How can you wake up the dreamers in class, while also keeping the attention of those who seem to be deeply engaged?

  • Particularly in long lectures, attention can drift. Even the furious note-takers can miss an important point by over-focusing. You can break up a lecture with various assessment tools that allow for short breaks to refocus class attention. An example of this is a clicker exercise, or stopping to show a short video or interactive that can illuminate difficult points
  • Find ways to collect anonymous feedback. It’s easier to answer when no one knows that you are wrong. Course backchannels, either live in the room, or on a discussion board, can allow people to comment on course content in a timely manner
  • Invite short discussions among those who are sitting next to each other. This can work well, for example, after a clicker exercise that reveals a point of confusion. Students can discuss their answers with the person sitting next to them, and the class can vote again – this exercise often shows an abrupt gain in understanding
  • Find out the potential of course websites to simplify tasks of organizing your course documents, and allowing students to submit work. Most learning management systems, Blackboard, for instance, have ways to streamline the asking of questions and permit peer-to-peer discussions that can be moderated by the instructor or TA
  • Do short entry and exit exercises to assess how students are retaining material from previous lessons, or the present class. It may help them to focus on areas where they need to study more