Instructional Engagement Strategies

Table of Contents

  • Classroom Management Techniques (Oct 17/14)
  • Five Things Students Can Learn through Group Work (Oct 13/14)
  • Assessing Group Work (Oct 113/14)
  • How to Do Group Work – You Tube Video (Oct 13/14)
  • Getting Colleagues to Carry Their Weight (Oct 13/14)
  • Should we call on non-volunteering students? (Oct 8/14)
  • No Opt Out: A Simple, but Effective Teaching Strategy (Oct 8/14)
  • Questioning Techniques:  Research Based Strategies for Teachers (Oct 8/14)
  • Total Physical Response:  Language Learning Technique (Oct 8/14)     
  • How Thinking Works (TED TALK) (Oct 5/14) see TED Talks Page
  • Turning Problems into Solutions (Oct 3/14)
  • Diversity Issues in the Classroom (Oct 1/14)
  • Andragogy, Heutagogy – What’s the Difference (Oct 1/14)
  • The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher (Oct 1/14)                                                            The Rise of the Helicopter Parent
  • Self Directed Learning (Oct 1/14)                                                                                  Are Adults Naturally Self Directed Learners?                                                      Self Regulated Learning         
  • User Generated Education – Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile Learning (Oct 1/14)
  • The Secret of Self Regulated Learning (Oct 1/14)
  • The Flipped Classroom (Sept 23/13) – See TED Talks Page
  • Positive Learning Environment Resources (Sept 23/14)
  • Humor in the Classroom (Sept 2014)
  • Achieving Student Engagement (Sept 2014)
  • What are Instructional Engagement Strategies (Sept 2014)
  • The Power of Introverts (Sept 2014) – See Journal Entries Page
  • Achieving Student Engagement (Sept 2014) – See Journal Entries Page

Oct 17/14

Classroom Management Techniques

How do you maintain respect, focus, concentration, consistency etc. in the classroom?  As an instructor how should you set the tone for the day or the entire length of the course?  The following web sites provide some insights and proven techniques that can be used.

Oct 13/14

 March 20, 2013

Five Things Students Can Learn through Group Work

By: in Teaching Professor Blog

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I often get questions about group work. Recently, the question was phrased like this: “Can students learn anything in groups?” And, like faculty sometimes do, this questioner proceeded with the answer. “I don’t think my students can. When they work in groups they have no interest in doing quality work. Whatever the first person says, they all agree with that and relax into a social conversation.”

Standing opposite the experience of faculty members like this one is an accumulation of research that strongly supports students learning from and with each other in groups. There’s research and analyses of group learning now reported in virtually every discipline. Here are five things students can learn in groups, all well-established by a wide range of empirical analyses.

  1. They can learn content, as in master the material. Whether they are working on problems, answering questions about the reading, or discussing case studies, when students work together on content, they can master the basics. The reason they learn is pretty straightforward, when students work with content in a group they are figuring things out for themselves rather than having the teacher tell them what they need to know.
  2. They can learn content at those deeper levels we equate with understanding. I just highlighted an article for the April issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter which reported that the explanations students wrote to justify a chosen answer were stronger after just seven minutes of discussion with two or three students. When students are trying to explain things to each other, to argue for an answer, or to justify a conclusion, that interaction clarifies their own thinking and often it clarifies the thinking of other students.
  3. They can learn how groups function productively. In order for groups to function productively, students must fulfill individual responsibilities. Productive group members come prepared, they contribute to the group interaction, they support each other, and they deliver good work on time. In order for individuals to function productively in groups, they have the right to expect the group to value their individual contributions, to address behaviors that compromise group productivity, and to divide the work equitably among members.
  4. They can learn why groups make better decisions than individuals. Students can see how different perspectives, constructive deliberation, questioning, and critical analysis can result in better solutions and performance. If students take an exam individually and then do the same exam as a group, the group exam score is almost always higher because students share what they know, debate the answers, and through that process can often find their way to the right answer.
  5. They can learn how to work with others. Group work helps students learn how to work with people outside their circle of friends, including those who have different backgrounds and experiences. They can even learn how to work with those who disagree with them, and others they might not “like” or want as friends.

Now, it is absolutely true that students don’t learn any of these things just by being put together in groups. Student attitudes about group work are often negative and that’s because they’ve been in lots of groups where they didn’t learn anything other than the fact they don’t like working in groups. Much of the group work used in college classrooms is not well designed or well managed. But when group work is carefully constructed and when teachers help students deal with those group dynamic issues that compromise group effectiveness, students can learn the content and the skills listed above.

