Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology
Illinois State University
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Little Ideas for Teaching (LIFTs)

Sometimes your course doesn’t need a complete overhaul…just a ‘LIFT’!

(For more great engagement activities, visit the K. Patricia Cross Academy's website for short videos and support materials.) 

Each LIFT is structured around its SOAR

(a teaching idea);
(research that supports the strategy);
(suggestions for implementing the strategy); and
(prompts to promote reflection on the implementation of the LIFT).

From group work to class discussion to grading to student engagement to assessments and more, these ideas will certainly have something for everyone.

Professional Communication Training for Students
As little as two-minutes of email etiquette training for students can improve the professional tone of class emails. As the data suggests, students don’t intentionally send disrespectful messages and are looking for our guidance.

Engaging Students in Critical Reading, Writing, and Speaking
Six types of prompts guide pre-class reading to engage students to (1) identify the problem or issue, (2) make connections, (3) interpret the evidence, (4) challenge assumptions, (5) make applications, and (6) take a different point-of-view.

First Day of Class: Identifying Student Motivations
Faculty looking for opportunities to engage students can benefit from having students identify their motivations early in the semester. This activity not only helps students provide this feedback to faculty but also helps students build a classroom community.

Assessing Student’s Existing Knowledge on a Topic
Knowledge surveys provide a tool for instructors to gauge the level of students’ existing knowledge on a topic. This can ensure that instruction builds on prior knowledge as a means for student engagement and increased higher order thinking and learning.

Ending the Semester: Individual and Group Activities
Providing reflection opportunities for students at the end of the semester can provide many benefits for faculty and students including helping students recognize how much they’ve learned, synthesize that knowledge, identify future applications for knowledge, increase retention of information, and collect artifacts to share with future students in the course.

Grading Student Participation
Because research shows both benefits and limitations of grading participation, it is important to consider various options for doing so.

Smartphones can be valuable learning tools for students and valuable productivity tools for instructors.

Exams as Evaluation Tools
Giving exams is an opportunity to not only measure student learning but also to help students evaluate themselves and provide feedback to the instructor about the course.

Low-stakes Group Activities
Group work provides many opportunities for students and instructors and using low-stakes group activities throughout a course can make larger group assignments go more smoothly.

Identifying Issues Activity
Helping students identify multiple and personal points of view on issues can improve their contributions to class assignments, discussions, and other activities.

Discussion of Controversial Issues
The value of discussion about controversial issues has been well documented as a strategy to promote critical thinking and development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Pairing the strategy to identify controversial issues and develop questions to guide controversial discussion can increase the quality of class discussion.

Technology in Teaching and Learning
Technology in Teaching and Learning can be as simple as using the vast repository of the web. Taking the time to know what sites are useful to your teaching can help you plan, assess, and develop activities.

Ticket to Retention (TtR)
This strategy asks students to review, engage in active learning and discussion, and reflect to help them retain important class information.

Ice Breakers
Creating a classroom community is integral to allowing students to learn in a productive environment. These ice breakers build community and allow for student interaction through first-day activities (and these could easily be modified for content-based interactions later in the class).

Monte Carlo Quiz
The Monte Carlo Quiz shakes up boring reading quizzes, giving students a fun change of pace.

Teaching Controversial Issues
Teaching controversial issues is difficult. If you approach these issues in a formal and methodical way, your class can focus on the issue instead of creating controversy.

Parade of Games
Using games in the classroom can be a fun way to “test” student knowledge, encourage competition and/or group work, and help reinforce material in a way your students will remember and enjoy.

Google (mostly)
While the internet offers a world of resources, Google specifically has some great tools for educators that can help with, among other things, grading, commenting on student work, and peer review.

The Promising Syllabus
A great syllabus does more than just offer students a schedule. A Promising Syllabus is a document that frames your course in a way that lays out to students what they will get if they choose to take advantage of the opportunities found in your course.

