Including students

Writing on a white boardCommunication transforms strangers into a community.

  • Show students that the lecturer is a person as well as a subject expert by sharing some personal insights, research, interests, and interpretations on the topic.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to ask informal questions by arriving at the class early and hanging back at the end. Approaching students with questions at the beginning of the Semester will help to break the ice.
  • Setting up a clear communication policy is particularly important in large classes.
  • Learning as many names as possible, even in large classes, helps to reduce the distance between lecturer and students. Even if many are left unnamed, using names of some students will generate a sense of personal attention.
  • Consider viewing students as future colleagues. Using a tone and content equally appropriate to dealing with an intern or someone on work experience may help in finding a balance between being too familiar or too distant.
  • Students respond well to the use of podcasts and recorded presentations. They often see those as a way of having a private audience with the lecturer. This way they have the added advantage of being able re-visit material when they wish.
  • The more lecturers expect of students, the better they are likely to perform. Being clear about expectations and giving students praise when appropriate helps everyone to perform at their best.
  • Consider asking students for regular feedback. Feedback can be used for making adjustments or explain sources of difficulty to students.

Why

Closing the loop during semester

Sharing with students a side of the person in charge of the Unit of Study increases trust and sense of community in the classroom.

Even when students wish to remain passive, they want to feel that as individuals they matter to the lecturer.

Students value an opportunity to have access to the expert and sharing a connection with the lecturer.

Feedback procedures work well when feedback is acknowledged and responded to. An explanation why changes cannot be made may be an appropriate response.

Examples

  • Share with students why you as a lecturer like a topic, what is the most fascinating aspect of it and why. The lecturer sharing personal challenges and the joy of learning the current topic may also help students to approach their own difficulties with enthusiasm and confidence.
  • Consider using Blackboard discussion boards for student questions and reserving email for questions of personal nature only. Setting up reasonable response times helps to manage expectations. Tutors can be engaged in manning the board.
  • Consider creating a podcast with generic feedback on assessments. Through the use of voice it is possible to deliver a more personal message.
  • Set up opportunities for students to give both formal and informal feedback. An opportunity to talk with the lecturer works well as well as setting up short feedback protocols either in class or Blackboard.

Further resources