All of us have had those classes in school when the minutes seem like hours and the motivation to learn even the smallest bits of information requires herculean effort. This may happen in history, math, English, science, or any other subject. Sometimes, even the topics that usually pique our curiosity can lack interest if the information isn’t delivered well.
Regardless of the subjects being taught, there are certain strategies teachers can utilize for increasing student engagement and fostering deeper learning. And when done skillfully, these pedagogies enhance learning and make the subjects come to life. To these ends, I’ve listed three methods below that I’ve found to be particularly effective.
First, focus on the essential content. Rather than trying to cover vast amounts of information in each class period, it is important for teachers to be cognizant of the brain’s limited capacity for retaining information in our working memory. Therefore, focusing on the key concepts and essential facts helps students transfer the most essential material into long-term memory while also making associations and connections to previous sets of knowledge.
Structure frequent class discussions that require students to defend their perspectives as well as formulate new, original ones. Not only does this make the learning more interactive and more likely to stick as a result, it also makes class time less predictable or routine. And along the way, practicing these skills helps students to improve their listening and speaking abilities.
Finally, connect lessons to real-world issues and when possible, use primary-source materials. For example, in a science class, students could discuss methods for cleaning an oil spill and research its long-term environmental impacts. Or in English, students could review copies of an original manuscript that illustrate an author’s writing process and the stages of revision. These examples may help to illuminate how certain lessons could help make the world a better place or shed light on the effort that’s required for mastery.
Of course, there are many other methods that teachers can use to engage students. But I have found that when teachers break from common routines and present students with material in a unique way, it is likely to help the learning become more impactful while making the time spent grappling with the content fly by.