In-Class Interactive Strategies

Engaging students in-class through interactive methods is an ideal way for an instructor to connect with as many students as possible in person, supporting both benchmarks of Student-Faculty Interaction and Active and Collaborative Learning.

  • Prioritizing interactive strategies in class allows students to make stronger connections to the course material and minimize time spent in passive listening. When interactive components are well integrated into a lecture, students retain more information, having been exposed to different perspectives and critical discussion (Cavanaugh, 2011).
  • Designing an engaging classroom environment can positively affect other course interactions, by helping students identify weak areas and new questions to discuss in office hours.
  • Students are likely to take cues from instructor behaviour in class (Cotten & Wilson, 2006). A  positive class meeting will generate similar expectations about meetings outside of class.



The One-Minute Paper:
A one-minute paper is an exercise in which students are given a question to answer by individually writing for one minute. This activity can be used for many purposes, including free-writing, clearest/muddiest points of the lecture, or unanswered questions. Collecting responses and responding to them during the next class will give you a chance to address any weak areas. (Gray & Madson, 2007)

In think-pair-share, first give students a question, and ask them to think about their answer. Next, ask them to pair up with their neighbour and share their answers. After a few minutes, invite a few pairs to share their thoughts and take up responses. Think-pair-share is a simple, low-risk collaborative learning opportunity suited for all classroom (Gray & Madson, 2007; Rolheiser)

Student Response Systems:
Student response systems (SRS) are technologies ( e.g. iClickers), that allow instructors to anonymously poll responses from a large class. SRS technologies foster engagement through building participation, gauge student understanding, and help build immediacy within a course that prioritizes engagement. (Denker, 2013) Contact CTSI for more information on how to use SRS in your classroom.

Structure Your Class Around Questions:
Beginning with the assigned readings and learning outcomes for the week or unit and prepare your lecture around these questions (Gray & Madson, 2007). Choose regular moments (such as when introducing a new topic or to identify a central theme) to pose a question to the class.

Small-Group Collaborative Discussions:
Small group learning structures in which students are assigned a question to answer or task to accomplish through teamwork can be given in a lecture setting to help provide structure to the class and help students identify questions. An effective basic strategy is the 3-step interview, in which students form trios, and rotate between the roles of interviewer, responder, and recorder. (Rolheiser)



  • Use of interactive strategies can be integrated into course assessment by assigning a grade for Contribution or Participation. The syllabus should clarify instructor expectations regarding student contributions and how students can earn their grade.NOTE: Use of SRS technology (such as iClickers) is discussed in the University policy on the collection of ancillary fees and course-related purchases. If use of SRS will be assessed as in-class participation, an alternative cost-free option of assessment must also be provided.
  • Many factors can affect student participation in-class, including confidence, preparation, communication apprehension (Shimotsu-Dariol, Mansson, & Myers, 2012) in a competitive environment, and cultural and linguistic fluency (Remedios, Clarke, & Hawthorne, 2008). Shy students may benefit from anonymous or individual methods, such as SRS, one-minute papers, or graded reflections.



  • Cavanaugh, M. (2011), Students’ experiences of active engagement through cooperative learning activities in lectures. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12, 23-33.
  • Cotten, S.R., & Wilson, B. (2006), Student-faculty interactions: Dynamics and determinants. Higher Education, 51, 487-519.
  • Denker, K.J. (2013), Student Response Systems and Facilitating the Large Lecture Basic Communication Course: Assessing Engagement and Learning. Communication Teacher, 27, 50-69.
  • Gray, T., & Madson, L. (2007), Ten Easy Ways to Engage Your Students. College Teaching, 55, 83-87.
  • Remedios, L., Clarke, D., & Hawthorne, L. (2008), The silent participant in small group collaborative learning contexts. Active Learning in Higher Education, 9, 201-216.
  • Shimotsu-Dariol, S., Mansson, D.H., & Myers., S. A. (2012). Students’ Academic Competitiveness and Their Involvement in the Learning Process. Communication Research Reports, 29, 310-319.