It would also be nice to be able to end this post with a reference of a comprehensive review of research on group work. I don’t think that piece exists. Research that documents that students can learn these five things is so scattered across the disciplinary landscape that finding it all and then devising some way to quantitatively compare the results is all but impossible. But just because the findings aren’t organized or integrated does not diminish what has been documented time and again in study after study. Students can learn from and with each other in groups

– See more at:

Oct 13/14

Assessing Group Work

How To Do Group Work – You Tube Video

Re: How to make group work work.

by Yan Tanya Tan (Tanya Tan) – Sunday, 12 October 2014, 6:31 PM

This video discusses the key components of successful group work

1) Positive Interdependence – the activity needs to be designed in the way that everyone is able to contribute. This work can’t be completed without any one.

2) Face to Face Interaction – students collaborating and exchanging ideas

3) Individual and Group Accountability – teachers should assign both group grade and individual grade, also providing group feedback and individual feedback

4) Small Group and Interpersonal Skills – model and teach students small group skills and interpersonal skills

5) Group Processing – help the group reflect what has been successfully impletemented in the group, why the mistakes occur and how to prevent them from happening in the future

6) Provide a Meaningful Task – it is recommended to use the complex task that each group member has to rely to the group to complete the task, so no one can dominate the task.

Oct 13/14

Getting Colleagues to Carry Their Weight

When people come together in groups, there’s usually at least one member who slacks off. Whether you call it shirking or social loafing, it’s a major source of misery, and it prevents teams from achieving their potential.

It turns out that the worst offenders are American men. When psychologists Steven Karau and Kipling Williams carefully analyzed 78 different studies of free riding in groups, they found that it was more common among men than women, and in Western than Eastern countries. (On average, American men tend to be more individualistic and less group-oriented than women and non-Americans.)

When you’re stuck working with free riders, how can you motivate them to step up to the plate? Karau and Williams identified a series of factors that encourage people to contribute their fair share.

(1) Make the task more meaningful. People often slack off when they don’t feel that the task matters. When they recognize the importance of their efforts, they tend to work harder and smarter. Years ago, colleagues and I studied call center employees who were raising money for a university, but felt that their individual efforts were just a drop in the bucket. To highlight the significance of the task, we invited a scholarship student who benefited from their work to speak with the callers. It was a randomized, controlled experiment: some of the callers heard about how their fundraising had improved his life, whereas others didn’t. After a five-minute interaction with one scholarship student, the average caller spiked 142% in weekly minutes on the phone and 171% in weekly revenue raised. The largest effect was on the free riders, who quadrupled in weekly donation rates.

(2) Show them what their peers are doing. Sometimes people simply don’t realize that they’re doing less than the norm. In this situation, the key is to help them compare their contributions against their peers. For example, a research team including the psychologist Robert Cialdini showed that people conserve more energy when they can see how much their neighbors are conserving. When the company Opower randomly assigned roughly half of 600,000 households to receive home energy reports that included neighbors’ usage, conservation skyrocketed, especially from those who were wasting a lot of energy. Once they saw that their neighbors were conserving more, they raised their own conservation efforts. Simply showing people their neighbors’ conservation rates saved as much energy as increasing the price of electricity by 11-20%.

(3) Shrink the group. When working in a large team, it’s easy to question whether individual efforts really matter. In a famous experiment, psychologists invited people to make as much noise as possible in groups, in pairs, or alone. In groups of six, each individual averaged only 40% capacity. As fewer members were involved, people made less noise in total, but each member’s average contribution increased. Individual contributions increased to 51% capacity when the group was reduced from six members to four, and spiked to 71% capacity when people worked with just one colleague. The smaller the group, the more responsible each member feels for contributing.

(4) Assign unique responsibilities. Many groups balloon in size because people are trying to be polite—they want to include everyone and offend no one. In these cases, it’s not difficult to shrink the group, but in other situations, the group is large because the task requires many members. In those contexts, the easiest way to boost effort is to make sure each group member has a distinctive role to play. Karau and Williams found that free riding was common when people saw their contributions as redundant with other group members’ efforts. If each member is delivering something different, it can’t be taken for granted that someone else will cover your tracks.

(5) Make individual inputs visible. When it’s impossible to see who’s doing what, people can hide in the crowd. Once everyone knows what each group member is adding, no one wants to be seen as a slacker. In an experiment with brainstorming groups, when people submitted ideas with their names attached, they contributed 26% more ideas than when they submitted anonymously. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once put it, sunlight is “the best of disinfectants.”

