Basics of the SAIL class

In a SAIL class students actively engage with course content during class time. For some faculty, this could mean giving students practice with application exercises using content learned outside of class. For other faculty, it could alternatively mean teaching both content and application simultaneously in class, and asking students to use out-of-class time for further practice. In either model, most instructors find the planning of the in-class activities the most critical and challenging aspect of this model of teaching.

In-Class Active Engagement

The activities that you choose and the way that you structure those activities will depend heavily on your learning goals. For example, if you would like your students to be able to understand the connection between multiple concepts, give them various problems or scenarios that they can use to practice applying multiple concepts simultaneously. If the task is difficult, you might want to use groups to do this work. If it is straightforward and fairly simple, individual work might be more appropriate. No matter which activity and structure you choose, ensuring that students understand the purpose of what they are doing and how it relates to the larger goals of the course will help to motivate them and keep them focused. For more ideas, see our sample in-class activities and planning in-class activities pages. You can read about one instructors reflections on working to find a successful in-class activity in this Chronicle of Higher Education piece.

Moving content delivery out of class time

Out-of-class content delivery can be used to prepare students to participate in in-class activities, which is particularly appropriate when you want to spend class time giving students practice applying the content they learned outside of class. Video lectures are one potential means for out-of-class content delivery, although many instructors simply assign readings. You could also use simulations, video clips, audio clips, etc. No matter how you deliver the out-of-class content you want to be sure to be conscious of how much you are asking students to do outside of class time as well as the level of difficulty of the material. If you think the material might be challenging for most of the students, it might be worth providing support material, such as reading guides, along with the content.

Ensuring student preparedness

Simply assigning out-of-class work does not ensure students will do the work or, even if they do, that they will pay enough attention to be able to apply the material to the in-class work you want them to do or to be prepared to learn new content. You can motivate students to prepare in many different ways, but often it takes the form of a low-risk assignment asking students to demonstrate their knowledge of the out-of-class material, potentially a quiz, problem set, or a brief writing assignment that can happen either at the beginning of class or before class. Some faculty ask students to complete the assignment prior to class, so that if there is confusion among students, the instructor knows this going into the class. Canvas graded multiple choice quizzes can be a quick and easy way to hold students accountable for out-of-class work, as they are automatically graded and updated in your gradebook.

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