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When you teach a group of students, how do you help them engage in the subject matter so they will use it after the class is ended? For 14 years, I’ve taught adults how to better use computers, teaching subjects from Excel to mail merges to email management to social media.
I’ve learned the more I facilitate instead of teach, the more they learn and more likely they are to use it after the fact. How can I help them engage more in class?
- Ask an icebreaker. Ask your audience a question related to the subject matter, often, what’s the most important thing they want to learn in this area or what they already do in this area. This begins the process of audience ownership – they will own what they learn. It helps me gauge what we cover so they get what they want, and it begins building my relationship with them.
- Ask simple questions and get tougher. Whenever possible, ask the audience questions and pull from them. If you start with simple questions they can answer, they will grow in confidence and attempt to answer the tougher ones. This helps you gauge what they know so you can modify the class to the real level of what they need. It also begins the good habit of more audience participation.
- Expect different learning styles. People learn by listening, seeing, and working hands on – at different levels. Give them the flexibility to do what helps them learn best, whether it’s fidgeting with a pen or tuning you out while they work ahead. Make sure your content is available in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic forms so they can do what’s needed to learn the most from your time together.
- Watch the whites of their eyes. When I started teaching, I was determined to cover A-Z in every class session, no matter what. Sometimes, we raced through tough stuff so I could say we hit everything. Now, I watch their eyes. With tough tech topics, subject saturation sometimes hits. When the glazed look falls over their eyes, it’s time to shift gears and slow down. Take a break, tell a story, or begin a hands on exercise. The shift in gears will give their brains a chance to absorb what’s already been covered. It might be time to stop and figure out a different way to approach what’s already covered. Students who get lost or confused begin to build a wall with me. If I don’t reconnect with them and re-inspire their confidence, they will leave the class convinced the material is so over their head they won’t try to use it.
Good teachers give their students lots of quality information. Great teachers inspire them to use it. Empowering your audience so they leave a class feeling excited and inspired to try new things yields better long-term results.
If you teach, what helps you engage better with students? If you’ve taken classes, what can teachers do to help you engage and learn more in class time?