What to do when your students don’t seem to care
Ayten Ordu outlines some of the strategies available to academics when students have lost their enthusiasm for lessons and lectures
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One major problem academics can face is when students, especially towards the end of the semester, are no longer eager to participate in lectures. After all, if a few students seem to have stopped caring, this can have a negative impact on the rest of the class. In this situation, it is useful to bring in strategies that aim to prevent negativity and encourage more student participation. In this article, in light of my observations and experiences, I explore and discuss such strategies, which can be used by academics when students no longer seem to care, thus encouraging active participation.
Rather than the lecturer teaching for a given time period, frequently changing the flow of lectures can help students stay focused. For example, a lecturer might give a topic to a small group of students and ask them to teach it to the rest of the class in the next session. This will encourage students to research and learn about the topic to be able to deliver relevant information to their peers. One useful means of doing this can be asking students to prepare a PowerPoint presentation.
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Researching, preparing and presenting will not only stimulate active participation in class, it will prevent boredom and ultimately provide transferable skills that will help students prepare for their future careers. After the topic has been presented by the students, the lecturer should give feedback and advice as well as cover any crucial information they may have missed. Of course, when using the reversed teaching technique, the lecturer must also ensure that the information that is being delivered is accurate.
Another strategy that moves away from the standard method of teaching a new topic every week is to hold regular quiz days. Lecturers can prepare multiple-choice questions or other questions with short answers, which students can answer in class. This strategy encourages student participation by allowing them to be part of the learning environment, and it also provides welcome variance to regular learning modes, thus alleviating boredom. Students will not only have the opportunity to refresh what they have learned in class, but quizzes also provide a useful chance to revise the topics they need to focus on for exams, allowing them to ask questions about anything they do not understand.
If a student feels valued, they will always be more eager to participate in class. One way to help with this is adopting a rewards process, where students achieve rewards based on their participation in class, such as answering questions or taking part in group discussions and debates. From my experience, I have noticed that giving a simple reward – from a snack to extra marks that count towards final exam grades – can have a tremendous impact on encouraging active class participation.
Teaching outside the classroom
The last strategy for helping prevent boredom is taking your teaching outside the classroom. University campuses contain many places to socialise, eat and drink. Occasionally, lecturers can ask students to meet in a different venue on campus and hold their lesson there instead. This strategy can be slightly tricky for practical reasons, but it can be a great option once the necessary topics have been covered in class and the lecturer would like to go over specific areas. It could also be an option to prepare a handout or some multiple-choice questions that can easily be discussed and answered together outside the classroom.
Strategies such as the above are vital for mixing things up, and they can be doubly useful when students no longer seem engaged with the education they are receiving. Of course, there are many other strategies besides those I have mentioned. In my experience, allowing students to be more active, thus moving away from the standard “teacher teaching; students listening” scenario, is a great way of encouraging students to be present and engaged.
Ayten Ordu is a lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Near East University, North Cyprus. Her research focuses on various aspects of civil law.
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