Weekly Digest #22: The First Day of Class
It’s back to school time. Are you ready? Many instructors consider how to encourage their students to be more motivated and engaged when planning their course. It is no surprise that students learn and retain more information when they are motivated and engaged. Some of this motivation might come from the students themselves, but we as instructors do have the ability to increase (or decrease) motivation in our classrooms. The degree to which students will be engaged with the material can be heavily influenced by the very first day of class (1). Students walk away with first and often lasting impressions of the type of instruction that will occur, their work and participation expectations, and the degree to which their instructor will support them as individuals. Establishing this rapport early can lead to the motivation for learning that ultimately predicts student attitudes toward the instructor and learning, course outcomes, and instructor evaluations.
Here we have provided a list of resources for improving those very significant first impressions in order to enhance engagement and therefore promote learning.
1) Encouraging Positive Student Engagement and Motivation: Tips for Teachers by Tammy Stephens
In this PearsonEd blog post, Dr. Tammy Stephens discusses some of the research demonstrating that promoting motivation and engagement has positive outcomes and provides concrete advice or how to achieve higher levels of engagement in the classroom.
2) First Day of Class Activities that Create a Climate for Learning by Maryellen Weimer
Dr. Maryellen Weimer has created a list of first day of class activities that are worthwhile and encourage participation from Day 1. Students feel more engaged and have their thoughts and opinions valued immediately
3) The First Day of Class: Setting the Stage for a Successful Semester by Susan Cross
This is a list of slides which provides a breakdown of why the first day of class is so important and some suggestions for activities that can make it more worthwhile.
This article provides a summary of recommendations from Lang’s On Course: A Week-by-Week Guide to Your First Semester of College Teaching for the first day of class. Included are common activities that happen on the first day (e.g. introducing the students, instructor, and syllabus), but with information on how to make these activities more worthwhile.
5) The First Day by John Kaag
Kaag provides very specific suggestions to instructors for making the first day of class more engaging for students. While the advice is particularly suited for new instructors, the various tips and ideas can be incorporated into any class to increase first-day engagement.
Of course, first impressions go both ways, so please consider this resource for advice to give to students about how to make a good first impression with their instructors on the first day of class. We hope that you find these suggestions useful. If you have other useful ideas, please share them in the comments!
(1) Hermann, A. D., Foster, D. A., & Hardin, E. E. (2010). Does the first week of class matter? A quasi-experimental investigation of student satisfaction. Teaching of Psychology, 37, 79–84.
Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here: