Teaching Activities Increase Student Engagement

March 11, 2021
Tags: teaching

It can be overwhelming to walk into a classroom filled with people you don’t know, especially if you come from another country or English isn’t your first language. A webinar series offered by the Internationalizing the Curriculum and Campus (ICC) team is trying to help. 

The Teaching in Globally Diverse Classes webinars highlight teaching activities that promote student interaction and engagement, especially between U.S. and international students. The short activities are easily integrated into classes, either online or in person, and can be used in any kind of class, from chemistry to journalism.

Claire Segijn, an assistant professor of advertising at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has gone to nine of the webinars. 

“I’m an international scholar myself,” Segijn said. “I’m aware of the challenges you can face sometimes, when you come to a different educational system, when you’re going to classes not in your first language.”

Segijn has been applying the teaching activities to her own courses. In her 60-student undergraduate class, she split students into breakout rooms, then had them identify things they had in common. When she later assigned a group project, she made sure each student was in a group with someone they had already met through that exercise.

“It’s scary to work in groups, to reach out to people that you don’t know,” Segijn said. “But we come from different backgrounds and can learn a lot from each other. As an instructor, you can help facilitate this process.”

With more than 6,300 international students on the Twin Cities campus, most classes have at least one student from another country, as well as U.S. students who have different cultural backgrounds or first languages.

“We want to leverage that global diversity and help instructors help students make meaningful connections with each other and ultimately realize the potential learning and development benefits associated with diverse classrooms,” said Ann Smith, an education program specialist on the ICC team. These webinars build upon the successful International Student Academic Integration initiative.

The ICC team has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on the webinar series, and participants have been returning again and again. On average, each attendee has participated in three webinars. 

“[The webinars] can really improve your teaching, both online and in person, and make it more fun and interactive,” Segijn said. “This is also a chance to meet other people who are passionate about teaching. It’s a great way to meet your colleagues across campuses.”

An additional webinar series this spring is focusing on internationalizing teaching and learning. Through these webinars, faculty and instructors are developing learning outcomes for their classes that promote international, global, and intercultural learning. This effort is based upon the ten years of success supporting faculty across the University of Minnesota system.