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The phrase “show, don’t tell” has been popping up on my radar a lot lately. In editing student papers, in researching best practices in CV and cover letter writing, and…in my web reading this week!


A fellow AdjunctWorld community member, Dr. Bruce Johnson, publishes a blog with regular articles about online education. I came across an interesting article on his site titled: Four Strategies to Show Students They All Deserve Your Time and Attention. I was drawn to this title because it doesn’t say “tell your students they deserve your time and attention” (a much simpler thing to do). It says show them (a much harder thing to do).


If we want our students engaged in their learning, feeling comfortable in the online classroom, and overall enjoying an authentic, meaningful experience in our classrooms (and, therefore, very likely saying so in a student evaluation) we have to show them that we are invested in them. How do we do that? Here is a brief synopsis of Johnson’s 4 tips with a few comments of my own added. For more information, please visit the original article.


1. Develop engaging communication and interaction. Every time you interact with a student – in an email, in an LMS message, in assignment feedback, and in the discussion forums – consider it a precious interaction. Respect that interaction for what it is – a meaningful experience for the student on the other end. Encourage questions, provide helpful, kind guidance, and tell them you appreciate their reaching out.


2. Create meaningful assignment feedback. Per Johnson, “I attempt to interact with students through the content of what they have written by inserting comments and asking questions. The goal is to engage them further in the topic, while providing my own insight to help them expand upon their perspectives. At the very least, it will affirm that they are on the right track but often it helps them understand the topics better. As to the expected academic writing standards, I have learned to make suggestions rather than correct what was written or demand compliance.”


3. Share your experience as a working professional. Neuroscience is showing us how we as humans are uniquely adapted to learning-through-story. Every time we share a relevant story from our professional lives with our students, we are giving a gift that not only brings home a particular learning objective, but also shows them that we are invested in helping usher them into our field.


4. Think (and act) like a coach or mentor. This approach will come through in your feedback, but another opportunities to guide and coach can come in the form of check-in emails, especially if the student appears to be struggling (“Hey, John, I see we missed you in the forum this week…how’s it going?”). On the other side of the coin, schools really appreciate you reaching out to these “at-risk learners” as it facilitates healthier retention numbers.


Have any particularly helpful strategies to share? Please leave a comment below!

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