As enrollment and class size increase, professors face more challenges in keeping students engaged. According to a study from the University of Sussex, students in large lectures become passive recipients of information because the fast-paced environment doesn’t give them an opportunity to actively engage with course content. Whether classes are in-person or online, professors are challenged with finding ways to empower students to take ownership over their own learning and relate course material to their lives.
After teaching psychology at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for 12 years, Dr. Kathleen West found that students who weren’t able to see how the material related to their other studies were the most disengaged students in the class. These students, who are often preoccupied with electronic devices and don’t utilize time outside of class to study or prepare for the course, can be challenging to reach.
One way Dr. West pulled her students away from their devices and into the classroom was by incorporating peer discussion. This interaction challenged students to explore the course content and formulate their own viewpoints. Dr. West used discussions to tie in relevant course information and help students make connections between their learnings, current events and their lives. Dr. West found that by opening up discussions and giving students an outlet to participate at their own pace, students engaged more in class and showed more of an interest to learn.