Strategies for an Interactive Face-to-Face Learning Environment

A photo of the back of students sitting in a classroom with a person presenting in the background.

Classroom teaching has come a long way from the traditional lecture format where the professor reads from their lecture notes for the entire class time. Though lecture can be effective in delivering content at times, getting students involved in the teaching process is one of the best ways to encourage learning. There are a variety of strategies that instructors can implement to encourage interactive learning in a classroom setting, including online components, group projects, slide presentations, application exercises, role playing games, service learning projects, and classroom discussion.

Using Online Components

Learning management systems are not just for online courses. Face-to-face classes can also benefit from learning managements systems. To reserve class time for interactivity, identify components of your course that students can complete on their own with little to no direct guidance from you. Use face-to-face time to focus on guiding and facilitating students with applying the information they learned from their assigned reading.

Group Projects

Group projects provide an opportunity for students to work together towards a common goal. The outcome of these projects is usually documentation of what students learned while working together as a group. We recommend breaking group projects into stages to be evaluated with feedback and to include peer evaluation as a part of the assessment process. The peer evaluation score allows each group member to hold others in the group accountable for their contribution.

To learn more ideas and strategies for group projects, click here.

Slide Presentations

Many instructors utilize slide presentations as lecture aids. Keep in mind though that slide presentations are lecture aids, not supplements for lecture notes. Davis (2009) describes the key principles to consider when creating slide presentations:

  • Tell the class what they need to know in as few slides as possible. Davis recommends no more than thirty slides for an hour in class and allowing the last 15 minutes for questions.
  • Keep the text to a minimum and to make sure that you cover one concept per slide.
  • Use pictures and diagrams instead of bulleted lists where possible. Visuals tend to tell the story more effectively than text can.
  • Use lighter letters on a darker background for contrast.
  • Avoid a lot of different colors or text that moves across the screen. Keep the concept relevant and to the point with static images, simple backgrounds, and a good contrast between them.
  • Do a test run in the classroom you will be assigned so that you will know that the font size and pictures are big enough to see at the back of the room.

Role Playing Games, Simulations, & Debates

Davis (2009) suggests that the class divides into pairs and play the roles of opposing players, including: hero and villain, buyer and seller, supporting a policy and opposing a policy, manager and employee, etc. The instructor will need to provide students with the context of the players and the goal of the interaction. The goal of playing roles is to understand what both parties do and the challenges that come from trying to work with someone else to get something done. This is an especially effective tool when students are asked to support a policy that they are admittedly against. The activity teaches them to see the world from a different perspective, even if it is for only a moment in the classroom.

To learn more about creating these kinds of activities for your classroom, click here.

Service Learning Projects

Service learning requires students to volunteer to do something in their community for a grade. To learn more about service learning and community engagement in the classroom, click here.

Classroom Discussion

Providing a safe environment within a classroom setting where students trust that they can explore their thoughts on a subject with their peers is an effective way for students to consider different perspectives.

These examples are certainly not exhaustive of the kinds of learning strategies you can implement in the classroom, but they are a good start towards creating an interactive approach to classroom teaching.

References

Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research. (2016). Teaching Resources for Engaged Educators [online training modules]. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.

Davis, B.G. (2009). Tools for Teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.