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Faculty Discuss Best Practices for Student Engagement

From left, Associate Professor of Management and Marketing Randy DeSimone, Associate Professor of Communication Valerie Endress, Associate Professor of English Becky Caouette, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Kate Sanders and Senior Programmer/Consultant for the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Marie Beardwood.

From left, Associate Professor of Management and Marketing Randy DeSimone, Associate Professor of Communication Valerie Endress, Associate Professor of English Becky Caouette, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Kate Sanders and Senior Programmer/Consultant for the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Marie Beardwood.

 

How does better student engagement start?

Rhode Island College Associate Professor of Communication Valerie Endress advises creating a classroom environment of expectation and accountability – for professors and students.

Endress spoke on the panel “This Works for Me: Experienced Faculty Members Discuss Best Practices for Student Engagement” at the RIC Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning (FCTL) Adjunct Faculty Summer Workshop.

For example, she said students should know not only what is required of them to excel during the semester, but also what is required to excel during each class period.

“If a student comes to class prepared, they are more likely to engage and to learn more,” Endress said. “Students rise to the expectations you set. You have to establish the expectation that they prepare (for class).”

Endress spoke along with Associate Professor of Management and Marketing Randy DeSimone, Associate Professor of English Becky Caouette, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Kate Sanders and Senior Programmer/Consultant for the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Marie Beardwood.

Bonnie MacDonald, associate professor of communication and director of the FCTL, moderated the discussion.

The FCTL each summer invites adjunct faculty members to attend a one-day professional development workshop. This year’s theme was student engagement. The workshop focused on exploration and discussion of ways to engage students, with RIC faculty presenting engagement strategies at breakout sessions.

MacDonald asked panelist speakers a series of questions surrounding day-to-day engagement practices, including setting attendance policies, connecting with struggling students, soliciting course feedback and monitoring academics.

Caouette said she strives to set an inclusive class atmosphere where students know their presence is important to everyone’s experience.

“I talk about why class participation is important and why their presence is important to our community,” Caouette said. “They know their presence is more than something I mark down in the books.”

DeSimone said students have better attendance rates when they know that each class session is crucial to their education.

“I let them know that something of value happens in every class,” DeSimone said. “That includes starting on time and keeping them in class the entire time. I also call on each student regularly and establish patterns and routines. What it comes down to is that if you expect participation, you give student the opportunity to engage.”

During the panel discussion, faculty also advised using frequent quizzes and writing prompts to measure academic progress and reaching out to students who may be struggling with course material.

Beardwood advised offering students the opportunity for feedback, which gives faculty members a better understanding of what is – and might not be – working within a class.

The FCTL workshop also addressed civic engagement, group learning and effective class discussions online and face to face.