News, Teaching Stories

Five ways to create and maintain peer relationships online

I’ll admit it’s not the most exciting blog title in the world, but this post contains information guaranteed to spice up your seminars, get tongues wagging in tutorials and send (appropriate) DMs sliding all over the place.

These five points have been taken with permission from a presentation delivered by Student Fellow Jonny Barnes and TESTA Researcher Dr Isabel Hopwood.

  1. Create or maintain rapport with students
My dog Champion – 13/10 good boy. Who doesn’t love sharing pictures of their pets?!

This sounds obvious, but it is definitely overlooked by many lecturers! By sharing something personal to you, whether it is an image of your dog, the name of your child or an anecdote about what your wife has done to drive you up the wall that morning, it makes the student feel that they have a personal connection to you!

By throwing back to a joke you made in an earlier lecture or using a students name when answering a question, you can easily create the sense that you are a group, rather than a group of individuals watching another individual.

2. Prompt students to switch cameras on

It isn’t going to be appropriate for all students to have their cameras on at all times, but it is completely reasonable to ask students to turn their cameras on during sessions. Seeing their peers faces and, consequently facial expressions, will help students connect with each other and perhaps even potentially recognise each other when we are eventually back on campus.

3. Clarify how you will answer their questions (and encourage them to ask!)

Whether you answer them as you go along or request they’re saved until a break in your presentation, by acknowledging that students have questions (and you’ll answer them), your Acknowledging that they’re live in the room with you and that you’re addressing them personally.

By encouraging students to ask questions, too, they will feel less intimidated to ask if they do not understand something or would like further clarification.

4. Set up a social online space for students to talk to each other

We’ve heard of multiple instances where colleagues have set up Zoom meetings for their students to socialise, share notes and discuss coursework – only sometimes attending themselves to give students ownership over the space. Whereas before this might take place in the Student Union bar or outside the lecture hall, these online sessions allow for students to get to know each other and create a space outside of ‘formal’ learning for them to connect.

5. Let students work in fixed pairs or regular small groups – to build familiarity and peer responsibility

Emily Bell in the School of Biological Sciences recently shared her work with small groups, setting up the same group each week so the students were familiar with each other, and assigning a team animal/ mascot to create a sense of group ownership.

Like you get to know your team at work, having a group of people you are connected to, and feel a sense of responsibility towards, further allows for peer relationships to develop and thus makes the University experience feel a little more personal.

Amy Palmer

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