Skip to main content

Engaging Students

Teaching for Engagement

Engagement is essential for learning. In order to maintain interest, manage working knowledge, and eventually master a topic, skill, concept or idea, students need opportunities and environments that support reflection, practice, constructive feedback, and collaboration. The results from the 2011 National Survey for Student Engagement can give you an idea of how UD students are engaged with the university. It describes multiple levels of engagement that keep students studying and motivated to complete their degrees. One principle site is the classroom. So, we ask:

What might an engaged classroom look like?

  • Students are efficient and productive during class activities

  • Students actively participate in class discussions
  • Students pay attention during lectures

How can I engage my students?
There are many ways to engage students and support their learning. CTAL has compiled a growing list of resources below for your exploration. We also invite you to schedule a consultation with one of our staff members to talk about possibilities. Our ultimate goal is to provide you with tools and ideas so you can teach in ways that:

  1. encourage contact between students and faculty
  2. develop reciprocity and cooperation among students
  3. encourage active learning
  4. give prompt feedback
  5. emphasize time on task
  6. communicate high expectations
  7. respect diverse talents and ways of learning

Using Active Learning Techniques

"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves." (Chickering & Gamson, 1987)

ACTIVE LEARNING is defined as any strategy "that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing". (*Bonwell, C., & Eison, J. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1). Washington, DC: George Washington University, p. 2)

ACTIVE LEARNING includes a range of teaching and learning activities. These strategies, supported by decades of classroom research, may be thought of as a continuum from low risk to high risk for both teachers and students. Such a continuum may include (but not be limited to) strategies such as some of the following:

  • involving students in well structured question and answer sessions in lecture classes
  • individual think and write exercises, such as the pause technique or one minute papers
  • pairing activities such as "think, pair, share"
  • interactive seminars
  • case studies

More complex and higher risk processes might include such activities as:

  • individual and group project based assignments;
  • student involvement in research,
  • internships,
  • practicum experiences,
  • student teaching,
  • clinical preceptor structures

Highest risk processes may include such carefully structured small group based strategies as some of these more familiar ones:

  • collaborative learning
  • cooperative learning
  • team learning
  • problem-based learning

As you can see, there are many names for strategies that apply what we know from the research. Summaries of classroom research have revealed a number of best practices that encourage active student participation in the learning process. For example, collaborative learning encompasses a variety of approaches to education, that may also be referred to as cooperative learning or small group learning. What is more important than the names are that these strategies create an environment that engage students who might not otherwise be engaged in their own learning in meaningful ways. Collaborative learning, then, is one among a wide variety of teaching strategies that each contribute to the total picture of making learning a deeper, more engaging, meaningful, active and effective process.

Critical Thinking

Helping your students develop critical thinking skills, Lynch & Wolcott, October 2001, IDEA Paper #37. (pdf)

Critical Thinking Community - The site links directly to the Center for Critical Thinking and to The Institute for Teaching and Learning at San Jose State University.

Critical Thinking
WolcottLynch Associates offers a web site that specializes in the development of critical thinking. It also has a special site for educators with handouts and recommended resources. It also features a free web-based tutorial on developing critical thinking and problem solving skills.


Approaches to teaching that engage students

Bloom's Taxonomy
This well-known classification of learning objectives attempts to classify forms of learning.

National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), conducted by the Indiana University Center for Post-secondary
Research and Planning. The purpose of the survey is to provide reliable and credible information about the "quality" of the undergraduate experience. During the 2001 Spring Semester, the University of Delaware participated in the survey.
Survey results for UD students

Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education
Brief summary of the seven principles as compiled by the American Association of Higher Education, the Education Commission of States, and The Johnson Foundation. See also Applying the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education (1991), Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. F. For additional information see the article in the TA Handbook.


On-Campus Resources:

Off-Campus Resources: