Practical Tips on how to Increase Students' engagement & satisfaction Dr Mojtaba Ammari CUScarborough 28 Feb 2020

Title: Practical Tips


Be clear on the purpose & expectation

Make sure to explain the purpose and expectations of the module and also every single session. Students who have not got a clear understanding of the purpose and what they are expected to do, feel lost and cannot engage themselves in the classroom discussions. They respond in the MEQ review then, might not be as pleasant as it expected to be.

Make sure to communicate the expectations with students. Reaching a mutual understanding of expectations between the educator and students have a significant effect on the students' satisfaction and also engagement.

Also, make sure that the assessment brief and marking criteria have designed in a way that students can connect with and understand what the tasks are and how they will assess.

Rubrics: Use analytic rubric rather than a holistic one. An analytic rubric has the assessment criteria in its first column and the levels of achievements in its rows.

Advantages of analytic rubrics:

a- Provides feedback on areas of strength or weakness,

b- Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance,

c- Is a roadmap for students and provides them with the opportunity of self-assessing their progress through their learning journey.

d- A clear rubric speed up the marking process and facilitate consistency among marking team.


Avoid complex language

Try to explain the content material as simple as possible. A transparent and straightforward way of delivering the content assist students to follow the content and engage themselves with the classroom discussions smoothly.

Make sure to bridge students' prior knowledge (gained in the previous session or modules) with the new knowledge. Bridging the old and new help them to shape and form their mental links with the new knowledge and have rich classroom experience.

Memory consolidation and transformation of knowledge from short term into long-term memory is crucially important in studentsShort recaps and reviews is exteremly important in transforming students knowledge

Make the subject interesting and engaging for students

Whatever the subject is, make it enjoyable and be creative in classroom presence, delivery and activities. Students will be happier in a lively and joyful learning environment rather than being in a cold and dry session and being bombarded with abstract information.

a- Try to design and use meaningful starters, to create a question which is going to be answered by students through the classroom activities.

b- Make the subject authentic – that means to consider the socio-cultural, economics and possibly environmental dimensions in the design of learning and lesson planning,

c- Think about the front cover of newspapers and top news line and link them to the topics and concepts of the session.

d- By linking the topics and concepts to the real-world problem-solving situations make them intellectually stimulating for students.

These sorts of activities not only increase students engagement in the classroom but also provide the opportunity of promoting skills they needed to engage with the real-world issues.

Enhance teaching practice by bringing technology into design of learning. Think about the digital tool which is going to used in lesson planning and see if the purpose of using the tool for specific pedagogy is enhancement or transforamtion. SAMR model (image below) is very useful model to assist you with taking technology onboard in the design of learning.

For instance, for the task of writing with Pen and Paper:

  • S - Substitutioin: Microsoft Word is a Substitution and replaced pen and paper with keyboard and the MS Word file.
  • A - Augmentation: PowerPoint is an Augmentation as one can add media, images, shapes and animation to the document.
  • M - Modification: Google Docs is a Modification as many people can contribute to the same document simultaneously.
  • R - Redefinition: Word Press is a Redefinition as the document can disseminate it globally straightaway.
SAMR Model

Make the content authentic

Authenticity brings three critical factors to the design of a creative and dynamic learning environment:

Authenticity principles

a- Cognitive challenge – a dynamic learning environment put students in an intellectually stimulating journey. Moving step by step from lower cognitive levels of thinking to higher-order thinking pushes students out of their comfort zone and cognitively challenge them to achieve their best.

b- Realism – To bridge formal and informal knowledge and link the classroom discussions to real-life issues.

c- Evaluative Judgement – Alongside with realism this is one of the most crucial skills that students need to acquire to be able to enter into real-life workplaces smoothly. Evaluative judgement is about the ability to evaluate the quality of their work and the work of their fellow peers.

d- Some self and peer assessment activities could perhaps help students to enhance their evaluative judgement skill. Having a clear, transparent and specific rubrics make these self and peer assessment activities more productive and effective.

e- Group working also allows students to explore ideas and concepts in greater depth and shift their understanding to higher cognitive levels. Taking Bloom’s and SOLO taxonomies into account in the design of learning and lesson planning would be very useful.

