Student Participation

Once you have settled on a presentation style, you can begin to design what your classroom environment will be like. The environment you create, how you plan and format your course, and the way you engage with student responses will all affect student participation (Delong and Winter 2002).

  • Importance of Environment. It is important to establish what your desired environment is as soon as possible. In the first few classes, show students what you require of them to create the atmosphere you think will be the most helpful for your course. Perhaps consider adding guidelines in your syllabus if you feel you have a good idea of the class environment before the semester begins. If you want a more student-based classroom, consider rearranging desks or students if possible so the focus is not solely on you at the front. This can be challenging in a large lecture, however, bringing all students to the front of the room will decrease the amount of distraction that can normally be found in the back rows of lecture halls.

    For both large lecture and online courses, Canvas discussion boards can be an excellent way to have students create their own environments with your guidance. Additionally, creating an inclusive environment is essential to promoting student comfort, and therefore, student engagement (for more on inclusion, consider the Knute Broady Collection's Inclusive Teaching page). If a student feels encouraged to participate and does not feel as though they will be judged, your classroom can benefit greatly from it. One way to help all your students feel engaged and part of a productive environment are by learning and using students' names.

  • Planning. As addressed in more detail within the Student Engagement "Presentation Style" page and on the Knute Broady Collection's Course Design page, planning and preparation can make all the difference in making your classroom informative and comfortable for your students. Planning out all of your lectures and activities can help assure your course goals are met, and students have a positive experience in your course.

  • Engaging back. While engaging students is important, it's equally important that you engage with your students as well. If someone gives an answer to a discussion question, either in class or online, add feedback or expand their point to show them that you are paying attention. Students are more likely to engage if they feel their participation is valued, a positive learning environment and your engagement can make all the difference in the world.

For further inspiration, consider looking at social media hashtags and pages. For example, the Twitter hashtag #vizthink has examples of instructors using multiple methods of engagement in the classroom.


DeLong, Matt and Winter, Dale (2002). "Learning to Teaching and Teaching to Learn Mathematics: Resources for Professional Development." Mathematical Association of America.