Teaching Tips

Connecting techniques

How do we stay connected with our students when it feels like we aren’t?  I tend to prefer face-to-face encounters with people because I feel more connected, so this transition has been a growth opportunity. I got to thinking about how my students might feel about trying to learn in isolation.

Here are some of the “connecting” techniques I’ve tried as a response.

  1. Ask students precise questions to check for understanding – Incorporating more frequent formative assessment can avoid students feeling more distanced because the teacher can respond in a more timely manner rather than waiting for a summative quiz or test.
  2. Listen to what students are saying – Students feel more connected when they feel heard. Paraphrasing student comments and building on their ideas are necessary to maintaining a connection.
  3. Make space for students to ask questions – Even in a face-to-face classroom, students can be reluctant to ask questions. Rather than make asking questions optional, create a mechanism for everyone to submit at least one question, whether they think they have one or not.
  4. Ask students what they hope to get out of the course – This is usually a question we ask at the beginning of a semester, but switching to distance learning is almost like starting over. Asking will help students remember their motivation and help the teacher focus their efforts to student interests.
  5. Don’t go too long without seeing each other (video) – Being able to read non-verbals and respond is a key part of connecting with students.
  6. Utilize breakout groups (social connection) – Teachers shouldn’t feel the lone burden of meeting all student needs; students should have time to connect with one another.
  7. Ask students how they are making the transition (address feelings and logistics) – Ignoring the disruption we’ve all experienced and acting like it’s business as usual does not put people’s minds at ease. Checking in communicates respect and honesty, which are paramount to a good relationship.

As much as this switch to teaching from a distance is not my preferred modality, I am learning and growing as an educator. I also feel a great sense of camaraderie with educators all over the world like I never have before.

Winnie Needham works in the Educational Studies department and enjoys growing as an educator.

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One thought on “Connecting techniques

  1. I will start requiring at least one question. I like that idea! Thank you, Winnie.

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