Team collaboration meeting start up concept. Male and female diversity young people studying working together

Focus on student-centered strategies in the classroom

Our focus on student-centered learning, as a philosophy embedded in our Academic Commitments, challenges us to reconsider the idea that our teaching practices (and student retention) are enhanced by creating more opportunities for students to take responsibility for the learning process.  But how do we encourage students to step up an take responsibility?  We know that the process starts with have clear and measurable learning outcomes at the course level–but how can we build on this start at the unit and daily lesson level?  Below are a few strategies that you can employ with the student (across modalities) in the college classroom:


Active Learning

In the simplest terms, active learning is any approach to instruction that requires students to actively engage in the learning process (as opposed to passively receiving information).  Increasing active learning opportunities in the classroom is an excellent strategy to increase engagement, student investment, and prompt retention and deeper comprehension of course materials.  Active learning brings the students into the creation of the learning experience.  It encourages critical thinking, problem-solving processes of the discipline-specific modeling.  Active learning also gives the instructor time to perform the relationship-building functions of coach, listener, and disciplinary advocate.

One challenge to adopting active learning strategies may be that college students have expectations of the role of professor and their role as students. Active-learning challenges these expectations, but with some planning and support (and a sense of adventure), you will be able to identify the combination of active learning strategies that will meet your instructional needs.

For more tips and tricks, check out the CalState Chemistry & Biochemistry Dept’s Active & Cooperative Learning page

Differentiating instruction

With our diverse student body, considering differentiating your instruction is a great first step in updating your teaching methods.  Differentiation can include a number of different actions, but the main purpose is to tailor educational experiences to meet various learner needs, readiness and preferences.  There are a few main ways that you can differentiate instruction in the university classroom, including:

  1. Contentsome students in your class may be completely unfamiliar with the concepts in a lesson, some students may have partial mastery, and some students may already be familiar with the content before the lesson begins–if you are aligning to rubrics or are referencing Bloom’s Taxonomy, are there any ways to give budding learners introductory-level task (while they build mastery), and push advanced students into higher-order tasks?
  2. Process: Each student has a preferred learning preference, and successful differentiation includes delivering course materials in a variety of ways to engage visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and linguistic learners.  Some examples of how you can differentiate process include: allowing for a mix of independant and group work, vary your delivery to include lecture, visuals, and tangibles (when available and appropriate), and/or allow students to read-aloud.
  3. Product: The product is what the student creates at the end of the lesson to demonstrate the mastery of the content.  You can differentiate end products by giving students voice and choice over projects and/or topics (so long as they meet the assessment objectives), by giving students structured choices of products (ie–write a paper OR create a video presentation)
  4. Learning Environment: The conditions for optimal are dependant on both physical and psychological conditions. A flexible classroom layout is a key to incorporating a variety of active learning and student group strategies


Kicking off the semester right

flat illustration of hammer breaking ice

The first day of class can be stressful for students and faculty alike–it is a day that relationships start to form, expectations are communicated and the tone of the course is established (for better or for worse).  Since the for the next 15 weeks, this class will serve as a learning community for your subject area, taking time to build community is a great activity to add to the first day of class kick-off.  Check out these ice-breakers custom-made for the college classroom:


Developing habits of mind practices

Colorful brain sketch in the center of education icons and drawings on a concrete wall. Concept of knowledge and a digital age.

One thing that most faculty agree on, and sometimes struggle with, is finding a way to incorporate the measurement of discipline-specific dispositions and habits of mind into their curriculum.  The challenge of measuring these behaviors and levels of professionalism is that they are often rooted in soft-skills that may be difficult to measure and can be subjective (think creativity or resilience).  Some programs have already developed rubrics and measurements for dispositions expectations for their program.

Touch base with your program coordinator to see if your program has a set of program-specific dispositions, as well as to see what your responsibilities are for measuring and reporting on those dispositions.  Below, find links to explore more about building habits of mind:

Weeding through the jargon

Many of us practice a variety of strategies in the classroom–and (rightfully) adapt, depending on the learner and/or instructional needs.  There are also many was to implement practices, like blended learning, and flipping instruction–but what exactly does that mean, and how can we implement it (or identify it in our current practices)?  Here is a brief intro to de-jargon the concepts:

Flipping your classroom

Read more from North Idaho College

Tools and strategies to kick up active collaboration

If you would like to brainstorm about how to utilize any of these tools and/or strategies, please reach out to schedule an appointment!

Prepare students for collaborative work


Socratic discussion methods

The Jigsaw Method


Fishbowl discussions


Peer Instruction Model

See also, RIT’s other research-based resources on Peer Instruction in the classroom