general understanding.
    3. Compose a question that you would want to pose to the author of the text, the answer to which should go beyond the reading content and your two areas of confusion.
  2. Have students submit their 3-2-1s online through myCourses before the class where the reading will discussed.
  3. Review students’ submission before class to see what they’ve understood and what their areas of difficulty are.

Variations

Van Gyn, G. (2013, May 6). The little assignment with the big impact: Reading, writing, critical reflection, and meaningful discussion. Faculty Focus [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/instructional-design/the-little-as...

Test-taking teams: Readiness assurance

Instructions:

  1. Prior to class, assign a reading that addresses key concepts related to the material students will encounter in that class.
  2. Create an assessment with 2-3 multiple-choice questions that address key concepts from the reading. Create the questions carefully so that the answers are not all immediately obvious and therefore require discussion.
  3. At the beginning of class, have students complete the assessment individually.
  4. Form small groups of students.
  5. In their groups, have students agree on the best answer to each question and justify their response.
  6. Reconvene as a whole class, and ask a representative from each group to indicate the agreed-upon response.
  7. Discuss any variability in responses, addressing questions that arise. Explain that these concepts will provide the framework for the day’s class.

Examples:

In an education class that addresses curriculum instruction, a question that encourages discussion and draws students’ attention to key points of the reading is posed:

Which of the following best describes the meaning of the author’s phrase “novice culture” in characterizing aspects of many universities’ approaches to improving learning?

  1. The university promotes mentoring between “novices” (students) and “experts” (instructors).
  2. Students establish their own communities of practice, assimilating knowledge from peers.
  3. Reform and improvement efforts are more often mechanical and particularistic, rather than based in systematic research and the wisdom of practice.
  4. A culture that emphasizes the role of the student as a beginner, who requires the guidance of more qualified leaders to learn.

Variations:

Have students vote for the most suitable responses using online polling.

How do I encourage discussion in class? Even with large classes?

Suggested strategies:

1

2

3

Third

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Fourth

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Fifth

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Sixth

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Seventh

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Eighth

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Ninth

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Tenth

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Eleventh

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Twelfth

Nullam vitae quam sit amet enim feugiat dictum. Ut gravida nisi at metus luctus condimentum elementum elit lobortis. Vestibulum elit ante, dictum on ullamcorper nec, malesuada tempus purus. Suspendisse rhoncus eleifend dui quis venenatis. Proin faucibus massa sit amet urna sagittis condimentum. Praesent in justo arcu. Ut quis ligula enim, tristique tristique mi. Sed ut ipsum neque, vitae auctor quam. Praesent et mi nisl, eu ultricies erat.

Thirteenth

Nullam vitae quam sit amet enim feugiat dictum. Ut gravida nisi at metus luctus condimentum elementum elit lobortis. Vestibulum elit ante, dictum on ullamcorper nec, malesuada tempus purus. Suspendisse rhoncus eleifend dui quis venenatis. Proin faucibus massa sit amet urna sagittis condimentum. Praesent in justo arcu. Ut quis ligula enim, tristique tristique mi. Sed ut ipsum neque, vitae auctor quam. Praesent et mi nisl, eu ultricies erat.

Fourteenth

Nullam vitae quam sit amet enim feugiat dictum. Ut gravida nisi at metus luctus condimentum elementum elit lobortis. Vestibulum elit ante, dictum on ullamcorper nec, malesuada tempus purus. Suspendisse rhoncus eleifend dui quis venenatis. Proin faucibus massa sit amet urna sagittis condimentum. Praesent in justo arcu. Ut quis ligula enim, tristique tristique mi. Sed ut ipsum neque, vitae auctor quam. Praesent et mi nisl, eu ultricies erat.

Fifteenth

Nullam vitae quam sit amet enim feugiat dictum. Ut gravida nisi at metus luctus condimentum elementum elit lobortis. Vestibulum elit ante, dictum on ullamcorper nec, malesuada tempus purus. Suspendisse rhoncus eleifend dui quis venenatis. Proin faucibus massa sit amet urna sagittis condimentum. Praesent in justo arcu. Ut quis ligula enim, tristique tristique mi. Sed ut ipsum neque, vitae auctor quam. Praesent et mi nisl, eu ultricies erat.

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