In our recent Student Engagement Insights survey, we asked students: What types of activities help you get better grades in your classes?
Quite a few students named success skills such as effective study habits, class attendance and participation, and keeping up with the assigned work.
However, others named a few specific tools and activities that support student success in their classes. Here are some of the activities and strategies that they mentioned in the survey, along with some ideas for incorporating these into your classes (if you aren’t already).
1. In-class discussion and review. Students told us that discussion played an important role in their success for a variety of reasons. Some like “open,” “challenging,” and “engaging” discussions “where different thoughts and perspectives are exchanged.” Others simply enjoy “discussing the material in depth in class.” (For ideas, read: Three Steps to Creating an Engaging Classroom Discussion.)
Others noted that they appreciate the ability to use class time to review course material. One said that they value the “repetition of concepts during class time.” Another said that “five minutes for recalling what we learned today” supported the effort to retain the course material (and thus do well in the class). And, quite a number put in their vote for “review sessions,” especially before an exam.
2. Working with groups and partners. Though students will often complain about “group work,” they do appreciate the benefit of learning from and studying with each other. (If your students want to form study groups, encourage them to read Learning from Fellow Students: Creating a Study Group for tips.)
3. Study guides, worksheets, and other tools for review. These study aids help students get prepared for class and help them feel more confident in their understanding of the material. (For extra test prep, your students can try these strategies for creating practice tests that will help them review the material.)
4. Active, hands-on learning. Many students observe that they learn more effectively when they have the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning experiences that provide “more interaction with the material.” These might include “simulations,” “role plays,” or other activities that get them active and involved. (Interested in building more active-learning opportunities into your course? Review our post on active-learning techniques.)
5. Case studies and real-world examples. When students can connect what they’re learning in their classes to their everyday lives or to their future careers, they feel more successful in their courses. One student stated that “Case studies and activities that directly relate to the information we are learning help me to get better grades in my classes.” (A guest speaker from your field can also add a “real-world” element to your course. To get started, read our post on identifying appropriate guest speakers for your class.)
6. Assessments. A good number of students indicated that quizzes, tests, and other forms of assessment help increase their confidence, as well as their grades. In the words of one student: “Small ‘quizzes’ to make sure we are caught up on material would help hold me accountable for learning.” Another wrote: “I like to take the practice quizzes and games before my chapter tests to solidify the information in the book.” (Dr. Christine Harrington provided her thoughts on formative assessments; read what she had to say about their benefits.)
7. Online tools. Several students specified that online tools, such as practice quizzes, flashcards, discussions, and videos present them with added opportunity to learn and better understand what they’re learning in class. (Using a Cengage Learning solution? Encourage students to check CengageBrain.com for free resources. If you’re interested in using a more robust online solution, contact your Learning Consultant.)
8. Games. Whether played in class or online, several students said that learning games help them to interact with, review, and better retain the course material. (And as a bonus, they’re fun!) (Read what Dan Petrak had to say about the use of digital games to engage students in mathematics, and see how this can inspire you in your course.)
9. Taking care of themselves. Students listed “learning to relax,” “resting, eating right, sleep,” and “taking time for myself” as vital to their overall success in college. Exercise is also a popular stress reliever: as one student put it, “Working out helps me [feel] good, which translates to the classroom.” (Our post Rest: An Essential Element of College Success offers students some tips for relaxing and recharging.)
10. Extra credit. Who’d say no to extra credit? Certainly not many of the students we surveyed. Though we hope students aren’t relying on extra credit for their overall college success, we can understand why they’d appreciate the opportunity to boost their grade by a few points.