Launch Your College Course Effectively – Helping Students to Get to Know One Another

Child care courses Sydney will gain the abilities needed to obtain an entry-level position in childcare workplaces, as well as acquire the basic knowledge and skills necessary for a long and successful career in this constantly expanding industry. One of the ways to launch your course effectively is to help students get acquainted with one another.  You can do this efficiently, comfortably, and quite ‘academically.’  This article will include several ideas that you can modify for your own use.

While it is true that some students might seem delighted if they think they’ll never have to interact with you or their classmates, in reality, all students want to make some kind of connection. Whether your students are shy or have some other reason for not wanting to break the ice, they may at first prefer to sit, listen, take notes, and leave. In doing so, however, they miss out on the opportunity to form study groups or share in conversations that will make their educational experiences richer and more successful.

Students who actively get to know their classmates generally become more motivated to attend class and, in an age of accountability, are far more likely to be retained within the course, the degree program, and the institution. Furthermore, when students know each other, they maintain more positive attitudes about the class and participate more actively in classroom discussions and small-group learning activities–all of which serve to make your task much more rewarding.

How can you help your students to get to know each other? There are a few options:

  • Ask students to introduce themselves to the class. This can be ineffective, however, if students are more focused on deciding what they will say than on listening to the other self-introductions.  It is also not possible when a class is larger than 20 students. 
  • Ask students to form pairs or triads.  Their task within the pair or triad is to learn enough about the others that they can introduce each other to the rest of the class. Using pairs and triads provides the students with an opportunity to begin discussions with each other, and keeps their attention focused. You might add some spice to this activity by having each student nominate a peer for a fitting award (e.g., “superwoman of the month”) and then providing a token prize to the student making the most creative introduction.  Again, this idea works when a class is of a reasonable size. 
  • For larger classes, you can ask students to introduce themselves to just 4 other students.  Groups of 5 are an optimal size for this type of activity.  Essentially all students find meeting 4 other students within their comfort zone.  And, knowing just these few other students helps them feel a part of the class (vs. being in a sea of faces, none of whom them recognize). 
  • Take a refreshment break and tell the students that they need to get acquainted with at least two new people, whom they will introduce when the class reconvenes–or that they will quickly write about, which helps you to get to know more about the individuals in your class. 
  • Orchestrate a structured icebreaker activity that focuses on the content of the course.  For example, if you teach music, you could ask students to find someone else who started piano lessons the same year they did.  If you teach an introductory engineering class, they need to find someone else who decided that they wanted to pursue engineering the same year that they did.  If students are in a children’s literature course in the college of education, they can meet with someone else and exchange the names of their favorite children’s book–and tell why.  You can come up with as many creative ideas as you like…probably far more creative than these three!
  • Ask students to form small groups and solve a preset problem related to course content. Be sure to make the activity enjoyable and to provide clear expectations of the outcome sought. After completing the task, each group can designate one reporter who will share solutions with the rest of the class and introduce the other group members.

Once you have completed one of these activities, it critical to invest a few minutes to debrief it. The important question for students to answer is why you invested class time doing the activity. Students should eventually conclude that they are valuable resources for one another in their educational journeys, and that not all knowledge will come directly from you or the textbook. They should also be encouraged to recognize several benefits from connecting with their peers (e.g., improved test scores, more effective matching of members in group activities). Said another way, by engaging students in group work during the initial class meeting, you plant the seeds for establishing a community of learners within your class, and perhaps foster a long-term appreciation for collaboration in their workplaces and other arenas of their lives.

Strategic professors know that the first day of class sets the tone (and can *almost* determine the success or the lack thereof) of a course. Pay attention to the ideas in this article and others available from Meggin McIntosh. In addition, you can learn much more about teaching and reaching the many different types of students who are in today’s college classroom by reading the book *Teaching College in an Age of Accountability* (Allyn & Bacon). The book was written by Richard Lyons & Meggin McIntosh (the author of this article).

To learn more ideas that you can use as a faculty member, be sure to check out http://www.TopTenProductivityTips.com and http://www.meggin.com

(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., “The Ph.D. of Productivity”(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!

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