Engaging Your Students Outside the Classroom

As any teacher knows, your job gets much easier when students are excitedly engaged in your class: asking questions, digging deeper and, well…not falling asleep.  Reducing student apathy means a more enjoyable experience for teachers, while students end up more satisfied, more likely to stay in school (yay retention!), and often with a better grade.

There are a lot of great teachers out there who have found effective ways to keep class-time engaging.  Former teacher Tristan de Frondeville suggests that engagement in the classroom begins with creating an emotionally and intellectually safe classroom. He also mentions in-class writing exercises, teaching self-awareness, and using class-wide questioning strategies.

One teacher in East L.A. recently gained notoriety for using Twitter to supplement his class discussions. He encourages students to be “plugged in” during discussions in his history class, and projects the class’s Twitter stream onto a digital chalkboard.  The result: the teacher knows more about his shy students, and has more data to modify his instruction to meet their needs.

But engagement doesn’t need to stop when students leave the classroom. Instructors have been using SAGrader to foster student involvement using at-home writing activities.

When a teacher builds an assignment in SAGrader, they effectively store feedback for students to access on their own time.  One way we’ve described this is to say the feedback is “time-shifted” to occur at a time when it’s most effective for students. Students can submit to their assignment on 2am late Sunday night, and still get immediate feedback from their teacher via SAGrader.

SAGrader allows students and teachers to interact in other ways, too.  Students can flag any feedback they don’t understand, giving instructors the chance to explain the concept more in-depth. These small, focused discussion threads can give students individualized attention and help teachers better understand and assess their students.

These out-of-class SAGrader assignments hit many of the core tenants of student engagement: student/faculty interaction, active learning, immediate feedback and increased time on task.  It’s a great way to encourage student involvement to extend outside the classroom.

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