Keeping the Spring in Spring: Strategies for Maintaining Enthusiasm
Maintaining the excitement and energy that instructors and students feel during the first week of class can be challenging. Here are 4 strategies to consider when trying to sustain that energy either onsite or online:
Know Who Your Students Are
Many, if not most, of your students are Generation Y students. While there is a need for caution when labeling a whole generation, there are certain characteristics that individuals in a certain age group may inherently share due to the environment and times in which they were raised. Generally speaking, Gen Y students embrace technology and real-world constructs, enjoy multiple stimuli, thrive in collaborative and active learning situations, are comfortable challenging others, and crave immediate and constant feedback. Playing to these strengths by designing meaningful and engaging activities/assignments will help keep your students engaged.
Let your students know what you expect from them by clarifying your expectations for attendance, participation, and homework. For high stakes assignments and projects, develop rubrics so students clearly understand the criteria you are looking for. Let students help you come up with the criteria so they are fully engaged in the process. Show them examples of exceptional, acceptable and weak work. Have students clarify their own expectations and address any misconceptions or assumptions they may have.
Communication is key. Communicate often with your students and make it relevant. Find out what students are getting or not getting out of lectures, demos, assignments, readings, etc. by using learning snapshots, high involvement activities and individual check-ins. Provide praise when they deserve it and guidance where they need it. The more you communicate, the more they will feel invested in the class and be inclined to follow you where you want to lead them.
Maintain an Active and Meaningful Learning Environment
Break up lectures into 15-minute chunks and have students discuss, practice or apply what you've just taught. Relate assignments to students' life/work goals. Vary the format of your assignments, avoiding the “one size fits all” approach. For example, have them work collaboratively on a project but let them negotiate the roles, expectations and timeline. Or, let students choose a particular aspect of an assignment to teach to the class in a 15-minute "learn it" session. Give them a loose format with guidelines; then, encourage innovation. Try debates, role-plays, film, technology, Facebook, YouTube and popular culture when appropriate. For example, pair students and have them use their PDAs (personal digital assistants) to search for and share one pertinent piece of info that relates to the topic on hand. Making assignments interactive and meaningful will more likely pique and sustain your students’ interest.