Actively Engaging Students in the Classroom

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The list below represents what a group of experienced UVic Teaching Assistants (TAs) have identified as important aspects of how TAs’ can get students actively engaged in the classroom. You may wish to integrate some of the strategies below into your classroom (e.g., studios, performances, labs, tutorial, discussions); many are adaptable for both online and face-to-face instruction. Not all suggestions below may be applicable in all departments on campus. Please use the list as a guide only as this list is not exhaustive but encompasses a diverse array of aspects.

Beginning of class

  • Start the class with a (provocative, but respectful) question
  • Use ice breakers to introduce the topic
  • Brainstorm related themes to the topic and narrow a wider topic into a smaller piece to discuss in class

During the class

Generate questions that you know students would want to ask and be sure to ask open-ended questions

Include activities throughout the course:

  • Think-Pair-Share: have students think about the question, then talk with their neighbour, and then volunteers share with the larger group
  • Role playing: What would you do if …?
  • Facilitate debate: choosing argument sides or not, playing “devil’s advocate”
  • Student led discussions: ask students to present on some of the topics
  • Jigsaw: small groups to learn about a topic and then they can share with either a different group or to the large group
  • Have students engage in short writing activities to reinforce their learning and provide a space for reflection
  • Wow factors! Jokes! General humour can help keep students actively engaged

Diverse range of high- or low-tech tools available (these tools can be used in both face-to-face and/or online teaching)


Beyond the class

  • Encourage students to send you questions or comments via e-mail or the discussion forum in the course Brightspace page. This is especially helpful for those students that are not comfortable speaking up in class or require a bit more time to craft their thoughts. You can then bring these questions up in class.
  • Engage in pre-class, informal chatting that leads to a topic discussion.
  • Encourage students to investigate relevant issues, according to their interest, outside of class and then share with the class.
  • Where appropriate, share applicable resources with students linked to relevant topics (e.g., blogs, podcasts, videos).

This guide was developed during the Teaching Assistant Consultants’ (TACs) seminars for the academic year 2009-2010 and updated in 2020-2021.

About this post

This post was last updated:

August 5, 2022

We acknowledge and respect the Lək̓ʷəŋən (Songhees and Esquimalt) Peoples on whose territory the university stands, and the Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

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