Through the authenticity spectrum and the cognitive challenge, students will have the opportunity of applying their knowledge and see the benefit of the core knowledge they gained in solving the real-life problem-solving.

Think about using Games/Gamification/Simulation

Consider the possibility of embedding games, gamification and simulations to the module curriculum where is possible.


Gamification is about using game design elements in a non-game context to:

  • Increase students' engagement
  • Promote their learning
  • Motivate them in their problem solving tasks
  • ...

Game design elements:

  • Time pressure, count down, points, collaboration,
  • Challenge, competition, Teams, Winners, Losers
  • Innovation, creativity, sharing knowledge

Playfulness provide students with authentic practice and that in turn, increase their interest and engagement with the concepts.

It also creates interactivity in learning delivery and provides opportunities for deeper levels of thinking and reflective practice for students.

Simulations provide a precious opportunity to give learners a chance to practice in an environment as close to real-life problem-solving situations as possible.

Games provide a more abstracted version of the actual situations, but can still be useful for allowing an authentic practice to students.

"Gamification is to game as: -Part is to whole, - Piece is to puzzle, - Slice is to Pie, - Steering wheel is to car." (Kapp, Blair, Mesch 2014, p. 56)

Gamification - some examples:Badges - Award your students with badges for each task they complete

  • Award students with badges for each task they complete
  • Integrate educational video games into Curriculum
  • Create competition in your classroom
  • Embed some competative formative activities - Kahoot!, Pitches (social networking, personal, career fair, ...)
  • Gamify homework and encourage informal learning

Align intended module learning outcomes with the course learning outcomes

A clear understanding of the IMLOs (Intended Module Learning Outcomes) and appropriate classroom activities are crucially essential for enhancing and improvement of students' satisfaction and engagement. We all know about constructive alignment – aligning modules learning outcomes with the classroom activities and the assessment tasks (see figure below).

Constructive Alignment

Aligning the module learning outcomes with the course learning outcomes provide students with a broader perspective about the contribution of the module they are studying towards the learning outcomes of the course and the relationships between the module they are studying with the other modules of the course.

This alignment will make a sense of purpose for students, and therefore, they will be more interested in engaging with the topics.

Make assessment as an integral part of students' learning

Assessment is a crucial part of the students learning journey — unfortunately, its power of enhancing learning most often neglected by many educators. For many lecturers and HE institutes, assessment is a tool to test if the learning outcomes have achieved to issue the certificates. This way of using assessment is the outdated and traditional approach towards assessment. The focus of this method is on the product rather than the process. it is known as assessment of learning or summative assessment.

Coventry university assessment strategy emphasises on the importance of assessment for learning (formative assessments) in enhancing students' learning and understanding and also course-based (integrative) assessments.

Do not understimate the power of formative assessments in enhancing students' engagement, satisfaction and pass first time rate! By regular ow and medium stakes formative activities/assessments, students will be able to:

  • Reflect upon their learning and understanding of the concepts,
  • Receive instant and constructive feedback if needed,
  • Interact and collaborate with other fellow peers during classroom discussions,
  • Achieve a good understanding of the expectations and assessment method.

Design a spectrum of assessments

A spectrum of assessments makes assessment an essential part of the design of learning in the classroom. Having a diagnostic test/assessment help educators to know their students' prior knowledge related to the intended learning outcomes. It assissts educators in more focused and targeted lesson planning.

Spectrum of assessments

Make sure to embed plenty of formative activities (assessments) in the design of learning for students in each session. The benefit of embedding formative assessments in lesson planning is two-folded. First, they provide students with the opportunity of self-reflection and review their understanding. It also assist educators in adjusting their lesson planning and provide extra/additional tasks or guidance for those students who are struggling to complete the activities.

Rich questioning in the classroom - Posing well-designed and right questions during the lecture/session is a beneficial and straightforward formative assessment. Rich questions, help educators to see if students are following the flow of learning in the lecture or not. They also help students to review and reflect upon their understanding of the concepts.

