Engaging Activities & Discussions

As faculty, we can help our learners with feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Self-determination is a hallmark of adult learners, yet sometimes students need a little help with motivation.

Creating engaging activities and discussions can help our students remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create with new learning in the courses we teach.

Engaging Activities & Discussions: Tips & Resources

Bloom’s Taxonomy, by Creative Commons2.0 License

The effectiveness of instructor presence and facilitating meaningful, engaging activities and discussions is supported by research. Ryan and Deci suggest that basic learner motivation stems from an innate need to feel connected, feel authentic, and have the capacity to make free choices (Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Directions and New Directions, 2000). Brain scans have shown that when new learning is readily comprehensible (i.e. it makes sense to the learner) and can be connected to past experience (meaning), there is substantially more cerebral activity followed by dramatically improved retention (Macquire, Firth & Morris as cited by Sousa, 2011). “Of the two criteria, meaning has greater impact on the probability that the new information will be stored” (Sousa, 2011).

Facilitating meaning in student learning is a fundamental task of a skilled instructor. Here are a few tips and resources for creating engaging activities discussions that help students engage meaningfully with new learning.

Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy & Other Digital Skills Maps


  • Ask: Get to know your students by creating a survey that helps you get to know their passions, fears, prior experiences, and hopes for how they might apply their new learning. Instructors often find that what they learn from these surveys helps them frame standard activities and discussion questions in a way that is personal, meaningful, and applicable to students.

Consider how well your activities and discussions allow students to:

  • apply prior experience to new learning
  • practice and rehearse with new learning in a safe environment
  • apply new learning in a way that is personally meaningful
  • be curious, observe, hypothesize, experiment, and draw conclusions
  • build skills, knowledge, critical thinking skills, and gain insights about their own learning process

GSC Resources

External Resources


Armstrong, P. (2016). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Retrieved from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/.
Chepya, P. (2005). E-Personality: The Fusion of IT and Pedagogical Technique. Retrieved from EDUCAUSE Review Online:https://www.educause.edu/ero/article   /e-personality-fusion-it-and-pedagogical-technique
Palmer, P. (2007). The Courage to Teach. Jossey-Bass.
Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, pp. 54 – 67.
Sousa, D. (2006). How the Brain Learns. Corwin Press : Thousand Oaks, CA.

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