See teaching techniques to help you create an environment that encourages student engagement during your module.

Before the module begins

There are things you can do to help encourage your students to engage with your module before teaching begins. 

  • Send an introductory email

    Consider emailing your new students to briefly introduce yourself and explain your role. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your students’ needs by asking: is there anything I can do to help you learn more effectively?

    Students may experience uncertainty and anxiety around how to address their lecturers, with some students expecting more formal modes of address than others. Let students know how you would like to be addressed. Ideally, include preferred pronouns too.

  • Encourage introductory slides

    Get to know each other before term begins. You could make a shared folder on OneDrive and encourage students to create a few introductory slides about themselves. You could upload your own as an example.

    The slides could contain images or short videos representing students' backgrounds and interests. For example, flags of countries they have lived in.

    This activity enables students to get to know each other (and yourself) before meeting in person and find shared interests.

  • Create an introductory activity

    Ask students to find a journal article, book chapter or blog post, that is of particular interest to them. This could be used as an introductory activity in the first seminar session.

    In small groups, students could share their article and reason(s) for selecting it. For example, "An area of geography I am particularly interested in is coral reef degradation in my home country of Malaysia, where I have witnessed its effects first-hand."

At the start of the module

When the module begins you can do some of the below to help students engage with your teaching.

  • Break the ice

    Low stakes icebreakers may help students to build a rapport while removing academic pressure.

    Take the time to allow both yourself and your students to learn how to pronounce other students’ names.

  • Understand student transitions

    To foster student engagement, it is important to understand where your students have come from and the transition experiences they have undergone.

    For second and third year students, this might involve understanding what modules they have studied in previous years. What skills, assumptions, and expectations are they bringing into your module? Are there gaps in their knowledge that need to be addressed?

    For students who are completely new to the University, this transition experience can be even more important to understand. International students may have an educational background that is very different to that of UK higher education. Understanding where our students have come from will help us understand what skills, expectations, and needs they are bringing into our teaching spaces.

  • Share expectations

    Students have different expectations about teaching and learning. Many students have unclear expectations not only about their role as a student but also about the teacher/student relationship at the University. Approachability plays a vital role in supporting students’ learning and sense of belonging at University. Responding promptly to students' questions, and clearly communicating expectations about assignments, are key factors in facilitating their adaptation.

    Students come to Sussex with various academic and cultural backgrounds. The first session is an excellent opportunity to explain things like:

    • how you should be addressed in emails
    • what they need to do if they want to speak in a session
    • how students access pre-session material (such as reading materials).

    The first session also provides a chance to share mutual expectations. While you may expect students to engage in certain learning behaviours, you could also let them know what they can expect from you as a tutor (for example, responding to emails in 48 hours (when possible) and when your student feedback hours are).

  • Signpost to support services

    Remind students where they can access support:

Mid term

See how you can continue to support and engage your students during term-time teaching.

  • Gather feedback on modules

    Gathering student feedback is a valuable way to identify practices that are working well and practices that you may want to adapt in future sessions. There are several ways for students to feedback at the University, including student representatives, who attend termly school meetings and are asked to gather and share feedback with the school. You can ask your course representative to provide an anonymised summary of student feedback.

    All students are also encouraged to complete mid-module evaluations. Staff frequently report that response rates are low. To improve uptake, consider providing dedicated time during your teaching sessions for students to complete their mid-module evaluations. If students are completing evaluations in the teaching space, allow for small group discussions to take place while leaving the room. Some students will be happier making a comment if they know others feel the same way.

  • Discuss assessments

    Assessments typically occur at the end of a module, once in-person teaching has finished. But it's important to support students' preparation for assessments throughout the term. Students come from a wide range of academic and cultural backgrounds. Assessment practices differ between countries and institutions. How to critically read and write are common concerns identified by students. Reading and writing critically require different skills compared to memorising and repeating information from a textbook. Students may come from a culture where criticality is not encouraged and is therefore an unfamiliar concept.

    To develop students’ critical thinking skills, you could:

    • ask students to ask questions around a subject, think of solutions, and then ask questions about the solutions
    • provide a step-by-step tutorial of how you would critically read a journal article
    • give example assessments from previous years and encourage students to unpick the structure
    • encourage students to form study groups with their peers
    • signpost students to Skills Hub and ELAS for further support.

These guidelines have been adapted from the student engagement booklet generated by student connectors in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities.

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