(6) Build a stronger relationship. If it’s challenging to change the task or the results, it may be time to work on the relationship. People don’t worry much about letting down strangers and acquaintances, but they feel guilty about leaving their friends in the lurch. Karau and Williams demonstrated that people stopped slacking when they worked with colleagues they liked or respected. If you can establish a personal connection, teammates often become more committed and dedicated.

(7) If all else fails, ask for advice. Sometimes it’s useful to go right to the source. What if you approached a slacker and said the following? “I’m trying to get some members of this team to contribute more, and I wanted to seek your guidance on how to do that.” Research by Katie Liljenquist reveals that when you ask for advice, you flatter your colleagues—they feel important that you chose them—and encourage them to look at the problem from your perspective. Feeling good about you, and having walked a mile in your shoes, they’re more likely to advocate for your interests. They might start adding more value themselves, or lobby colleagues to pick up the slack. At minimum, you’ll get some good ideas from the viewpoint of people who aren’t as motivated as you are.

For more on motivating people to contribute, see Adam’s new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamMGrant

Image credit: Fox


Oct 8/14

Should we call on non-volunteering students?

Oct 8/14

No Opt Out: A Simple, but Effective Teaching Strategy

This is a strategy that gets all students involved in discussions.

Oct 8/14

Questioning Techniques:  Research Based Strategies for Teachers

Oct 8/14

Total Physical Response (TPR) – a Language Learning/Teaching Strategy

Total Physical Response is a method of teaching languages to beginning learners developed by James Asher.  It is based on the concept of joining physical motions with spoken words of commands.  Like parents do with their young children:  pick up the spoon, eat your vegetables etc.  It is based on the ideas that memory is reinforced or strengthened through the affiliation of listening and physical movement.

Teaching Approaches to TPR

TPR Foreign Language Demonstration                      

Oct 3/14

Turning Problems into Solutions

This site has multiple resources to enhance understanding of this concept–qPV5EW1HjD7Q

Oct 1/14

Diversity Issues in the Classroom


Oct 1/14

Andragogy, Heutagogy – What’s the Difference


Oct 1/14

The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher Written by Tanya Tan VCC PIDP 3250 Course Discussion Forum


  • Roles of a teacher in self-directed learning environment
    • Content resource
    • Resource locator
    • Interest stimulator
    • Positive attitude generator
    • Creativity and critical thinking stimulator
    • Evaluation stimulator
  •  Instructors still need to be involved and have some control, setting ground rules
  • Instructors should inform the students their intentions
  •  Setting up expectations from the beginning


 “She Didn’t Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves.”

Self-directed Learning: Individualizing Instruction – Most Still Do it Wrong  

Difference between assessment and evaluation

Helicopter Parents

Locus of Control


Oct 1/14

Self-Directed Learning

Are Adults Naturally Self Directed Learners?  Written by Tanya Tan VCC PIDP 3250 Course Discussion Forum


  •  Self-directed learning is “a process in which individuals take the initiative with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes”
  •  What has made you/your students self-directed learner?
    • A safe and encouraging environment
    • Potential optimal changes
    • Relevance to personal goals and career path
    • Time management and planning strategies
    • Support from mentors and peers
    • Thinking outside of the box and finding resources
    • Perseverance and persistence
    • Ability to self assess
    • Learning community
    • Clear instruction
    • Take initiatives to determine their own path
    • Clear Motivations and goals
    • Learning skills / learn how to learn
    • Meta-cognition: being able to reflect on your own learning
    • “Pre-school children are self-directed by nature. The challenge of schools, is to never allow children to lose these positive attitudes and learning skills they come with”
    • Our job as educators is to reconnect adult learners with something that is innately human
  • Staged Self-Directed Learning Model (SSDL): learners advance through stages of increasing self-direction and teachers can help or hinder that development.
    • Stage 1 Dependent student/teacher as coach
    • Stage 2 Interested student /teacher as motivator and guide
    • Stage 3 Involved student/teacher as facilitator
    • Stage 4 Self-directed student/teacher as consultant and delegator
    • Good teaching does two things: it matches the student’s stage of self-direction and it empowers the student to progress toward greater self-direction. Good teaching is situational, yet it promotes the long-term development of the student
    • “We are not teachers, but awakeners”
  • How to deal with learners at different stages in self-directed learning
    • Allow learners to choose their own partner
    • Group activities to encourage collaboration
    • Challenge students with control


