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Three Things You Should Know to Engage Your Students
Back to School Edition


August 2022

Listen to the Audio Recording here.

For many faculty the school year is about to begin. And whether you are teaching one class or five, online or in person, new students or post graduates, it is critical to engage students. Some may think it is most important to learn new technology or techniques to stay relevant and those can certainly be helpful tools. You can use new programs or practices – it is important to keep learning and to be current. However, if you don’t do one thing, I believe you won’t engage your students. The key is relationship building.

While you may not get to know all of your students in a large lecture class personally, you can still create a relationship in which they know you are there to support their learning and to help if things go wrong in their lives. Here are 3 things to build relationships and engage your students:

  1. Authenticity: Be yourself. Do some appropriate self-disclosure even if it is something simple like how you ended up teaching this class or why you went to school for what you did. You may be surprised how many students will be drawn to your story and ask you questions about what they should study.
  2. Humor: Making people laugh and being amused yourself breaks down barriers in a healthy way. Much like being authentic, this shows you are a person like them. We don’t want to be too serious and add to the stress our students frequently carry.
  3. Connection: Authenticity and humor are likely to lead to some level of connection with students. Even if you don’t talk to the guy who sits in the back row every day, if he chuckles at your joke or is engaged in something you shared about your path to ending up in this classroom, there is connection.

These three things will engage students and engaged students are more likely to pay attention, to try to do well in your course, and to tell you if they are struggling. For additional information on this topic from ICUDDR, see the following resources:

Supporting University Students During COVID-19


Improving Student Engagement