3 Tips To Quickly Generate Learner Engagement In A New tri/Semester

Here are some tips to get things off to a positive start with new students.

1. Make a point of knowing learners’ names

If you teach a tutorial with the same students every week, work on remembering names. Calling a student by their name increases the likelihood of them participating, and makes them feel like you are interested in them. If your tutorial is less than 40, then it is possible to gradually work on your memory of the names by using retrieval practice. I do this by asking for 5 names, and then repeating them back, before I then ask for the next 5. This helps me to chunk the memory. Later in the lesson, I then repeat the process, my memory having had some interruption. By doing this several times, and especially in the second session, my ability to remember the names is stronger. By the time I see the learners in the 3rd session, I have most of them in my memory. It is also a lot easier to keep learners on track if you can call them by their name, and questioning is made significantly more efficient.

2. Easy questions first

Build confidence by tailoring questions to ensure success. In the first few sessions, many students will be hesitant to answer questions for fear of looking silly or uncool etc. in front of people they don’t know. An incorrect answer may throw their confidence for the rest of the tri/semester. The first few questions I would ask students would be relatively easy, so they can feel a sense of success in front of peers, and be more willing to engage further. Once you know the students more, and they know each other more, you can increase challenge accordingly.

3. Explain your process

Most students won’t have a good understanding of how learning best happens. Most will be more interested in the path of least resistance, so it is useful if you provide them with some metacognitive knowledge. Teach them that getting involved and being active in the session is paramount to assist their memories of the content and for them to be able to use that memory to solve future problems.

I’m Paul Moss. I’m a learning designer at the University of Adelaide. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger


  1. As far as remembering students’ names is concerned, I’m the old-fashioned note-taking/visual type; I write the names down in a template reflecting the shape of the seating arrangement, i.e. horseshoe, try to memorize them and then refer to my notes if need be. But I obviously need to ask the students not to change their seats. 🙂

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