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Weekly Tip: Student-Centered Activities that Work across Delivery Modalities

We understand that getting students engaged in a course is crucial to their success. In a previous tip titled, “Collaborative Assignments and Projects,” we provided a big-picture view of how collaborating within a course might occur, and we highlighted different strategies for engaging students. This tip takes a closer look at a few of the strategies highlighted, with brief references to tools available to design these activities regardless of your course modality.

Activities

Presentations

One way to position students as experts is to dedicate part of your class to student-led presentations. When designed well, these presentations encourage students to learn, process, and communicate information effectively. As a teacher, you can have students work individually or in groups to choose topics based on their interest or from a list of options that you curate in advance. Some strategies for implementing these presentations successfully include:

  • Meeting with students to review content and to provide readings and other resources.
  • Attaching a rubric which clearly articulates standards not only for the quality of content, but also offers guidelines for effective presentation and collaboration.
  • Contextualizing the content before or after the presentation by framing additional information as a supplement to their work, and/or leaving extensive feedback on the presentation privately to the presenter.
  • Encouraging non-presenters to take a strengths-based approach by identifying key takeaways and asking questions after the presentation.
  • Scheduling the presentations to be delivered either in class or through tools like Panopto or VoiceThread, which allow students to record and share their work, and then to respond to peers asynchronously.

Think Pair Share

In this activity, instructors prompt students with a question, and then they center students in active learning in three steps:

  1. Provide students time to think about the question individually.
  2. Ask students to discuss their thoughts in pairs or small groups.
  3. Allow the pairs to present their thoughts briefly to the whole class.

This activity is popular because of its flexibility and scalability. For larger courses, you can scale the activity because students can “pair” in larger groups. The sharing, too, can be done asynchronously through discussion forums, shared documents, and/or brief recordings.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that breaks classes into groups and breaks assignments or content into sections. The strategy encourages critical and creative thinking and supports students in processing information by breaking content into smaller, more digestible chunks. Some techniques to develop strong Jigsaw activities include:

  • Using a tool like a shared document for students to compile and share their notes synchronously or asynchronously.
  • Having students complete their content review prior to meeting. Students can come to class with notes and questions for their peers.
  • Having students use a discussion forum to engage asynchronously.

Learn more about Jigsaw (pdf) and how to implement the strategy in your course.

Peer Review

Peer review allows students to see how their peers are approaching an assignment and to practice providing meaningful feedback. Students can work in pairs or small groups depending on the goals of the session. A few tips for fostering productive and successful peer reviews include:

  • Providing guidance and expectations, for example:
    • Providing a rubric.
    • Having students complete a low-stakes, or practice, peer review session.
  • Focusing peer review on certain aspects of the assignment. For example, a peer review session may focus solely on thesis statements or organization. In other words, a single session does not, and should not, attempt to cover everything.
  • Implementing peer review consistently throughout the semester, as it may take time for students to learn how to provide meaningful feedback.

From traditional methods to using tools like Perusall to complete the task asynchronously, there are a variety of options for planning and facilitating peer reviews. Learn more by reading these previous Weekly Tips:

While this list is not exhaustive, we hope the activities listed above are useful methods to increase your students’ engagement regardless of the teaching modality.

Resources

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.