By Erik Hofmeister
This is the second of a short two-part series.
One of the greatest obstacles to improving student engagement is that instructors don’t know how to engage their students. Most of us have learned from the apprenticeship of observation- we teach how our instructors teach. Maybe that is a good model for some, but it leaves out the important component of WHY our instructors do certain things. This post presents some strategies you can implement to improve student engagement. While they work for all ranks, this set is focused on color belt students.
Ask questions according to Bloom’s taxonomy.
If you don’t know about it, Google it. All students can handle questions aimed at all levels of the taxonomy. Even simple questions like “What part of the hand do we punch with?” are valuable. They promote engagement, they allow you to check student knowledge to make sure they are learning what you want them to, and they help the students learn what is most important. More complex questions like “Why do we punch with the first two knuckles?” helps students reflect on their knowledge. Even more complex questions like “Is the ridge hand or knife hand a stronger strike?” allow students to begin to evaluate their knowledge. Now, this is martial arts class, not a discussion seminar, so don’t go overboard. Try adding two questions to your classes for the next month and see what happens.
Have students interact with each other.
Students can learn from each other, help hold each other accountable, and increase engagement by interacting. This can be stimulated by a question- “You three discuss what you think the best response to this attack is and be prepared to show us.” It can be stimulated by a reflective discourse- “You three talk to each other about the hardest part of this kata for you and what you are doing to overcome it.” It can be stimulated by a creative exercise- “You two come up with a short self defense routine that you can show the class.” The key is to get students talking and working with each other, not just following your explicit commands at every turn. Try at least one cooperative learning exercise and see what the students think of it.
Have students demonstrate and describe/explain to the class.
One of my favorite tools is to call out a student who is doing a technique exceptionally well and show them off to the class. “Everyone pause and look at Sensei Dawkins’ angle- that is how it should be.” This not only makes the student proud- rightfully so- but can be a springboard for a new way to learn something. “Sensei Dawkins, briefly tell us what you are doing to accomplish that.” This causes the student to reflect- and engage- and they may provide some tidbit that will help the other students. Each time you run a kata or a drill, try to identify one student who is doing particularly well, have them show off, and ask them to share how they are able to be successful.
There are three simple but effective strategies to improve student engagement and enhance learning. Try them next time you teach martial arts students!