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Strategy Bites: 4 corners

Students working together

At Teaching and Learning Services, we regularly receive questions from instructors asking for ideas to enhance their teaching and improve students’ engagement in class. So, we’ve recorded 2-3 minute video bites that describe how to implement some strategies we’ve chosen based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types. We’ll be sharing these strategies in the Teaching for Learning @McGill University blog over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 Strategy: 4 Corners

Students can learn by building on each other’s ideas. The 4 Corners strategy allows students to do this in an active way.

Why use this strategy?

Traditional lecturing is generally a teacher-centered approach to learning and tends to take place in a stagnant environment: the professor lectures, and the students sit and listen. If you’d like to increase engagement, encourage discussion, and have students think critically, the 4 Corners, or “write around the room,” teaching strategy may be a worthwhile activity to try. It’s a unique and engaging way to get students out of their seats, working in groups, and inspiring each other with ideas for a discussion or debate.

What I appreciate most about this strategy is that it gives students the opportunity to build on each other’s ideas. After completing the 4 corners, all students have been exposed to their peers’ thoughts and responses, giving them insight into their different values and opinions. Like other teaching strategies, such as think-pair-share and brainstorming, students build on each other’s work, making the experience a more student-centered learning approach.

You may choose to use this strategy as a warm-up activity before a lecture to raise students’ awareness of what they already know about the topic or as a follow-up activity where students can reflect on what they’ve learned. Also, students will appreciate the opportunity to physically move around the classroom. The movement can create a more dynamic learning environment and offer an exciting change from the usual inactive lecture format. After all, movement and interaction are a fantastic way to energize your lectures and stimulate learning!

Would you like to know more?

Interested in how physical activity can support students’ learning? Check out this research told by a winning SSHRC Storyteller.

Check out the other posts in the Strategy Bites series:

What strategies do you use to get students out of their seats and engaged in learning? Share your ideas!

Jasmine Parent is an M.Sc. Graduate from the program of Global and Community Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics at McGill. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Education Technology Program at UBC and she works as an Assistant Online Course Developer at TLS. Her greatest passions include cooking and exploring healthy recipes, practicing yoga and spending time in nature.

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