When students first enter your class, whether it be in person or in a virtual setting, what do the students see? Is there anything for them to look at when they enter your classroom? How do you get them prepared for your class session? One of the best ways to welcome students into your session and to establish a safe environment is to have a visible agenda displayed. Agendas are an easy, inexpensive, and flexible instructional strategy that will benefit both the instructor and students (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2001). This agenda can be visible in your LMS or simply written up on the board.
In my current position, one of my responsibilities is to observe all new faculty members teach a lesson and then provide support after discussing the observations. One suggestion that continues to be at the forefront is having a visible agenda for the students to view as they enter the classroom. The agenda can simply be an outline of the topics to be introduced and discussed, as well as activities that will be implemented, and/or it could also include learning objectives. An agenda is simply a list of tasks that will be carried out during that class session in chronological order. It is a concrete reminder of what the plan is for the entire class session. There are many benefits to providing a daily schedule/agenda and displaying it for students to see.
To prepare students for learning, it is beneficial for instructors to begin each class by reviewing the agenda (Lewis, 2015). So not only do you put it on display, you also have to review it with the students. This will outline the session for the students as well as aid the instructor in emphasizing the most important upcoming tasks. Students are more motivated to work when they have a clear understanding of what objectives are most important and matter most to their instructor. Additionally, instructors can use this time to review upcoming assignments and possibly review something that has come up from a previous session (Eccleston, 2004).
Identifying and fulfilling adult learners’ needs is critical to enhance their achievement and self-empowerment (Diep, Zhu, de Greef, Vo, & Vanwing, 2019). When the needs of adult learners are fulfilled, it is more likely to bring about high-quality learning (Diep, et al, 2019). Adult learners want to know that the class they are attending will be relevant, which in turn, will aid in the learning process. By viewing an agenda, students will see that there is a plan for the class and when active participation will be required, but also it will allow students to feel comfortable in the classroom environment of knowing what comes next. While adults are portrayed as self-directed learners, a coherent and clear agenda is of crucial importance because this results in a feeling of safety (Philips, Blatzer, Filoon, & Whitley, 2017).
Overall, using a visible, daily agenda benefits both the instructor and students. They promote many different skills in the classroom and can be used in numerous ways. A visible schedule for students helps both instructors and students stay organized, plan ahead, and manage their time (Lewis, 2015).
Key benefits to having a visible agenda when students enter the classroom
- Adult learners, much like children, like to know what comes next during the class session. As students enter the physical classroom or remote classroom, this is a way to welcome them to your session. It provides them with the plan for the day, which helps students feel secure.
- The agenda helps in achieving the objectives of the session. As objectives are discussed, the agenda provides the plan in how they will be achieved. Some words to display in your agenda could be: discuss, review, create, etc.
- The agenda helps with organization of the session and guides both the instructor and students through what needs to be covered during the session. It helps the instructor stay on task and focused on the tasks at hand, as well as a reference point.
- The agenda serves as a communication tool between the instructor and the student. Students visually see what the plan of the class is and know that the instructor has a plan. This also makes the students feel secure knowing that their instructor has planned ahead and is prepared to teach with a schedule in mind.
- An agenda is a simple and reliable way for students to anticipate and prepare for the class session. When students read your agenda and then after it’s reviewed, they’ll know what materials they will need for the class session whether it be note-taking, or their laptops, or papers from homework or previous sessions.
Dr. Joanne Ricevuto is the assistant vice president for instructional success and is responsible for the faculty programming at her institution, which includes providing and presenting a multitude of professional workshops to the faculty on various current topics in higher education. She also serves as the managing editor of the website for the Office of Instructional Success. She has been in higher education for 20+ years and a professor of early childhood education. Additionally, she is the author of many published articles on virtual learning and student engagement, as well as a co-author of a forthcoming book: Engaging Virtual Environments: Creative Ideas and Online Tools to Promote Student Interaction, Participation, and Active Learning.
Diep, A. N., Zhu, C., Cocquyt, C., de Greef, M., Vo, M. H., & Vanwing, T. (2019). Adult Learners’ Needs in Online and Blended Learning. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, 59(2), 223–253.
Downing, J., & Peckham-Hardin, K. (2001). Daily schedules: A helpful learning tool. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33 (3), 62-68.
Eccleston, J. (2004). And on today’s agenda…Essential learning products. Teaching PreK-8, 34 (4), 54-55.
Lewis, N. (2015). Daily agendas: The key to organizing the classroom. Journal on Best Teaching Practices, 2 (1), 7-9.
Philips, L. A., Baltzer, C., Filoon, L., & Whitley, C. (2017). Adult student preferences: Instructor characteristics conducive to successful teaching. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, 1–12.