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On Day 3 of the “Creating an Engaging Online Classroom” workshop with John D. Clift, we focused on how to apply our discussion techniques to enrich student experiences online and how to use intervention strategies to support unengaged students.

This day provided a lot of useful information, but I think one of the most useful discussions came up for me in the struggle to maintain a balance between “Guided Instruction” and “Challenging Students.” Why? Because this is a struggle I deal with every day in my courses and with every feedback I offer my students on their work.

What is “Guided Instruction?” Guided instruction is shown every day in my classes in that I am constantly trying to step into the conversation and student environment with a sense that I am trying to guide them to understand certain core concepts, ideas, and skills. Whether that skill is in how to write a thesis statement, how to avoid run on sentences, or on a big picture issue like does their essay demonstrate knowledge of the topic, show strong use of outside sources, and follows APA formatting, I am frequently trying to guide my students to develop and use these skills – and I get to see this improvement in students’ revision of their work and in future assignments.

However, we aren’t just trying to guide students. We also want to “Challenge Students.” In challenging students, we don’t want to give them the answer. We want students to think critically about the topic and demonstrate that they understand the core concepts more than just completing an assignment with a decent grade. The Socratic Method of questioning from Day 2 of the workshop demonstrated many ways of questioning students to challenge them into thinking about the concept and apply that concept into their life outside of the classroom. If we can help our students by challenging them, the students can form essential skills that will help them in future courses and in their future careers – even in their personal lives!

In addition to this discussion, we also focused on how to identify and engage the unengaged student. Too often, students can lose focus within the classroom. Outside life can become difficult or cluttered and take their focus away from the class. They may struggle with a concept and just shut down instead of trying to work through it.

I see this shutdown in my personal life as well as in my professional life. For instance, my mother-in-law adopted a child (now 17) who recently found out he may be failing courses which caused him to decide he probably wasn’t going to pass high school at all and he wanted to give up. My husband and I sat down with him and talked it over, asking him what he would need in order to pass and by when. We encouraged him to talk to his teachers, explain that he really wants to pass, and ask what they can do to help. Some of them gave him extensions on assignments, others gave him extra credit or additional work that he could use to pull his grades up.

We explained to him that he is the only person responsible for his doing well or not doing well in school, and he needs to take control of his education and own it. We had him come to our house to finish his homework in an environment where other people can help him when he has questions – and it took him all of 3 evenings to complete all of his missing work so that he can pass his classes! Now he feels more motivated than ever and has decided he will do whatever he can to finish his classes with passing grades so that he can move on, graduate high school, and start a vocational school for mechanics – just a prime example of how a little motivation can go a LONG way!

What an invigorating discussion and reminder of how our impacts on students can carry far beyond our classrooms! I thoroughly enjoyed this workshop and look forward to my next one.

For a recap of Day 1, click here.

For a recap of Day 2, click here.

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