Stereotyping Headbands
Stereotyping is everywhere, but students don't always recognize this. In an effort to help students realize the work that unconscious stereotyping does, this activity brings students' attention to stereotypes and some of the erroneous judgments people make when they give in to stereotyping. This can be an effective tool, as long as students are guided carefully through the process and reflection after the activity.

First Day of Class: Engaging students in course content
The first day of class is a great chance to engage students in course material, discover prior knowledge and ideas about course topics, and have students identify topics relevant to them that relate to the course.

Gathering Student Feedback about the Course
These classroom assessment techniques can be used once the course is underway to gather feedback from students about the course while you still have time to make modifications.

Building Classroom Community
Developing a sense of community in the classroom is directly related to student engagement (learning and motivation). Weaving community-building approaches through courses of all sizes and formats will have positive results.

Preparing Students for Class Participation
Providing opportunities for students to participate in class can ensure that students are adequately prepared to participate through reading assigned material before coming to class.

Exam Review Strategies
Students worry about exams because they either know or fear they've missed something. Helping students review for exams as a class lets them share their knowledge, see what their peers know, and hear your last-minute advice and suggestions regarding content before an exam.

Student Writing Activities
Student writing can help reinforce content and lets students see things differently and think critically.

Engaging Students in Lectures
Lecturing can lead to passive students. These tips shift students from passive to engaged during lectures.

Quad Walk
Get your students outside for some kinesthetic learning that might just be fun!

Synthesizing Information at the Midterm
Midterm is a great time to review to reinforce content, show students what they've learned, and help them make connections. These suggestions create options for synthesis and application through review.

Significant Learning Taxonomy
This model from Fink can help instructors better understand their course and its position within their discipline, more effectively communicating its worth and application to students.

Reflection on Teaching
Formal reflection means you’re learning and evolving alongside former students and benefits future ones.

Developing a Course Metaphor
Identifying a guiding metaphor can help you refresh a course through infusing a creative structure and new activities that improve student engagement and help students understand and organize course content.

Using Quizzes/Reviews to Promote Student Engagement and Collaboration
Using quizzes and/or reviews of reading (graded/ungraded) can enhance class discussion and student learning when students come to class prepared to participate. This strategy does so in a way that builds class community through collaborative learning and motivates all students to participate.

Pre-reading strategies/Using infographics
Initiating pre-reading discussion can generate student interest in a topic before they begin reading about it. This can build engagement and increase the likelihood that they will read the material.

Using Simulation Games to Increase Engagement
Students report higher levels of engagement when the content is considered “relevant” and the class format focuses more on their learning than on covering material. Developing simulation games can provide an opportunity for students to work collaboratively and meaningfully examine topics and issues related to course content.

Using a Reciprocal Interview Activity to Create an Active and Comfortable Classroom
This offers a strategy for using an instructor-student interview to establish a positive classroom environment that produces not only short-term impacts including student comfort in the classroom, but also a long-term correlation with positive changes in comfort and student satisfaction.

Classroom Advisory Board
Select a group of students to obtain, provide, and manage feedback from specific classes or a group of classes to assist you in having access to information about how students are learning in your course/s.

Student Self-Assessment
As student’s desire for feedback increases, supporting their ability to conduct meaningful self-assessment can boost learning and satisfy the urge for feedback.

Web resources to enhance teaching and learning
As more and more web resources become available, generating lists of possible sites to enhance teaching and learning can assist instructors in identifying new sources of information for themselves and their students.

Engaging Today’s Students
Each generation of students brings new opportunities for engagement. Considering the specific needs of Millennial students can increase opportunities for teaching and learning.

Methods for More Robust Student Evaluations
Faculty seeking more robust student evaluations can begin, days or weeks before the official evaluation, engaging in conversations with students about evaluations and doing activities with students. This process will not only help faculty receive more intentional feedback in student evaluations, but it will also help students understand how to give feedback with intention, whether in evaluations or in peer review.

2019-02-19T14:06:57.442-06:00 2019