02.04.2021 • 5 minutes
In a recent woobinar, we shared 8 best practices to apply in your course design to help improve your students’ learning. However, before we get to that, let’s have a quick look at the fundamental principles of cognitive science on which these practices are based. In other words: how do students learn best?
Since the mid-1950s, cognitive science has sought to understand how the human brain acquires, uses and transmits knowledge. According to cognitive psychologist, neuroscientist, and Professor Stanislas Dehaene, there are 4 main contributors to successful learning, which he refers to as the “four pillars of learning”.
“That’s great, but how do I apply it in my course design?”
I’m glad you asked, because we’re about to look at a few tips to capture your students’ attention, keep them engaged, and help them recall and consolidate what you want to teach them.
1. Use Icebreakers
An icebreaker aims to get the conversation started, by breaking the awkwardness or silence, getting people to know one another, and simply giving them the chance to interact. The best thing about icebreakers is their range: any question or challenge can be used to break the ice.
This includes ideas like:
2. Arouse the students’ curiosity
When starting a new chapter, try telling an anecdote, performing an experiment, or asking your students what they know about the topic you’re going to broach. For example, Wooclap lets you create Word clouds with your students, giving you a snapshot of what they are thinking about at that moment, and making them feel invested in the lesson.
3. Regularly ask them to participate in an activity
Though researchers can’t agree on the length of the average person’s attention span, they do agree that listening passively does not help. It is better for students to ask themselves questions, speculate about potential hypotheses, or perform experiments to fully understand what they are learning.
That is why it is important to regularly ask learners to actively participate in some way - or actually, in many different ways:
4. Diversify the types of activity
Try to switch up the activities you offer to avoid creating a repetitive pattern within your course: quizzes, games, debates, peer-to-peer instruction… These are but a few of the many ways in which you can liven up a lecture and create real student engagement.
For example, Wooclap alone offers more than 15 different question-types you can use to ask students to participate in a new and stimulating exercise.
5. Use anonymity to increase participation
Thanks to digital tools like Wooclap, students now have the ability to participate in a lesson without having to raise their hand or voice.
Anonymous participation can be liberating for many students, because it allows them to contribute to the lecture without the fear of public speaking and embarrassment. As a tutor, this gives you a clear window into the minds of all your learners, not just the few who don’t mind speaking in front of an audience.
6. Gamify your course
Gamification and competition increase the appeal of learning activities. Students are more engaged when they are asked to take part in something new, innovative, and fun. You can ask students to perform experiments, turn your course into a quest, design pedagogical escape games, make students solve a series of puzzles, and more!
7. Activate your students’ memory
This is one of those things that seems easier said than done, but is it really? Stimulating students’ brains to create and activate neural connections is paramount, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. Here are two learning strategies that can be easily implemented:
8. Get feedback to keep improving your future courses
Don’t forget that feedback is a two-way street: students may look to you for feedback on how they did on a test or activity, but you can ask them for the same thing. By finding out what they enjoy, their likes and dislikes, you eventually develop learning methods that are not only effective, but enjoyable for everyone involved.
If you want to learn more about these 8 tips and how you can implement them in your courses, you can have a look at the woobinar here!
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