What: When you first begin to teach, or begin to teach a new class, it is natural that your concerns are all about your own experience: “Do I have enough material? Will it run over time? Will the students be bored? What if my students give me a hard time? However, to be an effective educator, your focus needs to be on the learners’ needs and not your own.  

A good question to ask yourself is, “What are the students doing?” If the answer is “listening”, chances are your approach is ‘teacher centered’. For students to be engaged in their learning, they need to be involved, not passive (i.e. just listening). 

Why: Students who are engaged in the learning experience develop a deeper understanding than those who are simply recipients of the lecturers wisdom and experience.   Creating opportunities for student engagement in your classes need to be thoughtful and planned experiences aimed at enhancing learning rather than providing ‘activity’.   

How:  Go to the Teaching Guides webpage for information about: 

Learner centered strategies you could use: 

  • Problem solving: Give students the chance to apply what they have learnt to a particular problem. This gives them an opportunity to test their understanding and for you to get feedback on which gaps in their understanding you can address. 
  • Sharing experience: as the teacher you don’t need to have all the answers or all the examples – your students bring a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences to class. Encourage them to share – this will create a richer experience for everyone. 
  • Investigation: Don’t tell them, get them to research and share with the class.  
  • Think – Pair – Share1. Think – Ask a question/seek an opinion, tell students to form their own idea. 2. Pair – In pairs discuss each other’s ideas. This allows for clarification and deeper learning. Share – 3. Share ideas with the larger group. This technique ensures that the more reflective learners, who need time to get their ideas tighter, are not ignored or marginalized. 
  • Ask questions:  on material covered, seek opinions, ask them to explain key points – try to make your class a dialogue, not a diatribe.  
  • For strategies targeting online learners try How to facilitate online 

Hints for asking effective questions 

One of the hardest things to do is to ask questions that get an effective response. Listen to what you are asking – are they open or closed questions? 

  • Closed question – elicits a one-word answer, usually ‘yes’ or ‘no’ e.g. Do you have any questions? Is this clear? 
  • Open questions – elicits a fuller answer, impossible to answer just yes or no – these encourage interaction e.g. How do you …? What are the key steps in …? What would you like me to clarify/go over again? 

When asking questions, always pause as this gives students time to process the question, formulate their answer then reply. A trap many fall in to is to not allow enough time for responses – teacher led silence can be a powerful tool in the classroom.