Active Teaching Lab Recap: Improve student participation

Wed March 17, 2021


The Lab theme for the March 17, 2021 Active Teaching Lab was: Fostering confident and supportive student interactions that increase multiperspective problem-solving and critical thinking.


Role of Participation in Learning

  1. Our learning is derived from feedback — from direct experience (fire is hot), from parents (pulling sibling’s hair is wrong), from teachers (2+2=4), and from peers (Queen’s Gambit is cool). 
  2. Participation drives motivated learning. Without seeking feedback by asking questions, volunteering opinions, and being willing to be open to feedback, we miss opportunities to get feedback — and thus to learn.
  3. Participation is a skill (not a personality). Beyond willingness, it requires preparation with course material, experience developing perspectives, sufficient comfort sharing that perspective, and the trust that our sharing will be respected.
  4. Students come to our courses with different levels of participation skills because of different prior educational experiences and expectations.
  5. As a skill, participation can be developed.

Improving Participation Skills

  1. Student behaviors in class that positively affect participation (but are rarely rewarded) include: arriving on time, paying attention, listening respectfully to peers.
  2. Student activities outside of class that positively affect participation (but are rarely rewarded) include: preparation with course materials, discussing material with friends, peer editing, attending office hours, and any time course content is reflected upon, acted upon, or otherwise connected to our lived experiences.
  3. Student-centered active learning assignments and activities are better for developing participation skills than lectures.
  4. Participation improves when students understand that it is an important component of their learning experience, and commit to developing their participation skills.
  5. The Wisconsin Experience (Empathy & Humility, Relentless Curiosity, Intellectual Confidence, and Purposeful Action) can provide a framework for building in participation skill building into your course.

To learn more and discover new resources, visit the session’s activity sheet.


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.