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New academic year: Consider varying your instructional strategies!

“I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand,” goes the Chinese proverb. And what’s the connection with varying instructional strategies? One of the most critical paths to understanding is doing. In the context of classroom instruction, doing can be interpreted as students being actively engaged in their learning. So, in addition to commonly used instructional strategies, such as lecturing, consider varying your instructional strategies by getting students to do some active learning.  

Since the average adult attention span is 10 to 20 minutes and the average lecture is 1 to 3 hours, it’s often difficult for students to maintain their attention span this long. When instructors incorporate active learning strategies into their lecturing, like the 10-2 strategy or Think-Pair-Share, students can take a moment to rest, reflect, and refocus their attention and concentrate again.  

If you’re interested in encouraging more discussion in your class, you might want to check out our blog posts on strategies like Concept Mapping, Brainstorming and 4 Corners. If you’d like to get your students to reflect on their learning, check out strategies like the One Minute Paper, Muddiest Point, and the Advice Letter. Or, if you’d like to give students the opportunity to learn by teaching each other, check out the Jigsaw strategy.  

Engaging students in active learning can be an exciting way to motivate them to learn, improve their memory consolidation, and assess their learning in unique ways. As a student, I always appreciated when instructors deviated from the traditional lecture style and made us do something in class. It made the classroom fun and energetic, and ultimately, fostered a richer and more colourful learning experience.  

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. Read about the value of these different strategies in our Strategy Bites blog series written from a student’s perspective. 

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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