  • Current issues in self-directed learning
    • Credibility on non-traditional knowledge acquisition
    • Emotional hindrance, such as frustration, loneness

Articles (these are all linked to the articles)

Teaching Learners to be Self-directed

Rethinking the value of learning theories to develop self-directedness in Open-Distance Students 

Motivating learners at the four stages 

Ten ways to increase self-directed learning in your organization 

Self-directed Skills 

Learn about Learning


Knowles, M.S. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. New York: Cambridge Book

Grow, G. O. (1991/1996). Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed. Adult Education Quarterly, 41(3), 125-149.


The Importance of Self-Directed Learning Resources by Tanta Tan for VCC PIDP Course Forum


  • What is self-regulated learning?
    •  Self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed.
    • Proven self-regulated learning activities and assignments; many more are in Creating Self-Regulated Learning: Strategies for Strengthening Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (Stylus, 2013):
      • Students answer two or three reflective questions on the reading or podcast.
      • They write about what they learned by doing an assignment.
      • They re-do the same or similar problems to the ones they miss on their homework and exams and explain the proper procedure.
      • They describe their reasoning process in solving a “fuzzy” problem – how they defined the problem, decided which principles and concepts to apply, developed alternative approaches and solutions, and assessed their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth
      • They reflect on a graded exam by answering questions like these:
      • How to you feel about your grade? Were you surprised?
      • How did you study for the exam? Did you study enough?
      • Why did you lose points? Any patterns?
      • What will you do differently to prepare for the next exam?
  • Real work even in a fake world, can be more conductive to learning than fake work in a real world


 The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning

Meyer’s blog about Real Work vs. Real World


Dan Meyer: Math Curriculum Makeover (TEDTalks) 


The Secret of Self Regulated Learning

Faculty Focus

In this article, Dr. Linda B. Nilson discusses self-regulated learning through the eyes of our emotions & our environment.   She lists questions the learner can ask him/herself in order  to determine his/her level o self regulated learning.  She also offers practical examples of ways to assist learners to learn to become self-regulated learners.


October 1/14

User Generated Education (Mobile Learning)

Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile Learning


Sept 23/14

Learning Styles Resources List by Silvia Diblasio, VCC PIDP 3250 online discussion forum Sept 2014

  • Real factors that impact learning, such as people’s habits (Cindy Bai) or preferences (Elaine Lai) are sometimes wrongly called “learning styles”
  • Cultural beliefs can influence on how learners perceive education and the roles of both learners and educators, as well as expectations (Tanya Tan) and these can as well make the teaching of certain topics (history, religion, etc) very sensitive
  • Internationalization of curriculum (Doug): a trend that strives on embracing differences and being sensitive towards other cultural approaches to learning, how topics are determined and taught, etc.
  • Age differences may also affect how people learn, how they manage technology and expectations about educator and learner’s roles (Jolene Loveday), however, individual differences may override both socio-cultural and generational generalizations and teachers should be aware of this.
  • Fear, more than age, may impact how learners approach and use technology (Katrina Connell) and knowing how to match previous experiences with current ones and encouraging learners may be helpful to understand and engage them with tools they have never experience before
  • Diversity (which is different from learning styles and beyond cultural diversity and include people with disabilities, learning difficulties, addictions and other social or psychological challenges) may also become an “issue” for educators, as when it is a barrier, it can slow down and deeply impact a learner’s progress or even an entire class (Amie Schellenberg)
    • “Learning styles” have been catalogued and classified by different authors in even more diverse groups Linguistic, Math/Logical, Visual/Spatial, Musical, Interpersonal, Intra-personal, Bodily/Physical, Naturalistic Tactile, Active, Reflective , Global Understanding, Analytical Understanding (Tanya Tan)
    • “Rather than determining one specific style or another, the Felder-Silverman model proposes four dimensions of learning styles, and that each of us falls within a scale on each dimension. The four dimensions are:
    • Laughing (while not a learning style) leads to learning and should be encouraging in class through diverse activities as long as they are appropriate for the topic, group characteristics and time when they are applied, such as the Marshmallow Challenge (Talisa Ramos and Katrina Connell)
    • Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT’s) are great tools for educators to fully understand their learners’ needs, expectations, level of learning and motivation (Talisa Ramos)
    • While most educators are aware of the fact that learners come to class with different experiences, motivation levels, expectations and preferences or habits, the tendency is to “teach everybody the same”. Why does this happen?: Why does this happen?
    • As educators, we need to be sensitive and careful about how we address “learning styles” and do this as a team along with our learners (not external labeling) (Avi Sternberg)
    • Finding diversity in the approaches we use to reach out learners is a good strategy: exposing them to different formats and activities. It is also important to be aware of the type of knowledge or skill we are teaching, and adapt the strategy to this (Isabelle Vilm)
    • Ethical issues: how do we see educators who continue perpetuating the myth on learning styles not supported by research or any other credible evidence? (Elaine Lai)
    • Students may benefit from a a team of educators (being taught by a team instead of a single teacher) as each educator will approach the topics in a different way, reinforcing and reaching out to the diverse preferences and expectations of learners (Rhonda Hite)
    • Active vs. Reflective Learners
    • Sensing vs. Intuitive Learners
    • Visual vs. Verbal Learners
    • Sequential vs. Global Learners (by Elaine Lai)
    • the extra time and work involved
    • impracticality, especially in larger classes
    • fossilized ideas of what “good” teaching is
    • standardization (transferability of courses) and ideas of fairness (Jolene Loveday)