SOLO taxonomy assists educators in designing systematic and organised questions during their lectures. This taxonomy has five stages:

  • Pre-structural - Student knows nothing about the concept,
  • Uni-Structural - Student knows something,
  • Multi-structural - Student knows many things, but not able to connect them,
  • Relational - Student recognises the relationships between different things,
  • Extended abstract - Students can to see the connections and also use them in a different problem-solving situation.

Scenario: Assuming educator is hgoing to teach derivative of the function f(x) at the point x = a.

The concept and its elements have introduced by the educator. Educator now has the final formula on the screen as follows.

Derivative of the function f(x) at the point x=a

At this moment, the educator would like to ask some questions to make sure that students have understood the concept. To ask systematic questioning as a formative practice, the educator could start by asking questions to see if:

1- Students could recognise and understood the elements of the formula, like what is the following ratio means. Whether students could see it is the difference between the y values over the x values,


2- Next, to see if they could recognise the independent and dependent variables?

3- Do they see point x=a as a fixed point and also if they understood that the x value in the formula could be any point in an interval centred at x=a.

4- Do they see the above fraction as the slop of the segments which are connecting (x, f(x)) to (a, f(a)) for different values of x?

5- Do they see these slopes as the rate of change of y-values with respect to the x-values?

6- And finally do they understood the concept of limit in this formula?

Create a learning community

Design the learning environment in which students feel they are part of a learning community. Group working, problem-based learning, project-based learning, and peer-assessments and similar activities, promote student-student and student-educator interactions and increase their sense of belonging and satisfaction.

Make sure to provide students with sufficient academic advice and guidance.

Respond to students’ queries promptly and provide them with useful information and guidance to not only help them with their current need but also assist them with their future needs.

Creating a community of learning assists students to improve and develop the skills they need to tackle and engage with the real-life problems alongside having a deeper understanding of their academic concepts.

Rethink the way of providing feedback for students - Is it sustainable?

When it comes to feedback, we need to think what is genuine feedback, and how can it improve learning?

Make sure to embed plenty of formative assessments into lesson planning as they consist of plenty of feedback for students and opportunities that they can use those feedback to improve their learning and understanding. Good and engageable feedback will increase students' satisfaction and engagement. Here are some tips for providing useful and engageable feedback:

  • Feedback should be timely, so students have the chance and time to take action on it and improve their performance.
  • Feedback has to be goal-referenced,
  • Engagable,
  • Timely,
  • Effective,
  • Constructive,
  • Is there any elements of feeding forwrad in the feedback you provde for the students? Have you praise their good work or you are just criticising and correctiong the errors?

Here is a sustainable model of distributing low, medium and low stakes assessments all through the semester. This model assists in making the assessment as a journey for students and making it an integral part of students learning. It shows a number of low stake (self & peer assessments, Core assessments), medium stakes (individual/group presentation, article review, Portfolio) and high stakes(assignment, course work submissions) assessment points during the semester. The feedback at each step is feeding into the next and thus makes it dialogic as students have the chance and opportunity to take action on the given feedback and complete the feedback loop. It also makes assessment continuous as an integral part of the students learning journey.

A coceptual model for providing sustainable feedback for students

Finally, maintain clear & continuous communication with the course/module team & students. (Provide a holistic image of the outcomes and learning experience for students).

Created By
Mojtaba Ammari-Allahyari


Created with images by Benjamin Davies - "Reach out to the world" • Jamie Street - "On my recent trip to California we decided to visit Yosemite National Park. After a 2 mile hike following a stream up a mountain I got this shot of a compass overlooking the valley below." • Dmitry Ratushny - "Through the reading glasses" • George Pagan III - "The globe illuminates and pretty much transforms from this grey sphere into this “tropical sunset” color gradient as the park gets ready to close its doors for the night." • Kristopher Allison - "Navigating in the Cockpit" • Allie Smith - "untitled image" • mauro paillex - "running to the top" • Chris Liverani - "Exam" • Matt Howard - "Ramona Hills" • Markus Spiske - "untitled image" • STIL - "navy and marble journal"