Active Teaching Lab Recap: Students Want You to Know

Wed March 10, 2021

Theme of March 10, 2021 Lab

The Lab participants discussed insights into the experiences and expectations of remote students. 


Why listen to students? One might well argue that students don’t know what they don’t know. Many don’t know the research on effective teaching & learning, and they certainly don’t [yet!] know about the content of your course, so what’s the benefit of taking their thoughts into account and adjusting practices?

  1. They know their specific home situations.
  2. They can share good ideas and practices that they’ve experienced in other courses (that we’d otherwise never hear of).
  3. The more we ask, the more they 
    1. reflect on how they learn (metacognition)
    2. reflect on what they learn (distributed learning that deepens their understanding and connection to other content)
    3. notice that we care about their learning situations, and respect their agency and autonomy.
  4. When we address with them what we hear, we help them
    1. build connection with you and each other (see In virtual classrooms, UW–Madison instructors find meaningful ways to connect with students and Instructional Highlights – Instructional Continuity – UW–Madison).
    2. reflect on and challenge their perceptions and misperceptions
    3. feel empowered and valued in the course and see themselves as having a voice and place in the discipline.
  5. Take more responsibility for their own learning.

What Students say…

We’re drawing from Key Findings: Fall 2020 Undergraduate Student Needs and Expectations Survey and U-CLASS for Student Voices – Teaching Academy discussions. The responses from the 5328 students who responded (17% of recipients) and hundreds who participated in U-CLaSS discussions might not 100% align with the experiences of students in your classroom, so it’s best to absorb these results with that in mind — and to ask your students directly! When asked to reflect on what supported their learning, surveyed student responses fell into five themes (see Qualitative Report and Summary slides):

  1. Course Organization and Design: We need to adjust our teaching practices to fit the mode of instruction. What works in an in-person classroom will be different than what works in remote instruction.
  2. Empathy and Understanding: Students are not the same; they have multiple, intersectionals identities and experiences that shape them. We need to reach out and listen to students as individuals. 
  3. Building Community and Engagement: Those unique identities and experiences bring a richness of perspectives to learning. When we harness the power of social learning and belonging, our students and our discipline become better.
  4. Office Hours and Individual Meetings: We need to pay attention to who is not participating and reach out to ask how we can help. We should provide more opportunities for informal student connection.

Flexibility and Support: Because our experiences are not controlled and equitable, we should provide more flexibility and support in empowering students to learn when and how their conditions allow them to bring their best.

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


Find out more about Active Teaching Labs here.