Group Conclusion:

While “learning styles” don’t exist, we all agree that a wide range of factors influence how people learn and approach the learning process. People of all ages and cultures come with a complex baggage of experiences, stories and beliefs related to learning, expectations about the process and roles in learning, different goals and different levels of independence, metacognition, etc.

Because of the above, we as educators need to be able to assess these differences, if possible one-on-one and carefully build a “learner profile” along with the learner so we can create environments and activities that help each learner to be the best they can be and to learn how to learn…

Resources by topic:

Culture, age and other differences in learning:

Documentation on the myth behind different learning styles:


Tests and questionnaires:

Strategies and interesting links:

Sept 23/14

Positive Learning Environment

Humor in the Classroom: 40 Years of Research

In this article Weimer lists both positive & negative functions of humor , types of humor that are appropriate and that are not.  He talks about how instructor credibility can increase with the appropriate use of humor.  He approaches the questions of the impact of humor on learning and the learning environment.  Humor increases the level of attention and interest of the students which in turn helps with retention.  (Weimer, M. 2013)

Weimer, M. (Feb. 2013). Humor in the Classroom:  40 years of Research.  Magna Publications. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from:

Sept. 8/14

What are instructional  engagement strategies? 

“Engage” comes from Middle English and its multiple meanings include pledging one’s life and honor and charming or fascinating someone so that he or she becomes an ally.” (Barkley, 2010. p. 5)

Instructional Engagement Strategies are activities, actions or game plans that are utilized by instructors to motivate and excite students to become dedicated to the art of learning.  In order for students to learn, they must become engaged & passionate about the presented subject material, classroom activities, discussions and other learning experiences to the point where their perceptions, thoughts, values, actions etc. become challenged and new ways of thinking and perceiving gradually evolve.

Instructional strategies are as varied as the instructors, learners, environments, topics and study styles etc. that are involved in the process of educating and learning.  These strategies enable the learner not just to memorize material but to understand, make meaning of & incorporate the newly learned material into their life.  A successful instructor teaches his/her students how to learn as well as how to use higher order thinking & problem solving skills in order to understand what is being learned from a variety of perspectives; this is achieved by the utilization of a variety of appropriate Instructional Engagement Strategies.

Some of the challenges of todays academic world are cultural, some are related to the vast amount of information available from a dizzying array of sources, some are related to the learning setting/environment and the expectations of the institutions & learners, just to name a few.   Challenges exist intrinsically and extrinsically with the learner as well as the instructor; each person comes to the classroom with experiences, hopes, fears, goals, expectations etc. and when the Instructional Engagement Strategies utilized meet these needs there is a higher level of involvement of learning as well as understanding that is achieved.   Should this not be the goal of instructors & learners & institutions?

This section of this blog will be devoted to information around Instructional Engagement Strategies.  There are so many strategies that can be incorporated into the classroom/learning environment and only a few will be represented here, please continue to research and explore the wide array of Instructional Engagement Strategies available to you.

There will be various links to websites and references to articles & books, that you will find useful, incorporated into the information provided.

Enjoy and feel free to post comments and opinions on the subject matter provided.



(Barkley, E. (2010). Student Engagement Techniques. A Handbook for College Faculty.

San Francisco  Jossey-Bass)


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