Engagement is directly linked to success in the classroom, and when you are engaged in the classroom, you become a full participant in what you’re learning. These tips, adapted from Constance Staley’s FOCUS on College Success, Third Edition will help students fully engage in the classroom, which will result in better grades and improved learning.
- Attend Class: This may seem obvious, but the first step in staying engaged is to show up to class! Attending class will improve your overall understanding of the course material, and allow you to ask questions if you’re unsure about a topic. Missing class will put you behind, which will then make it harder to keep up and focus in future classes. Additionally, many professors include class attendance as part of your final grade, so simply showing up can have a positive impact on your grade! (p. 181)
- Come Prepared: Engagement starts before you even go to class. Ensure that you’re prepared to do your best by looking over your syllabus before class and seeing what topic is planned for that day’s lecture. Additionally, make sure you complete all reading assignments and take notes, so that you’ll be ready to participate in class discussion. The readings will also give you a good understanding and base knowledge of the topic. Finally, make sure you bring the necessary tools to succeed in class. Always bring your textbook to class, as well as your notebook and a writing utensil (pp. 181-182).
- Limit Distractions: Limiting distractions starts when you arrive to class. Try to choose your seat in class strategically, as it can have a real effect on your overall engagement and ability to focus. Staley suggests sitting in the “T zone”, which is the front and center of the classroom. Sitting in this zone will help to keep you alert throughout class. Also, ensure maximum focus by tuning out technology, specifically by turning off your cell phone and logging out of social media and e-mail accounts (pp. 182-183).
- Participate & Ask Questions: Participating in class discussions is an easy way to ensure that you are engaged. When you speak up and ask questions or provide an answer to a question your instructor has posed, you’re turning the lecture into a conversation. You’ll literally be engaged in a dialogue! Remembering the class material will be easier, and instructors often reward participation with a better grade. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re confused about a topic or want more in-depth information. The better understanding you have of class discussion, the easier it will be to focus and follow along (pp.194-195).
- Take Notes: Note-taking is an integral part to the learning process, and will encourage engagement in the classroom. Taking notes will force you to focus on class discussions and limit outside and internal distractions. Staley discusses how note-taking uses all four VARK categories: visual (reading from screens/whiteboards), aural (listening to the lecture and discussions), read/write (you record what you hear and see so that you can read it after class), and kinesthetic (the actual act of writing opens up a pathway to the brain). Decide what note taking strategy works best for you. Note-taking doesn’t end when class does, as you should review your notes after class and edit them by adding, removing, or organizing information if necessary (pp. 200-201).
Reference: Content adapted from Staley, Constance. 2013. FOCUS on College Success, Third Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
In addition to the tips presented here, what other advice do you give to your students to help them to be more engaged learners? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.