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Encouraging Student Participation

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The foundation of a good discussion rests in students participating in the discussion.  We have some tips below on how to get students participating.

  1. Set up a favorable mindset in your mind
  2. Instill an atmosphere of respect, support, and participation
  3. Use Follow-up questions to student responses

Set up a favorable mindset in your mind by

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1.  Respect for students and their ideas

2.  Support for students and their ideas and which allows

3. Each student can develop an ownership of their unique voice.

Instilling an atmosphere of respect, support, and participation

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  1. Start class on the first day by letting students know you are interested and eager to work with them in meeting the course goals. 
  2. Be enthusiastic in your stance, words, and body language when dealing with students.  Students can read your body language as if to say “I want to here what you think.  I’m interested.”
  3. Give students multiple input opportunities in class that allow more shy students to express their views with support.
    • Brainstorm
    • Polling the class for consensus
    • Allow students to confer with another before “cold calling” on random students.
    • Ask specific questions when you are looking for a specific answer.
    • Occasionally use small “bursts” of group discussion on problem areas (about 1 minute) before returning to a full class discussion.
  4. Talk to students that arrive early or hang a few seconds after.  Be interested in the broad overview of their daily lives and opinions.
  5. Consistently enforce your previously stated standards and expectations in the classroom. 
  6. Establish a daily routine.
  7. Make as much as 1/3 of the grade come from continuous daily discussion (More under the Socratic method here, Tip #6).
  8. Walk all over the room when you teach.


Follow-up questions Return to Top

In order to best facilitate dialogue in the classroom it is often necessary to “follow-up” student responses, to further develop students’ understanding of the present issue.  After a student responds to a prompt use one of these follow-up questions. 

  1. Ask for clarification
  2. Ask for a student to substantiate the response (often with textual evidence).
  3. Ask other students to evaluate the response (opinion).
  4. Check for consistency (Then how would you treat situation Y, if you do that for X?).
  5. Ask how the response is related to a previous issue or comment.
  6. Ask student to extrapolate/draw out the implications from their response.
  7. Resolve an aspect of the issue and move onto a new part.

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