Thanks to all who organized and attended our DTAR workshop on Student Engagement, Thursday, Sept. 15th

The CTE’s Division of TA Resources held a workshop Thursday on student engagement, and we were especially pleased with the work of our Senior TA organizers, who included Bruce Martin and Allison Wright (English), Bernice Heilbrunn (History), and Cecilia Marrugo and Eugenia Ruiz (Hispanic Studies), who organized and presented this session under the supervision of CTE TA Coordinator Ms. Aymara Boggiano and CLASS TA coordinator Dr. Tamara Fish.

After a brief introduction, the presenters broke up the audience into small groups (a recognized High Impact Practice), and encouraged each group to discuss ideas and suggestions for improving engagement in their classes.

Below you will find summarized the ideas that each group arrived at:

Encouraging contact:

  • Work in small groups
  • Actively seek for moments to talk to students (during class or office hours)
  • Create a safe class environment where students are able to discuss their ideas
  • Find out what students’ interests are, and draw upon their knowledge and background in discussions


  • Use students’ names
  • Encourage conversation among students (peer review)
  • Letting them know they have a task and to be responsible for it
  • Encourage good class environment (revoicing to gently and selectively correct student errors)
  • Physical arrangement in classroom: Encourage students to look at each other when they talk (if necessary, rearrange seats, or walk around lecture hall)

Active learning:

  • Encourage extra participation points.
  • Use the idea of the lab: not lecturing for more than 15 min, get them engaged into active tasks
  • Have students do role playing or dramatic readings; students have fun getting to know each other and actively expressing what they learned
  • Debates: students’ active role in debating ethical topics.


  • Prompt feedback when doing labs or oral activities
  • Large assignments or exams take time to be graded.
  • The sooner feedback is given to students, the more meaningful learning is

Time on task:

  • Make sure the expectations are clear for students.
  • Clearly announcing instructor’s expectations for the class and consequences for not accomplishing tasks.
  • Time management: Let them know and emphasize on the time they have to perform a task.
  • Being up front about expectations: stick to the rules (true for both instructor and students)
  • Teach them how to present themselves in their professional future
  • Show them a curve from last semester’s work.

Respecting diverse talents and ways to learn:

  • Respecting cultural differences: some students need more time than others.
  • Respect their pace. Have in mind that some students are not familiar with class material:
  • “Hot topics” (if the course includes sensitive matters of personal or public interests such as religion, sexuality, family issues, stereotypes, etc.), state these topics and the nature of the discussion in the syllabus to avoid possible confrontations, and let students know from the first day of class what the topic will be and how it will be handled

At the end of a lively discussion, we asked students to continue the conversation here on the cte blog and at our upcoming CTE Conference, “Teaching Excellence in the 21st Century,” which will be held this Oct. 14th in the UC.  We are currently looking for TA volunteers to help us organize two TA-led sessions at that day’s conference.  If you’re interested, please hit “comment” here, or email Aymara Boggiano at

One final thought: teachers often have one or two favorite strategies for engaging students, but sometimes those do not work, either because of the exhaustion of the students or professors, or because you will have a person or person who seems determined not to join in with the class.  What strategy would you recommend to a colleague as a way to turn things around?



2 Comments on “Thanks to all who organized and attended our DTAR workshop on Student Engagement, Thursday, Sept. 15th”

  1. Ashwini Shanbhogue says:

    I think turning an activity or lab work into a game or competition works very well. The students could compete with another group or class to finish first or for a prize. This hypothesis of mine was proved right in a lab I take Thursday. When I told a few groups in the Thursday lab that the students in my Tuesday lab had completed all the activities within a particular time, word spread, they began working faster and a lab that was lagging got done in no time.
    I am planning to use this particular strategy in the future too, while making sure they have understood the concepts of course.

  2. Dave Mazella says:

    Thanks, Ashwini, for that suggestion. It lends itself nicely to group work (dividing up the class into 2 or more teams, then having them compete), or setting up competitions among different sections of the same class. You can also offer points for successful completion of tasks by teams, and award a small prize of some sort at the end of term. Let us know what’s working for you this semester. Best, DM

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