Communication - Ivy Tech Community College

How to Effectively Engage
Students in Any Environment
Janis Gallagher & Aimee Byk
Ivy Tech - Lawrenceburg
• Explain the value of
• How to foster
discussion from Day
• How to ask the right
• How to troubleshoot
Four Kinds of Learning
• Students learn “information” or “facts”.
• Student learn what other scholars think
about those facts.
• Students learn how to take in, process and
use all that information and create new
• Students learn how they can relate to and
feel about all disciplines.
The Value of Discussion
True learning is best achieved through dialogue.
“Talking it out” helps create new knowledge
Builds a “community of learners”
Practice “thinking” about subject matter
Thinking is active, listening to lectures is passive
(low TTT: teacher talk time)
• More likely to remember info they have
Why Discussion Works
It demands students’ attention.
“Next class, prepare to talk about…”
Students receive immediate feedback.
Accommodates collaborative learning
• Models work environments
• Explain all this to your students!
May I Have Your Attention,
Please?: Arousal Theory
• When arousal is too low, we get bored
• Discussion provides stimulation
• Arousal level varies from person to person,
and from one situation to another
• Student interest peaks in the first ten minutes
of class time, and then steadily decreases.
• Individual attention span is limited to 45-50
minute intervals.
The First Day: Face-to-Face
Say hello!
“M&M’s work”
Learn their names.
Collect information about
each student.
Have them get to know
each other.
Reveal information about
Invite questions
Do all this before the
The First Day: Face to Face
Define your expectations for discussion.
“Come to class ready to discuss!”
“This is your class, not mine.”
Ask general, open-ended questions
“What have you heard about psychology?”
The First Day: Online
“Welcome” email/announcement
“Small talk” in the Coffee House forum
Collect information about each student.
Have them get to know each other (post
• Reveal information about yourself.
• Model discussion: Invite questions, show
• Define expectations in syllabus
Ask the Right Questions:
Begin with common experiences
Introduce surprising/controversial topics
Ask open-ended questions
Build on their previous knowledge and interests
Give a problem that they need to solve.
Teacher’s Role in Discussion
Wait it out!
“Write your answer.”
Guide the discussion, do not determine it.
Leave personal bias out of it.
Restate, summarize, ask questions.
Model discussion; show enthusiasm,
acknowledge different sides and admit you
don’t hold the ultimate answer!
Ask the Right Questions: Online
More time to formulate answer
Writing helps clarify views, time to edit
Easier to wait it out
Give several discussion options
Join in!: Ask questions, summarize progress at
• Provide stellar examples
• Require replies
• Hold a real-time chat session
#1. No One’s Talking!
• Determine why they aren’t talking.
• Get them more acquainted.
• Break in smaller groups.
• Ask them to write down the answer and then call
by name.
• Encourage them with smiles, name, points.
• Use the “good” students to get others involved.
• Ask questions that require personal knowledge.
• Make it count in their grade!
#2. Discussions Getting Heated
• Define expectations early (“listen with respect”, “do not
attack other students”)
• Agreements are not always ideal.
• Address the argument immediately.
• Create an assignment from it.
• Refer to book, other research.
• Be well-prepared for this situation.
• Online: Privately e-mail student, ask to modify post if
necessary, post on board
#3. Discussions are Getting Off
• Discussions require some structure
• Give them a clear goal
• Move students around and move yourself
• Call on everyone during a two-week
• Assign a student leader
• Acknowledge the problem
#4. Boundary Issues
• Many students might not used to an active
classroom setting.
• “Friendly” versus “Friends”
#5. Group Project Woes
• Explain its’ value.
• Define expectations
• Give examples.
• Designate a leader.
• Assign individual
• Discussions are vital to
• Personalize your course.
• Ask the right questions.
• Guide the discussion,
don’t determine it.
• Address issues
immediately, and explain
the value of
• Create a warm, safe atmosphere for students,
but don’t be their buddy!
• Note what worked and what didn’t work (and
ask your students).
• Share your experiences with other teachers.