Tips for Engaging Underperforming Students

Written by Chanel Sutherland.

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In a recent study, Microsoft reported that the average human attention span in 2018 was 8 seconds (a drop from 12 seconds in 2000). For instructors who have to grab and keep their students’ attention for 120 minutes each class, this is not good news. While keeping students involved and engaged is not a new challenge for higher education institutions, modern technology has created a culture of distraction that is spilling into the classroom. Below are a few tips on how educators can engage students to ensure an environment of active learning and participation.

  • Provide instant and ongoing feedback:

    In an age where social media continues to reign supreme, providing students with the ability to give instant and meaningful feedback about their learning can greatly increase motivation and improve achievement. In today’s classrooms more and more instructors are using social feedback software that borrow elements from platforms such as Facebook to better connect with students. A social feedback tool can give students the confidence they need to engage in a style that is familiar to them. Instructors can also track and assess their students’ comprehension and adjust their lessons in real-time.

  • Personalized learning:

    We’ve all heard it before: one-size-fits-all is no longer effective in the 21st century classroom. This is especially true for students who are struggling. With an increasingly diverse learning population, educators need to adopt more student-centered lesson plans that can meet individual needs and learning styles. Personalized learning environments empower both the instructor and the student by giving them more control of the education experience.

  • Connect lessons to the real world:

    It’s a simple concept: if you make it more interesting they will respond. A subject becomes more meaningful when the student can apply it to real life. It’s one thing to read about fossils and something else entirely to organize a trip to an archaeological dig site.

  • Incorporate movement in the classroom:

    Students sit all day long and sitting can become numbing both physically and mentally. In order to keep underachieving students engaged, instructors need to come up with ways to get them moving. It could be as simple as rotating group discussions. If the activity applies to the lesson even the most unmotivated student will participate. Educators at Cochrane Collegiate used movement as part of their instructional strategy in 2013 and have reported an increase in student engagement with the lesson.

  • Lead with a question, end with a question:

    This is a great strategy to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the beginning and end of class. A starter question sets the theme for the entire lesson while a closing question gives students something to think about after class. If the technology is available, instructors can take it a step further by asking students to post their answers. This allows educators to see student-lesson progress and can assist them in planning for the next class.

  • Get students’ input on how they want to learn:

    Getting feedback from students can help educators understand how well students are comprehending the course material. It can also give unique insight into what teaching methods are effective and where they need to be adjusted. Finally, it can help engage students in their learning process by giving them a voice in how they are taught.

  • Start from day one:

    The first day of class sets the tone for the entire semester. As an instructor, this is your opportunity to stimulate interest in the course and establish expectations. This will give your students a clear understanding of what they are expected to learn in order to succeed.

In our next blog, we look at tips for inspiring the overachieving student.

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